The Dandelion Republic (microDistrikt)

Witnesspedia
child:
  title: The Dandelion Republic
  slug: dandelion
  parent: 15338
  summary: The Dandelion Republic (formerly Lille-Hygge) is a microDistrikt
  keywords: worldbuilding, participatory
  image: https://edgeryders.eu/uploads/default/original/2X/7/7652edd3b02e8d76b305cbe85bc1c77f7c24afc5.jpeg

The Dandelion Republic (microDistrikt) {style=“color: #fff; text-shadow: 2px 2px #000; padding-bottom: .4rem; font-weight: bold;” class=“leading-tight text-4xl”}

The Dandelion Republic (formerly Lille-Hygge) is a microDistrikt. {style="color: #fff; width: 80%; padding-top: 1rem; border-top: 1px solid white; background-color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.4); " class=“text-2xl mt-4 mx-auto leading-normal”}


“From now, until the end of days, we shall be as the dandelion: adaptable, resilient, and driven by the winds of our ambitions to take root in whichever soil receives us.”
- Lynn Jirō, poet, one of the seven hundred thousand co-founders of the Dandelion Republic

The Dandelion Republic (formerly Lille-Hygge) is a microDistrikt forked out of Hygge and into unclaimed Avantgrid space. During the Great Reset, the key question was how best to go about ensuring the fairest possible society; while Hygge settled on a model inspired by social democracies, the Dandelion Republic is an exploration of the other possibility: a data-heavy implementation of Communism, where goods are moved around almost entirely by fiat, and with the State Machine presiding over it all. “More Big Mother than Big Brother”, as the saying goes in the DR.

Close to a million citizens inhabit the DR, each carefully monitored by the State Machine. Every possible piece of data - from rationing history to movement patterns to message logs - are collected and used by the State Machine to better optimize the functioning of the DR. This is an extraordinarily compute-intensive task, and for this reason the DR maintains tight border control - there is an upper bound to the number of people it will allow inside at any given moment.

DR is thus embraced some as the greatest experimental policy experiment in Witness’s history; others see it as a vain attempt to overcome the Kleinman Paradox by aiming for a perfect predictive system. Citizens of DR willingly carry out the State Machine’s orders, while outsiders, such as the Hygian architect Patrick Ayademi, have reviled it as a ‘Panopticon of sheep’. Some conspiracy theorists argue that the State Machine is so all-powerful in the DR that it has somehow managed to factor in the people themselves as processing nodes that help it arrive at decisions - akin to training an ant colony to solve sums - but this is often dismissed by the aethnographers of our times.

Control arguments aside, the Dandelion Republic has repeatedly shown itself to be very capable of tackling externalities: its divers, marines and sailors have mapped out a significant portion of the world around Witness, and it trails only marginally behind Libria in the sophistication of its seafaring technology. Dandelion scientists, bent on increasing the State Machine’s computer capacity, have created the ternary transistor and associated mathematics; provided their citizens with a high-speed, wireless information interchange network, using a highly resilient peer-to-peer architecture that can extend State Machine services to everyone; and have now established brief contact with Byzantium, one of the oldest cities of Project Viking.

POLITICAL HISTORY

The Dandelion Republic began as a fork from Hygge. Informally titled Little Hygge, it gained very real presence when 700,000 citizens signed a petition supporting a planned economy. Taking core ideas from pre-Sundering Marxism, the central argument of Proposition 113 was that enough compute power existed within the State Machine to observe exchanges and citizens well enough to overcome the traditional inefficiencies of a highly centralized system. Thus, it reasoned, most goods and services could be moved around entirely by fiat, and those willing to submit to reasonable wealth caps would be able to build a society that was more equitable to all.

Many saw this as a logical way to prevent the kind of class divisions that had plagued Denton’s administration and society. Famously, the Social Reconstruction and Historical Analysis Project, a group comprised of aethnographers and Hyggian politicians, drew from their historical simulations and the work of a pre-Sundering philosopher named James C. Scott, and led repeated, public counterarguments to this proposal. The debates and the political hold-up angered many who merely wanted a return to stability. CIVICSMOD programmers Gregor Samsidel, Janet Samsidel-Chiang, Erwin Lugoda, Peter Kleinman and Antonia Rybakov, in conference with the State Machine, proposed a split. This was then sanctioned and a cluster of unclaimed Avantgrid islands allocated for the new microDistrikt.

