An inquest is a process intended to make a determination of truth in a complex issue where there is no clear consensus. It is analogous to a presidential commission (e.g. the Challenger Commission, the 9/11 Commission), with the following differences:
- It has no official authority, but instead creates political pressure through credibility, which it in turn creates through objectivity and transparency.
- It has no "members"; it is a public process where anyone may participate, subject to certain rules.
- It is completely public. To the extent that confidential information must be protected, there will be a clearly-stated and democratically-approved review process to ensure that important information is not being concealed from the public.
Outside of the context of InstaGov, this process should probably be referred to as a "citizens' inquest" or some other terminology to distinguish it from an official inquest.
The inquest process has the following phases: Approval, Investigation, Discussion, and Decision.
The exact subject of the inquest must be proposed and approved by popular vote within the community that will be supervising it. There must be clarity regarding what is and is not within scope for the inquest so that it doesn't get sidetracked. If the inquest uncovers further matters that may be deserving of their own inquests, these should follow the same process (i.e. proposal and popular vote) in order to decide how best to handle each one:
- expand the scope of the current inquest to include them
- create one or more separate inquests to cover them
- defer action until a later date (e.g. when the main inquest has reached its conclusion)
- discard them as not needing investigation
Once the inquest has formally begun, there are several sets of information which need to be accumulated and carefully catalogued. These include:
- all /claims about the matter at hand (i.e. conclusive hypotheses) which have gained any degree of popular credibility (i.e. people seem to believe them)
- all known /evidence about the matter at hand: this can include text, data, images, videos, audio recordings...
- contact information for any individuals willing to:
- testify regarding evidence
- argue the case for any particular conclusion
The hypotheses should each be put to a continuous vote as to whether they are (a) credible (i.e. consistent with the evidence) and (b) likely to be true. At some point, the results of this vote may be announced as the official determination of the inquest, but as with any rational process it should always be possible to revise them in the face of new evidence. Discovering the truth is an ongoing process.
There should also be a continuous set of votes as to whether sufficient evidence has accumulated to:
- (CONC.MEAN) draw any meaningful (though possibly incomplete) conclusions
- (CONC.DEF) draw any reasonably definitive conclusions
- (CONC.STOP) officially end, suspend, or abandon the inquest
- (ANNC) make any public announcements
Informal discussion may begin as soon as there is anything (evidence) to discuss.
(Need to describe what formal discussion is and how it would be different from informal... or maybe there is no difference. Probably involves structured debate.)
Once the ANNC votes reaches a predetermined threshold (whose value should be a matter of community policy for inquests, determined by whatever method the community deems suitable), a suitable public announcement will be made -- e.g. "The Citizens' Inquest on Triangles finds it extremely likely that the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the squares of the other two sides, but is continuing its investigation."
Formal discussion ends once the CONC.STOP vote reaches the predetermined (policy) threshold, though informal discussion may continue indefinitely.
to be written -- derives from the votes mentioned above
Possible topics for inquests:
- The relative costs of various types of energy: fossil vs. sustainables vs. Thorium. discussion
- How intersex people are treated by the medical establishment. Maya Posch
- How to reduce gun crime in the US. Admiral Taptap
- Could personal fireams successfully resist a tyrannical US government? Allen Hildebrandt
- Resolution of private debt; viable ways of funding government; how much we pay in taxes... Alan Light and me
- Also, is usgovernmentspending.com accurately representing the situation? 
- Bush vs. Obama on spending, and who was responsible for the 2009 stimulus: Jim Richardson & me (more)