On the surface the Decision Support System codenamed Equilibrium sounds great. Obviously there are compromises to be made everywhere, but on the whole it is both a feasible and pragmatic system well founded in reality. Today, we will take a deeper dive into Equilibrium that will go beyond the very high level overview to provide everyone with a sense of the challenges and potential solutions. As with the previous article, take this as the seed of an idea, somewhere to start from and then flesh out your own version based upon your government's legacy systems and current technologies.
Whilst we will be using the US Federal Government as an example in this article, the same solution is applicable to all forms of government at every level.
First Order Of Business
When designing whole of government systems, it is critical that we first align the IT system with the business. That is, we must have a vision of how the final system interacts and improves government. With Equilibrium we have a degree of freedom no other provider has ever had when it comes to a government contract; the opportunity to align government with the IT system.
What is meant by this?
This is business analysis, it is about quantifying government in a fine grained manner. Initially it is about identifying every self-contained aspect of government. This goes beyond the traditional notion of departments and sub-departments, to examining the roles of groups and individuals throughout the government. This process identifies what everyone does, how they interoperate with each other, what legislation that is connected to, the funding sources, the impact to the local community, etc, etc. Essentially, every quantifiable aspect.
Each of these quantified groups are then allocated a Dimensions dashboard that provides a near-real-time view of this aspect of government. This information is then aggregated into dashboards of the parent group, department, branch, etc. At the top level, such as Congress, the Executive branch and Judicial Branch, there will be the ability to drill-down throughout the entire government structure with clear notifications of problems areas.
With a common data structure, comes the ability to merge and break apart government in a fluid manner. Duplication, over-allocation and under-allocation of funding, etc., will progressively become a thing of the past. Further, politicians will no longer carry the blame for a poor economy, or be accused of being in people's back pockets. Dante takes on this role and the public has no one to blame but themselves.
Within Dante, this quantified information is used to define constraints. That is, it is the context within which a solution must be defined. Each of these constraints will be identified as variable. Dante's constraint model will thus be open for debate and reconfiguration, however, each new solution must be better than the old one in a holistic sense. That is, it is an evolutionary model with the intent of compensating for natural entropy. The debate is performed through Dimensions, either through a UI or API and that is open to everyone as they can only improve things.
When submitting a change request, which is the evaluation of a new policy regardless of its source, Dante will use these constraints to project the costs of transitioning from the previous solution, to the new solution and clearly show if the solution is more cost effective. Further, Dante will have a broader view of the economy and other quantifiable aspects which will have constraints that need to be satisfied also.
For example, let's say a small town has a Federal department that employs 50 people. Whilst it may make sense from a broader perspective to move that department elsewhere, Dante will know if the local economy can absorb those 50 employees or if they can move elsewhere. Thus, Dante may signal to US businesses that the area requires local investment, before implementing the solution. The ultimate decision depends on the complex array of constraints and their relative weighting or priority of consideration.
This change request process includes, as the final step or test, integrating this solution into the broader global economy and understanding the impact. Thus, depending on the global impact, it may be necessary to resolve issues in foreign nations also. Again, this is not a problem as you can only improve that nation.
In connecting with business, Dante does not dictate, it can however provide recommendations based upon its continuous analysis of the economy and broader social needs. This operates on a global basis, thus as businesses grow, it is expected that they will have deeper integration with Dante which can provide impartial recommendations for boards and executives to discuss. This is something that would be augmented by services in the private sector, who would track more closely line-of-business requirements.
It should be clear at this point that the Equilibrium proposal seeks to decouple the economy and other quantifiable aspects from traditional politics, whilst maintaining and indeed improving open democracy.
Does this mean politics is dead? To be honest, politics, in the sense of Congress, has very little to do with the development of economic or other quantifiable plans. This is all generated elsewhere, by corporations, think-tanks, etc., then brought to Congress along with a little sugar to sweeten up key people, which in turn is presented as simple Memes to the public that gloss over the entire thing.