Of the 700,000 who signed, most relocated to the new region as co-founders (note that DR refers to ‘seven hundred thousand founders’, but this is apocryphal). Led primarily by Aethnographer Tomas Dieters, they drew from Denton’s original contractualist bent to formulate and sign a social contract that would apply for all citizens of the new area. This contract calls for each citizen to co-operate with each other and the State Machine to:

a) ensure sufficient housing, food, drink for everyone
b) create public spaces and services equally to serve everyone
c) build an economic model that ensured that every citizen would have meaningful work and make a contribution to society
d) co-operate on looming externalities, whether physical (ie: climate change or resource scarcity) or cultural
e) to take no more than their just share in rewards from any of the activities above, and to institute and uphold a body of laws that are human-readable and apply equally to all

This contract, rather fittingly, is titled What We Owe to Each Other, and is the State Machine’s overall mandate for governing the Dandelion Republic.Because of the ever-mutating nature of fairness and morality, the State Machine conducts mass polls every year to better understand what the citizens of the Dandelion Republic consider to be fair; these polls have become semi-famous for their philosophical problems, especially those that involve Trolley Problems.

Those who violate the contract, or those whose ideas of fairness seem severely out of harmony with the whole, are asked to board the Migrant Train for a Distrikt more to their liking - a form of automated ostracism.

ECONOMY

The Dandelion Republic has historically objected to aethnographers who attempt to understand its economy by conventional measures. Dieters, in drafting DR’s social contract, famously noted the flaws of previous planned economies in aiming for ‘exuberance, plenty and wealth’ - which he felt skewed the metrics of analysis, which in turn led to failed decisions.

The economy of the Dandelion Republic optimizes for zero long-term unemployment, and to enable sufficient goods and services available for all inhabitants. Unnecessary destruction of resources is eliminated, since duplication, overproduction and competition are prevented.

To underpin this, the State Machine operates the Dandelion Time Bank, which awards time credits to citizens according to work done. Work can be voluntary (such as tidying up a space) or based on a selection of daily ‘quests’ provided by the Bank; all work is credited, including traditionally unpaid labor, community services and care work.

These credits can then be used as a currency. The value of items and services are pegged to the amount of time credits used for their creation. A minimum number of time credits are available to all every day and there is a rolloff, past which there are steeply diminishing returns on work done - thus, there is a cap on the amount of time credits anyone can hold at any given time, and leisure is baked into the currency system. To catch what it cannot monitor, the Bank maintains a peer exchange where citizens can also gift time credits to each other. This allows public donation for those whose work is difficult to quantify by the number of hours spent on it, or those who refuse to charge for their work. Any donations past the cap are added to the pool of time credits shared out to citizens the next day; thus, outporings of public generosity lead to better outcomes for all.

Trade with other Distrikts is handled by the Bank on behalf of the DR. Typically, currencies from other Distrikts are converted to goods and services that are then brought in on the cargo compartments of the Migrant Train. The DR has a thriving technology community that specializes in public-interest software and hardware: these are often monetized by the Bank for sale to other regions. A money-time exchange is being currently trialed.

THE ARTS

Special attention has to be given to the DR’s arts and culture, as the DR themselves do. The reigning school of thought within the DR is the aethnographer Eschaton’s thesis that the State and the art it produces are intertwined: art, according to Eschaton, acts as propaganda whether meant to or not: it either preserves social order by agreeing with the aesthetic sensibilities of the State or nudges society towards new orders by rebelling against said aesthetic sensibilities.

Thus the DR spends significant compute on incentivizing works that broadly act to illustrate or expand on themes within the social contract of the DR. These incentives present themselves far outside poetry and paintings - architecture, being viewed as a physical representation of ideas, sees a great deal of investment and oversight.

