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Julian Blanco

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Why don't we use technology to have a real Direct Democracy?

In democracy’s origin, all citizens gathered together to make decisions on relevant matters.
As populations grow this became impossible and the best choice to keep the model was electing representatives.
We currently have the technological capability to have a large part of the population or may be all the population (if we talk about cell phones)of many countries making choices real-time on topics each individual is interested in.
So we have a chance to get back to the ideal democracy and avoid many of the problems that arise from the representation model.
I think it’s time to get at least a hybrid model where people can easily and massively participate in the decision process.
I’m very interested in the TED community’s perspective on this.
the perspective is science based, publicly open and available to all.

A fine example here (thanks Lucas):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demoex
http://demoex.org/

http://CitizenME.org (thanks DK)

Other links provided in the posts:
http://www.ted.com/conversations/102/provide_the_tools_and_knowledg.html?c=194830
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/clay_shirky_how_cognitive_surplus_will_change_the_world.html
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/david_bismark_e_voting_without_fraud.html
www.lindsaynewlandbowker.posterous.com
http://www.peopleandparticipation.net/display/Methods/Consensus+Conference
http://www.whitehouse.gov/openforquestions
http://www.usnowfilm.com
http://www.whitehouse.gov/open
http://www.metagovernment.org/wiki/Active_projects
http://www.worldwork.org/
http://www.metagovernment.org/
http://www.dgsociety.org/


Regards!

JB

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    Apr 16 2011: Great idea that I've been pondering about for a few years too now...

    Here is a list of links I posted in a similar topic:
    http://www.ted.com/conversations/102/provide_the_tools_and_knowledg.html?c=194830

    I would add "science based, publicly open and available to all" or something...

    Actually here is my take on it:

    1) Put all laws of a country online
    2) Translate them to understandable language (for non-jurists)
    3) Link the laws with the corresponding themes and search words
    4) Let people discuss by topics and own chosen areas of expertise (much like Quora)
    5) Proposals of people get voted up or down
    6) Add the scientific data (psychological, economical, sociological, historical, biological,...) and debunk the ideas, do the math for finance... => this is the BIG work. Suggest the crowd does this together with administration

    7) What remains should be better than before
    => Law gets changed,

    There are a lot of ifs and buts, but it might be better than current systems.
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      Apr 17 2011: The modifications to the Demoex system that you mention are good ones, but it makes me think about all of the difficulties that could be associated with this. For example, it wouldn't be a very simple thing to put all of the laws of a country online, and then translate them into common language--jurists use really technical and precise language by necessity, and in any case, the text of some laws are soooo long that the representatives rarely read most of them....how many busy citizens would take the time? I'm not sure. There are a lot of other problems which would arise from the lack of general expertise and interest regarding some of the laws which would be debated; it's really daunting to think about.
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        Apr 18 2011: True mr Shamploo

        It would be difficult, but not impossible

        It might take mess than the total amount of World of Warcraft played thus far...
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        Apr 21 2011: So, in other words, I hear you saying "some of the laws are too long and complex for the average person to really understand". Is it just me, or is something fundamentally wrong with that? How can we expect people to follow laws they can not even comprehend?

        Perhaps making the laws in such a way that everyone CAN understand it (as tested by such a system as proposed) should be a pre-requirement for a law to be passed.
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    Apr 21 2011: in that case... whom will we blame if a decision went wrong....if minority gets unnoticed... every nation will have some kind of minority community, who will talk for them? and do all we citizens can show the responsibility like a politition have? they are dedicating their life for public service...can all we do the same? we have our own problems and family/job related commitments..maybe some of us can turn into a part time politition.... polititions are inevitable for a democratic system..ONLY LEADERS CAN LEAD...its not just that population has increased its because that leaders are inevitable in democracy...
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    Apr 19 2011: How To:
    Fund a party Demoex style
    TED talk by someone implementing this
    TED active project
    Add “citizen training” to the curriculum (DK)
    Christophe:
    Info should be shared ASAP to evaluate for accountability
    1) Put all laws of a country online
    2) Translate them to understandable language (for non-jurists)
    3) Link the laws with the corresponding themes and search words
    4) Let people discuss by topics and own chosen areas of expertise (much like Quora)
    5) Proposals of people get voted up or down
    6) Add the scientific data (psychological, economical, sociological, historical, biological,...) and debunk the ideas, do the math for finance...
    Others:
    Start local
    Needs to be refined thru trial and error at small scale
    What should we decide about?
    Universal access to vote
    Social network format
    Protect anonymity
    Open source system
    Who should manage the system?
    Clear success metrics
    Build a priority list
    Need check and balance? How?
    Which power should be engaged?
    A system that tracks the votes of representatives and shares the data.

