‘New System’ Priorities: Diversity or Unified Vision?

A Fog Island Tavern Discussion

– Hey Bog-Hubert – got over your post-election excitement yet?
– Not exactly, Vodçek.
– Not exactly – what does that mean, exactly? Or, well, approximately, if you don’t do exactly?
– Well, right now I’m just wondering about all the blogs and sites that are oh so urgently proposing this or that ‘new system’ that should be adopted instead…
– Haven’t they been doing that for a while?
– True. Maybe I’m just starting to pay more attention.
– And?
– And I’m getting more and more confused and aggravated.
– Why is that? Well, the confusion part I understand: there’s just too much of all that floating around. But what’s aggravating you? Isn’t it encouraging that people are starting to think about these issues some more?
– Sure, if they just were the right issues.
– So you think they aren’t? Hmm. I could use some explanation…
– Okay: I know you’ve been looking at things like that too. Briefly, what are the main groups of controversies you see?
– Main groups? You mean the political parties?
– No, Vodçek. Sorry, my question wasn’t clear. I’m talking about the groups that are basically saying those parties, and the system they’re a part of, need to be replaced with something new.
– Not all of them are suggesting something new; aren’t many of them claiming to be ‘conservative’?
– Right: but they don’t mean conserving things as they are, more like going back to some mythical previous better state of affairs, aren’t they?
– I see what you mean. Even if it’s something traditional, inherited, it wouldn’t be just like that old system, but something new based on old principles? Well, I see many ‘New System’ groups calling for a more or less radical re-thinking of how society should be organized. Ditch the current ones, all parts and subsystems. I don’t see much specific detail in those, of the New Systems, that one could examine and discuss. And then there are all those groups that are doing very specific ‘alternative’ things: the commons projects, alternative currencies, sustainable agriculture or permaculture communities, alternative energy technologies, etc. Many good ideas, but hard to see how they’d fit into an overall picture.
– I agree with your impressions there. Any of those well-intentioned causes you would want to join, become a part of to create the new society, saving the human race?
– Oh man, I have enough trouble keeping my humble tavern going from day to day. But you are right. I can’t say I share the enthusiasm some of those people seem to have.
– And do you think about why that might be? Other than that some of those guys are just trying to make you feel guilty by accusing you of laziness, apathy, stinginess for not giving them money, or worse?
– Well, do you have a good explanation? You aren’t doing much of that enthusiasm-activism yourself, am I right? Other than scribbling in your little notebook there when there’s nobody else here you can shoot the breeze with?
– Touché, my friend. But hey, there are some ideas in this little notebook, some thinking about those issues, that explain why I am not out there ‘doing’ things. Well, as long as there’s nobody else keeping you distracted here, perhaps we can discuss some of it?
– Okay. Starting with why I don’t think the world is ready for THE BIG NEW SYSTEM yet? Apart from the fact that those websites and flyers mostly consist of complaints about how bad things are and how those current ‘isms’ – capitalism, industrialism, neo-liberalism, globalism etc. – need to be ditched. As I said, few convincing specifics about what the new system should look like.
– I agree, we aren’t ready for another big system. Not sure I agree with your ‘yet’ – whether we should go for one big ‘unified’ system again. The record on the few experiments we had with those grand schemes hasn’t been too encouraging, would you agree?
– I really don’t know, Bog-Hubert. Human societies today, — technology, trade, travel, politics, communications — have developed too far to really ignore the calls for some global agreements and order. We can’t really go back to a state where we fumbled around in small isolated tribes, assuming the things we do have no effect across the globe. But I don’t think we really have any good ideas yet about what a better system should be.
– ‘Yet’, yet again – we need to get back to that. For now, I agree: Even among the people who think they have the key to the design of THE NEW system, there is precious little agreement about what it should look like. So I’d say the chances for consensus about that unified vision they all call for are pretty slim. We — if you talk about humanity as a whole – still do not know and can’t agree on what that better new system should be. We don’t really know what provisions in such a system would work and what wouldn’t.
– So?
– So we should take a closer look at those alternative initiatives, experiments. Right now, I have come across estimates of such efforts already counting in the millions. No idea if it’s true, or what the bases for those numbers are. Most seem to be small, local, and struggling with limited resources. I think we can say that most of them are working in isolation, many trying to stay under the radar of ‘official’ systems that tend to see tem as subversive or worse. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t see that they communicate well either with the outside world or among themselves. If they do, it’s mainly promotion pieces focusing on their ideas and hopes and successes, if any. Not a good basis for accumulating systematic, valid information about what works and what doesn’t.
– Don’t some of them see their main focus as the very key to making the BIG system work, and ask the entire world to awaken and accept it? And give them all more money?
– True. But okay, they are entitled to their faith. What I’m saying is that we need those experiments – many more, and as different and diverse as possible.
– I agree; that’s why I list that as a high priority. There should be a concerted effort to encourage and support those – on the condition that they are voluntary, not forcing people to participate, don’t get in each other’s or the existing systems’ ways in disruptive or aggressive manner, and most importantly that they agree to share their experiences in some coordinated and systematic fashion that allows others, the world, to learn from what they are doing.
– Hmm. Sounds good – but hey, doesn’t that already require some kind of global system?
– You are right. But that is, first off, not a BIG BROTHER governance and decision-making system, only a documentation, evaluation and discussion platform. You could say that the development of such a platform itself is an experiment. Starting small and local, but yes, aiming at involving many or all such initiatives, so global.
– The agreements of that system, or platform, as you call it, will require some decisions though. Beyond local, so: global, after all?
– Right again. But the decisions are not all-embracing whole system design decisions. Not even excluding alternative forms of communication or interaction, or replacing other institutions. So to the extent decisions – yes, ‘global’ decisions – are aimed at, they are sufficiently innocuous to serve as the basis for experiments about how to develop better decision-making modes? Because the current decision-making modes are part of the problem, aren’t they?
– Getting into treacherous territory there, Bog-Hubert.
– Perhaps. But isn’t it getting more obvious every day that Voting – the crucial element and crux of democracy — it’s more of a crutch? Simple and straightforward, sure. But I don’t think you can say it guarantees that the democratic principles of self-determination or that all concerns people may have about common plans will actually be heard nor given ‘due consideration’. Majority voting by definition permits ignoring the concerns of the minority…
– Okay, okay. So what you are saying is that thee will be a need to design such a platform, and that one of its features will have to be better decision-making methods. Well, I agree, that is an agenda that we don’t hear much about in the public media and political platforms: Can you draw a diagram of all that while I get some more coffee going?
– Sure. Got a napkin?

new-system-priorities-1a

– Ok, looks good. I see you added some issues down there — getting carried away already?
– Well, think about it. So far, we agreed that what’s needed are
• The ‘alternative’ experiments
• A forum and provisions for sharing and evaluating their experiences
• A ‘discourse’ platform for working out the global ‘road rules’ agreements
But since those agreements are not within any governance jurisdiction, wouldn’t there be a need for
• Some provisions for ensuring that those agreements are actually adhered to ?
Because they can’t be ‘enforced’ by any of the usual government policing and jurisdiction systems, they would have to be a different kind of arrangements. So that will need some innovative work. And I think that there will be a need for a better way of
• Selecting and appointing ‘leaders’ – people in positions to make decisions that can’t wait for the outcome of lengthy discussions.
And to the extent these people will wield power, won’t we have to rethink the problem of how to prevent that power from becoming addictive, leading to the temptations to abuse their power? I seriously feel that some better
• Tools for controlling power should be on the agenda. We don’t say anything about their order yet.
– Good grief, that is quite a package of work you’ve lined up there. No wonder our fearless leaders and candidates are a bit, shall we say, reluctant to even mention some of those. Hard to make meaningful campaign promises about those, eh?
– Sure. Quite controversial – which is precisely why they should be on the agenda.
– Okay, Bog-Hubert: at least there should be some meaningful discussion about those issues.
– More meaningful than their current treatment in the media, is that what you are saying? Because at least for some of the issues that are being talked about, the flood of opinions and rhetoric is already unmanageable. Almost meaningless for guiding sensible decisions.
– I agree. But…
– But — what’s bothering you?
– Well: those headings in the diagram, they are still so general that they don’t say much more than the usual complaints about problems with this and that. Calls for something to be done, but no specific details yet that one can get behind, don’t you agree? So you’d face the same kind of lack of engagement on the part of the public I think you’d want to enlist for that discussion?
– You are right. In the current form, the diagram doesn’t convey much substance yet. We’ll have to discuss some details: explaining why some new ideas and agreements are needed, sketching out what each of those components would do.
– And indicate why you think they can be made to work. We may need some help from our friends there. Let’s think about it for a while, until some of our usual suspects turn up.