While public donations are widely touted, much of the support, network-building and equipment come from the Dieters Cultural Seed Fund, which uses State Machine data and insights to fund what it calls “new expressions of our Republic”:

“It is inevitable that there will be a movement in search for a new “expression” of this Republic. Our project is unique in its nature and social contract; it also provides new perspectives on society and humanity. In a society based on the premises of “just and sufficient” arts will reflect that too. To capture the honest essence and core of our beliefs is no easy task, but it will be all the more noble for that. This “search for the essential” within ourselves also lets us understand the currents of society in a way that we can discuss, debate, and come to a consensus on; a map of society not just visible to the State Machine and its data scientists, but to all.” - Tomas Dieters, curator, founder of the Dieters Cultural Seed Fund

However, art is subjective, and herein lies the tension - there is also a significant cabal loosely known as the post-expressionists who see it as their duty, right or calling to interrogate and deconstruct. Much of the funding for post-expressionists come from outside the DR.

In recent times, as the DR becomes more independent, the expressionists have evolved into something that other districts criticize as a propaganda machine. Poets such as Lynn Jirō are increasingly seen as ambassadors of the DR’s ambition to become a full Distrikt in its own right. Within the DR, noted post-expressionists and critics of expressionism are sometimes insulted as ‘parasites’ - being within the system, supported by the system, and yet speaking out against it.

TOPOLOGY

Much of the Dandelion Republic is a work-in-progress, but due to the surveillance requirements inherent to the system, the DR’s population is arranged in tightly knit clusters across two islands titled Root and Stem. Root houses the majority of the industry, the better to keep potential pollutants away from residential areas. Stem contains agriculture, public parks, provision hubs and public housing (there is no private housing in DR). Bridges and ferries stitch the two together. Expansion is ongoing into a third and fourth island, titled Flower and Seed respectively: Flower is meant to be a separate region for scientific experimentation and education, and Seed is a rapidly expanding naval hub.

NOTABLE PEOPLE

Even in a Distrikt where everyone is equal, exceptional efforts resonate. Tomas Dieters, primary compiler of the social contract, is one of the highest authorities recognized in the DR; the Dieters Cultural Seed Fund is named in his honor. Dieters also enjoys a rare status as a guest policymaker in neighboring Hygge, out of respect for his skills.

R. Cahn, Governor-Servant of the Dandelion Bank, has been a steady pioneer and refiner of the DR’s system of exchange. While the State Machine maintains the in-Distrikt exchange and the price of goods, Cahn oversees the infrastructure (both physical and otherwise) in implementing and maintaining an equal quality of service for all.

The first thing to consider is the ultimate goal of the society. Is it to be “just and sufficient” or is it “plenty”? Current day more or less planned economies and past examples have/ had their sights set on the latter. In Witness I see forms of contractualism as introduced by J.C. Denton, which could make the overall mindset more open for a planned economy geared towards “just and sufficient” instead of plenty and abundance.

True believers of this ideal will be present in high numbers in the Dandelion Republic. Therefore the general social acceptance of a planned economy will be greater there than -for example in Hygge proper or Libria- The appearance of Thuggs, black markets and the system-provoking appearance of Goro could be seen as flaws of the market-orientated systems in these Distrikts.

The Dandelion Republic has as underlying promise that there’s sufficient goods en services produced for all its inhabitants. For its inhabitants the advantages of such a system are plenty. Credits for products and services are kept under close control and thus everybody can afford to consume these products and services in sufficient amounts. This mitigates inequality of wealth. But to some extend this could also be the case in the social democratic Hygge Distrikt.

The underlying appeal is more essential; low levels of or no unemployment as State System and the leadership of the mircoDistrikt aim to provide employment to everybody. Moreover unnecessary destruction of resources is eliminated, since duplication, overproduction and competition are prevented.

