I wonder if a political system without a permanent government is feasible. I am thinking about a combination of a direct democracy with a project-based administration.

The citizens are long-lived (200-250 years) but not immortal. The society is isolated, technologically advanced (although, does not have FTL), and relatively homogeneous culturally. This world enjoys post-scarcity economy with no currency:

  • no taxes;
  • no competing economic interests;
  • no private property;
  • high levels of automatisation and robotisation;
  • all technologies are environment-friendly as much as possible;
  • the society emphasises recycling and use of bio-degradable materials.

This society started as a small space colony on a bare rock in the middle of nowhere. Ships and domes are used as habitats while the planet is being terraformed. Once it is possible to live on the surface without life-support systems, all citizens will have a choice of accommodation: open-air planetary life, a spaceship/space station, or domed habitat on one of the moons/asteroids/nearby planets.


  • Direct legislation via referendum using three steps:
    1. initiative (citizens consult with interested groups, propose a law, and collect required number of signatures within a limited period of time);
    2. deliberation (a discussion about a proposed law by random representative sample of population);
    3. direct electronic referendum.
  • Referenda can be mandatory (constitutional matters, big scale projects, resource allocation, and alike) and optional (special interests, smaller projects, etc.).
  • Mandatory referenda require a double majority for a law to pass.
  • All laws must have a sunset clause.
  • Voting is a duty of every adult citizen.
  • Enforced compulsory voting for mandatory referenda, non-enforced compulsory voting for optional.


  • There is no central government or political authority.
  • An advanced AI (not necessarily sentient or super-intelligent) acts as a replacement for bureaucracy when it comes to referenda, enforcing voting laws, and allocation of resources (as specified by law). The AI is neutral, but the survival of humanity is one of its main priorities (either by will or design).
  • The AI can participate in legislation using the same process as citizens (and it has 1 vote, which cannot break a tie).
  • The administration is project-based:
    • when something needs to be done the citizens organise a committee to supervise the project;
    • any of the project leaders can be recalled at any time either by 3/4 of the team or through global referendum (depends on the scale of a project);
    • long-term projects cannot be supervised by the same person for longer than 10 years regardless of their qualifications;
    • former supervisors can be retained as consultants, but the responsibility for decisions rests with a current supervisor.
  • Project supervision is a duty. Every adult citizen must participate in administration at least 5 years (not necessarily 5 years in a row). The maximum cumulative time in administrative roles must not exceed 15 years.

Law Enforcement:

  • There is no police or any other law enforcing agency.
  • When needed, citizens can create form a militia.
  • Misconduct and crimes are dealt with on a case by case basis.
  • The society prefers rehabilitation to punishment.
  • Repeated offenders can be banished:
    • Banishment is not permanent if a person can prove that they are ready to reintegrate into the society.
    • Banished individuals get minimal resources necessary for survival in the wilderness.
    • The citizens have a right to kill banished individuals who continue criminal behaviour or endanger community and its members. Killing, in this case, is seen as the last resort and not encouraged, but not frowned upon. It is understood as a sad and unpleasant necessity to protect the society.
  • The AI is responsible for administrative enforcement such as issuing reminders and notifications or limiting access to certain areas and/or resources.
  • $\begingroup$ The biggest issue I see with it is the lack of law enforcement, at least if it is a human society we are talking about. $\endgroup$
    – lijat
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, human society. Law enforcement is also project-based. Citizens can organise a committee or a temporary force to deal with crime. I envision it as militia. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ If yo have no taxes, no property rights, and no scarcity, you have no need for a government. Government exists to administrate common assets, and to set the rules by which the society operates. Most of those rules concern the distribution and governance of scarce resources. Also with the elimination of scarcity and property right, you have eliminated even more rules. So with the premise stated: yes it is possible to do all of that without a government. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 9:26
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelK, do you think it would be sufficient for undertaking big projects like terraforming? $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 9:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Olga You would form a steering group for that project then. No need to make an entire government for it. Like I said: the main job of a government is to administrate and distribute common assets in a scarcity society. Eliminate scarcity and property and you have taken away the biggest reasons for forming a government. Not all of them, but definitely the biggest ones. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 9:34

9 Answers 9


Probably not workable, like many such schemes.