    Con:
    People don’t have the knowledge/capacity/education to deal with the responsibility (the most persistent con by far)
    People don’t have the time to understand and vote
    Media Influence is so big, it will lead the decisions
    Some things (diplomacy) should be secret
    Complex terminology of the law
    Minorities and rights protection
    Difficult to plan long term
    Decisions would not be made
    Electronic fraud
    Too many decisions
    System data overload (massive participation in discussions)
    Less need to discuss and reach agreements

    Pro:
    People would make their own decisions
    information will be shared
    Decentralize decisions
    Can connect and empower people
    People know best what they need/want than a representative
    Less influence from parties
    More control / less corruption
    Lobbies would lose power
    People assume responsibility
    Growth of interest groups/ nontraditional media
    It would be cheaper
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      Apr 20 2011: Julian..great idea to try and summarize especially on a big topic like this to which many have contributed. Also did you add all the links at the top? I think that is a good idea as well. You are a wonderful moderator of this talk.
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        Apr 20 2011: Hi Lindsay,

        yes, all the links are on the main idea (not enough space for the links and the summary).
        I'm glad you liked the summary, I spent a few hours at it.

        Regards!

        JB
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    Apr 18 2011: some times diplomatic decisions cannot be shared with the public. considering its highly confidential nature.
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      Apr 18 2011: Even in such cases, a lot of information can be given. And we can ask for recordings to evaluate after the diplomatic decisions have been made and taken effect.

      It should be made available after a few years
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    Jul 1 2011: Hey Julian, Still a little time to build our recrd on theis exploration and here is an excellent article on Iceland's wonderful experiement in Direct Democracy in the rewriting of their consitution. This link refers to three other artciles about it tigether with abrief commentray by Tom Atlee.

    http://tom-atlee.posterous.com/iceland-is-crowdsourcing-their-constitutional
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      Jul 1 2011: Nice, Thanks Lindsay!
      • Jul 6 2011: All over the world, electronic direct democracy (E2D) parties have been started independently at local, regional and national levels, inspired by the collaborative potential of the Internet to bring true direct democracy to the political arena and give power back to the People.

        Demoex in Vallentuna, Sweden (local): http://demoex.net/en
        Online Party of Canada (national): http://www.onlineparty.ca/
        Citizens for Direct Democracy, Belgium (national): http://www.directdemocracy.be
        Senator Online, Australia (national): http://senatoronline.org.au/
        Aktiv Demokrati, Sweden (national): http://aktivdemokrati.se/
        Partido de Internet, Spain (national): http://partidodeinternet.es/
        Online Reglemented Party, Romania (national): www.votdirect.ro
        Svojpolitik.si, Slovenia (national): http://svojpolitik.si/

        Direct democracy is coming soon to a country near you!

        "There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come"
        - Victor Hugo
        • Jul 19 2011: Having helped to build and propagate the Internet for 20 years I wonder why people trust it so? I certainly don't. How do you verify the person casting the vote electronically is entitled to do so and not just a server set up to influence the vote? If I can build one I am certain others can too. It has been said that opinions are like noses. Everyone has one and they usually smell.
    • Jul 19 2011: That's a funny quote but your point is invalid.

      Your concerns about identity verification is directly related to anonymity. In fact, I'm surprised that more people haven't stated the obvious when it comes to e-voting: the problem is not the Internet, the problem is the "secret ballot". If you get rid of the secret ballot, you effectively get rid of all technical arguments against e-voting.

      Let me put it this way, when citizens (e.g. candidates) run in elections, win and eventually vote on legislation in Parliament... they become "legislators", right?

      If instead, we allow citizens to vote directly on legislation via the Internet (as opposed to electing politicians who will in turn vote on legislation on our behalf), then WE the People become the "legislators", right?

      So why should our votes be kept secret?

      Surely, you wouldn't accept that the identity of politicians and their votes on public affairs be kept from the "voters", right? In Canada, for example, you can keep track of how your Member of Parliament (MP) voted on each and every Bill ("Yay", "Nay" or "Abstention") by visiting the Parliament website: http://www.parl.gc.ca

      And even if someone did manage to hack into the Parliament website and changed the votes, individual MPs would know how they voted and someone would alert the website administrator that there has been a breach in the system. Laws wouldn't get passed because of a hacker or webbot; the administrators would simply revert the votes and enhance security accordingly.

      Similarly, when a member votes on an issue on the Online Party of Canada website (http://www.onlineparty.ca/), their vote is displayed for everyone to see. To address the issue of identity fraud, for members' votes to count toward the official position of the party, citizens first need to fill out and sign a paper membership form which can be cross-referenced with the National Registry of Electors. Therefore, only eligible citizens can officially register and hacking is futile.
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    May 9 2011: Great discussion!

