Employing tactics such as biased media reporting to suit political ambitions or elude accountability, governments can sometimes hide reality from the public. With a way to record events as they occur in a format that can’t be disputed, this can be avoided.
- Over the past 20 years, there has been a marked shift towards deep polarization and partisanship in politics and governance. As well as a divergence in the self-reported political leanings of the general population (i.e., previously moderate respondents increasingly reporting strong left or right preferences), there has also been increased correlation between political preference and opinion on a range of social, economic and environmental topics (source). While the US serves as an excellent example, this trend is also clearly apparent on the international stage. From Britain’s 2016 Brexit referendum to increased religious versus secular debate in Turkey and India, political issues globally are being demarked bimodally.
- In many instances, the outcome of this trend can be a pernicious move towards demagoguery. Political leaders become incentivized more to appeal to the single-minded preference of their party’s voters than to engage in nuanced debate with an ‘optimal’ outcome in mind. Similarly, the radicalization of political thought can result in extreme outcomes such as the recent Capitol Hill riot or the response to a health crisis becoming explicitly politicized.
- The drivers of this trend are complex and diverse, including media revenues being underpinned by viewer attention rather than the veracity of reporting, the accepted decline of journalistic standards and the segregation of media outlets by political stance.
- Underpinning all of these factors is the reality that ‘truth’ is currently extremely easy to obfuscate. There is no universally accepted timeline of historic events and no immediate countermeasures to lies or distortion of facts being propagated by the media and political leaders attempting to capitalize on false but popular narratives. Put simply, there is no way to ensure government incentives (and thus, policy) are aligned with addressing reality as opposed to profit-driven media agendas. Almost inevitably, this misalignment between government incentive and fact is likely to result in sub-optimal policy outcomes.
- Analog’s Timegraph can be utilized to serve as the universally accepted source of truth. By incentivizing participants (with ANLOG rewards) to submit time-stamped data covering all areas of the economic and the social landscape, over time we build up a view of exactly what has happened and when. This Timegraph can then be quickly searched to immediately verify (or dispute) claims made in the media, thus incentivizing media platforms and politicians to base their reporting and strategy on a widely accepted version of history as opposed to one they have created to suit their own narrative. We contend that this would undermine the key dynamic driving political polarization and therefore indirectly improve governance. Below, we explore some real-world examples.
- The ongoing pandemic has caused a deepening of political division in the US (and globally), with the commentary leaning towards either governmental inaction, excess action, or poorly coordinated action depending on the political leaning of the observer. Objective analysis has been obstructed by poorly tracked or disseminated data regarding both the pandemic and the government’s response, allowing subjective and self-interested narratives to flourish.
- Had the Analog Timegraph been available, much of the opacity surrounding the pandemic preparation and response may have been prevented. For example:
- Media. The media and independent observers would have been notified in advance of the 2018 disbanding of the National Security Council pandemic response team and the elimination of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) job responsible for detecting outbreaks of infectious diseases in China.
- Supply Chain. Supply chain failures early in the pandemic would have been detected and remedied faster, preventing shortages of key protective equipment and allowing for objective analysis of where and when the failures had arisen.
- Tracking.Tracking and submission of travel from China and other affected areas would have allowed for greater monitoring of COVID’s early vectors and transmission in the US, resulting in both a faster response and greater visibility over the disease’s spread.
- Central to the Brexit debate were questions over the extent of immigration to Britain, British net economic contribution to the European Union (EU) and the degree to which Britain retained sovereignty. The winning ‘Leave’ side of the debate has been accused of overstating or simply misrepresenting historical facts supporting many of their arguments.
The Timegraph could have been used to verify or counter the following claims before they were accepted into the ‘Leave’ narrative:
- Britain sending GBP 350 million per week to the EU. If Britain had submitted data regarding their balance of payments with the EU, this widely disputed figure would have been replaced by an agreed upon figure on the Timegraph that both the ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ sides would have had to debate in good faith.
- Immigration. If British border authorities automatically submitted data on arrivals and departures of foreign nationals, the debate would have relied on actual immigration figures from the Timegraph instead of self-serving or exaggerated data.
- Sovereignty. The Timegraph could have been used to illustrate the extent to which British votes on policies had differed from the EU majority. While this data exists, it is not available in an easily searchable and verifiable format and was hence a source of contention during the referendum.
Review of process failures
- The aftermath of a failure in governance can often result in bi-partisan division, in which politicians concoct a version of events that minimizes their involvement and casts political rivals in a negative light. For example, while Hurricane Katrina’s impact on New Orleans was indisputably both severe and exacerbated by failures of the governmental process, it is conceivable that standing President George Bush was apportioned blame for issues that originated prior to his term.
- Had the Analog Timegraph been available at the time, it would have been possible to track the timeline of events that led to the disaster’s occurrence (poorly constructed and maintained levees, an immobile and disadvantaged population, poor evacuation planning, etc.) and remediation (arrival of emergency response teams, supplies and reconstruction efforts post-event). This would have allowed for a higher quality of planning in advance and less self-interested apportioning of blame after the fact.
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