  • No single person can cast informed votes on all issues. So most political systems have representatives (who will be paid, full-time politicians) and political parties, which help not just with compromise-building but also with specializations. How to vote on the infrastructure bill? No idea, I'll ask our guy in that subcommittee what we should do. I trust him even if I don't have the time to understand the answer.
  • Direct democracy works best for questions which can be answered with a clear "yes" or "no" rather than percentage points.
  • Direct democracy works badly for questions with side effects. So you want lower taxes? You want a debt limit? You want more defense spending? Hmm, how exactly do you plan to reconcile that?
  • $\begingroup$ It is a high-tech post-scarcity society. There are no taxes, no debt limits, no defence spending. People can consult the AI to get information about an issue (any level of depth) and there is a deliberation phase where the issue is publicly debated. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 0:31
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Olga, I haven't seen a post-scarcity society yet. Resources are never unlimited. Want your own starship? Maybe. Your own planet? Wait a sec. And more importantly, the ability to consult an AI doesn't help if there are so many issues. It takes time to understand the side effect of the new genetic engineering ethics code, or the foreign policy proposal, or whatever. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 4:43
  • $\begingroup$ I added some information about the society I am talking about. Perhaps, it would help. I am not sure I can agree with your argument that professional politicians are well-versed in topics they vote on. Just look at the US politics today. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 8:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Olga The situation that the US is in today is a direct result of the polarization effects of a two-party adversarial political system. Originally, the founding fathers wanted to keep party politics completely out of the federal system precisely for this reason. George Washington refused to wear any kind on 'party' label. However, the demands of election fund raising quickly quelled such an ideal. Only well-entrenched political parties can come up with the necessary funds to run a campaign. As soon as you have parties, you have an adversarial system. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 14:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @pojo-guy I agree that the post-scarcity issue is a red herring. Today, we live pretty much in a post-scarcity world. We have manufacturing plant that is closed down because of over-capacity. Food goes to waste because it is not wanted. The issue is not leadership per say, for neurotypical humans will always need leadership. We are a herd animal by nature, and if we do not have a leader, we will have a leader. The issue is how that leader is determined, what powers that leader is given, who determines the leader, and how that leader can be removed from leadership. But a leader there will be. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 12:19

Several people have already dealt with the issue of demagoguery in a direct democracy, and the lack of Law Enforcement, but two other things strike me in reading the OP.

  1. There is no neutral arbitrator to settle disputes. The courts of law interpret and enforce laws, but not just criminal law. Contract law is a major part of the court system and contracting parties might be in dispute over varying interpretations of a contract (This gets interesting when multiple parties are involved, for example subcontractors, or partnerships with more than two partners or partners with unequal shares in the corporation).

  2. This is advertised as a post scarcity society, so politics in the form we are familiar with might not even exist. In Organizational Theory, politics is defined as a means of allocating scarce resources, but in a post scarcity society, the only truly limited resources left are time and bandwidth. Even banishing a person to the wilderness seems pointless if they can simply use nanomachines, replicators etc. to create a palatial estate surrounded by landscaped gardens and filled with delicious food, artworks and vintage automobiles (or whatever the person desires). In effect, they are living the same sort of lifestyle as everyone else is already living, except they have been blocked on Skype and "unfriended" on Facebook.

So I'd suggest you rethink the conception of this society. Perhaps the better way of going about this is to start with the economic conditions (post scarcity) and then consider the consequences including secondary and tertiary effects on people and their relationships with each other (since laws and customs are generally developed to regulate these). From there imagine what sorts of social institutions would arise and how disputes would be settled (which speaks to the issues of law enforcement and the courts).

How politics is dealt with in such a society would be drastically different than anything we know today. Even a "point" reputation system like Worldbuilding Stack Exchange would probably not be adequate for the task, although some very interesting scenarios might be developed from that.