    The use of technology for the purpose of achieving more and better public participation is a very exciting area. In 2009, my company launched ParticipateDB (http://participatedb.com), a collaborative catalogue of tools for participation. The site aims to keep track of the ever-increasing number of tools and how they are being applied in practice. At 150+ tools, it's quickly grown to become the largest database of its kind world-wide.

    You can follow our progress here:

    Twitter: http://twitter.com/participatedb
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ParticipateDB
    Blog: http://blog.participatedb.com

    Please check it out and let us know which tools or projects we're missing. Thanks!
  • May 4 2011: There is one thing that is in my opinion the number one reason against a direct democracy and the reason why I am against it: fear.

    For example the fear of the Swiss of Muslims which led to forbid building of minarets in some parts of the Swiss. This is for me against human rights, and it was only possible, because a right-leaning populist party raised the fears against Muslims in the population.

    Also a big problem is, that MANY people just didn't care about it, and they don't vote. So it was (for me) Muslims against people that fear Muslims. And in respect of the association "Terror = Muslims" these days, the result of the elections is clear. I am quite sure, that many of the people electing there, did not even know, what a Minaret is, but voted against it, because people fear what they don't know.

    So as a conclusion, my main points against direct democracy:
    1. fear of the people is much easier to produce than comprehension
    2. people who are not interested don't vote, so you don't get "the real" opinion of the citizens
    3. not everybody can get into every problem (i mean its a full-time job for politicians [should be])

    I you wanna change the political crises in the US (we also have one here in germany, nearly same kind, but not as big), stop the parties depending on money from companies. For example: Clear is, when an oil company pays your election, you will not speak about global warming. And the people living in all these catastrophe areas in the US, they pay the bill.
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    Apr 25 2011: Julian..and all who have read or contributed to this post..what if we could actually pilot/model direct democracy by e-voting for each element in the model democracy ? what do you think about listing each "proposition" that has evolved and asking people to vote yes or no and also indicate whether they have read the whole thread. Would be a great test of the debate about the wisdom of the commonman and whether discussion and discernment. Perhaps the Converstaion moderators could help us figure out how to do that. My theory is that tgere are many more people following these conversations than are actually posting and that this discussion has reached a larger audience than those who have been a active participants. Worth expoloring?
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      Apr 28 2011: Hi Lindsay!

      Let me see if I get your idea (my English is not perfect): you want us to use the TED site to cast an e-vote on each aspect of direct democracy?
      If that is correct, propositions equal how would the structure/model of this democracy be.
      Hopefully I'm getting it right, please confirm :)

      I think the main issue with your proposal is that people commenting and reading are probably not the average citizen (by quantity).
      On the other hand I think it makes total sense because the people that will predominantly participate in this type of political system will be involved and educated citizens (like the ones reading this).

      Regards!

      JB
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    Apr 15 2011: Hi Julian!
    Do you know about Demoex?
    If you don't, I encourage you to take a look at this, it is very related to your idea (good one, by the way).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demoex
    http://demoex.org/
    Tell me what you think about it!
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      Apr 15 2011: Hi Lucas:

      Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      looks great!!!!

      We should get one of the funders speaking at the next TED (how can we do that?), and also spread the word!

      (I personally didn’t love the format of the page, but that’s just my opinion).

      Thanks!!!

      JB

      PS I want a t-shirt from the original campaign
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        Apr 16 2011: Hi Julian, you're welcome!
        Definetly, that's an idea worth spreading, I'll find a way to get in touch with TED and recommend it, good idea!
        I didn't like the format too, and they should invest on it, most people don't know about them and it would be great to make them well known in the world.
        Is there Demoex or something similar in Argentina? I'm looking for more of this systems, there are some being used in condominiums here in Brazil. You know, I think it should be expanded, not only to governments and politicians, but to local comunities too, like schools.
        Regards!
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      Apr 16 2011: Excellent, excellent site.

      I 'liked' it on stumble and was the first to do so, thank you Lucas for that link.

      Only wish it was implemented in the states.
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      Apr 21 2011: fascinating..thanks for sharing that..and so great there is a working model and expereience we could all look to.
  • Jul 21 2011: If anyone is interested in starting (or joining) an electronic direct democracy (E2D) party in your jurisdiction (local, regional or national), please contact us at e2d-international@googlegroups.com

    We have recently started collaboratively drafting up an E2D Manifesto based on these basic founding principles:

    1. Right to vote.

    a) Every citizen of the jurisdiction, recognized by law, has the right to vote on every proposed Issue.

    2. Right to propose law.

    a) Every citizen of the jurisdiction must be given an equal opportunity to propose an Issue for debate and voting.

    3. Political neutrality of the party, at the onset.

    a) The Party is not, at the onset, governed by any other principles than Electronic Direct Democracy;
    b) Once established, voting citizens will decide the direction of the Party in the democratic manner stated above.

