User:Woozle/United Members of Civilization

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Introduction

Government is broken. (The US government, although far from being alone in this regard, is perhaps the biggest and most immediate source of danger – and it's the problem close at hand from where I sit. My proposed solution, however, is ultimately designed for civilization-wide deployment.)

So we need to start our own.

We now have the tools -- nearly-free rapid communication and automated collaboration management, among others -- which should make it possible for ordinary people, without needing any special authority, knowledge, or resources, to begin creating at least some minimal level of "civilization management". The level can scale up as more people participate (although there are issues to address; see #Scaling), and the system can be designed in such a way as to be actively hostile to any pockets of opacity that might develop, thus (hopefully) eliminating the possibility of tyranny.

This does not in any way mean that the current system must be destroyed. Monitored and reined in, yes – but this is not a call for violence, or revolution (except in the positive sense). As despicable as some of our would-be neofeudalist masters may be, they used words to accomplish their deeds; we will use words to accomplish ours.

"Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation." Alasdair Gray

Starting Rules

I will start by sketching the outlines, and I hope others will help fill in the details, using their knowledge, experience, and judgment. Some of these pieces I am more sure of than others, so please feel free to criticize (CITOKATE) and make suggestions.

Goals

  1. The continuance of sane civilization
    • Whereas humanity is currently the only species known (or believed) to be capable of civilization, and
    • whereas humanity is going through a very difficult transitional stage right now where it is in possession of weapons sufficient to destroy itself, and
    • whereas humanity has not yet figured out how to govern itself in ways that reliably ensure that those weapons are kept out of the hands of people who would use them for reasons of personal or in-group power,
    • the preservation of humanity is currently a very high priority.
  2. The continuance of sane governance of civilization, including:
    • encouraging restoration of sanity to existing governments
    • providing replacement governance where an existing government is too far gone
    • performing monitoring of existing governments, and collection and analysis of related information, in order that all United Citizens may be aware of each government's acts with respect to the crucial considerations of sanity and ethics
    • preventing, at all cost, "crimes against humanity", "crimes against nature", and other acts which taint the honor and integrity of civilization and its members

Methods

Transparency

In order to prevent the UMC from becoming evil, we will at least start with the firm idea that all its decisions and acts should be made openly. The only items which may reasonably be kept secret should be "keylike" items such as passwords, and each secret should be openly listed and justified. The base rule should be that if the secret-keepers cannot openly justify the secret in a way which satisfies a consensus of non-secret-keepers, then they have to release the information. In general (in case it isn't obvious), secrets should only be kept in order to ensure that the tools of civilization are not used in ways that seriously threaten the best interests of civilization.

This may leave us quite vulnerable to manipulation (or even attack, of various sorts) by unscrupulous power-interests. Although I do think a philosophy of firm openness will ultimately prevail, we should always be on the lookout for ways in which we may be vulnerable (especially when we start to get to the point where we have assets worth defending, if that ever happens). On the other hand, we will have several advantages over the existing powers-that-be, among which are quicker and more efficient adoption of new technology, and organizational transparency (the left hand can always find out what the right one is doing without having to "go through channels").

Structure

The idea I've come up with more or less builds on the ways in which online communities seem to organize themselves, by adding layers of structure to handle integration between communities (something that is currently lacking in any online community I'm aware of).

The basic structure is a sort of like present-day government (Traditional Government) in some ways, but with some significant differences. I have to throw in some terminology here, for disambiguation and to keep sentences readable:

  • Traditional Government (TradGov or TG) refers to governance concepts, terminology, etc. currently in common usage. I'm primarily speaking of Western-style quasi-democratic governments here -- the best of what we have now; the "State of the Art" or "Best Practices" in governance.
  • Civilization Management Group (CMG): a group of people analogous to a geopolitical area in TradGov (e.g. country, state, county, city); CMGs can include other, smaller CMGs or individuals
  • Civilization Management Tier (CMT): a tier or layer (still hunting for the best word) within the CMG structure. There would probably be some named tiers at the narrowest (Individual, Family, Neighborhood, even Church) and broadest (Global Resource Management Groups) ends of the spectrum, and possibly some anonymous middle-level tiers in between; see /tiers for further discussion.