– Hi guys, what’s that napkin doodle you are poring over there?
– Hello Commissioner, welcome to our little team. We are trying to figure out what the agenda really should be that you folks in government ought to be working on. Priorities…

Alternative Initiatives and Experiments

– Hmm. What’s this thing about ‘alternative experiments at the top here? Sounds subversive.
– We should have known that would look odd to you, what with all your calls for unified vision and purpose?
– Well, isn’t that what we need these days, come together to work on the urgent, common project of a more viable system to get us out of the mess we’re in, and the bigger mess we’re going to be in if we keep working at cross-purposes?
– Hear, hear, Commissioner. Yes, we need a unified vision we can all work on. It’s just what I have been saying for a long time, too.
– Hi Sophie, good morning. Amazing: you agree with our politician for a change? Well, can you tell us what that great, unified vision is going to be?
– Wrong question, Bog-Hubert: it will emerge once we get everybody to become aware of the whole system and acquire a consciousness of all of us being part of that whole together with the entire ecosystem. A new ethic…
– Oh yeah, that will take care of the economy, solve unemployment, inequality, and crime, eh?
– Whoa, Commissioner, is that a trace of sarcasm I hear, already? Suggesting a profound disagreement about the kind of unified vision we are supposed to embrace?
– Well, Bog-Hubert, it’s not the same thing. Sorry, Sophie, but that consciousness thing is just wishful thinking. Not a sound practical basis for reorganizing society. It needs negotiated compromise. Don’t hit me…
– Hey people, cool it, okay? Let’s not get into a brawl about specific Unified System Visions here. You are actually making the argument here, about why we need all those alternative experiments.
– How so? You’ll have to explain that, Vodçek.
– Okay, in principle, I’d agree: it would be great if we found that unified vision of the new and better system so many groups out there are talking about. But look at our first attempt to describe what it would be or should be like: big disagreement erupting before we even got started, about what it means and how to get there.. And I don’t’ think it’s just the two of you. Too much disagreement about it out there, all over. Doesn’t that tell us something: we – I mean humanity in general – don’t really know what that system, that vision should look like? Even if somebody really knows, too many others have different ideas about it. Too many to expect a unified consensus about the common effort we should start to get there any time soon. So… I think what Bog-Hubert is trying to say here is…
– Yes. We should just acknowledge that we don’t know. We’ve been through that before you guys came in, but it can’t be said often enough. Especially about the big, global system many think is needed. We have tried a few big systems, and so far none of them have met with universal approval, in spite of the intense propaganda from their promoters that flooded the media. Can’t we admit: we don’t really know what works and what doesn’t work for the big challenges we are facing? And spending all our chips on another big system without better evidence looks like an even worse idea than the muddling through we are doing now.
– Hmm. You’ve got a point there – and that’s why you’d let all those alternative crazies work on their separate blueprints to save the world?
– Right. I’d try to avoid the kind of name-calling though; many of those initiatives are run by very intelligent and well-intentioned people. Some of their ideas actually make a lot of sense, and I think we need to learn how they work out. The people doing that are often just working on a volunteer basis, — much cheaper and often more effective than big government contracts to big think tanks. Though to be fair, I’m sure some useful work is done there too. Most of them are small, local projects, and many are unquestionably improving matters – take the sustainability, organic and permaculture food projects – and do no harm, which can’t be said of all the big corporate activities. So they should be encouraged and supported rather than treated with suspicion and bureaucratic obstacles. The more diverse, the better. We need to learn from their experiences. But…

Sharing and evaluating experiences

– I knew it; there’s a but butting in.
– Yes, Sophie. As far as I can see, most of those initiatives and projects don’t really communicate well – not with the society and media in general, not even among themselves. So there’s little valid information available about their real experiences – what works and what does not work. Not much systematic evaluation. Much of the information they put out is just promotion — focused on the promises and whatever success they claim to have. Nothing about their obstacles and problems, other than that they really really need your donation.
– Yeah, and many of them actually are trying to sell the premises of their initiatives as THE basis for the next BIG system, for all to adopt.
– True. They should be given the opportunity to show some actual evidence for their claims, and a forum for fair but critical assessment. So the overall strategy should include encouragement and support. But on condition of sharing their experience in some organized and useful manner.
– ‘Organized’? That sounds like it will require some big system after all, Bog-Hubert? If those numbers you mentioned are real?
– Yes, that’s true. You’ll need some common format not only for compiling and documenting all that information, but also for the criteria and method for assessing the successes and failures. Big task. But there’s a significant difference: this ‘system’ can be designed and developed by those projects and initiatives themselves – not just ‘participation’ but actual decision-making, based on the interests and concerns of all the players involved.
– So there will be a ‘data base’ or documentation system for all the project information, and an ‘evaluation’ component with some common criteria and measures of performance based on what those initiatives are aiming at achieving, and a process for developing and displaying the results?
– Yes. And because that is not an all-powerful Big Brother Government system imposing its will upon all aspects of society, it will be a much less ideological and controversial process, don’t you think?
– Ah: if you are right – which remains to be seen though – it will be a good exercise project in itself – a testing ground for developing a better ‘self-governance’ system with all the aspects further down in your priority list. Sneaky.
– It was Abbé Boulah’s idea, that one, yes. He’s the sneaky one.
– So let’s look at those other parts of your list.
– Okay: which one?

Discourse platform

– The process you are talking about – developing the data base and evaluation system – already requires some common forum or platform where development ideas can be brought in, discussed, and decided upon, doesn’t it? Is that what that ‘discourse platform’ is supposed to be?
– Yes, Dexter. Glad you could join us, this gets into IT territory. And it will not just be like some of the social network platforms we know, nor a ‘knowledge base’ compilation of data, a data bank or encyclopedia-like system, but a ‘planning discourse support system’ aimed at developing, proposing and displaying, and discussing designs for the system itself, and then helping participants to make decisions based on the merit of those contributions – ideas, proposals and arguments pro and con. So that discussion must be accessible to all the participant entities.
– I see. It sounds plausible. But apart from the integration of the different programs, — feasible, but will take some work — won’t there be big practical implementation problems to do that? Just think of all the different languages all over the world, in which those contributions will be brought in. You can’t expect people will agree to one global language for that anymore – not in this post-colonial age. So there will have to be a massive translation effort to translate that discourse into all the different participant languages?
– True. And not only that. Much of the needed information will actually be in the form of scientific research, statistics, systems projects from many different disciplines? Each with their own vocabulary — disciplinary jargon, — replete with acronyms and greek letters and math equations. For a viable discussion, the content messages of those contributions must be translated into conversational language that ordinary citizens can understand. So yes, it will be a major project to coordinate that, and not an overnight process.
– And you’ll have to deal with all the problems we already know from the current scene of collaborative projects under various political systems.
– Such as?
– Well you have the ‘voter apathy’ syndrome – even in projects open to and relying on public participation. Many people just don’t participate or vote because they don’t really have the feeling that their input will count in any significant way. Then you have the ‘information overload’ problem – how can anybody digest all the information that’s flooding the media and social networks? You have the ‘trolls’ that just try to derail any meaningful discussion with irrelevant posts; personal attacks and insults and erroneous information – not even to talk about the problem of deliberately ‘false news’ – lies and distortions. And last not least the fact that the decisions — by so-called leaders or by referendum-type voting – can blatantly ignore even the most significant information and concerns of large parts of society.

