Review: Extreme Democracy

6 Star Special, America (Founders, Current Situation), Best Practices in Management, Civil Society, Complexity & Resilience, Consciousness & Social IQ, Democracy, Intelligence (Public), Nature, Diet, Memetics, Design, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Philosophy, Politics, Priorities, Public Administration, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)
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Mitch Ratcliffe, Jon Lebkowsky

5.0 out of 5 stars SIX STAR #OWS Primer Wow Wow Wow,October 20, 2011

I bought this book in October 2010 because I was getting to know both Mitch Ratcliff and Jon Lebkowsky better, but at first pass through it did not really draw me in. Then OccupyWallStreet happened. I read the book on the flight from the US to Spain where I am talking about commercial intelligence and integrity in the messed up new world, and this time around, the book grabbed me.

Because #OWS has brought to life the ideas the co-editors and various contributing authors understood well before 2004 and articulated in 2004, now I can absorb this book as much more meaningful and inspirational. Anyone associated with OccupyWallStreet in any way from direct to indirect, should read this book. I am donating my copy to the George Mason University Library as I do all my new books (they took over my entire library when I joined the UN back in 2010).

QUOTE 6): “Politics is always changing as a society incorporates new technology for disseminating information and connecting people.”

QUOTE (11): “The whole history of democracy and technology has set the stage for what happens next.”

In the first contribution Joichi Ito (now head of the MIT Media Lab) suggests that emergent democracy is an open process melding social software into democracy. I observe that no one now elected to office is serious about using social software to properly understand any issue or harness the collective intelligence of their constituency on any issue.

Weblogs are digital grass roots equivalents.

Helpful to remind ourselves that democracy is defined by having the supreme power vested in the people and exercised directly–NOT what we have today in the USA’s inverted totalitarian democracy, see Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (New in Paper).

Democracy NEEDS the competition ideas that in turn demand free speech. Rule by Secrecy is anti-democratic (and also enormously wasteful). See Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History and Rule by Secrecy: The Hidden History That Connects the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, and the Great Pyramids.

All of the authors share concerns with creemping restraints on the information commons and all of the authors are optimistic about the emergence of extreme democracy. For the latest book along these lines, see Peggy Holman’s Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity.

From Gary Johnson and so totally relevant to #OWS it is scary good:

QUOTE (25): “In complex systems the role of the leader is not about determining direction and controlling followers. The leader maintains integrity, mediates the will of the many, influencing and communicating with peers and other leaders. The leader becomes more of a facilitator (or hub), and custodian of the process, than a power figure.”

The entire book is rich with footnotes and most of them provide URLs.

Three types of network emergence: creative (smallest), social (middling), and political (largest). I myself am frustrated by #OWS spinning in circles over demands and grievances while failing to move aggressively on what US Day of Rage correctly (in my view) calls for as the singular demand: Electoral Reform. I like to say there is nothing wrong with America the Beautiful that cannot be set right immediately by restoring the integrity of our electoral process and hence our governance and hence putting corporations back into the box (they hold commissions from the public). Everything else is down in the weeds, in my view, but of course necessary to the process.

QUOTE (32): “Weblogs create a positive feedback systems, and with tools for analysis lke Technorati, we can identify the importance of information at the political level by tracking its movement across the weak ties between networks and network levels.”

TRUST is a critical aspect–one governments no longer enjoy in most artificial nation-states–and the book as a whole is huge on both the process of creating public trust, and the means by which the public can carry out counter-surveillance on the government as well as corporations.

QUOTE (38): “We can bootstrap emergent democracy using existing and evolving tools and create concrete examples of emergent democracy, such as intentional blog communities, ad hoc advocacy coalitions, and activist networks.”

Mitch Ratcliff articulates a deep confidence in people that I share (search for 2010 HUMINT Trilogy also Reflections on Integrity).

QUOTE (60): Extreme democracy, taking a cue from the recent evolution of software development, ‘extreme programming,’ anticipates a politics based on lowered friction in communication that increases the diversity of ideas and opinions that can be brought to bear on the development of public policy.”

In other words, as I articulated in 1995 in a Government Information Quarterly article, we can create a Smart Nation that harnesses the distributed intelligence of the Whole Earth. NOT what the two-party tyranny wants to hear.

QUOTE (76): “Emergence, to a great degree, is simply what we don’t plan. How to arrive at the best possible unplanned outcome is what emergent democracy is about.”

I had to read that several times to appreciate the depth. It drives directly to the point that top-down hierarchies are not democratic, and that indigenous bottom-up consensus processes are. I have a note to the effect that extreme democracy crosses all boundaries and takes place in real time. In other words, it is the opposite of bureaucratic stove-pipes and special interest earmarks, and restores holistic analytics and long-term thinking.