So... the basic structure is hierarchical, much like Traditional Government, with some key differences:

  • in TG, you're assigned to political jurisdictions based on your geographical location; in the UMC, the choice is generally yours. (This concept bumps into reality when it comes to things like managing physical infrastructure... but I think there are ways of dealing with this.) Individual CMGs may have their own rules about leaving and joining, but there will be some oversight to discourage abusive practices.
  • in TG, every individual votes for one individual to lead the country; in UMC, a CMG is elected by the CMGs in the tier below. The elected CMG decides within itself how to handle individual responsibility and authority (e.g. who is in charge of the "football" with the red button in it, and where is it kept). Obviously in practice a CMG might want to describe in detail, as part of their campaign, how they plan to manage things -- but this still allows for considerably more flexibility than our present system. (Why does the president need to bring the "football" with him everywhere? Why couldn't there be a VP of Emergency Retaliatory Measures who lives in a bunker 24/7 whose job it is to stay in radio contact with the President and VP, and s/he is the one with the Red Button? Or perhaps a small rotating team of VPs?) This is getting a bit grandiose, perhaps, to imagine that the design of the US government would ever be switched over to running along UMC lines, but it serves as a useful exercise to see how these things might be applied.

End Notes

This is just some stuff to read if you're curious; it's not necessary in order to get the basic idea.

Naming

I wanted to come up with a name that was remniscent of "The United States of America", because the situation is much the same in some ways: yeah, King George has the authority to impose whatever taxes he wants, but really, we don't care (or at least I don't; I can't yet speak for the other United Members because, as of this writing, there aren't any). We (I'll use the "Despotic 'We'", a long-standing UMC linguistic tradition which I am inventing right now, to mean "I, and anyone else who agrees with me") are going to set our own laws, and if this results in George sending soldiers to come get us, then so be it. (I would like to state, for the record, that I personally am unarmed, have never used a firearm other than a pellet gun, have almost no training in any form of physical combat, armed or otherwise, and generally suck at it. I am neither armed nor dangerous, nor do I personally know anyone who is either of those things. So far.)

I first came up with "United Citizens of Earth", but then I didn't want to exclude inhabitants any extraterrestrial colonies we might be lucky enough to spawn. Then I thought "United Citizens of Humanity", but then I didn't want to exclude any civilized beings who might not consider themselves "human". Then I tried "United Sentients", but by that time I had started thinking: what is it that we're uniting for? This isn't "United Citizens for a Longer Lunch Hour" or "United Citizens to Promote Our Favorite Cause", this is about preserving the thing that makes it possible to be citizens – civilization.

Disclaimers

I'm putting all the disclaimers here so they don't interrupt the flow of the main text.

  • This is a new thing being built from scratch, and I don't pretend to be an expert in a lot of fields where expert input would definitely be a good idea on such a project. Others should feel free to note errors and potential problems, and to add their own ideas.

Links

  • 2007-11-01 discovery: Corruption at Lessig wiki: Larry Lessig has apparently decided to dedicate the next 10 years to ending government corruption. I left him a note.
  • 2007-08-09 For a new Constitutional Convention: apparently I'm not the only one saying we need a fresh start. "The people of the United States need a new declaration of independence from our government. We need a new constitutional convention to put forward ideas and platforms that reaffirm our commitment to a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." And we need the people power of direct democracy to give every citizen a chance to participate and vote on proposals. Our democracy has been hijacked by a band of right-wing ideologues and zealots who believe -- just like Adolph Hitler -- in worldwide corporate hegemony rather than democracy."
  • ComcastMustDie blog (intro page): this is a good example of how citizens with no special authority or resources can affect major corporations simply by organizing. The "demands" are very much along UMC-style lines: they're not demanding dollars of compensation, or more customer service agents, or faster response time; they're demanding more transparency and customer participation, and letting the details of improvement emerge from that process. Note that they also have disgruntled Comcast customer service people posting.