In Virtual Reality (VR) there is a concept known as a Fidelity Contract. Basically, the idea is that producers of VR content want users to engage in that content and keep them engaged throughout the experience.
In order to do that, they have to establish a Fidelity Contract. So for example, once you enter a virtual space and you come across objects like a door with a knob you should have a reasonable expectation that the door will operate much like a door you experience in real life. Now external factors can also play a part in destroying that fidelity contract. Let’s say you want to reach out and grab an object in virtual space but there is a real life object in actual space that you slam your hands against as you try. Those external real life objects destroy the Fidelity Contract. So now your brain becomes less engaged in the virtual experience because your mind is now worried about real life content; the throbbing of your knuckles is now present in your mind. Producers of content really want to keep users engaged and the users also want to be engaged; neither party wants the Fidelity Contract to be broken. Imagine you were in a virtual world and someone kept hitting you with a stick in real life. You would quickly take off your VR headset and try to figure out what the heck was going on. Ok, you get the point, so you are asking yourself, “What does this have to do with you running for Governor?”
Well, in a nutshell, I am trying to re-establish a Fidelity Contract in politics. I believe this contract is now broken. People don’t trust politicians, or vice versa. Add to that a mistrust of the media, government, and corporations and what you have is an environment rich for misinformation and misguided policy. It is exceedingly difficult to get the general public to engage in constructive politics. For example, we just had an election to amend the Texas Constitution. The final tally of votes cast was 871,326, which represented 5.77% of registered voters. If we were an organization with a Board of Directors, no action would be taken, because a quorum (usually 50+% participation) had not been met. But our democracy has no set requirement, so the Texas Constitution was amended. Few will know, understand, or care about the impacts of these amendments.
But it’s also not as simple as that, because in 2016, 8.97 million votes were cast statewide representing 59.4% of voters, so the good news is, we voted! However, the question remains, did we vote because we established a fidelity contract with a candidate, or did we vote because we thought the alternative was worse? How many of us described voting in our last election as “holding our nose” or the “lesser of two evils”? Were candidates trying to get you to engage in a fidelity contract with them based on policy even at a high level? Or were they simply telling you not to establish a fidelity contract with the other candidate? How much information did we actually have in making our decisions, or were we voting on words like emails, buses, or disaster?
So let’s think about this a bit, for elections where money is spent to get us worked up (wedged against each other) with a binary approach to policy we go to the polls. For elections where issues are actually placed in front of us to deliberate on, we say no way, too hard. If this is the state of politics, then one can only expect that the policy prescriptions will ultimately vary quite a bit from the conscious wishes of the public.
So is this state of politics our fault? Well, partly. Look we all have families, are trying to get ahead in our jobs, etc. We all have constraints on our time, and it is not as if these constitutional amendments were easy to break down. BUT, I also know how much time we waste. Admittedly I myself have wasted way more than five minutes a day on mobile gaming, social media or looking at cat memes. So yes, if we are honest we could all spend a little more time considering issues that might have impacts on our community and civilization. To put it differently, how convenient is it to say, “Yeah those politicians are bad, drain the swamp,” and yet share no responsibility for our own level of disengagement. This is the quandary we now face; no one wants to go into or engage in politics, but we all have expectations for what politics (government) should provide us.
So why start here, with engagement and this fidelity contract thing, instead of posting all types of position statements? Well I wonder the exact opposite, why start with position statements when you haven’t addressed the engagement issue. If you were to ask me if I prefer your engagement or your vote, I would undoubtedly prefer your engagement. Because if I have your engagement, I don’t have to ask you to believe me, as you will already have a grasp of issues, bring your reason to the discussion, and be able to make a determination as to the best policy prescription, regardless of the party or candidate.
So if this is the state of affairs, how do we begin to address it? Well, I am going to start slowly. First, I think it is a frame of mind. Let’s first start with the premise that we have to stop being angry. I know this goes against everything we are being told right now. We are fed division or resistance to opposition. But anger won’t get us anywhere; it keeps us addicted to a politics that contributes to us being disengaged. This is not easy for us to contend with as a nation, as we are hurt and many times feel disrespected. Many times we confuse anger for strength and our natural response is to fight back against anyone or anything. But I feel this just causes both sides to further entrench into misguided positions. This should be easy enough for all of us to understand; don’t make others defensive or the path to communication gets worse. Now, having just said this I can hear the chorus of people saying, “But why should we do this? The other side doesn’t. They’re not interested in playing fair.” To those I say, be confident in your position and know that the more we build a coalition of reason based on process, the less you will have to worry about the tactics of those who want to divide.
Next, we have to get more informed, even if it is in small bites. I am going to try to use this platform to present some ideas and to share some of my thoughts and more importantly to ask questions. Again, going back to VR, the fidelity contract isn’t established instantly. You don’t enter a VR world and fully trust it; it is developed over time. If the door works, you try picking up objects. Similarly, we have to build our fidelity contract slowly. What are the pieces of information we collectively need to have a better view of an issue? In some ways, I feel our current politics is in panic mode. We are lost without a map and we are all yelling at each other and over each other, so we never get a sense of direction. So the first step is to calm down (no anger), the next step is to gather what information we can to figure out where we are going.
Ok I am going to stop there for now. As I said previously, this is not a traditional political path, but it is something I am committed to. I have been in politics before and there is always a tension to try and please voters with optimistic sounding rhetoric. But I genuinely want things improved and I feel like our entire approach has to change. If you are like me you may feel more than ever that the current wedge politics of our nation and state are on a path to fail our children. But inevitably when I look at my kids it becomes unnervingly clear, they are looking back at me. The calm leadership, guidance, and direction they will need for tomorrow will come from our actions today. So we can just sit and complain, or we can try. Yes this is a monumental task, but we have to start the work.