  • $\begingroup$ You make a good point that a post-scarcity society will have completely different politics. Thus, contract law is not needed at all. I also believe that you underestimate the impact of isolation. Even extreme introverts need other people, just not as many and not as often as extroverts. But most importantly, I wanted people who answer my question to try and look at it from my proposed society point of view. Unfortunately, so far everybody defaults to our contemporary world with its society and economy. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 9:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Justin Thyme This is the real crux of the problem, and why post scarcity societies will be very different from what we understand. I would expect disputes would probably be IP disputes, i.e. who provided what creative or intellectual component of a project. The other big area of adjudication wold be similar to the disputes about the Internet i.e "Net Neutrality", bandwidth allocation, IP addresses, domain name "squatting" and so on. A neutral adjudicator who has jurisdiction over all parties and the means of enforcing judgement is still needed, although perhaps in different form $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 2:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In effect, they are living the same sort of lifestyle as everyone else is already living, except they have been blocked on Skype and "unfriended" on Facebook. - I expect that this would still be a major deterrent - humans don't do well in isolation $\endgroup$
    – walrus
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 8:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A great deal of very successful scientists ARE autistic. Einstein, for instance, showed autistic tendencies. link Autistics have a very high representation among surgeons. In fact, the best space colonists would be from the autistic population. Most of the traits needed are synonymous with autistic traits. Low intelligence is NOT a requirement for autism. Perhaps the original colonists were highly educated, but what about their progeny? Their descendants? Or is this a first-generation colony? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 14:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ pojo-guy That possibility is why I added the 'co-current health issues' statement. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 1:46

Here is a thought experiment for you. It might help you see all of the ramifications regarding public policy decision making, and lead to an answer.

Consider the task of setting a speed limit on a highway. How do you do it?

A. Have the traffic experts look at the design factors of the road, and the automobile. Set a speed limit that is safely able to be negotiated. But what road conditions? What automobile? what mechanical condition? What driver skill level? Who and how are these decisions made? Some 'experts' will be more conservative than others. So how do you decide what experts to use?

B. Have no speed limit, and let every driver go the speed they feel comfortable at. Some drivers will drive really slow, others will drive really fast. And, like the German autobahns, you then have the requirement to set up medic critical-care stations all along the roadway.

C. Do a survey of the speeds drivers currently go at, and take the 80th percentile of speeds, and set this as the limit (or the 90th? Why not the 75th? How do you decide the percentile? Who decides the percentile?)

D. Take a vote, and let the majority decide (50%? 60%? 80%? Unanimous? What is the 'winning majority' magic number? How do you consider the minority rights of pedestrians vs aggressive drivers?)

E. Use 'pace cars', and everyone has to drive at the same speed as the pace car.

F. Use a random number generator to determine the speed.

G. On odd numbered days, have one speed limit. On even numbered days, have another speed limit, to accommodate the rights of slow drivers and aggressive drivers equally.

H. Have a permanent oversight committee, that determines on a day-to-day, or even hour-by-hour, basis what the speed limit is to be, based on current conditions.

I. Have a transient committee that meets ad-hoc, whenever necessary, to look at all of the above factors (road design, automobile design, public safety, generally accepted practices, public input (drivers AND pedestrians, parents of children, other stake holders), and then makes an informed, best practices arbitrary decision.

J. Let the drivers decide arbitrarily, or let the pedestrians decide arbitrarily, or let bicyclists decide arbitrarily among themselves, by majority vote?

Determining how decisions are made is not a simple process of the 'application of the principles of democracy'. Life is not that simple. You should take some time to get around ALL of the different types of decisions that need to be made in a functioning society.

Given the number of decisions that have to be made at all levels (and visiting a city council meeting might be enlightening) one must consider the effects of the loss of productivity that would ensue if every single member of a society had to familiarize themselves with the specifics of every decision that had to be made, take the time to research and discuss it, and then take the time to vote on it. Methinks that, if voting were compulsory, the average citizen would revert to the 'eenie meenie minie moe' method.

And remember the old adage - once you give a project-based administration a budget line, that administration becomes permanent, even after the problem is solved or the project is completed. Budget lines have a vested interest in ensuring they remain funded.

  • $\begingroup$ I think you do not quite understand how a direct democracy works. Take a look at Switzerland. They have several cantons practising direct democracy. There is no micromanagement via referenda. The other thing is that you keep ignoring the technical specs of my society. There can be no budget lines. I do not have a capitalistic society. I have a space colony with relatively homogenous culture and unified standards for all technology. I also have an advanced AI that can impartial research at deeper levels than humans. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 12:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Olga Then your AI has become the government. Perhaps we are missing a key fact. What is the population of this colony? Is it centralized or decentralized? Is it stagnant or dynamic? Is it expanding, or remaining static? Any society that is continually advancing technologically is always re-inventing itself, and needs some form of dynamic responsive oversight regarding the direction it is going in. I would posit that AI is, by its nature, very conservative and more suited to static internal environments. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 14:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A 'budget line' does not necessarily denote a monetary factor. It means that an infrastructure, a bureaucracy if you will, has been established. Office space, dedicated resources, secretaries, an administrative structure. An organization chart is drawn up. Positions are appointed. Once a committee structure has been struck, humans tend to not want to have it dismantled when the problem is solved. There is an innate tendency for the problem to NEVER be solved, when the continuing existence of the committee depends on the problem continuing. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 14:40

