The Senate Is Obsolete

Original article was published on Artificial Intelligence on Medium

The Roman Senate

In simpler times, when we had 13 states and a population of a few million, long before the Industrial, Nuclear and Information Ages, the venerable Senate made some sense, harkening back to Ancient Rome. Each state, no matter the population would, be conferred two Senators and thus would a protection be given to less-populated states to not be lorded over by the masses in the big cities. It had a fairness to it.

We expected our Senators to be of a certain educated and circumspect lot that could be trusted to make wise decisions on a State and National level. By and large, they fulfilled their roles, and we progressed. However, over time they have become crusty, bickering, polarized and old and so filled with out-of-touch millionaires and the seats so coveted by the monied powers that be, that we started to elect Senators for entirely different reasons—generally their ability to raise money to run obscenely expensive campaigns.

The fairness is gone. Because we have grown and changed so drastically, our present world is unrecognizable from that of 1781. We have daunting challenges brought about by feeding and caring for hundreds of millions of people, getting along with billions of people, all on a tiny little blue dot floating through space. That Wyoming would have the same number of Senators as California or New York is preposterous. Now if the Senate didn’t have much power, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But they do. One hundred, mostly white old men, now routinely override the will of hundreds of millions of citizens in a game of political football. They determine the course of not only law making, but that of the Judicial Branch and, on occasion, the course of the Executive Branch, in the case of Impeachment and enforcement of subpoenas. Too much power for ANY 100 people, let alone a bunch of bought, know-nothings whose incumbency is almost guaranteed by dark, unaccountable money. We can no longer afford this foolish, outdated approach to governing ourselves.

We have so many smart and wise experts in this nation that are not having nearly enough say in how we operate. Each area of expertise has an abundance of qualified experts would could help us make the best possible decisions in the most objective and neutral way. But we have dummies instead and not nearly as representative as they need to be. We need expertise in at least these areas:

  1. Environment and climate
  2. Planning and engineering
  3. Education and schooling
  4. Business and economy
  5. Law and enforcement
  6. Healthcare and wellness
  7. Military, defense security
  8. Diplomacy and International relations
  9. Information and automation
  10. Elections and voting

Of course, we’ve all seen the Senate with its pathetic committees where even fewer people gain even more power. We’ve seen them call and grill experts and witnesses in partisan clown shows to come to a forgone conclusion. A sham of wise governance! We don’t need this any more. It’s useless and is killing us.

If the pandemic of 2020 has taught us anything it is how ridiculous it is to require physical presence in a single location to discuss, debate, read or vote. We live in a Virtualized World now. We don’t need to settle for 100 non-experts in a chamber deciding our future any more. In fact, each of the topics above could easily have a Panel of 99 experts apiece (odd to avoid ties)! These could meet anywhere, any time and debate things intelligently based on facts, reason and knowledge. And make binding decisions.

Indeed, the House could pass off parts of legislation to the respective Panel that had expertise and the Panel would pass a binding decision on to a more humble Senate which would be weighted to HALF of the remaining vote. In other words, the Panels would be given HALF the Senatorial Role and whatever they said would act as 50 votes in the present Senate. Each Senator would then have 1/2 vote (1 per state) to add to the Panel Decision. A majority of 2/3rds, including the Panel would pass the legislation or the appointee. In other words, after the Panel, only 17 Senators would be required to pass the legislation or 84 Senators to override the Panel, an unlikely scenario.

By having non-partisan experts it would make the likelihood of close votes somewhat reduced because they would not be bound to particular constituents but rather are to be thought of as National Knowledge Resource. So, if for example, they were debating the need for X number of ventilators, medical experts would look at complex data not easily understood by laypersons and would largely agree on the necessity or not of X ventilators. Or if a wall were proposed to be built on our southern border, experts could confer on the impacts, costs and efficacy and make an informed decision, outside of politics.

The purpose of the Senatorial Panel is to make the best possible decisions based on the best information available.

How Senatorial Panels Are Chosen

The system above relies on highly qualified experts in a given field and must be as non-partisan as possible, showing dedication to their field of expertise, not political prowess. Therefor choosing the experts is in itself somewhat reliant on a level of intelligence and discretion. I would propose a nominating process whereby identified peers nominate Panelists. If a panelist clears a normal security and background check and deemed to have sufficient expertise and to be upstanding, the Instantiated Panel would vote to confirm new panelists which would be cycled out every two years based on Random Lottery or perhaps level of engagement. These would be experts somewhat like Expert Witnesses in court proceedings except that no “professional experts” would be allowed whose main job was to be an “expert” for hire. There would be no litmus test for experts as to whether they believed a particular thing, had a particular faith or belonged to a particular party. In fact the Panel would be required to remain Blind to such personal information.

In as far as Panelists would be citizens, and nominated by other citizens, The People would have a say in who becomes Empaneled, though not by direct voting as with the Senate which would remain a political process. And because Panelists would not have guaranteed Tenure and no means of petitioning for extensions or inclusion, it would be a less fraught process.

Enter the AI Panelist

Because we can’t pretend that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going away or won’t become monumentally intelligent in the near future, it is completely reasonable to entertain the concept of an AI Expert Panelist. Such a panelist could have access to the entire human knowledge base and help to weed through extremely complex data sets to aid in the decision making process. Remember, the ONLY job of the Panel is to make the best decisions based on the best information so if an AI Agent of some form can help with that, we should welcome it.

Conclusion

If our goal is to live in a better, more intelligently run world where information is used to it’s full advantage to make life easier, healthier, more prosperous, more fair for the most number of people, then we owe it to ourseves to bump up our governing game to match the times. Clinging on to an antique, though at times venerable system, when we could do so much better for ourselves, makes no sense. We don’t have to do away with the Senate to achieve this. We only need to Enhance the Senate with the rich resources we have in our burgeoning population by incorporating Senatorial Panels and attenuating the political power of the Senate which has become ridiculously disproportionate and ill serves The People. We don’t need to go down the same road as the Roman Empire. We can do better, and must.