My quick take on the article Why replacing politicians with experts is a reckless idea.

There is a spectrum of democracy from direct (e.g. referendums) thru representative (e.g. voting in people we think/hope know better than us). The article conflates the problems of the two ends, but while the former end does indeed suffer from people who aren’t qualified making important decisions (e.g. me, I have no idea what is best for the country), the latter end seems to be actually quite effective.

In theory the ultimate representative democracy is essentially Google’s PageRank (see Scott Aaronson’s piece on Eigendemocracy). In theory the closer one gets to that the better, and indeed voting in MPs who in turn vote in leadership who in turn bring in experts is a pretty good – and more intelligible – approximation of that. This achieves essentially epistocracy – the experts’ experts making complex decisions rather than the whole population – while avoiding the pitfalls mentioned in the article (i.e. who sets the bar for “knowledgeable”, is it gameable by technocracy, etc).

Where it breaks down is when politics forces its hand closer to direct democracy; when insufficient legal mandate and political capital force the experts’ experts to punt action to increasingly ill-informed voters: the houses of commons and lords, and ultimately the public. Relatively ignorant, they are heavily influenced by the layperson’s expert (e.g. Donald Trump, rhetoric, journalists optimising for clicks) and the result is the populist, noisy decision-making where people have far too much confidence in their qualification to make decisions and the quality of the decision itself.

Interesting aside: Kasparov versus the World, a game of chess played in 1999 over the Internet.