I've written about Open Source Politics, Open Source Activism, and Open Source Journalism. Open Source software is taking over our desktops at the expense of monopolistic Microsoft (get Firefox!). Television is getting in on the act. Shows like American Idol let the public be the judges, not three has-beens sitting on a judge's table. Al Gore's new network, Current, is predicated heavily on an open source model — with a great deal of programming produced by its viewers.And corporate America is catching on.
Businesses create and distribute goods and services that enhance our quality of life, promote growth, and generate prosperity. They spur innovation, reward entrepreneurial effort, provide a return on investment and constantly improve their performance responding to market feedbacks. They draw on the skills, effort and ingenuity of individual workers, and share with them the economic value created by the enterprise.
Non-profit organizations give us ways to celebrate, build and protect the many human values that give rise to healthy, thriving communities. They have worked to ensure that all people have adequate necessities of life, including clean air, water, food and shelter; an equitable share of wealth and resources; and opportunity to develop their full physical, mental and spiritual potential. They create spaces to celebrate the joy of culture and artistic expression, and reveal opportunities for generosity. They have helped protect the environment, working to ensure that human capacities, technologies and organizations sustain and support, not systemically alter, degrade or destroy, the Earth, its diversity of life or the ecological systems that support life. They remind us that many species share this planet and depend on each other, and that humanity must not only care for itself, but must steward an entire world.
I now realize that neither governments nor corporations are “fixed” obstacles. In a world of constantly changing information, it is impossible for any structured organization to dominate a larger network—a hybrid network. Such broad, flexible governance without governments being “in charge” is where we need to go. The objective: to implement transparency, truth, and trust across all boundaries.
David Weinberger, cited earlier, is a genius on this point: not only can no one person or even one organization or one country “know” what they need to know to make an informed decision, but if they fail to understand, respect, and “jack in” to the knowledge network with full transparency as the method and truth as the objective, they will make very bad decisions. Of course this does not address the issue of corruption, and the raw fact that most governments and corporations could care less about objective truths, seeking instead to optimize profits for the few at the expense of the many, but their ignorance is our advantage. That is why We the People must recommit ourselves to Open-Source Everything, its underpinnings (transparency and truth), and its outcome: trust you can bank on without a bank.
I will say that again in a different way: the persistent unethical and ignorant emphasis on secrecy and on making decisions for partisan advantage or to pay off campaign contributors and select insiders is not sustainable. We the People have an opportunity to embrace this manifesto of Open-Source Everything and bury “rule by secrecy.” This is this is why I am optimistic about the future.
New, open-source, populist-based, information-era strategies will also serve our increasingly complex lives better in future situations of crisis such as natural disaster, war, and social disintegration. Collapse is cultural, systemic, a failure of process, not of any discrete event, institution, or location. The industrial-era model of command and control cannot adequately process information for a complex system, but an information-era model of distributed localized resilience can.
Collaboration and consensus is the Epoch B way, but from the philanthropic foundations to the non-governmental organizations to all others, there is still a dearth of information-sharing that is both expensive and incapacitating. While the United Nations has committed itself to coherence, with the meme of “Deliver As One,” they do not have the intelligence—or the integrity—to actually do that. Similarly, governments talk of “whole of government” operations, and corporations of “matrixed management,” but these also fail the intelligence and integrity tests.
Much has been written about how mass collaboration—alternatively called Collective Intelligence, Smart Mobs, Wisdom of the Crowds, Army of Davids—has not been possible in complex situations in the past because the industrial era introduced (imposed) a cumulative series of information pathologies that deprived the group of access to all relevant information, while favoring an elite few with privileged access that allowed them to concentrate both power and wealth. In the public domain, many artificial—that is to say, contrived—obstacles to informing the public emerged in the past century, such as the following, each a book title:
Fog Facts. These are facts that are “known” to some and publicly accessible but only if you know where to look. The mainstream media “blacks out” this knowledge. Modern examples include U.S. government support for dictators and U.S. government tolerance of massive fraud, waste, and abuse in return for fractional campaign contributions to presidential and legislative candidates who strive to remain in office “at any cost.”