The dynamic forces this generates, in theory, is meant to maintain balance and order. That said, in practice it does not work this way even in a Republic. There is always a bias towards particular interests, rather than an objective holistic government policy. At present, we can this bias emerging as what has defined as the 1%, which has the potential to collapse the nation.
This is nothing more than human nature in action and it arises for many reasons, finally taking on a momentum of its own.
With Dante, as a Decision Support System, final enactment comes down to humans and will be performed on an annual basis. Throughout the year Dante will collect solutions and present the final work to Congress for enactment. At any point, modifications can come before Congress that have been assessed as improving upon the current solution. Unless a fault has been identified with Dante, it is expected that Congress will merely rubber stamp the solution into law, thus updating Dante's constraints.
As the system spreads across the globe, we will generate an international order that works in lockstep to improve both the living and working conditions of the people in a holistic sense. At the same time, this will dramatically reduce many of the driving forces for open conflict.
The interesting things is that this is merely a slight modification of current practices. Politics, as presented in the media, will not change much. That said, it will no longer be the cynical distraction or a means to build popular support to drive hidden agendas that it is currently. Thus, it is expected that this will be toned down dramatically, allowing people the chance to properly consider the unquantifiable aspects of our societies.
In short, Dante will be the place to run right and left wing economic and other quantifiable agendas. Congress will be battle ground for left and right wing unquantifiable agendas.
There are many situation when a cross-over of these roles is to be expected. For example, opening a piece of spectrum for mobile phone companies. What happens there?
Well, the quantifiable aspects, such as economics, spectrum allocations, etc., are passed to Dante, whilst the unquantifiable aspects such as alternative usage are passed to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Traditionally, it was all about having key contacts within these organizations aligned with parties in Congress (who were most likely funded by said companies) to sway decisions. Dante will limit this to certain degree. In the end, the final outcome is determined by the result of both processes.
Thus, in many cases, building political support will still be critical especially when many solutions are viable. What we want to foster is productive competition and leverage these connections to work for everyone, as the reality is they do add value to the nation.
In addition to this, much of the day-to-day work will be implementing changes from Dante. In the beginning this will be a vast amount of work, with time the work load will reduce and incremental updates will be the norm.
As we transition to Equilibrium the various forces that push us to conflict is expected to decline globally. As people come to comprehend the weak points in our system that drive these conflicts and underlying agendas, solutions will emerge to address the remaining aspects that fall outside the domain of Equilibrium.
One of the key changes that must occur outside of the context of Equilibrium is to the authorization for war/hostilities, etc. Whilst we have a legal mechanism to go to war, we do not have a mechanism to end war. That is, nowhere in the relevant legislation does it define what peace looks like, or how to address the situation after the major theatre operation has finished.
Equilibrium will also project the economic and other quantifiable aspects of conflict. Thus, in many cases, alternative solutions to major theatre operations may take precedence.
In time, the hope is that Equilibrium will stabilize the global situation enough that the guns finally fall silent on this planet once and for all. The scientific theories behind this are presented in the last article.
So, what is Dimensions? What does it look like? How do people interact with it?
Dimensions is a UI layer, much like this webpage. It contains dashboard indicators that show expectation versus reality for every aspect of government, right down to the stationary supply. Nothing is left out. These dashboards will have a simple traffic light type feel to them that aids quick analysis. More complex data will be available, but the simplest version is used for quick identification. You can look at government from any point of view, you can see what the President sees, or you can see what the Department of Education sees, etc. Nothing is hidden, except for truly classified information. Given that the latter is of military significance, it will have little impact on decision making as any constraints will be exposed to Dante.
What you will notice in each of these views, is that the higher up in government a view is, the more it aggregates the information of the departments below it. Thus, the President will have a single indicator that shows the overall health of the entire nation. He can then drill down as far as he/she likes.
Dimensions will also present tasks lists that must be completed by each person in order to bring reality in line with projected expectation. Ultimately, this is how a politician will be judged and there will be a formal record of their ability to deliver stored in Dante.