New decision methods

– Yes, you are getting into the details of what’s needed to make any such planning platform work properly – in the best interest of all affected parties, in a really democratic way. So first, the system should provide some real participation incentives. And it should be organized so as to eliminate or at least reduce repetitious, irrelevant, erroneous and maliciously distractive and misleading content, and give people a good informative overview of the state of the discourse, don’t you think? Those are major design challenges – but we do have some ideas for improving things. Better decision modes for such planning systems remain a major issue.
– Hey, Bog-Hubert: all that doesn’t sound like a small local project anymore. You keep calling it a ‘planning discourse platform’ as if it were only a minor item on the agenda – but it is really a blueprint for the Big Global Discourse System, isn’t it?
– You are right in that any global governance system – as well as any local governance system if it wants to be really ‘democratic’ – will have to deal with the same issues and find acceptable solutions for them. The difference is that this is not a proposal for a ‘revolutionary’ upheaval replacing all the ‘evil’ current systems with another BIG System overnight.
– Or just a ‘get rid of the crooks’ effort that ends up just replacing the old crooks with different ones who will become just as bad and corrupted because the new systems hasn’t solved those problems you are pointing out here.
– So it looks like the ‘new decision models’ item on the priority list is really a high priority one. And that whatever the solution may be will look somewhat different from the ‘voting’ methods that are now considered as the key principle and guarantee of democracy? Can you give us some more details about what might make such methods work?
– Hey, putting a problem on the agenda doesn’t mean that we already have a solution, does it? Just that there is a problem and that we feel it is possible to fix it. But a key aspect, I think, is this: there must be a closer, more visible and recognizable connection between the merit of the information and arguments brought into the discourse, and the decision. That link is currently just a sanctimonious ideal: ‘let’s talk and then decide’.
– Sure, but a vote can, and too often does, ignore all the talk. So there’s work to do on that. But some of your Abbeboulahist ideas also justify hope – for example: if we can get a meaningful measurement tool for the merit of contributions, that measure can become a more decisive factor in the decision. And we have some ideas for that, too.

Few main ‘global’ agreements to facilitate ‘diverse’ aims

– True, Vodçek. So this system will be developed and emerge as a ‘parallel’ structure within the existing system, at first only dealing with the kinds of common agreements needed to draw useful lessons from the experiences of all those ‘local’ efforts. And aiming only at few decisions needed to facilitate the process – decisions like the ‘global, unified’ rules of the road – which side of the road to drive on to let everybody get to their ‘diverse’ destinations; or like the international rules for air or ocean traffic.
– Yeah, with all the translation and communication problems of such a global discourse, there won’t be that many decisions being agreed upon by that process, if you ask me. But I agree that some such common ‘road rule’ agreements will be needed, in this partial system as well as in the overall global system or non-system, if the Big Brother World Government is too scary a prospect.

Provisions for ensuring adherence to agreements:
‘enforcement’, sanctions?

– Hey, none of that is talking about any kind of World Government, I hope. Is it?
– Well, Sophie, think about it: Any kind of agreement or treaty or law – different names for essentially the same concept – will need some provisions for making sure that the agreement is kept, the rule is followed, and about what to do if it is violated. Deliberately or inadvertently.
– If all such agreements are reached by consensus by all the well-intentioned folks in a well-informed, spiritually conscious and aware community, and with more adequate decision procedures giving each participant’s concerns due considerations, will there still be such violations? Or at least not as many?
– Wouldn’t that be nice, Sophie. Won’t there always be people who feel that they aren’t getting as much of a benefit from a common decision as others, that they even get ‘the short end’ of it even if they couldn’t come up with sufficiently persuasive arguments to persuade the community or to justify a ‘no’ vote preventing the precious consensus decision? Peer pressure to agree resulting in a temptation to just bend the rules a little bit…? And then a little more?…
– I see where you are going here, Bog-Hubert, you cynic. You didn’t even mention all those sheer ornery or even pure evil folks. The problem isn’t just that there will still be such violations, but also that we – society – have not gotten past the traditional ways of dealing with them that we inherited from times when rules and laws were imposed by rulers who didn’t give a hoot about whether people were really adhering voluntarily to the rules because they agreed to them…
– What are you talking about, Vodçek?
– Law enforcement, of course, Sophie. The traditional approach is that laws have to be ‘enforced’ – that violators have to be punished so that they wouldn’t do it again, and to deter everybody else from even trying. And what Bog-Hubert is aiming at, — I have heard him talk about it with Abbé Boulah before – is that enforcement, prevention and application of force – requires that the enforcer must have more force, be more powerful, than any would-be violator. Otherwise, it’s not effective. So he is saying there should be different tools for ensuring that agreements and laws are adhered to – ‘sanctions’ that do not require ‘enforcement’. Am I right, Bog-Hubert?
– Couldn’t have said it better myself, Vodçek. One alternative would be something like sanctions that are triggered ‘automatically’ by the very attempt at violating a rule. Like the car ignition key that can sense if you are drunk and just won’t turn on if you are.
– Like that kind of thing can really fight crime and corruption. But what’s wrong with the ‘enforcement’ approach?
– Two things, Commissioner. One is escalation of enforcement tools. If criminals are getting better weapons than the police, the police must get better weapons, eh? Then the bad guys get even better gins, and so on… Not supportable, in the short or long run.
– Hmm. There oughta be a law…And the other reason?
– Power. You see it already at the local level, but it becomes critical on the level of international relations. It’s the reason people are very uncomfortable with the idea of World Government.
– I don’t get it.
– Well, you’ve heard the quip about power corrupting, and absolute power corrupting absolutely, haven’t you? Now if you have an enforcement agent or agency which does have better weapons, more powerful tools, than any would-be violator, what’s keeping that agent or agency from becoming tempted, ever so slightly, to bend the rules a little for itself? If the theory is true that it would take an enforcer with more power…
– Well, we have the balance of power of the different branches of government, and term limits, and impeachment rules, and so on, to constrain such power abuses, don’t we?
– True, and the claim is that they have been working adequately for quite a while. But many people are saying that those tools are getting to the limits of their effectiveness even al the local, regional and state levels. And seeing how often and how cleverly they have become ineffective, allowing power-holders to become evermore worried about the infringement of their power and their little abuses, and therefore seeking more power, and more clever, even ‘legal’ ways to circumvent their balance-of-power constraints. At the extreme, having to convince themselves that they really have the inviolate power by engaging in reckless activities – the Caligula syndrome.
– But those guys have always been brought down in the end, haven’t they? Well, most of them?
– Have they? At what cost of their own impoverished, murdered and ‘disappeared’ or otherwise oppressed citizens before they are stopped? Or that of other countries’ forces trying to bring them down? But think: if we have a World Government – one whose legitimate role is to ensure that agreements and treaties are adhered to, as we discussed – but whose tools for that are only ‘enforcement’ tools: weapons? And so-called ‘’security’ and ‘anti-terrorism’ systems that have to constrain the liberty of all citizens in order to be effective: With the kinds of weaponry we have nowadays, what could keep such a ‘government’ from falling victim to the temptations of power if there’s no more powerful agent to keep it in line?
– Right. So the concerns of people who oppose such governments are, shall we say, not entirely unfounded? And the governments who are supposed to ensure their citizens that they are not, — ‘trust me, trust me’ – in any way tempted to take some additional advantage of their power, are naturally and inevitably hesitant of divulging all the safeguards they have, so they won’t fall into the wrong hands: the secret service must be secret, after all. Mustn’t it?

