Cooperation Across Borders

Photo Credit: Aaditya Arora

What is in the best interest of your city? How about your country? How do those differ from what is in your personal best interest?

Cooperation across borders is as difficult as stacking one bureaucratic system on top of another, as any proposal or action must pass through systems on both sides, often multiple times. Likewise, communication barriers compound the problem, even when those barriers are only differences of local demographic or political alignments. However, if communication barriers are removed and mutual benefit and alignment can be shown absent long games of bureaucratic ping-pong then substantial cooperation can emerge.

Consider the lengthy, time-consuming, and otherwise utterly wasteful processes of proposals, bids, official letters, SOWs, and other bureaucratic sludge, and pile the current difficulty of cooperation on top of that. These are also prime feeding grounds for corruption, which tends to increase both time and cost while lowering quality. The irony is that even the corrupt could benefit more than such primitive methods allow.

Now, compare that to the supply chain and cloud resource processes demonstrated in modern business. Supply chains and cloud service providers are constantly improving their methodologies and finding new ways to innovate, seeking to minimize the same kinds of waste that bureaucratic systems effectively maximize. Both supply chains and cloud resource providers cooperate across many borders, integrating and increasing in various forms of cooperation. Amazon integrates its delivery services with many different carriers to deliver their goods cheaply and efficiently, optimized to best serve whatever location.

Systems that seek to improve and cooperate across borders can learn a lesson in one region and deploy improvements derived from that knowledge in another, all in rapid succession. Usually, it takes a number of years for any scientific studies and research to filter, even weakly, into government policy changes. This need not be the case, and the knowledge base of one municipality need not remain restricted to those employed by it, or expensive human consultants.

Graph-to-graph communication can greatly exceed the fidelity of human-to-human communication by not losing or miscommunicating data, but there is also scale to consider. If you have two systems in a network, each operating on behalf of a municipality, then either one may learn or discover a better way to apply a particular policy or meet a goal. If those two systems agree to cooperate then the other system may benefit from that improvement as well. Likewise, if 11 such systems choose to cooperate in this manner the number of such improvements shared to any one municipality in the network could increase by a factor of 10. If 101 cooperate, the benefits to each municipality increase by another order of magnitude, and so on.

The exchange of such improvements could also take the form of a blockchain marketplace, exchanging utility tokens for improvements and vice-versa across a growing network. This could give locations incentive to cooperate, specialize, and continuously improve while compelling their neighbors to adopt the technology less they become a laughing stock by comparison.

Who would want to live in a city where the quality of life was 10 times lower than a neighboring city a few miles away? This might work out if the lower quality was also lower in cost, but as cost could be greatly reduced in the higher quality this too could put pressure on the uncooperative.

I’ve personally watched major corporations pay a 3 fold premium on the same exact product being sold online by a different vendor, and seen city projects take 10 times as long and cost 10 times as much as could be reasonably justified. Even then the things that 10 fold premiums are spent on usually aren’t the best options available, because the knowledge base they called on to make the decision was less than ideal in breadth, depth, and cognitive bias. In many places, people are unmotivated to vote in elections because they see all options as equally bad because examples of this gross incompetence easily come to mind.

Cooperation across borders can bring a growing network of knowledge to bear across diverse populations, giving each location the best solutions the cooperative world has to offer quickly and easily. The lessons learned by any one location may have great value to others, and the recognition of that value may drive new discoveries. These benefits also serve the best interest of individuals, cities, and their respective countries all at once.

It is time to connect the dots…