Categories
society

Gamify Poverty

How it would work isn’t clear, but it’s an intriguing idea: handle complex social problems by turning them into games, with the stakeholders as players and the remote goals left alone in favor of incremental achievement. It could work for many different social and political problems, but today I will focus on poverty as an example.

When someone is impoverished, they might sign up for foodstamps and other forms of welfare like Medicaid and housing assistance. The Republicans want to add more and more work requirements, strings attached to try to help them escape poverty in order to receive assistance. As though the problem of poverty is as simple as “get a job.” And then, of course, you have to balance assistance against wages earned to try to keep people from being better off staying poor than working a dead-end job, and it’s quite a messy problem.

One of the key features of gamifying is to offer both group achievement opportunities and individual achievement opportunities. Some respond better to one than the other, so having both is important. Thus, a person in need of assistance would either be assigned or would choose and join a group of others (likely at a mixture of stages along the route away from poverty) and would work with them on certain tasks.

They would also have individual tasks, with the possibility of individual achievement (and thus reinforcement). Because part of the problem with the current model of poverty-assistance is the fact that people can do the right thing and go wholly unrewarded, heightening the chance they will fail (i.e., an unreinforced positive behavior tends to be extinguished).

Bootstrapping the current welfare model, for instance, a person receiving $1 of assistance by default should receive $1.10 if they look for job opportunities, $1.20 if they research particular opportunities, $1.30 if they fill out an application, $1.40 if they go to an interview, etc. Instead of work-fare, it should be game-fare.

Similarly, for public housing, there should be some amount of discretionary spending allocated, which residents can use in their group (either a floor or a building or whatever pod-size makes sense) for improvements. The data from these events can be used to evaluate the sorts of improvements that will benefit other public housing areas, as well as provide the residents with experience in making improvements for when they have their own homes.

All of this can go atop some sort of score-keeping system, so that the assisted can track their progress, finding ways to improve their scores that also help them escape poverty. By formalizing it into a game, you get a ton of data that can further improve the game and you get a plethora of reinforcement opportunities where the assisted can see their actions resulting in some tangible gain, even if only in game points.

This same model could be used in many other areas, such as Veteran reintegration, prison reform, helping people with medical problems (“the diabetes control game”), and so on.

The biggest obstacles to this sort of reform are probably:

  1. Calling something a game may be misperceived to be making light of a serious situation.
  2. Politicians are preternaturally opposed to good ideas.
Categories
hyperweb

Inline Grading Politicians

In my effort to diversify my political news reading, I’ve been occasionally seeing articles from conservative sites. Some of them have a pretty neat feature: they tell you right after an elected politician’s name whether you should like or hate them via a site called “Conservative Review” with the feature being called the “Liberty Score.”

Now, political reporting has long included a tag of loyalty (“Jon Smith (R-America)”), but this new-fangled tag shows just how committed to everything conservative an individual is, in the form of a percentage. So you can see, reading an article on a site using this that, for example, Ted Cruz is 97% conservative. They don’t say what he’s 3%, but we’ll just assume it’s bad. Or, you can see that Bernie Sanders, at 17%… wait, 16% (did it just change while I was typing this?) is practically an unperson by conservative standards.

They give the letter grade, too, if you hover over it. Sanders gets an F, which is basically a participation trophy. Liberty-lovers are supposed to hate participation trophies, though. But there it is: Sanders <(Participation Trophy Recipient) right there by his name, when you hover.

All of this is a sophisticated method for avoiding phrasing like, “Bernie Sanders (pinko) said…” or “Hillary Clinton (infidel) …” That sort of stuff, outright saying what your side thinks of the other, happens, but there is a risk that people will have to read what you write. With the little fancy number tags, which will probably be replaced with signal-strength-style bars soon, they just have to look at that bit. Maybe happy-face, frowny-face. I’m sure they’re focus-grouping it.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: is this the forehead (or back-of-the-hand) stamp that we were warned about by that fancy book with the talk of dragons and God? The mark of the beast? Don’t worry! I am sure there’s some eschatological site that is currently using similar technology to markup their texts and the Liberty Score probably only rates about 10% as a sign of the end of days (they get a participation trophy for their participation trophies).

Point is, this is great for journalism. You’ll soon be able to log on, click a donkey or an elephant, and have all your news done with emoticons. You’ll be given either a rifle mouse cursor (for the conservatives) to shoot the enemy, or a picket mouse cursor (for the liberals) to protest the enemy long enough that they flee.

Maybe they could give the Clinton and Sanders supporters some validation-failed stamps for their latest circling on who isn’t qualified to be president.

On a more honest note, though, boiling the totality of a person down to a number is best left to the financial industry. It has no place in political reporting. So we shouldn’t be surprised to see it being done.

Categories
society

Gamify the Election

What if someone created a large Super PAC and candidates could compete for its support? What if we gamified the bid for the presidency?

Picking up from a climate lottery, another game idea. If some large amount of funding was put in from private donors, say $10 million, and it was there for the taking of any candidates willing to try to win it. What sort of events and what sort of scoring would be useful?

Now, I am not an attorney, so I’m not sure the legalities of the idea. That is, I know Super PACs cannot coordinate. But it’s not clear whether they can offer contests (of skill) to determine whom they support. But assuming they are legal, things like requiring cross-party debates might be a start.

If Bernie Sanders (who opposes Super PACs, and therefore probably wouldn’t participate) debated Lindsey Graham (who just dropped out), they might each score 100 points for the Gamified PAC.

This idea might seem far-fetched, but China has that new Sesame Credit system, judging individual citizens for their social behaviors. That system has received much criticism in the West as being a tool of a totalitarian system. But is the current political game so much different?

Donald Trump says some batshit and gets awarded some percent in the next poll. The whole troupe shows up to talk to this group or that, and they hope to walk away with the prize money. Of course, much the same system is already practiced throughout the business world. China’s just putting an existing game into digital form, right?

Sure, their game isn’t based on a distributed ruleset, while the political game at least has some distributedness. But the criticisms I’ve seen all ignore the fact that the game is already there, but how we choose the rules does matter. They act like the game itself is the issue.

Currently we have broken rules for electing public servants. Maybe gamifying the elections, doling out money based on more formal contests, would at least let us have some more objective measure to evaluate by. Or maybe it would just point out the flaws of the existing system. But, in either case, the game is already there.