As “credit” time-banking (No More Throw-Away People: The Co-Production Imperative, Cahn, 2004) could be an appealing alternative to money. In combination with a State System allocating resources it could also allocate, distribute and register labour (time credits). Everybody has 24 hours to his/ her disposal and is awarded credits based on labour and other services (also community work). These credits are credited and debited by the State Machine. Socially time-banking is underpinned by a set of five leading principles:

  • Each individual is able to contribute something;
  • All work is credited, including -in other Distrikts - unpaid, community services and care work;
  • Solidarity and helping others build strong relationships and community trust;
  • The area where time-banking is applicable works like a social network, thus giving a feeling of belonging and meaning;
  • Respect for every contribution made to the community enhances the engagement with the social construct and in this case the democracy of this microDistrikt.

This is very much in line with the core values of the Dandelion Republic.

Challenge to be addressed would be the trade exchange with other Distrikts and other Viking Cities. A State System sanctioned money-time exchange rate for citizens and products from the Dandelion Republic could be implemented.

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Frank, thanks for some excellent additions. I have written these into the political history and economy of the DR - and you may find a fictional version of you there, sharing the credit for its success.

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Yudha, this rocks. It already feels more real. In fact, I am a little worried that a skilled narrator like @Joriam or yourself might lower our analytical guard. Good that @FrankDieters is so alert.

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Thanks, @alberto! And yes, Frank really brought in a solid premise to tether it on.

Hello @yudhanjaya and @alberto ,

I have been thinking about another dimension of the Dandelion Republic that would be nice to add some more texture; arts.

ARTS

The Dandelion Republic could be perceived as more or less being indebted to Thomas Mores Utopia. As was the case in Utopia citizens of the Dandelion Republic volunteer their time to society and only take in return what they need. Privacy is virtually nonexistent and in its core DNA the goal of the society is to be “just and sufficient”. The social contract of the Dandelion Republic is clear on that and the citizens opt-in by staying within the mikroDistrikt. What does that mean for arts within the Republic?

Drawing from the work of the American scholar Lyman Tower Sargent every Utopia is inherently contradictory, because societies are not homogeneous as there are no two people identical in their thinking and desires. Even in a place like the Dandelion Republic this could bring an interesting dynamic with regards to domains like arts.

On the one hand there will be the movement, that propagandizes that arts have to reflect and re-enforce the underlying social contract of the Republic. Although the current adult population of the Dandelion Republic have opted-in, there will be leadership concerns about the long-time survival of the microDistrikt and disrupting influences of rivaling systems. Besides that they will have the ambition to expand their “message” beyond the borders of the mikroDistrikt and grow into a full-fledged Distrikt with all the benefits that go along with that. To address these concerns and further these ambitions, leadership could turn to arts as a propaganda-tool to educate the new generations, build cultural resilience against competing visions and attract new people. Thus ensuring a. the survival in the long run and b. to grow influence and eventually into an autonomous Distrikt within Witness.

Based on that train of thought arts within the Republic will be at least partly state-driven to glorify the (social) accomplishments of the mikroDistrikt (no unemployment, sufficient housing, etc. and the growing naval presence, endeavoring further than ever before in modern history). The latter underpinning the ambition of growing beyond the current mikroDistrikt status. This is also echoed in the words of the Dandelionese poet Lynn Jirō. Looking at examples in history, these forms of “prop-art” tend to be hyperbolic realistic; over the top and all-present. From the smallest item to architecture, everything tells the narrative of the Dandelion Republic. This will be felt within the educational system as well, maybe going as far as founding special institutes (schools, academies, etc.). This is much in the veins of the work done by i.e. the Soviet Glavlitprosvet after the October Revolution. This was a state authority tasked to guide political, educational and propaganda work in the line with the ideals and dogmas of the Communist Party.

On the other hand there will be a movement that will be experimenting in search for a new “expression” of this Republic. As it is unique in its nature and social contract, it also provides new perspectives on society and humanity. In a society based on the premises of “just and sufficient” arts will reflect that too. Arts could be in search to minimize words, pictures, lines, etc. to the bare minimum that still gets the message across. Much like Minimalism did, this movement within Dandelion-arts could be set out to capture the honest essence and core of a subject or message through eliminating all non-essential words, images, forms or features.

