Sunday, March 22, 2009

Budget Hero (click title or image) is a game created by "American Public Media, the largest operator of public radio stations". They're a non-profit with a financial model based on sponsorship of programs rather than direct advertising. At least that's my guess given a quick once over of their web site. What intrigues me about their game, Budget Hero, is how it empowers players to vote for budget allocations rather than electing parties whose representatives take care of the actual allocating. I have long viewed direct participation of citizens in budget proportions as part of the Reetion Administration, in the Okal Rel saga. Voting citizens, organized into councils, administer decisions about how resources are used and set policy. About 10% of the Reetion population, at any given time, are in the Voting category of citizenship. One can gain and lose the status depending on expertise, track record and personal priorities and a Voting Citizen's special status functions only within his or her area of expertise. That's why there are so many. But when it comes to allocation of priorities for shared resources (i.e. the budget) the whole population of Rire votes. Well, all citizens in categories Lawful or better, that is. Supervised and Dependent Citizens don't necessarily have all the rights of the majority, depending on why they are in those classifications. For simplicity's sake let's just say all Lawfuls or better get to vote on allocation of resources. The idea here is that the general populous determines the priorities for the use of shared resources in a direct way, rather than via representation. But Voting Citizens - as the expert-elites - still steer the use of these resources. I envisioned checks and balances to prevent fads endangering long-term plans, with some past decisions fixed and committed for a fixed period of time.

Of course, I never expected anything like the Reetion Administration to emerge on Planet Earth in my lifetime. The initial reactions to it at a sci-fi con circum 2006, after Courtesan Prince came out, were knee-jerk ones equating arbiter surveillance with the Orwellian "big brother" dystopia, despite my efforts to point out everyone can watch everyone so there is no central controlling force to become corrupted. (Robert Sawyer made the same point in connection with his Neanderthal-civilization's version of "the record" at the panel I am remembering. In his system, all memories are stored against the need to appeal to them in criminal cases or for other culturally condoned "need to know" reasons, making deception as hard to profit from among civilized Neanderthals as it is in Reetion culture.)

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