    4. Political neutrality of representatives, always.

    a) When a party representative (e.g. candidate) is elected into legislature, the representative must always vote (e.g. on Bills) in accordance with the views expressed within the Party.

    5. Voting by proxy (delegation).

    a) If voting by proxy (delegation) is permitted within the Party, whereby a citizen may cast a vote on behalf of other citizen(s), there must be an official and public (or accountable) agreement between all citizens involved;
    b) Regarding delegation, the direct citizen’s vote on issues must always override the delegate's vote and a citizen can change their delegate at any time (e.g. Recall).

    6. Voting by (non)-members.

    a) It is recommended that only members of the party be allowed to vote on internal matters of the Party (e.g. Statutes, Constitution, Candidates, etc.);
    b) All Citizens and Members of other officially registered political parties (e.g. Liberal, Conservative, Labour, Green, etc.) are encouraged to vote on Issues while keeping their affiliation with their respective party; ensuring maximum representation of the citizenry.
  • Jul 5 2011: Wow! I’m really glad to have found this thread!

    In Canada, we have just recently started a new political party called the Online Party of Canada:

    http://www.onlineparty.ca/

    It will be the country’s first non-partisan party and founded exclusively on the principles of electronic direct democracy (E2D): one citizen, one vote, real-time.

    Let’s face it, we could debate the pros and cons of direct democracy vs. representative democracy all day -- no system is perfect (thanks for summarizing the major issues, Julian!) or… we can start demonstrating the ideas of E2D in practice and provide a tangible option to voters who wish to partake in political decision-making between elections.

    Electors who disagree with direct democracy will still have the choice to vote for traditional parties and delegate their voting power to elected representatives, others can keep it for themselves or delegate it conditionally via liquid democracy. The fact remains, elections may be the only free and fair medium through which most of us can bring direct democracy to our countries (unless you live in Switzerland or have already some form of Citizens’ Initiative, Referendum or Recall law at the national level)… anything else would be undemocratic ;)
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    May 11 2011: wouldnt that be a bit easy to manipulate??? if not then its friggin ausome!!!
    • Jun 24 2011: listen to David Bismarck. THAT is the concept of the future
  • Apr 25 2011: The problem isn't the means of collecting votes. There are actually 2 dominant problems key to effective government.

    1. First is the problem of true democracy, which is, what do you do when really bad ideas become popular?

    2. That brings us to the twin to the first issue: How do we qualify people to analyze issues for public dissemination without the spin of biases or simple ignorance?

    Addressing 1:
    I believe that we need to test and qualify all public servants regarding all the aspects of logic/reasoning, communication, and the math skills necessary to perform effectively and actively work to improve both government
    and every day life, while these skills are taught just as vigorously to the public at large.

    Addressing 2:
    A comprehensive system needs to be developed of standards for human existence and behavior that are constitutionalized not just on a parchment, but in the development of all children of all ages and promotes diversity, while recognizing that actions that affect others and our environment are strictly limited to a range that promotes both our physical, social, and mental health.
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      Apr 28 2011: Hi Stephan, Thanks for your comment!
      My thoughts on your objections:
      1 I think it is far more likely that a small group of people push a really bad idea that a large group of people. I can happen in any case but I this is far less likely the larger amount of people you consult.
      2 the group of representatives also have biases and ignorance, why should we prioritize theirs vs ours? Also my guess is that the vast majority of the input in this model will come from concerned well educated people and not from the large majority, but that I’m saying all will have the same right, some simply are more likely to use it than others…

      About your solutions:
      1 the definition of that curriculum for representatives would be a big fight, and even if applied that does not address the neutrality issue. About teaching people to be citizens and vote I totally agree.
      2 agree in general terms, but you are adding values that are not necessarily universal, and that should also be debated, from a what and a how perspective.

      Regards!

      JB
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      Apr 30 2011: I believe that only your first question needs addressing Stephan and the answer is... let people make mistakes! Surely we will make better and better choices when we have to own the responsibility for the outcomes?
  • Apr 22 2011: The Swiss, who employ a participatory democracy allow and encourage citizens to take part in legislative decision making, even to the point of introducing legislation. They utilize a lot of referendums, some mandatory, and permit a number of ways to vote from the ballot box to electronic voting. I'm sure that our transportation systems will never be as punctual, or as functional but there's no reason that our governance system can't be. And you don't even have to get rid of the politicians but they will be marginalized..........and that's a good thing!!
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    Apr 19 2011: Hello Julian

    This is what Citizen ME is about. We are approaching the idea of getting everyone involved by working with very young children (and up) to inculcate a culture of participation: to get across the tenets of democracy as concepts and then add the complications.

