Yesterday, I read this phrase quoted from Tim O’Reilly (the bold is mine):
We couldn’t agree more: “Technology should be about values with people at the centre” @timoreilly #OSCON2014 #OSCON
This afternoon, meanwhile, I read three amazing articles – all of which, in some way, may lead to a final fixing of our broken political process.
The first article is from Wired UK, and describes how the tech industry is leading to increasing inequality. A lack of morality – manifested by the industry everywhere, as well as large corporations in all sectors since the beginning of capitalism – leads to “ordinary people” being forced out of their suburbs. The wealth generated by workers, who with their interconnected technologies can set up business anywhere, soon distorts and deforms the social patterns and financial dynamics of every community they set their eyes on:
[...] The tech community has the ear of government, a lot cash and the skills to truly change the lives of people across the world. And while some do, like those building open software, along with proponents of the clean web and those trying to address human rights abuses in device manufacturing, the majority do not. US psychologist Paul Piff calls the growing detachment of the super-rich, simply, the “asshole effect”.
The second article comes from the Guardian back in June (again, worth reading in its entirety), linked to from the Wired UK report above. And it asserts things like this – things I have failed to hear for a long time but which were music to my ears a naive decade ago:
So how does open source everything have the potential to ‘re-engineer the Earth’? For me, this is the most important question, and Steele’s answer is inspiring. “Open Source Everything overturns top-down ‘because I say so at the point of a gun’ power. Open Source Everything makes truth rather than violence the currency of power. Open Source Everything demands that true cost economics and the indigenous concept of ‘seventh generation thinking’ – how will this affect society 200 years ahead – become central. Most of our problems today can be traced to the ascendance of unilateral militarism, virtual colonialism, and predatory capitalism, all based on force and lies and encroachment on the commons. The national security state works for the City of London and Wall Street – both are about to be toppled by a combination of Eastern alternative banking and alternative international development capabilities, and individuals who recognise that they have the power to pull their money out of the banks and not buy the consumer goods that subsidise corruption and the concentration of wealth. The opportunity to take back the commons for the benefit of humanity as a whole is open – here and now.”
A perfect riposte to Google & Co’s Melian dialogues, I think.
The final article which – at least in my opinion – serves to build on the first two is this one from today, also published in the Guardian. In it, Cory Doctorow suggests that the very tech which has corrupted further our politics can be turned round and used for and by the people to recover integrity. As he concludes most powerfully (again, the bold is mine):
This threshold-style action system is at the heart of Kickstarter (pledge whatever you like, but no one has to spend anything unless enough money is raised to see the project to completion) and it’s utterly adaptable to elections.
In democracies all over the world, voting is in decline. A permanent political class has emerged, and what it has to offer benefits a small elite at the public’s wider expense.
We hear a lot from tech circles about “disruption” of complacent, arrogant and entrenched industries. Politics is the foremost example of such an industry and it’s overdue for disruption.
Incidentally, this afternoon a short Slideshare came my way. I’ll embed it below so you can see that others are having similar thoughts:
And as an adjunct to all the above, back in 2012 I suggested this alternative to our first-past-the-post electoral system, where I said things like this:
This would clearly be a brand new electoral system – a system which depended heavily for its functionality on virtual-community technologies and multifarious software tools. But it would also be a brand new electoral system entirely fit for a consensual and collaborative – that is to say, a coalition – age. No longer would politicians have to triangulate their positions. No longer would the electorate have to compromise when they voted. In everything we began to do in such a body politic, honesty, sincerity and directness would become the definers of a completely new era in representative democracy.
To my final observation today. We all know how “Citizen Kane” turned out, of course. But maybe a “Citizen Kane 2.0″ could be worth pursuing. Imagine that a campaigning paper of the history of an organisation like the British Guardian, say, decided that – with all its present online and virtual experience and activity – it might be able to do much more than freely comment the world’s events. Initiate, proactively participate, manage, channel and forge a new politics as per some of the ideas contained in this post today … in particular with respect to what Doctorow proposes. Now wouldn’t that be a fine and life-changing experience for not only the journalists and readers already involved – but also for the wider population of despairing citizens?
Reshape parliamentary process through the very technology that has so fiercely pwned – in the nakedly Melian terms I mentioned earlier – every step of 21st century governance as we have experienced it to date; reform the process of exchange and blur the lines of hierarchy intelligently between leaders and led, between the thinkers and the thought; and remake, finally, the balance of power amongst those who promise so much and those who are lied to so frequently.
A temptation too far? Come on, you clever bods of the written word. Remind yourselves truly: the pen is mightier than the sword.
(But in order to be so, it needs occasionally to be unsheathed …)