Have a look at the governing structure of indigenous aboriginal populations. John Locke himself came over to North America and was absolutely astounded by the total democracy of the Iroquois Confederacy. He saw it as the perfect example of government by the people, for the people, and a system that fit perfectly with his ideals that the people had the right to determine who governed them. Their form of government had a tremendous influence on his thinking about government by the people. However, his bias and bigotry prevented him from recognizing them as 'humans', as narrowly defined in his white-male-centric ideas.

It was a societal system that almost exactly maps the structure you proposed - no permanent on-going government body (a council that came together occasionally, and then 'left the scene', no police force, decisions made unanimously by a vote.

It did not have AI, but what it DID have was a system that was overseen by the elders - presumably using their collective wisdom shaped by a lifetime of experiences. It was one of the most pragmatic of societies known to humans.

'The foundation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy is the Kaianere’kó:wa; more commonly known in English as the Great Law of Peace. This ancient doctrine provides an elaborate and efficient institution of democratic governance, social and economic stability, and a moral equation to achieve peace; both within one’s self and among the populace. It is in every sense the Constitution of the Haudenosaunee; spawning the beginning of republican democracy in North America and inspiring other nations, particularly the United States of America, to embrace this unique ideology that combines a holistically benevolent approach towards peace and inner peace with a exceptional and practical method of civic problem solving.' from link

Except, of course, it was a warrior society beyond its own social structure.

Have a look at this web site. I believe it describes exactly what you are after.

See also link

  • $\begingroup$ It is very interesting, thanks. Although, this system seems to be a representative democracy rather than direct democracy. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 0:54
  • $\begingroup$ Although I have heard this argument touted many times on the Internet, reading things like the Federalist Papers and the writings of the American Founders suggests they were already versed in the ideas of both Direct Democracy on the ancient Greek models, and the Republican models of Rome and the Serenìsima Repùblica Vèneta, choosing the Republican model to avoid the rule of the mob and the influence of demagogues in politics. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 3:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Thucydides, the US model was also created to give power to white landowners as opposed to all people and to balance unequal populations of Northern and Southern states. Moreover, recent research of the US democracy suggests that it is no longer a democracy but an oligarchy. Of course, there is no rule of the mob, but there is no rule of people either. This is not a system I am interested in. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 9:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Olga It depends on what one's perception of democracy is. The problem with majority rule is in the protection of minority rights. They had a very effective process of 'veto of one', where minority rights could be protected by a simple veto of any one person. They also had built-in safeguards, where the representatives could be recalled at any time by non-voting members. Sort of like Canada's Governor General - a position that has ultimate power and decision making, yet has no power at all. The power to veto legislation but not to make it. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ @JustinThyme, good point about the minority rights. However, there is a risk sliding into identity politics and not being able to do anything because just one person disagrees. I am not looking into making everyone happy (although, that would be nice), but I am more concerned with long-term stability while still getting things done. I will have to think how to protect minorities without giving them too much power. I would like to avoid the tyranny of minorities. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 13:16

I don't think this works in a modern society. Even the Athenian democracy was subject to various flaws:

Subject to demagoguery -- caught up in the spur of the moment they take a rash action.

Not everyone could be an expert on everything. See some of the discussions leading up to the defeat of the Persians.

Not everyone participated -- lots of slaves.

In a modern world, there are too many special interests, too many topics that take years to get up to speed on. Look at the amount of work that goes into writing (usually badly) one bill.

Look also at places that have in essence put in libertarian governments.

I suspect you would end up with a bunch of 'tragedy of the commons' scenarios, and a lot of unregulated situations.

Consider the state of air and water pollution in the U.S. before the EPA. Emissions controls on cars cost more, but make for cleaner air for everyone.

The lack of enforcement will be an issue. One of the ways that Trump is deregulating is by cutting funding and staff to regulatory agencies. Laws without teeth are ignored. In this way the U.S. is following the footsteps of many third world countries.