    I think what we see now in our society is people who enter the conversation midway, ie, without the foundation that would help them think about the ramifications of actions and inactions - to themselves and others. Why the greater good is good for all.

    Please check out CitizenME.org - look at our videos.

    Tell us what do you think.
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      Apr 20 2011: Hi DK!

      Great initiative!

      Scary comparison between Public and Private schools… (I know this is anecdotal, but is it the same from a statistical perspective?)

      Questions for you:

      Is the content you mention open and available for everyone? Where?
      If we had a direct democracy, how would your current content work? Would it need to be updated?

      I’m adding your link to the main subject and the education need to the “how to” list.

      Thanks!

      JB
  • Apr 17 2011: I hate to rain on everyone's idealism but as great as this idea is that technology can enable a "truer" form of democracy I must council that before actually trying to implement it one needs to wander the various chat thread, or real world sim's like 2nd Life, first. An attempt to engender this technological "wunderland" of political nirvana will simply be a chaotic morass out of which very little will actually get done.

    People argue that technology (read here communications and internet tech) will somehow enable more to "get done" by empowering more people. I would argue it matters little how much technology webs us together, ultimately it will be a few (hopefully) good people and organizations that will move the collective human animal/herd along. Most of said herd wouldn't know what to do with empowerment even if it was possible. The herd is too unruly as a group entity. Indeed, this may be heretical to say amongst this group but consider that a good majority of humanity could care less so long as their lives are not disturbed by events unrelated to their particular self-interest.

    But, having said that let me also say this. Technology, as the great enabler, does at its very least, allow for the "herd" to keep closer track of those who would lead it. And so by this a self-correcting (reading here "herd satisfying") set of feedback loops are established. The herd will always be lead by some sort of sub-group, but with technology and time it is a more informed and educated herd, and so mannered can contain any rogue elements in itself or its leadership. Current happenings in areas like the Middle East are proof of this....

    As for that leadership sub-group. Perhaps they subsume themselves within the collective? They lead by enhancing the opinion that it's the herd that has the control and leadership? Kind'a sort'a like the old adage about the Devils greatest trick was in convincing Humanity he didn't exist?

    Just thinking out loud.
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      Apr 17 2011: My first reaction was this is a jaundiced view of society. In the past certain groups of people have been marginalized and restricted from engaging in politics or even allowed a vote. My second reaction was time will tell. In the end good sense prevails over restricting people from directly participating in the world that affects them and their families and barriers are removed. The argument that humanity would not participate if given a chance is a weak one since most people participate in voting, despite often feeling that their votes don't count. Your other argument stating it would be chaotic should be challenged. Very often many voices can arrive at a consensus, look at controlled questions through census as a good example. If I look at the current US system where lobbyists with $$$ are the voice I think technology offers a better, more inclusive possibility.
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    Apr 17 2011: I'm sure all the technical issues about security and validation of votes can be addressed, and a lot of people have commented on the other problem - the one sitting in front of the computer. While I share the concern that most of US (not just THEM) are not qualified to make informed judgements, does that mean that we shouldn't be allowed to?

    For example, most motor accidents are caused by a failure of "the nut behind the wheel." Most people are not really competent to take control of a turbo-charged one-tonne killing machine, but it happens all the time. Every time I ride my motorbike across town, I suffer at the hands of selfish thoughtless morons (I'm being polite about them) intent on putting their own interests before mine. These are also the people who vote for politicians who promise more spending on roads, or cheaper fuel.

    But nobody is proposing that we take away these people's power to kill, maim, pollute, consume, etc. Why should we deny them the chance to participate directly in the legislative process? Does anyone really think they (WE) can really screw things up more than our elected representatives have already?

    Let's be honest, politicians are mostly unimaginative, selfish and not particulary intelligent people. They are paid to be short-sighted and overly-simplistic in their understanding. That's OK, because we can blame them when we don't like the results and even replace them with someone else. But what if everything that went wrong was OUR fault? If there were nobody else to blame, would we become more thoughtful?
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    Apr 15 2011: Mostly due to the amount of time needed to spend researching whether or not a bill is actually a good idea or not. See Colorado's bark beetle problem, this is most likely (but not "scientifically proven") due to strict regulation on thinning the pine tree population, or more publicly "deregulation of the forest industry." Bush passed the bill in the early 2000s to thin out the pine tree so this problem would be prevented, but the public saw it as an outrage, and just another blindly signed bill, as he did with so many others (he only vetoed one bill in his first 4 yrs in office). Well due to protesting the population reversed the legislature and within 4 yrs the pine tree took off, with that the bark beetle did as well, and today most mountain sides in Colorado and throughout the west are covered with drying dead pine trees (very sad sight) which as you might be aware is an extreme fire hazard. I know this is an isolated incident but I think it shows exactly why the population, while it intent is honorable, may me more of a detriment to itself, if it blindly made decisions without a team of experts to weigh the pros and cons of every decision concerning them. In summery my short answer is because.... Who has the time?
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      Apr 16 2011: Hi Alex!