Forbidden Knowledge. This includes both knowledge forbidden for public consumption by governments (e.g. restrictions on pornography) as well as corporations (e.g. concealment of known pathologies such as the effect of tobacco on cancer, or toxins associated with household goods) and religions (the triumph of dogma over consciousness).
Lost History. The most prominent modern example is the deliberate classification as secret of clandestine and covert operations by the U.S. government such that a modern history of foreign relations cannot be written—this is the documented complaint of the historians responsible for this task on behalf of the Department of State. The role of the Central Intelligence Agency in the introduction of massive amounts of cocaine into the USA under the pretext of supporting “strategic” operations “at any cost” is especially frightening to anyone upholding the Constitution.
Manufacturing Consent. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman first discussed this aspect of a modern democracy, and now, decades later, their work has been updated by Sheldon Wolin in his book, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Corporations now “own” not just the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. government, but the judiciary as well, with the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United being the more reprehensible evidence of the corruption of the highest court in the nation.
Missing Information. Bill McKibben did something never done before—he recorded all the television channels being broadcast in his area in one twenty-four-hour period, and watched them all over the course of time. He then spent twenty-four hours alone in the wilderness. Comparing the two experiences, he produced a truly brilliant exposition of how much “missing information” there is in our lives.
Propaganda.Propaganda, put most simply, is the development of manipulated (i.e., not truthful) information and the delivery of that information to an audience in such a way as to impress upon them views and beliefs that are not rooted in fact or deliberative dialog. Propaganda, which includes advertising that itself fosters an appreciation for planned obsolescence, waste, and toxic foods and goods, is the antithesis of transparency, truth, and trust.
Rule by Secrecy. As we have all now realized, and as Occupy is now confronting on Wall Street and around the world, secret banking networks, not governments, have been making decisions about war and peace, poverty and prosperity. It is banks that profit most from wars, followed by the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex, and We the People that suffer most. Government secrecy enables massive lies—such as the 935 documented lies delivered by Dick Cheney that took us into a multi-trillion dollar losing war in Iraq—and this is one reason why I have committed the balance of my life to Open-Source Everything: transparency, truth, and trust are the true currency for human transactions, and everything else is a cancer.
Weapons of Mass Deception.Whereas Rule by Secrecy is about secret cabals making decisions on the truth as they know it, Weapons of Mass Deception are about blatant lies—many of them allowed to go unchallenged by the media, think tanks, university specialists, and all others who should be thinking in the public interest but instead choose to “go along” out of a selfish and unethical dependency on funding from the government doing the lying. A form of mass hysteria is achieved, one best illuminated by the manner in which the three singers of the band Dixie Chicks , were treated when they publicly protested and questioned the veracity of the White House. Now, years later, as with Jane Fonda on Viet-Nam, we know that the White House was committing treason, and the Dixie Chicks were both ethical and correct in their protestations. Mass hysteria – and mainstream media corruption – prevented the broader public from recognizing the truth at the time.
Weapons of Mass Instruction.Underlying the ability of a treasonous White House and a complicit Congress (which must abdicate its Article 1 responsibilities when going along with known lies to permit an undeclared war at great cost) is a national educational system that is at best mediocre and at worst a crime against humanity. We are imposing on children of the Internet era—digital natives—an industrial-era system that is mindless: rote learning of old knowledge, sitting silent for hours on end, listening to lectures best left silent and so easily replaced by more vibrant multimedia communications. Teachers and the educational stakeholders who are complicit in the criminally negligent continuation of a retarded educational system are a foundation for an uninformed, unengaged public.
 During a London concert ten days before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, lead vocalist Maines said “we don't want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States (George W. Bush) is from Texas”. The statement offended many Americans, who thought it rude and unpatriotic, and the ensuing controversy cost the band half of their concert audience attendance in the United States. The incident negatively affected their career and led to accusations of the three women being “un-American”, as well as hate mail, death threats, and the public destruction of their albums in protest. Source: Wikipedia/Dixie Chicks citing film “Shut up and Sing,” and “Dixie Chicks Shut Up and Sing in Toronto,” MSNBC, seen 10 Aug 2006.
Cf. Karen De Coster, “How the Public Schools Keep Your Child a Prisoner of the State,” LouRockwell.com, 31 January 2012; and also “19 Crazy Things That School Children Are Being Arrested For In America,” endoftheamericandream.com, undated.