However consider an option to direct participatory democracy:

Make your vote mobile. Your congress critter represents YOU. His vote is weighted with the number of supporters he currently represents. If you don't like his stand, you move your vote to someone else. There are various high and low tech ways to manage this. An easy way would be a form/post card sent from your local post office. Charge a modest fee for this so people don't do it daily. Say $10.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Sep 23, 2017 at 18:33

As an alternative to democracy, you might have a look at the tenants of technocracy.

Technocracy is a system of governance where decision-makers are selected on the basis of technological knowledge. Scientists, engineers, technologists, or experts in any field, would compose the governing body, instead of elected representatives.[1] Leadership skills would be selected on the basis of specialized knowledge and performance, rather than parliamentary skills.[2] Technocracy in that sense of the word (an entire government run as a technical or engineering problem) is mostly hypothetical. In another commonly used sense, technocracy is any portion of a bureaucracy that is run by technologists.

The term technocracy was originally used to advocate the application of the scientific method to solving social problems. In such a system, the role of money and economic values could be less emphasized. Concern would be given to sustainability within the resource base, instead of monetary profitability, so as to ensure continued operation of all social-industrial functions. Some uses of the word refer to a form of meritocracy, where the ablest are in charge, ostensibly without the influence of special interest groups.[3] The word technocratic has been used to describe governments that include non-elected professionals at a ministerial level.[4][5]

from link

But it begs the question be asked, how is the selection of the technocrats decided? Who decides? Are they term-limited?


I think you can make it work, as a piece of fiction.

We have no idea what a post-scarcity society will be like, so you can decide what your version of it looks like. From the detailed question it seems like you have it well in hand.

People can talk a lot about "human nature", but the fact is that all humans up until today has grown up in scarcity conditions and bears the psychological scars from that. We don't know what "human nature" will be for human who has grown up in post-scarcity.

Also, the science of psychology is still uncertain. In the future they will know more and can use that knowledge to raise children to become proper ungoverned individuals.

A few bullet points:

  • Nothing lasts forever. The (narrative) present is different from the past (narrative past, still our future). The future is different from the present. The only constant is change, and people complaining about it.
  • Resources are never unlimited. For some things demand will raise to meet supply. Even if nobody owns things, somebody will need to decide how to use them. The right to make that decision will be contested.
  • In a far future society the most important resources will be physical space and energy.
  • $\begingroup$ Why physical space? Are you suggesting an exponential expansion? The universe is a truly enormous place. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 12:32
  • $\begingroup$ Limits are time, energy and bandwidth. Everything else can be provided with enough time. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ Again, I ask: give us a size estimation of this colony. Some democratic systems are not scaleable. What works for 50 does not work for 50,000. One million requires a system different than one billion. America's system would be completely unworkable in China. With one billion, what does a simple majority of one person really mean? That leaves half a billion people less one opposed to it. That's more people than in all of America. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 14:04

Your society doesn't sound feasible with the currently existing characteristics of humanity.

It implies that humans have evolved/been culturally programmed to care much more about certain things than they currently do, and simultaneously to care about much less about other things.

  • For example, in post-scarcity world, why should anyone take up responsibility? Being coerced by AI under threat of punishment doesn't sound like good motivation.

  • There is no private property, which technically could mean that anyone can go to anyone else's house and start living there. You can have laws against it, but then again, why should anyone bother to enact these laws, unless they are directly affected?

  • What about dissenters? Humans are not inherently logical creatures. Maybe there will be some who enjoy or support some or many of the things, which are not compatible with your utopia. If they are ostracized, they might just create their own places and cities, and bear hatred for the majority which expelled them.

Much of what you propose have been imagined in communist utopia sci-fi, such as by Strugatsky brothers during Soviet times. Very interesting read, their stories set in "the Noon universe" -- a time when much of what you propose (post-scarcity, no private property, etc.) is imagined to have happened. Translated to English as well, I think.

In general, however, your world presupposes tightly knit communities, which care enough about each other to do all the things government is tasked with doing. It is not impossible, however, it seems that historically such communities have been limited by size -- people seem to need to know each other personally to care much about them.

Indeed, while we sometimes support charities and similar activities, vast majority of us spend most of attention on our beloved ones, relatives and similar groups which make up the inner circle of our world.

Post-scarcity may change that, but still any person has at least one limited resource, as indicated by some of the other answers: his attention. Nobody of us can care about every of the 10 million things that make up our world. We select and we ignore the rest. We have government explicitly so that we don't have to worry about a multitude of things ourselves. We have rewards for those who choose to bear the responsibility of governing. All these things seem to be lacking in a world of yours.