      You reminded me of the film Dogville 2, the part where the girl cuts all the trees to have fire during winter… (nice movie, a bit depressing, but less depressing than the first one)
      What you are saying can and will happened, and even happens when you only have the experts and it is worst if there is anything for them to gain. I think a large part of the environmental crisis worldwide is related to this type of decision, and in most cases the population did not directly influence the bills.
      Regarding the time issue, I don’t mean you have to vote every single bill, just the ones you are interested in, and we could prioritize as well.
      You have the time to write that long post, and read my answer :)
      Also having the chance to make your own choices, would you ask someone else to make them for you?
      There are many challenges to this, but I think it’s an interesting topic.

      Regards!

      JB
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        Apr 16 2011: Don't get me wrong I think this is a great idea, I mean early democracy was idealistic in that every one really had a voice and voted on every topic, so much so that the first empire to adopt it pretty much took over the known world. The problem with democracy is that the more populated the nation gets, the more corrupt its government gets. I am sickened every time I hear about a senator taking... well lets just call it what it is, a bribe. Hillary Clinton rallied for affordable health care for 6 years, but when it came time for her to try and get elected she took almost a million from health care lobbies, and as if over night her attitude changed about it, and called her past "ancient history." so yes I agree something has to be done about this type of legal / hard to prove corruption. That being said I still find myself playing devils advocate if nothing else to provide a compelling argument to get people thinking.
        I don't believe we can successfully "prioritize" because fundamentally this is just as bad as govt corruption. (currently who ever has more money wins the vote) as the new game would be who can spend the most money on persuading the population to vote their way. Truthfully if you would like to end corruption then end Americas addiction to corporations. People believe they want a Utopia until they get it.
        Yes I have the time, but don't look at me as an example for Americans, I'm blessed with a job that allows for a lot of "free time."

        Thanks for the great conversation... I just hate it when people take conversations into arguments but you don't seem like the type from what I've read.
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    Mar 30 2011: Dear Colleagues

    I trained as an accountant about 50 years ago. Now the technology to manage data is about 20 billion times more powerful than when I started my career, but the utility of information is back in the stone age. Useless media stories and misinformation are more prevalent that metrics that matter. Big people with wealth and power are in the news, not the average person going about their lives ... but in the end it has been youth with education and aspirations but with no jobs and no hope that are changing things ... and it has been AlJazeera English that has helped me understand.

    I want to see better metrics about the performance of society ... not just corporate profit, stock market prices and GDP growth ... but progress and performance of society in improving quality of life. I call the system TrueValueMetrics ... a system that goes beyond money to value, and looks at performance from the perspective of society or community rather than simply through the perspective of business performance. As in money accounting, the balance sheet is important. Progress is the change in the value balance sheet over time. People and quality of life are represented in the balance sheet ... as well as all other resources and all constraints and lack of resources! .

    With modern technology this sort of data processing is possible ... even easy. With good system design this can be made to work while reducing data overload from extraneous misinformation!

    Peter Burgess
    TrueValueMetrics.org
    @truevaluemetric
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      Apr 6 2011: Hi Peter!!!

      Thanks for your thoughts!
      I agree with your statement about the need of better metrics defining what a successful society is.
      Those metrics will be by definition built upon values, (thus not universal, though we can agree on them as standards).
      Democracy (any form) is also a proposition based on values, do you think they are universal? And within western countries do you think the value/ideal of direct democracy is universal as well?

      Would like to hear your ideas on this.

      Regards!

      JB
  • Mar 30 2011: Ok so I've studied a little on how technology can improve democracy and most of the arguments focus on improving the deliberating process. Consider that Democracy is essentially a consensus building process through open communication. If so then the more people deliberate the more consensus is built and thus the more efficient the system of consensus becomes.

    The first sort of mass communication technology was the book, newspaper, radio, television, internet etc. etc. With each advance democracies have communicated more and more. Other bloggers are right to comment that direct democracy, like the ancient athenians using black and white shards, or our using cell phones have one problem - they represent feeling more than reasons. Direct democracies are more reactionary, less deliberative, than representative democracies. The inherent flaw with direct democracy is a lack of judgments and rationale. In terms of decision making process direct dems make less sense for long term planning.