Control of Power

– Okay. You’ve got us all worried, happy now? So the first conclusion is that we need some sanctions that don’t rely on enforcement, to ensure adherence to agreements. Keep it on the agenda. But what do we do about the issue of control of power itself, apart from the law enforcement aspect? Do we have any new ideas about that, or even grounds for optimism that better solutions can be found? Because I see that just the right of citizens to keep arms is not a solution, given the escalation problem and the other means of exerting power.
– No, Sophie, nobody has a brilliant solution up his or her sleeve yet. Just perhaps some different principles to bring to bear on the problem.
– Such as?
– Well, look at the concept of power itself, for starters. For the poor, the ‘disempowered’, the recurring slogan is always ‘empowerment’ – as if power were a universal human right, which we could argue is a good way of looking at it. Just like life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness we always invoke. But we expect people to pursue, to work for, or pay for those things, not just to be ‘given’. At best, what’s ‘given’ or ‘endowed by the creator’ – or what a society agrees to grant all its members — is the right to pursue, not the right to get it without one’s own effort.
– That’s a concept that would need some discussion, my friend.
– Yes, we can discuss that, and what it means in detail. But to explore its implications here: what if we apply it to the power issue – specifically to the power to make decisions and take action on behalf of others, or that affect others in one way or the other. What if, say we’d ask people with such power to ‘pay’ for the decisions they make? Just like we expect the poorest fellows to pay for their loaf of bread they are allowed to buy at Wal-Mart to survive? By ‘paying’ we probably would need a different kind of currency than money.
– We might also look at some older forms of power control – patterns that have come to be despised lately, such as the hierarchical organization of societies.
– How did that control power? Wasn’t that the ultimate form of power abuse?
– Not always, Vodçek. See, in a hierarchy, the person at each level had a certain amount of power – the power to control and direct the activities of the subordinates, within certain limits set by their superiors. The unresolved issue was of course always the lowest and the top positions: the lowest ones had little or no power until they ‘earned it’ by whatever degrading means, and the top position had no one else to answer to – except supernatural ones in the afterlife.
– But there were some useful provisions in the form of controls by parallel boards with members from lower levels of the hierarchy, term limits and the like. They also tended to be older folks who weren’t as much tempted to certain distracting abuse as younger people. But again, the traditional controls seem to break down again and again, so the issue of meaningful and effective control for governance folks on the global level is still up for grabs. So I agree: the issue of control of power should be a high priority item.

Choosing the people for power positions

– All that sounds like you want to do away with all kinds of leadership positions. I’m not sure I can go along with that.
– You are quite right feeling uneasy about that, Sophie. But that’s not the intention at all. We do need people in positions of leadership and power.
– After all you went through show how they will be corrupted by power? I say kick the big shots out!
– Whoa, Renfroe. I understand how you can get impatient with some of their shenanigans. And how you might get the impression that with a better functioning ‘democratic’ decision-making system, we don’t need those bigwigs anymore.
– I’d say!
– But not all decisions need to run through such a process, and some can’t wait, they need a quick decision to deal with new situations. Think of a ship that finds itself suddenly on a course towards an iceberg. There has to be someone – the captain – who will have to make a quick decision: pass it on the port or starboard side? You can’t have a lengthy palaver to reach a decision: it must be done fast. And the problem is to have a process to appoint people to such positions, yes, power positions – whose expertise, skills, experience and judgment you can trust. And what safeguards have to be in place to prevent such people from getting tempted to abuse that power for purposes of his own that are contrary to the well-being of the ship and its crews and passengers.
– Okay, I see what you are saying. So do you have any trick up your sleeve for that problem? It’s what you’d call a dilemma, isn’t it? Giving a guy – or a gal – the power to make big decisions, but keeping them from making the wrong ones when they have all that power, and by definition, as you explained, no greater power to keep them in line?
– Well, can you see how that problem should have some better solutions for people in such positions in ‘global’ institutions, in world governments?
– Okay, it belongs on the list of priorities too, I agree.

Solutions?

– I still would like to know what gives you the idea that there are better solutions in sight for these problems. If a problem doesn’t have any solutions – like a genuine paradox or dilemma, why waste our time, money, and energy trying to find one?
– Good question, Commissioner. But for some of these issues, there actually seem to be some improvements in sight that should at least be explored and discussed.
– Explain that, please. I’m getting curious.
– I’ll leave it to Bog-Hubert – I think the way he drew that diagram shows how some answers to simpler questions in the list can help suggest solutions for others. Bog-Hubert?
– I’ll try to keep it simple. Take the idea we have discussed here before, of awarding contribution rewards to people who contribute ideas and arguments to the planning discourse we sketched out before. Basic credit points that simply will be an incentive for participation and providing information.
– That’s trying to get at the voter apathy issue, right?
– At least part of it. Now, the rule that only the first entry of an information item will get the credit, but not repetitions, will speed up the process. The assume we can put a process of evaluation in place, for the assessment of merit of each such entry – is it plausible, important, is there evidence or adequate support for the claims, do the arguments have weight. Then the original credits can be adjusted, upward for good merit items, downward for erroneous or unsupported, implausible claims and arguments. That will all help making better decisions, as a first effect. But in the process, participants are actually building up a ‘record’ of their contribution merit points.
– Ah, I see: and that record can be made part of the ‘qualification’ criteria for appointing people to positions of power? If they have made consistently meritorious contributions to the policy discourse for important issues, they can be considered better qualified than others whose entries have been shown to be unsupported and implausible?
– Right. Better judgment. But that’s not all. Those merit points can become a kind of alternate ‘currency’ for various purposes. One is the sanctions issue for violating agreements and ‘laws’. The penalties can be in the form of subtracting credit points from their accounts. Especially if some means can be found to identify attempts at violating agreements and laws as the attempt is started or going on, so that penalty points can be applied immediately, without having to involve heavy-duty law enforcement. So the size and extent of enforcement forces could be reduced, as well as the worry about enforcement by force and associated escalation, would you agree?
– I think that would take some fine-tuning, but yes, it’s an idea that should be explored. What about the power issue itself – didn’t you mention something about that as well?
– Yes indeed. The idea is to make people in positions of power ‘accountable’ for the decisions they make by having to ‘pay’ for each decision – again, with their merit credit points. If the decision is a flop, they lose the points – if it’s a good one, they earn them back, and perhaps more. ‘Profit’, eh?
– What about decisions that are so important, and therefore so ‘costly’, that officials can’t afford to make such decisions with their own points?
– Well, if you feel that such a decision should be made, that is, you support the leader who has to make it, how about transferring some of your own credits to his account? In that way, you are also ‘accountable’ for the decision – and perhaps less likely to let a populist loose cannon go around making disastrous decisions? If the decision is a good one, your ‘investment’ can ‘pay off’ in that you get your points back, perhaps with some ‘interest’? And if not, you lost your points just like the leader who made that dumb decision with your support…
– Oh man, you are getting way out there with these wild schemes.
– Well. It’s all up for discussion. Do you have any better ideas to deal with these challenges?

new-system-priorities-1f

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13 Comments on “‘New System’ Priorities: Diversity or Unified Vision?”

  1. joevansteen says:

    I especially like your idea of the Discourse Platform. It runs along lines that I have also been trying to follow. My hope would be that such a platform would help to use technology as a force for good; to counter-act the use of current social media as a force for lies and manipulation which we have seen in the most recent US elections, as I suspect others as well.

