Oleg Gutsol (Chief Executive Officer) and Dustin Plett (Chief Strategy Officer) are co-founders of AI start-up Consensus. Consensus works to make governments more efficient by increasing understanding between government and citizens, and between citizens and each other.
What is your background?
Oleg Gutsol — Chief Executive Officer at Consensus
Oleg: Dustin and I have been working together for close to ten years now, and we started Consensus about two years ago. My background is in computer science. I have been involved with computers and software development since an early age, and I have been building software companies most of my professional career.
Dustin: My background is primarily in sales, business development, and strategy.
How did Consensus begin?
Dustin Plett — Chief Strategy Officer at Consensus
Dustin: Going back a number of years, our conversations had been frequently turning to the current state of the world. Fast forward to 2016–2017, we began to see cracks in our current ways of governance. The US election was being tampered with, and Brexit, a very complex issue, was essentially boiled down to a stay or leave decision. At the time, it was easy to recognize the democratic system rolled out 300 years ago was beginning to fail. With the speed things move nowadays we believe governance at all levels — city, state, provincial, and federal — need tools to help them keep up with the times. This means analyzing data, citizen sentiment data, but also other data from outside sources to come to decisions much more rapidly. That is where the idea began.
Oleg, at the time, was working on a project with the Estonian government, easily the world’s leader in e-governance. He took his learning from there, came back to Canada, and began working on Consensus. Initially we did not know exactly how to begin tackling the governance problem, but we recognized that whatever level of government you talk to their primary issue is how long it takes to make decisions. We set our sights on building a product to allow citizens to start engaging with governments and each other, in a verified environment, to see how we could accelerate decision-making. That is what we settled on as our first area of focus.
The primary focus of the Consensus project we rolled out in Vermont last week is to give the city of South Burlington the data they need more rapidly so they can make decisions more quickly. This test pilot is to test our hypothesis that with greater access to citizen sentiment the city itself can move more quickly, ultimately saving them more money. If you extrapolate on this and apply our solution on a state level, or nationally, or even internationally you can imagine the tremendous impact we can make globally. As you look to the future and governments begin to layer on additional data sources, whether it be third-party or internal government data, to round out citizen feedback you begin to see how governments could accelerate decision making.
What is the mission of Consensus?
Dustin: The mission of Consensus is to build the next generation of governance. Democracy has fared well for the last 300 years, but the process of electing somebody to a four-year term based on a platform they present, knowing full-well things are going to happen during those four years nobody could foresee is a bit ridiculous in 2019. We see Consensus as the next step in the evolution of democracy. We are rethinking how governments operate. Ideally, they get smaller, nimbler, and become a more engaging process for everyone.
What are your thoughts on the Russian interference in the 2016 US elections?
Dustin: That largely came about through existing social networks, which currently do not have any requirements for users to be verified. That is the fundamental issue. It is obvious, and imperative to the functionality of governments it is fixed. We must be able to verify our information is coming from credible sources in order to trust anything, let alone our system of governance. That is one aspect of the problem Consensus is solving with our platform.
How can a program like Consensus help with situations such as Brexit?
Dustin: When it comes to Brexit you have an incredibly complex problem involving major topics such as immigration, commerce, and overall independence from the European Union. These issues were lumped together in one giant referendum, basically boiling down to stay in the EU, or leave the EU, which threw the entire region and the world into confusion. We think you could have teased that problem apart. Consensus allows you to do multiple referendums relatively quickly and to trust the source of the people giving you the information, as opposed to having a traditional, standard paper ballot system that is a three- or four-month process to arrive at the same conclusion. Ongoing citizen engagement is a much more elegant solution to further democratize government and to enable better implementation of strategy moving forward.
What do you think you can contribute to/gain from DAIA?
Dustin: We were originally attracted DAIA because we saw a lot of overlap between their vision and our original vision for Consensus. The network being built was certainly an appealing added factor. We were one of the first to jump into the project and say here we are. What do you need? We are here to help in any way we can with whatever resources we can lend to the effort, whether that be through our technology, or otherwise. We can not wait to see what we can build together!
Consensus recently released the Consensus App in the city of South Burlington, Vermont. What is your strategy towards expansion and what can we expect to see from Consensus moving forward?
What is the best way to keep up with Consensus?
Dustin: The best way to get updates on Consensus is through our Telegram announcements channel and Medium. We hope to see you there and share all our progress with you.
How can you get involved?
The vision of DAIA is to foster a world where AI technologies and associated data are made open with decentralized, democratic control for the benefit of all sentient beings.
The immense potential of AI means that it can either increase the inequalities of our societies or liberate us from numerous sufferings. We believe the best way forward is to come together and work practically toward creating a better future. We see a massive potential for evolution in the established centralized corporations. We believe tech giants can contribute immensely toward making the vision of DAIA a reality.
DAIA welcomes the participation of those corporations that are sincere about their aim and goal of democratizing AI. The open access networks that have come together to form DAIA are the enabling layer for such a democratization process.
To learn more about us and inquire for memberships, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.