    So whatever tool - tv, internet, radio - we have for deliberation, our outcome depends on how we use it. If the technology allows for greater consensus building - arguing out differences, coming to agreements, or even creating new arguments - this is good. If for instance people could en masse vote for bills and laws etc. on their cell phones or any personal electronic devices the problems of long term planning begin to crop up. Users, citizens, people, whatever we call ourselves - participants of a system have to have a more logical, bigger, long term picture before correct decisions can be made. Regardless, there is a tendency within any media, democracy or system for power and control to get concentrated in fewer hands - e.g. diminishing returns. Internet tools could go the way of tv and get owned by a few companies or newspaper and get wiped out with some new tech.

    I suppose the argument boils down to one question - what kind of democracy and government do we want?
  • Mar 23 2011: I have often thought about this idea, and it has become increasingly obvious to me, that it can only work if we decentralize states as much as possible. Direct democracy cannot be successful in a world where a growing number of desisions occur on a country wide, or world wide level.

    The closer to home, the more personal the desisions people make, the more likely they are to take advance of and appreciate their freedom to make desisions in the first place. Rational ignorance, deliberate ignorance about important issues, because a person feels disconnected from the issue, is a huge problem in representative democracy, and theres no reason to think it won't be a problem in direct democracy. If your vote is only one in a 300 million, your not likely to see much value in voting in the first place. And you're far less likely still, to see value in investing an adequte amount of time to really understand an issue, inorder to be prepared to make an "informed" desision.

    Further, there are a great many issues goverment deal with, that are extremely complex issues. That require a great deal of background information inorder to fully grasp. And in these situations, I think direct democracy might just be a terrible approach. I definetly think theres some value in having informed, well educated representatives, that are forced to make some effort to compromise the conflicting desires of its citizens. Rather than just leting the majority have its way.

    So I think theres wisdom in advocating a, " hybrid model". Where authority on most social issues is localized, and under direct democracy. And issues that require you to make a day job out of getting a proper handle on them, or require you to look at things from the bigger picture, are continued to be addressed by elected leaders.
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      Mar 25 2011: Hi Kevin!!!

      Thanks for your thoughts!
      My comments on your points are:

      Centralization Vs local: I really liked the idea of a “local impact” that can be preserved and empower the population as well as encourage participation. On the other hand I think mayor issues, country or may be one day word wide can and should have direct participation.
      Ignorance: you are probably right and that’s why we should counter balance the majority vote with some strict rules in order to protect the right of minorities of any sort. And that would still be a problem.
      Voters paradox (I’m only one in 300 million): I don’t think that would be the case, if you break down the decision process from today, where you have one big vote for a representative to make all decisions (I’m simplifying I know), to hundreds of smaller decision you can have participation only from people that are interested and will actually have a impact because they care about a matter that most people don’t. this group of “interested” people will likely know more and have a better idea on the topic (even if it’s not simple).
      Extreme direct: agree with you on this, running a government or let’s say the central bank, requires very specific knowledge, the question would be where is the line 
      I also agree that we would still need elected leaders.

      Regards!

      JB
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      Mar 27 2011: yes, exactly right..we can't all be on top of every issue and we have a natural tendency to focus most on what affects us directly. universal access to the legislative process, such as the LegBook I proposed here and at my blog would allow people to engage directly from where they live and work in identifying the laws under consideration which most effect them and particpating in the deliberative process..even testitifying at public hearings and participating in public hearings from where they live and work. we have no choice in large pluraistic modern democracies but to transfer our daily represntation to our elected officials but a system that allows us to stay on top of issues we most care about would keep our elected officials more accountable to local and community concerns.The idea and experience of community would be expanded as well. For example, the fisherman here on my island would have the experience of being part of a national communuty of fisherman and would be able to speak at a national level on what national priorities should be for american fisheries.
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      Apr 17 2011: I think you are correct, like others on this topic, in pointing out that the masses of ordinary people in any given country simply do not have the time or the expertise to weigh in on important legislation.

