User:Woozle/My Left Wing/Revolution 2.0 Outline RFC/consensus

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The question of how we make decisions is at the core of... pretty much everything. The nature of the decisionmaking process determines:

  • how satisfied individuals are with the outcome of each decision
  • how sane the actions of the group are
    • ...which greatly affects how well the group succeeds, economically and politically
  • how well the decisionmaking process is protected against hostile takeover

Two ways we don't want to do things:

  • Religion: top-down dissemination of ideas, little to no criticism going the other way; highly asymmetrical and centralized
  • US Democracy 1.0: designed around 18th century communication and transportation technology, with design goals that have demonstrably failed

Collaborative technology throughout history has tended to evolve away from centralized, top-down (master-servant, command-structure-driven) modes of organization towards symmetrical, decentralized, spontaneous interaction.

There are obviously some benefits to this.

Mass collaboration projects like Wikipedia are able to exceed the effectiveness of staid institutions such as the Encyclopedia Britannica -- delivering content that is both comparably accurate and far more comprehensive, with no access fee -- using relatively shallow hierarchies and almost no interposition of bureaucracy between the end-user and the system. Email is delivered for free, typically in under a minute, without ever passing through a central sorting facility or being examined by a human anywhere in between sender and destination.

There are also some disadvantages.

We have no general way for large groups to make good decisions. We have online polls which are little better than toys (easily gamed, totally non-auditable), and that's about it. As yet, there are no generalized tools (that I am aware of) for arriving quickly at a collective decision which a known number of people will be prepared to comply with regardless of their individual preferences.

Despite this, it's becoming clear that peer-driven organization can be used for very serious and time-sensitive real-world operations. Individuals using decentralized collaborative tools put out a forest fire in Russia, and carried out revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and other places. When it was clear which direction to push, enough people pushed in the same direction to make things happen.

This has traditionally been the excuse for imposing centralized leadership and rigid rules of compliance: the need for a small number of decisionmakers who can act quickly and decisively.

With the ubiquity of terminals (web browsers, smartphones) capable of complex interactions between individuals, with rules mediated by software, it should be entirely possible to provide a way for group decisions to be made with whatever degree of speed is needed. There will need to be some structure, because 100 million people can't be aware of all the important information in every single decision that needs to be made -- but the lines of trust, the delegation of authority (which is essentially what political power is), can be completely dynamic. The bones of the structure should be emergent and quickly modifiable, not clumsily laid in place by central control.

We also don't yet have good intelligence delivery systems, though we're a lot closer in that area than in the decisionmaking department. We do have many, many sources of news, and ways of aggregating news, and ways of notifying people of news, and ways of categorizing news. What we don't yet have is any rigorous way of aggregating all the most relevant and reliable news that individuals should be aware of before making a decision on a given topic.


An earlier, somewhat inconsistent version of this page is here.