    I think it is eminently doable, the technology exists, But it is complex, as is the problem it attempts to solve.

  2. abbeboulah says:

    joevansteen Thanks – I have been working on the requirements for the Discourse Platform for some time. I know it is ‘doable’ – I have crudely ‘simulated’ some discussions with basic but not integrated common software – Email Word processing, spreadsheets, and simple mapping programs.* The main task on that part of the agenda now is to develop the software that integrates all those functions in one package. Then it can be used incrementally by groups and individuals working on selected issues, to refine it and demonstrate its use to a larger public. I have much less clear ideas about how to start and promote the other, arguably equally important parts of the priority list…
    Thorbjoern Mann * See papers on Academia.edu

  3. abbeboulah says:

    The article made some suggestions for dealing with the ‘priority issues’, offering partial remedies. I was hoping that the discussion would lead to other, better ideas that could be discussed and mounted into an overall strategy. The very basic description or just headline mention of these ideas did not elicit comments or objection, perhaps felt to be too outlandish or complicated. But there was a second, significant purpose behind mentioning these proposals: they are examples of the kind of systemic, multi-level responses that I feel are needed, not just isolated patches on individual sore spots.
    I will try to explain this with the example of the proposed ‘contribution credit points’ that should be offered to people entering questions, ideas, answers or arguments to the discussion, later to be modified for significance and merit, building up personal ‘contribution credit accounts’ that could serve as part of a person’s qualification assessment for public office, and finally as potential tools for power control.
    Step by step (using the specific feature of pro/con arguments about a proposal as the vehicle for explanation; the idea can of course be applied to other information items).

    # Discourse participants will receive a ‘credit point’ award for contributing an argument to the discussion of a plan proposal — but only if this is the first item with the same content. This serves as an incentive for participation, especially if combined with a plausible promise that the items will be given ‘due consideration in any evaluation process supporting a decision. It also will be an incentive to speed up contributions — to be the ‘first’ entry, so as to earn the credit. Once the item has been posted, there is no reason for others to post the same information again — this will reduce the amount of repetitive clutter in the discourse.

    # If there is any formal evaluation provided to support the decision process of the proposal or issue, the argument and its premises will be evaluated by the participant group for plausibility and significance (importance). This plausibility assessment will be used to increase or decrease the initial credit point. This will discourage the entering of implausible, untrue, or unsupported information, and encourage the entering of supporting evidence if the initial group assessment was negative (because the evidence was not known).

    # The assessment of arguments etc. will allow the construction of a measure of deliberative support or plausibility for the proposed plan, to guide the decision. (Such a measure could become the decisive decision criterion; not a solution recommended for hast adoption without more discussion and testing)

    # The contribution credit account built up by a participant over time could serve as one of the aspects for assessing the person’s qualification for offices — esp. offices responsible for making ‘fast’ decisions that cannot wait for a lengthy public deliberation process.

    # Based on the view that such positions and the ability to make power decisions is an advanced form of ’empowerment’ whose pursuit can be seen as one of the human ‘right’ like food, shelter, health care etc., but like food and shelter should be ‘paid’ for, these credit points can be the ‘currency’ for payment of power decisions, and used up with the decisions made. The success or failure of the decisions may lead to ‘earning’ back credits points ‘invested’. The deposit of credit points for a decision will release the authorization and funds etc. for its implementation.

    # For public decisions too large to be paid for by an individual, credit points can be ‘transferred’ from constituents to the official, in support for specific decisions; in this way, not only the official but also his/her backers become ‘accountable’ for the consequences of the decisions.

    # If the appointment of officials is made on the basis of ‘vote’ contributions by constituents, those credit investments can be withdrawn instantaneously, depriving that official of the means and authority to make more decisions. It will also require officials to explain and justify the reasons for This is a different ‘automatic’ form of control of power, to be used in addition to traditional tools, but avoiding the need for any ‘enforcement’ institutions using force or coercion to control the power of the highest officials.

    This sketchy account of the use of credit points for public engagement and merit of contributions is intended for discussion, but even more as an example to the kinds of solutions that I feel are needed: provisions that will have beneficial impact at several levels of the social system. I have a few more examples of this kind, still lacking a good name for them, open for suggestions.

  4. abbeboulah says:

    I reveived the following comment by email from Dr. H. Grunicke:
    Comments to the article „New System” Priorities:
    Diversity or Unified Vision
    By Thorbjoern Mann

    A key issue of the proposed system is the decision making process.
    1. Decisions as results of the evaluation for the implementation of the proposed “Global well-organized discourse support platform”
    2. Decisions for the proposed provisions for selection of leaders and control of power.
    Ad 1: Discussed is the development of a “documentation system for all project information” accompanied by “an evaluation component with some common criteria and measures of performance based on what those initiatives are aiming and achieving”.
    Although, at the first glance this may look as a self-evaluating system as the achievements of the goals of the proposals are taken as criteria, in practice this procedure will be probably rather difficult. Since most projects or initiatives are just proposals or models with no evidence of their success on a continental or global scale, these decisions will be affected by subjective opinions of the decision makers. In practice, it will be not much different from the evaluation of a grant application submitted to the NIH, NSF or similar agencies.
    Although the reader is asked to provide new ideas for novel criteria for the evaluation of projects, I am rather pessimistic that anything basically different from the established evaluation procedures will emerge; although we are all aware of the shortcomings of the presently used system.
    Ad 2: The proposed credit point system for the selection of leaders is indeed an interesting idea. It is proposed that credit points should be awarded on the basis of an assessment of merit of the corresponding “contributions” (proposals, ideas, models etc.).
    During this evaluation procedure it should be determined whether a contribution is “plausible, important, based on evidence or adequate support for the claim, and what weight pro and con arguments have. On the basis of this evaluation original credits could be adjusted upward for good merit items, downward for erroneous or unsupported, implausible claims and arguments.” By submitting several contributions, participants would build up a credit point account. Leaders could be selected considering the balance of their credit point account. The more points, the more qualified.
    Participants who want to become a leader would have to pay for the position with credit points. Other participants are permitted to donate their credit points to a candidate for a leadership position who could thereby accumulate so many credits that he would emerge as the favorite. If his performance as leader is poor, he would have to pay for his mistakes with credit points from his account and the accounts of his supporters and finally lose his job? It is argued that by this system leaders are accountable for their mistakes and leading positions achieved on the basis of meritorious contributions.
    Would this system for choosing leaders be better compared to the present voting procedure in western style democracies?
    The answer is difficult as long as no generally accepted criteria for the evaluation of meritorious contributions and the “earning” of credit points have been developed. Let´s leave aside the enormous problems in establishing a big or even global credit point account administration. Even if all these presently unsolved problems would have been satisfactorily solved would the system provide a better control of power and an improved procedure for the selection of leaders?
    Frankly, I doubt it. I don´t see a fundamental difference to the classical voting system. If one replaces “credit points” by votes you will end up with almost the same system Politicians or other individuals could publish proposals or ideas which may be supported by followers. Their support would function as a sort of “virtual credit points”. The more followers, the more “credit points”. The individual who presented these ideas which are supported by many others, may run for a leading position and profit from the votes of his followers. They would indeed pay with their votes because they can no longer be used for an alternative candidate. If the elected candidate does a poor job, he will lose votes (virtual credit points) and eventually also lose his job. In any case he will have to act on a smaller supporting base (less votes) which reduces his chance for re-election after his term. Thus, also within the existing system a democratically elected leader would be accountable for his mistakes. Instead of using credit points he pays with votes which act as the currency for his job. So, where is the fundamental improvement of the credit point system compared to the present voting procedure? In view of many disastrous voting results an improvement of the presently used procedures for the selection of leaders is definitely needed. But, so far, no one seems to have come up with a better alternative. Real improvement would come with a better system for the evaluation of contributions and proposals. But this improved evaluation procedure still has to be worked out.