      Unfortunately, I don't think that your suggestion of leaving social issues in the hands of the people and direct democracy while the other issues remain in the purview of elected representatives in a 'hybrid' model is going to make sense: there is too much potential overlap between issues which are considered social ones and issues that are considered to be economic ones, for instance. Even something as seemingly straightforward as gay marriage can have economic consequences, so would that be something for direct democracy to handle, or representatives?
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    Jul 1 2011: Because we cannot control it. The people who want to cheat employ it to get their way leaving the honest to be run over by the corruption. Watch the HBO documentary Hacking Democracy.
  • Jun 28 2011: The basic flaws with the idea of direct democracy stem from old warnings. Democracy in and of itself a beautiful concept, much as Communism as written. Neither are truly practiced, democratic republics, representative democracies etc... abound but very few true direct democracies exist. When you ask why is when you arrive at the answer.
    1. Direct Democracy is a true mob rule. The most popular idea, regardless of the harm it may impart to the under represented, will become the policy.
    2. Most people in society do not have the passion or drive to be truly active on all the issues that they will be asked to form an opinion and vote. For a direct democracy to be effective the onus would be on the population to have as high a representative vote as possible for equality. Currently in the US we have voter turn out in the 35% range and consider that a good turn out. The problem is that the 35% figure is of registered voters, not total population. In the last presidential election, President Obama was elected by 20% of the population.
    3. The average voter is too ignorant (not stupid, there is a distinction) on the issues to make an informed decision and will be very easily swayed by the "American Idol" style of lobbying that would become standard. An uninformed voter would be more dangerous than a truly malicious voter. The uninformed voting block would be very easily manipulated by the best lobbying, regardless of the impact of the legislation.
    • Jul 19 2011: Majority Rule is the concept behind every democracy, so there will always be a minority. If sanity is a majority opinion, does that make the minority insane :-)? If only 35% of the population is sufficiently educated on the issues then that should be good enough for the other 65% that didn't take advantage of their right to determine their own future. Too many "unqualified" people voted for Obama just because he is black and not because he is an experienced Constitutional Law Professor/Attorney. I would rather have 35% that knows what they are doing instead of the ignorant masses voting for bogus reasons.
  • Jun 24 2011: in my view, the only reasons why we have parlamentarians, who are sometimes beraucratic, corrupt and overpayed is because most democracies today were founded in a pre-informatical age. We vote people in to congresses and parlaments to speak in our name, which, in the worst cases, dont do, using their power for their own good . Today, in the era of the Internet, people can speak fo themselves. Lets thing of a democratic model in which congressman and parlamentarians are´nt exist anymore´and the only known legislative are the people itself, everyday-joes like US.
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    Jun 14 2011: This is definitely the way forward, But I don't believe the political bureaucracy would willingly accept such a change which would limit their power.

    I believe facebook and similar platforms are already showing the polling of opinions and influencing trends. Though they may be limited to unorganized social pockets.

    It is more so required, as it can add a new paradigm of giving much needed priority to our choices and decisions. Atleast the constraint of technology being a limitation doesn't exists any more.
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    May 16 2011: The problem of electronic voting extends beyond the tool or website that is implementing the poll; we also need to worry about voter coercion. Today we vote in private booths with proctors available to make sure that one person is not influencing the vote of another. When voting goes online we will have to worry about coercion from spouses, employers and other bullies. "if you want to keep your job, vote blue!" etc.

    Think of how easy it is to game current online polls!

    To remedy this there is research being undertaken (that I participated in) at the MIT/Caltech voting technology project. Can we detect voter coercion, influence and general unsatisfactory voting conditions electronically?

    As was stated in an earlier post, it's all about trust.
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    May 12 2011: Actually when you see it this way, all we need is a Voting app for your country on Facebook. Its as simple as that, if you want to make it simple and participative.

    But when the question of reliability comes, would you trust facebook? Now if you dont trust facebook, whic evidently is the biggest social networking site, how do you trust a state owned portal for voting?
    You make one and suddenly you'l have the chinese (pardon me pointing fingers :P) hackers hacking and suddenly you'l have Sarah Palin for president, now how disastrous is that? :P My sad humour aside, i hope you get the point that just having the resources doesnt make it worth using them. When its a nation's future at stake, reliability and security and reach are way more important.
  • May 9 2011: What would you vote on? Federal issues? State? Global? The ability to vote really isnt the issue (in my humble opinion). The issue is awareness. Lets say the issue is a proposed tax hike by the state of X. All residents of X have the opportunity to vote to either pass or decline this proposed tax hike via their smart phones, tweets, etc. How do you inform the public of the details of said tax hike in a manner that someone other than an accountant can understand? I am not politically minded at all. The whole mess gives me a headache. If you asked me on the spot to vote for/against this proposed tax hike, I would have about 50 questions that would need answering before I could cast my vote. Every person has the ability to vote now without using their smart phones or the internet. It is a matter of getting to the polls and filling out your ballot. Some cant make it you say. Some dont have the time, the energy, the passion. Good. If you cant make the time, find the energy, generate the passion....I`d rather you not vote. The last thing I want is some citizen spamming "yes" to everything because his friends are doin it on facebook. I dont support enableing the ignorant any more than I have to via the Constitution.As to the mob mentality, your vote is your own. If you are the only person who voted yes against a million that voted no, noone will be the wiser unless you say so.The concept is wonderful, thought up by a man of average or higher intelligence and I applaude it. Were we living in a society that was predominantly full of proactive citizens that actually cared, I would support this 1000%. Unfortunately we are not, and for that reason I am casting my e-vote for no.@ Sarah Caldwell - Also why they tend to not make pink assault rifles. "This is serious buisness."

    Also, I cant speel to save my lyfe. Sorry for the typos.