This could well be seen as a reaction to the lavish societies like Libria, but also to the prop-art within the Dandelion Republic itself. Paradoxally this “search for the essential” could be appealing to arts-loving consumers in other Distrikts and thus works of Dandelion-art could become a great export. And in a way it also contributes to the ambitions of the Dandelion leadership. This would – to some extend – be fuel for conflict within the Dandelion-leadership and -society.

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Great work, @FrankDieters! @yudhanjaya, do you want to do a pass and add it to the entry?

I agree - will cycle around to this and add later this week (working on a paper at the moment, so things are a bit jammed). I have some thoughts that reinforce this view as well - state sponsored art, education, even science-fiction-as-propaganda (to an extent).

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These two ring alarm bells for me. The unemployment goal makes sense and sufficient goods can be determined up to a reasonable point - you can make sure there’s enough food/drink/clothes/housing for everyone.
But where does this system account for different preferences/needs? Examples - I have much more tactile sensitivity than most people, so wearing the stuff that most people wear (because having fewer types of garb is more efficient) is very uncomfortable for me. I really really want to wear silk/a silk equivalent. We make a lot less of that because it’s costlier to produce, so I have less than everyone else because my baseline requires me to spend X of my time credits to get to where everyone else is.

More widely, how does this system take different preferences/needs/utility into account, particularly moderate or far outliers? For example, what happens if the amount of service X that the population finds sufficient is more than the amount of service X production that the population finds highly meaningful?

The flip side of this is that since this is an opt-in planned economy, rather than an authoritarian regime, the people who opt-in are more likely to be willing to compromise, have a higher preference for working for the community as a whole, and in general may be less likely to have “eccentric”(ie very different from the median) preferences about important things.

So on average a more productive, less-free rider, higher Rawlsian Maximin economy, with possible lower median creativity or room for very very different people. The State Machine can give ‘quests’ for National Poet, but it will be difficult to quantify the value of such services. The peer donation mechanism may mitigate this problem somewhat.

Many people would be glad to live in such a society. Having other Distrikts around as an escape valve would allow people born into the DR who don’t like its form of community to leave, while meaning that those who leave don’t get to free-ride off the DR.

These 2nd and on generation problems were and are in the Kibbutzim. The 1st gen were dedicated and opt-in, some of their children will opt-in but some will want to be out. The system either locks them in, causing dissatisfaction, or allows them to work outside but live on the kibbutz, which causes free-rider problems and eventual collapse. There are some workarounds, but few.

Being ready for, acknowledging the near-certainty of such and willingly accepting opt-outs (given minimum number for DR functionality) will probably allow DR-friendly expat communities in places like Hygge and the Assembly. Allowing opt-ins (given capacity limits) will allow inflow replacing outflow, as life will be good enough inside for at least people to want to join. The DR should have a mechanism for positively interacting with the outside world. For example, there should be a small out-payment (probably based on length of time in DR, slightly biased towards long-termers) to those who leave the DR because of different preferences. The goodwill and available escape hatch are valuable. A Bureau of External Love? Ministry of Reducing Externalities (MORE)? Witness Overall Rawlsian Loss Deflection (WORLD)?

I love this! These different and fascinating Artistic and Cultural possibilities in the DR hadn’t occurred to me at all.

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Finally got around to something that had been bugging me - integrating the new arts ideas into the DR. @FrankDieters, apologies for the delay. Work has been pressing on me. What do you think? And what is missing here?

@Nightface, can I include your commentary on the 2nd gen as part of a fictional aethnographer’s notes on the DR, from the POV of an outside observer discussing it?

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@yudhanjaya Sorry for my delayed response. I had some pressing matters too, which meant that I had to leave my beloved Distrikt for a short while. But as I looked out of the train window on my way back in and seeing the buzzing crowd at Wijeratne Central Hub -Dandelion’s train-station- I can only say: it looks great.

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I had some fun with an AI demo system that creates images from text, and had it make visuals based on the Distrikt descriptions. Here’s Dandelion.

Dandelion3 Dandelion1