    Addendum:
    One last point a bit beyond the scope of the article:
    Although many criteria for the evaluation of contributions for a novel (political) system still remain to be worked out, one fundamental criterion appears to be undisputed: that only contributions based on proven facts and decisions based on reason can be considered. Unfortunately, the indispensable role of reason for any decision affecting human behavior and social life is not supported by everybody. The main problems are caused by ideologies including religions.
    All ideologies that claim to be in possession of the ultimate truth have proven to represent deadly threats for the whole mankind. Ideologies killed more people than all the plagues together. Actually, ideologies can and in fact did act as plagues. (Religious wars, wars based on nationalistic superiority feelings etc.). The prevention of this kind of plagues should be placed high up on the list of priorities for new and better systems.
    I suggest one should fight against these evils with the same strategies employed by medicine to control plagues caused by viruses or other microbes i.e. prevention, immunization and if necessary isolation. Prevention by information, immunization by teaching, isolation of individuals infected by aggressive and infectious forms of ideologies.
    Ideologies must be considered as a socio-hygienic disease.
    If we realize the dimension of this problem, we should start fighting against the outbreak of these diseases by teaching programs at schools where students should be immunized against irrational opinions and learn to detect the symptoms of dangerous, irrational opinions.
    Considering the strength of ideological/religious irrationally based opinions, the fight against these ideologies e.g.by teaching programs at schools may appear hopeless. But we are confronted with clear and permanently present danger and should arouse public awareness of the threads that they represent.

    • joevansteen says:

      The first p[lace to be concerned about “All ideologies that claim to be in possession of the ultimate truth have proven to represent deadly threats for the whole mankind.” is with oneself.

      I agree, with the concept of votes, and see no real need for credit points. The coin of the realm is trust. You can’t artificially create a point score on trust. Leaders need to earn it, and it can be taken away in the blink of an eye. You also can’t force others to use your measurement system for truth. You need to buy (i./e., earn) and then hold their trust.

      People don’t want to be told by academics what is “right” they want to feel it in their souls. There is no “short cut.”

      • abbeboulah says:

        Joe, thanks. Your view regarding voting as the decision-making tool seems to be applicable and appropriate to situations in which social governance entities are well defined and constituents countable (who has the right to vote on what kinds of issues or leaders?) so that voting ratios can be objectively determined. There are many issues that affect people across voting district and national boundaries, especially on the international and global level — but some curious U.S. practices with regard to the shaping and re-shaping of voting districts (like gerrymandering) suggest that even very local governance politics are susceptible to adverse manipulation. Where it isn’t clear what the constituent groups are, voting becomes meaningless, for ‘referendum’-type decisions (everybody voting on the issues) as well as on designation of representatives and leaders. And isn’t it obvious that majority voting — of any kind — as a decision tool can (and thus often will) be used to blatantly override the concerns of the losing minority. It has been shown in the literature that it may seriously fail to represent voter’s real preferences. It does not guarantee voluntary adoption. Adherence will then have to be compelled / ‘enforced’ — the source of conflict and resistance. On the global level — what to do about climate issues, migration, refugees from human and natural disasters, ocean pollution, CO2 emissions, the use of water in the ground and in rivers — the conditions for meaningful decisions by voting are notoriously absent.

        And ‘trust’ in leaders is — judging by current states of affairs –more often demanded by ‘trust me!’ leaders whose actions subsequently betray the trust placed in them. Desirable as it would be if leaders honestly earned our trust and never ended up disappointing us: If we were to make this the basis of far-reaching decisions: the question arises: how do we achieve that? Is the reliance on ‘leaders’ in all situations the way to go? What does history tell us about that? There are the folks who trust their priests, and others who trust their scientists, — even though both kinds have been ‘wrong’ or even deceptive at times. Scientists are more open to being proven wrong, while priests who admit to doubts about their faith end up in heretic’s desert cave. Yet might they come to agreements about what kind of poisons to prevent or allow in the drinking water we serve our kids?

        So in my opinion, there is a real need to develop alternative decision-making tools that focus less on the number of persons judging than on the merit of the reasons they use to justify their choices. But I’d like to emphasize, as I have done in my writing about this, that I do not recommend to summarily replace traditional or institutionally sanctioned decision modes. I suggest that participants working on a project have the choice between a range of methods, and at the very least a way to compare e.g. a vote decision with the outcome of an in-depth assessment of the plausibility and relative importance of the argument premises considered, and the way they ‘add up’: If the overwhelming assessment in the group of a proposed plan is around -0.7 on a -1/+1 scale (where the end points have been agreed to mean ‘+1 = “totally plausible”, virtually certain, couldn’t be better, and -1 = “couldn’t be more implausible”), a vote in favor of the proposal would call for some more explanation, discussion, well:…?

        Or perhaps there are better tools than can be developed? That is really the question I want to raise.

      • joevansteen says:

        Abbe Boulah,

        My comments were about the structure for the new system, and it’s design criteria. We agree that the current system is broken, which is why we need a new system. So, I do not believe it is a fair or correct counter-argument to say that something cannot work in the new system, simple because scofflaws have found ways to circumvent good properties in the current environment.

        Graft, and gerrymandering, I would hope, are not your suggestions for how the new system should work. Are you also, suggesting that trust does not work and is not a basis on which the new system should be designed? Because it has been abused in the current environment? I would hope not.

        Also, leaders lead because people are willing to trust and follow. They need to. Someone has to set direction. It’s how society works. (You hunt, I’ll farm, Jane will watch the kids, and Jenny will find a good pasture for the animals, and home for the community, in the coming winter months. Each a ‘leader’ in their own sphere. Because they’ve earned trust in doing their jobs well. Yes, I think it goes way, way back.) The world has both corrupt and good leaders, and some vacillate between the two. Corrupt leaders are easy to spot. They “demand” trust. Good leaders are given trust because they have demonstrated alignment with the goals and aspirations of the people they lead. I believe we can evolve to have more good leaders than corrupt, but that is a function of who people chose to follow, and why. False promises, and broken promises tend to dissolve trust. Delivery on promises tends to build trust.

        [Note. There is other issues here too. Making promises about the air quality for your grandchildren does not matter much to someone whose basic livelihood is in disarray. Basic needs are closer to core than altruistic needs for the average human.]

        I have no issue with “plausibility” and support it. With such a system leaders who are more plausible will hopefully become more popular and have greater followings. That following will be bought with trust.

        Today, you are witnessing a great squandering of trust for the sake of achievement of power. It will fail to achieve its objective. Partly because promises made purely to achieve power with little if any true plausibility for achievement or basis in factual evidence leads to an inability to deliver, and thus, broken promises. It’s never worked before. It won’t work now. A new system, built on trust, is what will replace it. Open policies based on open recognition of shared costs and benefits, shared risks and rewards, and trust that while you are doing your part, someone else has your back and is doing their part, and “promises” are shared commitments to work together, that works. Sooner, or later. If the power hungry don’t kill us all first. There’s more of us, by a massive long shot, then there are of them. But the scale consequence for missteps has become enormous, so we need to correct some of this ASAP.

        Trust is fundamental. When trust is broken, social order breaks down. But it is re-created by new bonds of trust.

        If you want plausibility to “work” it will need trust. Not an “edict.” And, not a system by which it can be bartered for credits. That, sir, is a major problem with today’s political world. Get rid of the credits, and restore trust. It was the basis for the first democracies. Political leaders weren’t paid, it was an honor to represent the voice of one’s peers.

        One man’s opinion.

