Anarco-government?? We have the tools for co-operative politics, will we use them?
I will, from time to time sit back and catch tid bits of the facade that is the American election campaign, but I mostly just pick up the general feel of whats happening, the highlight reel if you will. I am genuinely concerned for the well being of my family, friends and all Americans. I just don’t believe it matters who wins (and I think a lot of people would agree). Voting for a party system is an action with little democratic consequence. Your voice will be just as equally unheard today, as it will be in 2 months. Its not just America, this is happening in all western democracies.
Amazingly, an idea has been born that address this need for transparency and accountability in government. Its an idea for a democracy that will fit our ever changing modern world, loosely its called open-source governance. Interestingly the model is pretty much a co-op, it decentralizes power while at the same time amplifying individual voices and giving the citizens the ability to shape the laws of the land and decide on budget spending. It is done on a collaborative open source digital platform. It is a cheap, easily accessible tool that is beginning to empowered a renewed belief in participatory democracy. Well… so maybe the idea of “participatory democracy” is not so much new, but we now have the tools that give us the ability to make it work… and that is new. Simply, it is a true democracy ‘of the people for the people’ with NO political parties and NO rulers!! (although there might be a need for some sort of leadership)
Before I attempt to explain to you how this vision of a modern democracy would work, I‘ll need to give you a little background info. Many people are familiar with open source collaborative building and learning projects, if not you should check some out. A few examples are:
Slashdot is a technology-related news website where users submitted and evaluated current affairs news stories about science and technology related topics. Each story has a comments section attached to it. each story becomes the topic of a threaded discussion among users. Discussion is moderated by a user-based moderation system. Randomly selected moderators are assigned points (typically 5) which they can use to rate a comment.
Zooniverse hosts numerous projects which allow users to participate in scientific research from classifying galaxies to collating climate data. projects require the active participation of human volunteers to complete research tasks.
Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.
Open Source Ecology is open technological platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small civilization with modern comforts. It’s a network of farmers, engineers and supporters, whose main goal is the eventual manufacturing of the Global Village Construction Set.
…but open source software is where most of the open source buzz is happening, and there is a ton of collaborating going on!! If you search “open source software” you’ll get a many o’hits. If you want a short and sweet read of the culture build up toward the open source movement, you may like this > The Varieties of Hacker Ideology
The lowdown on this vision of an open source governance or modernized democracy or whatever you may like to call it, is based on distributed version control systems (DVCS). It allows many developers to work on a given project without necessarily being connected to a common network. Github has taken this premise to a new level, creating a very easy to manage, user friendly platform for open source software development and code building. More specifically, it allows an individual or a working group to take a piece of a project that needs a solution, work on it until it seems a solution has been found, and then bring the information back to fit into the larger project. The revised project is then left up for debate. The big change with the git model is that two people on opposite sides of the world can pull the same file, make modifications and then merge the files together in the larger project without previous knowledge of the other persons existence, the result is UNcoordinated co-operation (and that’s a pretty big deal). There is an overall anarchic nature to this, no one is in true control, a projects end result is formed by individual decisions regarding quality and appropriateness of contributions. Some people have said this can’t be done, that adding more voices to a decisions making process will lead to more differences of opinion, inevitable arguing, and ultimately little to no accomplishments. It’s true, we humans tend to argue, but it is partly because of the vast cultural divides between us. Whats the saying? Arguments are 10% over content and 90% over delivery… sounds about right. However, this type of open source collaboration is actually proving to increase cross cultural understanding and it is producing a ton of fantastically innovated and inspired work. In fact, some Germans have started taking the first steps in this direction, applying this system to some current legal and political problems. Singpolyma opened a git with the purpose of keeping track of the Canadian Copyright Act, proposals for it’s reform, and accepted reforms, in a versioned way. Divegeek has opened a git containing the complete Utah Code; the laws of the state of Utah. Its purpose is to publish the state legal code in a way that makes it easy for interested individuals to access both its content and its changes over time. *side note> Last year Iceland began crowd sourcing itself a new constitution.
It is true, all the details of how this could evolve into some form of people powered self governance are still just theories at this point. The internet as we know it has only recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, the web is still in its infancy and its potential roll in cultural, and political revolutions is hard to grasp. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web has said this about the web, “ The goal of the Web is to serve humanity. We build it now so that those who come to it later will be able to create things that we cannot ourselves imagine. …We are just starting to see the results of what was once just a philosophy, a shared web experience… a communications channel that makes possible a continuous worldwide conversation. …The Web is now more critical to free speech than any other medium. …We create the Web, by designing computer protocols and software; this process is completely under our control. We choose what properties we want it to have and not have. It is by no means finished (and it’s certainly not dead). If we want to track what government is doing, see what companies are doing, understand the true state of the planet, find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, not to mention easily share our photos with our friends, we the public, the scientific community and the press must make sure the Web’s principles remain intact—not just to preserve what we have gained but to benefit from the great advances that are still to come.”. As an example, it has been proven that people really don’t want to live with war. Our leaders, and the few who are profiting from war are the only ones who want to continue this warmongering cycle. In theory then, since we have the technology in place, a nations citizens could demand the right to steer their country. If this were to happen, I believe one of the first big changes we would see is an end to war everywhere… its a nice idea anyhow. We definitely have the desire to make a fair, free world, but do we have the knowledge and gumption to go for it? In the meantime there are a few little things we can all do to advance this idea of modernizing our democracies: 1) share this idea, 2) speak out in defense of an open internet for everyone, and 3) in your spare time keep educating yourself… so when the day comes you will have something to contribute. We should be able to figure it out.