  • $\begingroup$ You make a good point about a community size. Although, I am not sure I can fully agree with you. I lived in Japan for quite some time and despite the population of about 130 million, they are very community-oriented. In fact, it drives foreigners nuts. As for insurgents, they will exist. It is part of a plot. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Olga Community-oriented they might be, but how large are any of those communities and to what extent does any community participate in life of other communities, assuming they are not all nationwide? Or are they? $\endgroup$
    – Gnudiff
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 12:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There are three "magic numbers" for community size, which correspond roughly to family, clan, tribe. Human organizations reflect this, with small grouping s of 7-10 (family), 25-35 (clan) and 90-150 (Tribe). Outside of that, the human brain really cannot keep close track of people anymore. As an interesting correspondence, the military evolved units with similar sizes; Squad (6-10), Platoon (25-35) and Company (90-150). Corporate organizations and work teams tend to fall into these size groupings as well. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 12:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ ctd. The key was the lack of competition among value systems. There was only one to choose from. Not until America became involved was there a competing system. But this lack of competition impacted cultural diversity. It produced a homogeneous society. It is very feasible in a space colony, where doing something different could result in the destruction of the colony. Most human colonies on earth started as homogeneous societies, based usually on religion as the glue to cohesiveness. Do not underestimate the role of 'religion' (defined as a common universal institutionalized value system). $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Gnudiff Indeed it did, but this disruption did not begin until the Onin war in 1467. Apparently Japan's population passed the ten million mark around this time, and escalated rapidly after (perhaps 50% in 100 years). It was also the beginning of Western (European) influences. It is a good example of how an insular space colony might play out in the very long term, as the population grows beyond some critical mass, as factions grow and centralized control breaks down. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 15:31

There has been a lot of really good discussion on the best solution to this question. Very informative and useful to a lot of scenarios.

Here is some further background information.

There has been a lot of study into the benefits and advantages of various leadership styles. Among them are studies that look at problem solving and task accomplishment in groups that have a direct leader vs groups that are leaderless and make decisions by group consensus.

The distinct leader groups accomplished their tasks more efficiently in less time, because the leader kept everyone focused and on task. The democratic groups were less likely to finish the task, but the group members all enjoyed the experience more. They were happier, although less efficient, and felt more engaged and empowered. Their self esteem was higher too, if I remember correctly.

What a strong central government would do, therefore, is keep the colony on task, and directed to a goal (survival?). Things would be more likely to get done, and in a timely organized and coordinated fashion.

A colony that ruled by consensus would be less likely to stay on task, would not be as efficient, but would have happier, more engaged citizens overall. (Remember the tree beings in Lord of the Rings?)

There is an old adage that 'A platypus is an animal that was designed by a committee.'

In addition, cognitive research indicates that humans naturally want a clearly defined leader.

A new finding in brain science reveals a curious dynamic — a neural synchronization — during communication between leaders and followers: the brain activity of leaders and followers is more highly synchronized than the brain activity between followers and followers.

from link although a caveat is that this research was apparently conducted with neurotypicals.

Also useful is When Everyone's in Charge: The Fallacy of Leaderless Teams

Holacracy is born of the belief that "traditional hierarchy is reaching its limits" and that organizations would work better if teams had more autonomy. In the world of Holacracy permanent management positions are unnecessary and without them everyone can have a voice in every process. Except it doesn't seem to work that way. In fact, for a model that professes to do away with traditional management and leadership, there are a lot of rules. The Holacracy constitution is page after page of what these not leaders and not managers must do and what they cannot do.

Thus I suggest an overall leader of some sort, besides your AI (hard to synch minds with an AI), even if the leader is a token, in-name-only, leader without any defined decision-making ability (much like Canada's Governor-General is, on the organizational chart, the supreme leader of Canada).

  • $\begingroup$ I am starting to think that my initial post has too many red herrings. A committee does not mean lack of hierarchy or leadership. You are absolutely correct that humans tend to choose and follow leaders. I am not against it. I am all for it. My point was that all administrative activity is done on a project basis. Committee (aka project groups) can be highly organised or even authoritarian. But each of them can exist only for a limited time and deal with a specific task. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ I am very much enjoying this discussion. While I might not agree with everything said, I greatly appreciate the input of all commenters and responders. It helps a great deal with figuring out the system I want and ways to describe it in such a way that it does not mislead or confuse my readers. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 14:36

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