Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a Latin phrase that means “the voice of the people is the voice of God”. Its origin can be traced back to a letter from the Master of the Palace School at Aachen to the Emperor Charlemagne in 800, where he wrote, “And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the righteousness of the crowd is always close to insanity.” Of course an emperor would not be very keen on listening to the voice of the people, which makes you wonder if it’s the same case for a plutocratic on-chain governance system.
In this particular case the question that I want to present is: if the vote, poll, temperature check, (or whatever other rebranding they want to do) to the question asked by the Cardano Foundation regarding the future of CIP-1694, represent the voice of the people or not?
The results of the temperature check were shared on December 16th, and the outcome shouldn’t surprise anyone. Overall YES got 99.12% of the stake, including the votes by IOG, CF and Emurgo. Which makes you wonder what’s the purpose of the founding entities participating if the goal was to perform a temperature check of the opinion of the community? Or perhaps the gimmick of the “temperature check” was a last minute effort to try to salvage what was supposed to be the ratification of the whole CIP-1694 as stated in the Intersect roadmap in the website. After all, according to the roadmap, the Interim Constitution should have been published and the Interim Constitutional Committee announced before the start of the end-of-year holiday break.
Regardless of the roadmap, and going back to the results, even when taking out the votes by the founding entities we can see a clear win of the YES vote with 93.4%. However, when taking a look at the amount of wallets that participated we can see that, similar to the SPO poll regarding the minpoolcost and k, very few people actually voted. In total there were 771 votes, of which we don’t know how many were associated with IOG, CF or Emurgo because they didn’t share this information. Which it would make a difference if, let’s imagine, subtracting them we get a closer result to the 21 ABSTAIN or 30 NO. When reading the article from Intersect presenting the results it reads that “Over 1,000 members from 24 countries participated in 50 global CIP-1694 workshops this year” that means that not even every person that participated in these workshops voted. Matthew Capps from IOG recognized in this tweet that the low attendance of voters “could not have served as the ratification vote, specifically because the turnout isn’t high enough.”
Summon Platform ran an unofficial vote as well, asking the same question and with hardware wallet support, which makes you wonder why they were able to provide this functionality while IOG and CF working together couldn’t or wouldn’t. As expected the participation was lower than in the official poll, but the results are similar. 25 million ADA voted YES, 123 thousand voted NO and 4 thousand voted ABSTAIN. Unfortunately, we don’t have the count of how many different wallets participated and voted for each of the three available options.
The issue of the turnout is one that we are starting to see across different votes and polls in the Cardano ecosystem and a worrying sign that the community is not ready for governance yet. In my infamous article titled “Why Governance on Cardano Will Fail” I question the change of philosophy that IOG has taken regarding governance, from the meticulous approach to the development of Cardano to the rushed approach with decentralized on-chain governance. I think it’s safe to say that participation in decision making cannot be rushed, the same way mission critical software development cannot.
This constraint is not only seen in a nerdy vote online regarding the future of magic internet money, it’s actually an issue across most democratic nations worldwide. In countries where voting is not mandatory (and in those where it is mandatory as well), the number of people actually going to vote keeps diminishing. This complex problem has many causes, but the main one can be attributed to a problem of representation of the masses by the current political parties and their inability to provide solutions to today’s issues.
Although the blockchain is not the real world, per se, and we are not voting for national representation and the future of our countries, if we want for governance to succeed and actually be a decentralized on-chain representation of the Cardano community we have to acknowledge the broader political landscape we find ourselves in.
In the SPO poll 598 SPOs or 796 stake pools (counting multi-pools) participated out of over three thousand registered stake pools. That’s around a 26% participation rate. In this most recent poll regarding CIP-1694, there were a total of 771 wallets that participated out of 1.3M delegated wallets. That translates to an even lower participation rate of 0.05%. In the article published with the results in the Intersect website, IOG research fellow Philip Lazos, an expert in statistical analysis called it “statistically significant sample size of active wallet holders”. I’m no expert in statistical analysis but 0.05% is a far cry from a significant sample size, in my opinion.
One reason for this awfully low participation rate could be attributed to the inability to use hardware wallets to vote. Charles promised in an AMA that there will be another “temperature check” with hardware wallet support in January 2024. This will be a good exercise to see if the participation grows, and how much, if everyone can vote without risking moving their funds to a light wallet. This also shows that the majority of the YES vote by stake, the 111 million ADA, most likely voted with the CLI, meaning using the terminal. I don’t imagine the founding entities have millions of ADA in unsecure browser extension light wallets. Which also shows us that there is a gap of knowledge between the ordinary Cardano user and the whales that voted.
Claiming success for a “temperature check” in which 0.05% of the delegated wallets participated, including wallets from the three founding entities, seems weird to me. We can already see from the roadmap in the Intersect website that the timeline seems to be delayed at this point. I think this is actually a good thing, hopefully the people that have been rushing the implementation of CIP-1694 (for whichever reason) realize that you can’t rush such an important milestone in the Cardano roadmap. Like Warren Buffet said, “You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”
The low turnout must be a wake-up call that engagement and participation takes time. Also, for people to take time out of their lives to consume and process the necessary information to make a thoughtful decision, they need to feel like their decision actually makes a difference. If the true purpose of these temperature checks are to know what the community really thinks of CIP-1694, then obliterating the “Vox Populi” vote with 76 million ADA from the founding entities doesn’t make any sense. I particularly enjoyed and appreciated the chance to leave a comment after voting, but we really need to leave Google forms behind and do this properly on-chain for everyone to see.
Another good suggestion comes from Twitter/X user Cerkoryn who proposes to use a tool like Kialo which allows for more in-depth discussions and sharing different perspectives, that is not really possible or accessible in a Github repository or Twitter thread. For example, regarding another hot topic like Contingent Staking, the discussion on Kialo had 977 votes, while this more pressing subject regarding the future of CIP-1694 and the Cardano blockchain had 771.
In the tutorial video I made explaining how to vote for the hispanic community, I showed that I voted NO due to the dangers that assigning super powers to the interim constitutional committee represents during the bootstrapping phase. Unfortunately, this seems to be an unpopular opinion to have. Perhaps, living in Argentina has given me this different perspective that most people from Europe or North America don’t seem to have and this is why a real liquid democracy is what we need to aim for in Cardano. After all, wasn’t the motto to take Cardano to the margins? There is where we will find new valuable perspectives and ideas, otherwise it will be just an echo chamber of Cardano whales taking advantage of the governance system for their own personal gain.