Future Political Design: Rethinking Constitutional Governance


Publication: 2013-10-09


Given the many changes underway, we need to consider new concepts and processes for developing constitutional governance. And process is key. You won't get a 21st century design using an 18th century process.

In an attempt to operationalize some of these principles, we can adapt the work of evolutionary economist Richard Nelson and the additional conceptualizing done by Eric Beinhocker to think of governance systems as unique architectures of physical technologies combined with political technologies. By incorporating work done by James Dator and by taking inspiration from industrial design practices, we can begin by considering an (idealized) approach to designing constitutional governance in the 21st century.


Name:Vision Foresight Strategy LLC


This is a publication of Vision Foresight Strategy LLC, a foresight and strategic analysis firm based in Honolulu, Hawaii.


  • Richard A. K. Lum

  • Vision Foresight Strategy NetworkA special acknowledgement to the members of the Vision Foresight Strategy network who continue to provide invaluable feedback:

  • Garry Golden

  • Steve Kiser, PhD

  • Wendy Schultz, PhD

  • William Wieninger, PhD

  • Political InstitutionsThose human organizations and structures that we have traditionally thought of as "government." These have traditionally held a monopoly on the authority to establish priorities and steer society.

  • PlethocraciesWhereas demos refers to the "populace as a political unit", plethos refers to the multitude, the crowd. In a plethocracy the crowd holds power, though not in the direct, deliberative fashion of a democracy. Enabled by technology, preferences are identified and decisions emerge through the undirected actions and interactions of all political actors. This is the natural home for notions like "wisdom of the crowd," "crowdsourcing," and self-organization and emergent patterns.

  • DatocraciesDatocracy is a class of political system in which governance structures and processes are deeply data-driven. In these systems, humans (or other actors to which they ascribe political rights) still play a conscious and deliberate decision-making role, but they are framed, buttressed, and evaluated on all sides by data and computational augmentation. Datocracy is the natural home for practices such as A/B testing and where algorithms have an explicit and important role supporting human discourse and decision-making.

  • MachinarchiesMachinarchy is a system in which the constitutional order is embedded in the built environment. The day-to-day role of human political actors is removed, replaced by the pervasive, unceasing, yet potentially adaptive steering of behavior through the built world of buildings, objects, and code. These are the systems in which machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and machine learning figuratively come to the fore. If in datocracies "machines" augment and buttress our political capabilities and performance, in machinarchies they collectively govern society day-to-day.

  • Richard Nelsonevolutionary economist

  • Eric Beinhocker

  • James Dator