QUOTE (89): “A political philosophy must incorporate more than the experience of participation. An analysis of power, define ideas about the role of the citizen and the government, and the principles society will embrace about the value of the individual are required as well. See The Thirteen American Arguments: Enduring Debates That Define and Inspire Our Country and also What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and the Epic Struggle to Create a United States.

Several of the authors focus on the Howard Dean campaign and Joe Trippi’s brilliance in the first cut of a political web that actually engaged people. The conclusions are generally negative–the first cut, while brilliant, clustered like-minded people but did not cope with actual issues. The web effort could also not overcome Dean’s inherent problems with himself and others. The bottom line: the web aspect must help the totality (human-centered) address new challenges in a visibly effective manner. Rah rah and hand-holding are not enough. Real information, real issues, real people, real outcomes are essential.

Steve Johnson focused on technology amplified collective action as the next big thing. He also hits hard on my biggest concern with #OWS, as shown below.

QUOTE (100): “Influencing elections and legislation is the sene qua non of effectiveness.”

It is driving me mad that #OWS is mumbling about going after 2014 and 2016 seats when an Electoral Act of 2012 is online now, could be demanded on 6 November, and if not implemented by 15 February 2012, used to create a General Strike that flushes the US Congress down the toilet, and the two-party tyranny with it.

Ken White makes the very important point that reform is not redesign. See Ideas and Integrities: A Spontaneous Autobiographical Disclosure and Redesigning Society (Stanford Business Books).

Valdis Krebs focuses on our biggest challenge right now: the atomized voter. He shows three levels of voting engagement:

01 The atomized voter

02 The demographic voter

03 The social voter

He makes the point that strangers do not influence social voeters, and:

QUOTE (124): “Instead of having strangers call voters, or knock on doors, the campaign should find well-connnected supporters and have them go out into their clusters.”

QUOTE (126): “The network strategy does not require a large war chest of political contributions. It does require time and energy and understanding of the social dynamics.”

I have a note: 100 million voters times $10 each is US$1 billion. 2012 is a do-able do if #OWS will integrate, adapt, and MOVE.

Ross Mayfield gets into online communities, flash mobs and flash fund-raising, flash lobbying, participatory politics.

Danah Boyd focuses on engaging people and engendering community. There are so many local to national design opportunities inherent in the economic crash (Wall Street can ignore reality, but reality will not ignore Wall Street) that I am actually positive about the near future. We are about to become “sane” as a nation and stop doing the wrong things at greater expense.

Adam Greenfield contributes a chapter, “Democracy for the Rest of Us: the Minimal Compact and Open-Source Government” that I consider worthy of stand-alone circulation. He talks about portable citizenship and the open source world being flexible, adaptive, extensible, infinitely reproducible (#OWS!!), non-local, interoperable and mutual, and highly robust.

QUOTE (211): “Whatever else it [extreme democracy] achieves, if anything, I hope you take from it the essential recognition it shares with open-source development: that we can teach ourselves what we need to learn, share whatever knowledge we glean, build on the insights of the others engaged in the same efforts. Just as the novice programmer is invited to “hack” open-source software, the minimal compact invites us to demystify and reengineer government at the most intimate and immediate level.” We can hack democracy.”

Ethan Zuckerman offers some very important wisdom on the need to recognize the rest of the world – the five billion poor – as imminent beneficiaries of any tools, processes, and success that we enjoy, and I especially like his recognition that smart phones are not going anywhere fast in the extreme poverty world. There it is dumb phones and talk radio. I really really like his emphasis on how we should design tools (and networks) for all the world, not just the 1st world.

Roger Wood is phenomenal in his focus on the FACT that all political, social, and economic structures boil down to the individual.

QUOTE (248): “All initiatives are born, all decisions are made and all actions are taken by individuals. The individual human, uniquely endowed with the capacity for thought and reasoning, is the source of all political action. Power, as the ability to cause action in society, comes only from people.”

Adina Levin discusses specific tools and functions:

01 Dialog and deliberation (this is what the National Council for Dialog and Deliberation does, but their tools are non-existent)

02 Researching policies and strategies (this is the core of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) and public intelligence

03 Educating public and the media (not well developed today)

04 Identifying supporters (#OWS has done that — 99%)

05 Gathering and motivating supporters (this is where #OWS lacks a strategy, vision, funding plan, and political plan)

06 Raising money, mobilization (early days yet, I am certain we can raise $1 billion a year as a democracy subscription in the USA, much more once this migrates to the rest of the world).

I put the book down with huge admiration and respect for all of the contributing authors and the two editors especially. I believe that the Arab Spring and the demonstrable Hypocrisy (search for Jon Lebkowsky Hypocrisy Video) of the current Administration were seed crystals for #OWS, and #OWS is a seed crystal for something much much larger that ultimates engages 300 million US voters and then billions of global voters. It is a rare privilege to be alive today and in association with Extreme Democracy.

See Also:

The Tao of Democracy: Using co-intelligence to create a world that works for all
Conscious Evolution: Awakening Our Social Potential

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