        Also, Abbe Boulah, consider scale on a graduated basis, and consider voting on a subject oriented basis. So far, in the history of the world there has never been a world-wide human plebiscite. And I doubt the need for such. Plausibility arguments require considered input from authoritative sources. It is a great sign of respect to be considered such an authority, and an honor to be respected as such by vast majorities of the population. Such people tend to work for the respect and trust that their opinions hold and the influence their voice carries. Most voting involving actual citizens involves local issues. Qualified representatives, honestly elected as leaders and spokespersons, are fully capable of making good decisions regarding the larger and truly global issues. Do we really need a world-wide vote to determine the answer to the question: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just get along with each other?” At its core, isn’t some of it simply that fundamental? Principles are core.

        There are people today who would answer that question, “No, because I’m special.”

        And there are the overwhelming vast majority of the rest of us, who would answer it “Yes! We can! But we need to fix some broken stuff on the way to getting there.” (Including setting straight the delusional person who thinks he’s so special about something where he’s just like all of the rest of us.)

  5. abbeboulah says:

    A first attempt at responding to the issues raised by Hans Grunicke’s comment:

    * The suggestion that ideologies might be considered as socio-hygienic diseases (caused by information-entities in analogy to virus-or bacterial infections) is the most interesting one, and most likely quite controversial. It constitutes a dilemma similar to the one I discussed in connection with the ‘unified vision’ versus diversity issue (we must adopt the aim of encouraging and supporting diverse initiatives and visions as parts of human rights to ‘make a difference’ — which is a unified vision mandate…).
    It will raise issues about what should be considered an ideology — and the first counterargument will be that the idea itself is an ideology, that, (by its own claims!), must be prevented, against which ‘immunization’ and in the extreme, ‘isolation’ should be practiced. This is already going on — I read that in Texas, a bill for a law was recently introduced that would prevent the teaching of critical thinking…

    Among the issues arising from this proposal, the following relate directly to the priority items I listed in the article:

    – The question of what conditions should be adopted for the encouragement of diversity initiatives (including those based on ‘ideologies’) — clearly they cannot be supported or allowed if they advocate activities that intrude on the right of other initiatives or society segments to exist or pursue their ‘ways of living’. This should be almost obvious, but raises the issue of how to respond to the emergence of such groups (who use argument that the very existence of other groups with different views are a threat to their own survival and well-being…): what kinds of sanctions or measures would be appropriate to restrain them — or, in the perspective of ‘disease’, fight such ‘infections’? What are the criteria that would apply to the task of determination of the condition? Some such groups act in secrecy, ‘undercover’: what about those? And what kind of entity would be in charge of that determination and the implementation of ‘sanctions’ and countermeasures?

    • joevansteen says:

      In my reading, it wasn’t so much ideology as “the claim to be in possession of ultimate truth” that was the core of the problem. That is a lot simpler to deal with than worrying about what is an ideology.

      All proposals will eventually ” intrude on the right of other … to … pursue their ‘ways of living’.” in an unobstructed manner. Ultimate libertarianism is anarchy. The optimization of a system REQUIRES that the parts forego their ability to totally self-optimize. They receive, or should receive, a benefit for their sacrifice which comes from their participation in the whole. When that is not true, they have reason to question their participation in the larger system.

      You seem to constantly look for ways to use power to force system elements to bend to the will of the system. This, in effect, treats parts as cancers which threaten the whole rather than attempting to question what is wrong with the whole if it cannot care for its parts. This is backwards. It is not how viable systems work. It is self destructive for the larger system, unless you are dealing with truly exceptional scofflaws. You need clear separation, because most of today’s outliers are not scofflaws, They are injured parties who are ill treated by the system, which is being run by scofflaws – some of who think, in some strange sense, that they are saviors.

      The scofflaws need to have light shined upon their cancerous behaviors. The trust they have earned by propaganda and lies needs to be exposed. This isn’t a power issue, it’;s an openness and trust issue. Lies can’t survive in a world of openness.

      The discourse system is a cornerstone of documented, verifiable openness – even when it is only a strongly plausible voice. A strongly plausible voice beats a lie, especially one that has no basis in credibility.

      But people also need more than that. They also need inspiration, and hope.

      Before the people can trust the system, the system needs to trust the people. Only the people can be in charge of determining what and how they will move forward into the future. The system can only provide tools.

      If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you view the following: http://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/research-videos/2016-01-28-a-conversation-with-thomas-friedman.html There are a lot of good points in there.

  6. abbeboulah says:

    Joe, thanks. We need to clarify several things — agreements, misunderstandings, or differences of opinion?

    Some of your comments sound as if you believe the dysfunctional aspects I see in the current reality (‘graft, gerrymandering) are things I recommend for the ‘New System’; they are the reason for looking for better solutions; but they are aspects I believe will be with us for a while longer, unfortunately, and need to be addressed, with better tools than those we have now.

    Trust. I would love to believe that a general level of ‘trust’ can be achieved to obviate the need to deal with them. You repeat the call to ‘restore trust’. Of course, I do not in any way deny that we need trust in public affairs and officials, or argue against it. My question was ‘How?’ Specifically, again: What are we going to have to do differently from what we are doing now? I suggested that the more carefully orchestrated discourse with a more detailed evaluation feature (a vehicle for exchanging our views and the basis for our judgments about what we ought to do) i s one way of building trust — coming to see that the contributions somebody makes to a public discourse are supported by truthful evidence and plausible arguments. I certainly hope it isn’t the only tool we can come up with to contribute to this aim. And the question remains open of how to properly deal with situations where trust has been deceived, agreements and promises broken.

    I need to think more carefully about leadership in this connection. There is a difference between division of ‘labor’ (roles) in society, and leadership; there is a difference between decisions that must be made ‘fast’ because there’s no time for long public discussion — I like to use the image of the captain of a ship who suddenly finds itself heading for an iceberg — somebody has to make the decision to pass it on post or starboard, fast. And we have to trust that person — as you say, based on our past experience of his judgment and behavior.

    I agree with your comment “Good leaders are given trust because they have demonstrated alignment with the goals and aspirations of the people they lead.” — but in our more complex society, it isn’t that easy to perceive quality of work and judgment of leaders, anymore, the demonstration of the alignment with our goals and aspirations.

    But if we accept that part of the purpose of social governance is to enable all of us to ‘make a difference’ in our lives without encroaching on each others’ rights and lives, those difference judgments and observations of where we are getting in each others’ way are not the leaders’ to make: it needs the public discourse where we can share our individual judgments, aims, vision. And I am looking for better ways to reach agreements more closely based on those individual contributions than the decision modes we have today: majority voting does n o t guarantee that. But also: Saying that does not mean that voting should be entirely thrown out — it has its proper role in many situations.

    There is another aspect — perhaps based on some wishful thinking as much as banking on things working out if only we can restore trust — but based on an observation of the effect of some teaching subjects in my own architectural training. ‘Structures’, with its greater share of engineering jargon and more mathematics than other subjects, was disliked and a bit feared by many students, arguing ‘Why do we even need this; in real practice, the architect will have to call in the engineer anyway to calculate the structural safety of our designs’…

    Sure, the engineer will calculate the needed strength of beams and trusses, for any convoluted design. But my observation was that once we had to actually perform some of those structural analysis calculations ourselves, the designs we came up with later (for the hired engineer to calculate) were much more reasonable, cheaper, and safer — even working better to create that synthesis of structure and form that makes good architecture.

    Which leads me to hypothesize that if we go through some exercises of careful evaluation of plan proposals and the pro and con arguments about them sometime during our schooling, (or every once in a while), our (intuitive) judgment about what will work and be acceptable to other affected parties will greatly improve; we don’t have to do it every time. We can have more trust in each other’s judgment. We can fall back on more careful deliberation when plans become controversial — that is, when our intuitive judgments differ significantly and can’t be as easily reconciled.