The other side of Dimensions is change requests. This is akin to the current practice of lobbying, only without the substantial lube. Rather than trying to convince a human, who has many questionable relationships, the process involves convincing a machine, Dante. Dimensions will present the UI layer to collaboratively work on problems in government, inviting open participation in any department to achieve it goals.
Dimensions is just a codename for a general architecture. In practice, this role will be fulfilled by a myriad of different technologies, much of which is currently in place or already available in the marketplace. In time, as the general architecture solidifies, a consistent look, feel and capability will emerge across the products.
Much of what the public views and works with will be available on a government portal/website and/or mobile apps. All these systems under the Dimensions banner will communicate with Dante via APIs and sub/pub models.
Dante & Styx
Firstly, Dante does not need to be a single monolithic system. Indeed, much of the information that will end up in Styx (the Data Lake) will come from departments running a wide variety of technologies. That said, that information will be prepared in a particular format for upload to Styx from every branch of government. Styx itself does not necessarily need to be a single system either, there could be many providers and solutions that compose this data layer. The general idea will be to abstract this behind a consistent API that is agnostic to the ultimate location or technologies holding the data.
Dante itself will be a collection of machines in the cloud constantly processing data found in Styx and strategies delivered through its APIs and Dimensions. These machines will examine every facit of government seeking optimal solutions, informing businesses of opportunities, projecting consequences, simulating the economy, simulating budget choices, etc, etc.
Given the nature of big data, we may find in many instances that data and compute nodes are located together and the separation is just a logical construct of the various APIs. Ultimately this fine details of this will be left to the implementers, but you should be getting the sense that what makes Styx, Dante or Dimensions is really the interoperability between the systems, which is achieved by some custom middleware, open standards APIs and data structures.
Dante will then push out the crunched data for consumption through its APIs and pub/sub model endpoints.
With respect to tasks that government officials are assigned. Dante will also track the dependency chain or sequence of tasks and provide an open record exactly why failure occurred. In this mode, Dante is operating as a project management system. This will form part of the ongoing process of lessons learned, rather than wasteful senate hearings that are ultimately whitewashed. In this sense, FOIA will be a thing of the past, as everything forms part of the open record.
The other side of this coin is Enterprise Resource Management where Dante will co-ordinate the efforts of government with defined workflows and communicate with external systems to conduct day-to-day government projects. Thus, to form part of the bigger whole, ERP systems will require some form of universal descriptor for workflows and contents so that systems can be repurposed in a dynamic environment on the fly by Dante itself. This will also require appropriate open APIs.
To support open democracy, for the economic and quantifiable aspects of government, Dante will ingest change requests from its APIs. Change requests will have a defined scope. Ultimately though, given the constraints, each change request may need to be evaluated in a context outside of that scope to ensure no issues are occurring. That said, if all the tests are passed, this is either presented to Congress as a bill, or integrated into an annual budget.
Dante will also be the primary platform for tenders government wide. So, best not to massage your figures during tender or widely deviate from projections as Dante will flag your data as unreliable making it less likely to be awarded future contracts.
No doubt many reading this will see things they could achieve better with such a system, or processes they can clean up. As stating at the beginning this is just a starting point, a seed of an idea. What should be self-evident is that much of this relies on machine learning and big data analytics. In time, as the major tech players provide commercial AI, these systems will no doubt play a very large role in both communicating with the public and guiding them through the exercising of their democratic rights.
I do foresee a time, in the very near future, when everyone has a government official in their pocket and not just the select few.
This has been a deeper dive into the proposed high level architecture of Equilibrium and how these changes will impact government and, indeed, much of our daily lives and broader social behaviors. Equilibrium is a very workable solution that does not depart greatly from where we were heading anyway and its ability to leverage both existing and legacy systems ensures that the costs will be kept to a minimum.
What is to be expected during the transition is pain. There is always pain when developing such systems and it will be doubly so as the initial data will show indicators to be all over the place. There will be quite a bit of investment required to correct this and many large scale changes both for business and individuals alike.
All said though, it is clear this will be worth the effort and by the time this generation shuffles off the mortal coil, we will have left behind a legacy unparalleled in human history.