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Foamy friend (also known as friendly foam, auttava ystävä, and vaahtokylpy) is an idealistic and hypothetical social media platform for decent and supportive discussions about people's concerns, objectives, and policy. The name comes from the idea that the platform aims to support and listen to people like a friend, but does not force them out of their own social bubble.
What properties does a social media platform need so that
- it promotes decent and supportive discussions,
- empowers people to be themselves without a fear of attacks from other political sides,
- yet constructively challenges peoples beliefs and seeks their ultimate values thus breaking ties between unrelated issues that have been coupled because of political tactics,
- effectively collects information about people's concerns and objectives
- connects people's objectives to a wider political discource,
- facilitates systematic, critical policy evaluation and rejection based on scientific knowledge and people's actual preferences?
Foamy friend has different roles of activity:
- To a user, it is a place where you can privately and anonymously tell about your concerns, problems, wishes, and objectives to a friendly person. The friendly person attempts to support the user in their pursuit by giving guidance but also constructively challenging the user's premises if they are clearly unfounded. Users can also have public discussions in groups about a group-specific topic.
- A friend is a user who knows the true identity of another user and can have private discussions with them. Users can invite and un-invite friends.
- To a facilitator, it is a place to have discussions with different kinds of people and to collect and summarise different views and arguments for broader, public discussions. A user should be able to check, how their discussions have been used in these summaries.
- To an advocat, it offers a discussion forum for developing policy suggestions. It offers anonymized data about people's values and thus support for certain policies. Importantly, all policies are to be based on truth and people's actual preferences. This is unlike today when people often say "I will reluctantly vote for X, despite Y." This clearly shows that the proposed policy X is not the best policy option that should be offered, but an inmature version for further development before actual decision. The platform explicitly works against "deals with the devil", where people are forced to choose between in-optimal solutions or even misled to vote against their true will.
- To an expert or policy analyst, it offers a place to develop and test different impact assessment models that collect relevant scientific and policy information and attempts to understand and test various policy actions and their impact and public support.
The objective of foamy friend is to produce shared understanding about complex policy topics, identify and demonstrate destructive policies, and help people see their own potential role in achieving political objectives. It is based on a premise that there are several legitimate policy objectives that are in conflict, but 1) some variants of conflicting policies are good for a larger group of people than others, and 2) there are policies that are clearly worse than their supporters think. This creates the need to nudge people towards policies that are closer to their actual preferences and also better for others.
The platform itself does not have a political agenda except that it seeks truth and pareto-optimal solutions.
The starting point of foamy friend is not a decision-analytic optimizing problem but the concerns and issues raised by users. Solutions to these issues typically require that some knowledge crystals are developed and estimated, and these knowledge crystals may form a wider analytical framework for analysing policies using open policy practice. However, the objective is to give practical guidance to people who raised the issue or who share the same issue.
A critical technical question is about anonymization of the private discussions. How to ensure that people feel safe to reveal their personal beliefs and preferences, and how to distil useful information from them without compromising anonymity? Maybe discussions (if so decided) can be held using avatars or random identifiers, so that afterwards only the person themself can reveal the identity. If so, these discussions can be used to identify topics, but they cannot be used to estimate how many people support a given value statement; a separate voting procedure is needed for this to ensure that one person can only vote once. Activity on the platform does not give more voting power.
It is possible to vote on the importance of an issue and the preferability of a value statement. A user can vote for any number of issues or value statements, but if two items are in conflict, the user is asked to prefer one or the other in a given context.
- A platform for policy discussions about the covid-19