    I do agree with your comment about making decisions ‘on a graduated basis’ and on subject issues — in my writings you will find that I am talking much more about making decision on substantive issues than about voting for officials. The Tavern ‘experiment’ paper on the CD I sent you might give you the flavor of what I have in mind: it’s about the plan proposals, not the people proposing them.

    • joevansteen says:

      Abbe Boulah,
      Thank you very much for all of the time you have taken to answer my responses. I sincerely appreciate you taking my replies seriously. If I did not believe we were on parallel tracks, in the same direction, I wouldn’t be spending my time in this conversation.

      You propose multiple things (1) is a discourse platform, which I think is very well thought out. There is quite a bit of content on the CD you sent. And I consider it an excellent design proposal for a portion of what I would like to map out and accomplish.

      You also propose a “New System” in which the discourse platform is used, but which extends well beyond the use of the platform to a form of establishment of a new world order. This is also something I am interested in, but this is where I find your separation of discussion lacking in clarity. (Potentially, in part, due to the inadequacy of the collaborative tools available.)

      I believe that I can define a technical tooling that will satisfy your requirements for a discourse platform, although some features may have to be built up over time. That is the process I have started work on. (I enjoyed reading some of your postings which I believe referred to it a “simple.” I assure you, it is anything but.)

      The “new system” is a different story. Its not a software set, nor is it a paper. The “new system” makes sense to theorize, but only in a very realistic way. Otherwise you are writing fiction. And, real systems require real migration and adaptation plans.

      I am 100% on board with what I think you are doing, although undoubtedly we have differences of opinion on methods for selected items. At least, on what methods appear to each of us as more or less appropriate to accomplish desired results. And/or on the general need for and method to define purpose.

      I would be more than happy to provide access and use of my website as a tool to facilitate further conversation if you thought it an appropriate idea. Would you want to create these posts on that site?

  7. abbeboulah says:

    The discussion here is getting as difficult to follow as that on other venues — showing once more the need for a different format and platform. I will have to take a break and see if I can make an overview map of what we have gotten ourselves into by now — somethign a clever ‘system’ program should perhaps do for us… Patience.

  8. abbeboulah says:

    Discussion status as of 1/19/2017 – synopsis

    The discussion of the ideas expressed in the blogpost, carried on in several different platforms (that all have proven to be less than ideally suited for this kind of discussion) has revealed some significant issues. They are becoming difficult to follow by just reading and responding to individual entries — so I will attempt to map out some of the issues raised in a (hopefully) more concise format. Many thoughtful ideas have been introduced, in polite, considerate form form of questions and suggestions of ‘additional considerations. I will take the liberty of framing them in more acute form, as potential arguments against the priority items of the article, so as to invite a more focused discussion. The issues will be listed as they relate to the priority items of the original article. Words with an *asterisk might be seen as proposed ‘candidate’ issues for discussion

    1 ‘Diversity versus Unified vision’.
    Unsurprisingly, no clear direction has emerged on this question. The idea that many diverse experiments may be necessary to eventually develop and articulate a ‘unified vision’ seems acceptable and less controversial. But few comments offered suggestions as to how that may be achieved — beyond repeating the call for such a vision, in terms such as ‘holistic’ *awareness, ‘new *ethics, etc. — attitudes to be instilled through *education and *propaganda. The call turns out to be a profound dilemma: If something like the human desire to ‘make a difference’ (to pursue one’s own happiness which becomes one’s own by virtue of being different) is accepted as a kind of ‘human right’ and thus a goal to be aimed for and ensured by the governance entity of the ‘New system’ — is this not a ‘unified vision’ aspect? Which the desire to make a difference will resist — by protesting an end to the ‘pluralist’ diversity?

    2 ‘Alternative’ initiatives and projects.
    No fundamental opposition against the idea was visible. The issue of what *’conditions’ for encouragement and support should be adopted was raised implicitly: It seems obvious that any such initiative should be *tolerant of all other projects and existing systems — not detracting or harming others, but (even if philosophically opposed to other perspectives) promote their own ideas only by promoting their views by ‘discourse’ argumentation and *persuasion.
    Another general concern was raised, not explicitly asa criterion for ‘acceptance’ for support: the principle of *’rationality’ (science, reason). This would exclude initiatives based on *ideologies and *religious faith.

    3 ‘Sharing experiences”. No discussion was devoted to this suggestion. This could mean that the article’s argument for supporting such initiatives — experiments to increase our still inadequate knowledge of what social systems provisions will work and what doesn’t — is generally accepted by the current group of participants. Many specific provisions for implementing this would have to be developed, though.

    4 ‘Evaluating the experiences’ of ‘alternative’ projects. Again, this idea seems to have been accepted in general, but no specific *criteria for evaluation have been suggested. Some comments implied general aspects such s ecological sustainability / damage avoidance or repair, contributing to reducing economic inequality, etc. A distinction may have to be made between criteria that address the effectiveness with which the project pursues and achieves its own goals and objectives (even if these may be different or even opposed to other and general criteria (such as may have been discussed and agreed upon in the ‘global discourse’ forum) and those general criteria.

    5 ‘Global Discourse Support Platform’
    While there has been considerable work done on this issue, and the concept itself appears to be accepted in general, no overall details or coherent plan has been discussed yet. A few questions have been raised about details such as the suggestion to provide participation *incentives in the form of *’contribution credits’ and the ideas about systematic evaluation of plan proposals. The fundamental question raised here (paraphrased to strengthen their essence as counterarguments or ‘wrong question’ objections) amounted to whether these ‘systematic procedure diminishing or negating the role of *trust in making socially significant decisions: — both in each other between participants and in *leaders. Trust seen as an essential condition; the question, again, as to how this could be achieved beyond just calling for it, remains to be explored in detail.
    In this connection, the question of the role of *decision modes was touched upon, by opinions that (better calibrated?) procedures for voting, and *trust (in leaders responsible for decisions that don’t need public vote) would obviate the need for alternative decision methods. The difference between decisions on ‘representatives’ (to make decisions or select leaders to make decisions) remains to be examined in more detail.

    6 Better means for ensuring that agreements reached in the global discourse will be adhered to
    Not much discussion was devoted to this item; the only ‘wrong question’ objection was the suggestion that if the process for reaching agreements is calibrated properly, the *decisions would be voluntarily adopted and there would be no reason to violate them(‘scofflaws and criminals excepted, who must be ‘dealt with’ — presumably by traditional ‘enforcement ‘means that were questioned in the article). This problem too remains to be developed, explained more clearly and discussed.

    7 Better ways to appoint people to decision-making positions
    This question — at least in its combination with the proposal to use a person’s ‘contribution credit account (with the credits increased or reduced according to their assessed plausibility) was linked to the issue of *leadership and *trust in leaders: Trust being essential for providing *direction and for sound functioning of society, provisions such as the credit qualification would be unnecessary (and even detrimental)? These issues also need more discussion, and creative alternative ideas. The question of alternatives to *voting apply here as well as to other items in this list.

    8 Improved means of control of power
    The urgency of this question (in view of global governance) does not seem to have been acknowledged yet, it was slightly dismissed by implied suggestions that *trust in leaders and traditional means of e.g. balance of power, time limits would be sufficient if applied properly.

    9 The added issue of implementation of provisions as proposed in the article or changes resulting from insights of the discussion was not yet addressed, now was the idea of developing a *game to spread the ideas and familiarize people with the suggested discourse format.

    A ‘topic map’ showing the relationships between the issues raised will be prepared but cannot be shown on this platform. It will be posted on the page of the Facebook group ‘Ecology of Systems Thinking’ together with the above summary.


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