We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Internet Voting and Direct Democracy

The active and engaged consumer will transform into an active and creative political actor through omnipresent ability to conduct online voting and with the help of rogue NGOs

There is a current semi-troubling trend that will evolve and mutate into a much more benign trend of direct democratic electronic voting and popular societal management. It starts with today's process of far sighted corporations allowing their customers to crowdsource creation and design of not only products but marketing for these products (thus saving money and bypassing scientific research and focus groups) . However these "creative consumers" as the linked article calls them need not be useful idiots for shareholders of large transnationals forever.

[Sidenote: Deeply sorry for linking to The Economist. The Pragmatist usually has a boycott against that neoliberal mouthpiece magazine for a variety of reasons.]

[Sidenote #2: This process of consumer participation, direct democracy over some narrow corporate market design aspects, immediate feedback, beta testing, etc. IS actually dramatically improving quality of products and raising the standard of living for millions even if certain modern corporations try to gloss over the free labor provided as some sort of empowerment. Encouraging a paying customer to vote on the shape of his or her favorite vitamin juice bottle shape for a chance to win a spot on some volunteer designed free commercial still leaves an odd and not entirely pleasant feeling about the whole process.]

Considering that political candidates throughout the world are increasingly becoming glossy packaged well marketed human products onto which much of the public can project their societal aspirations and psychological states (as was the case with recent examples of Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Barack Obama), a certain disconnect is growing. The disconnect is between:

1) On the one hand, the world of actual consumer products like electronic gadgets and restaurant food stuffs over which the masses have substantial growing voting clout (at the very least, influence over the products once they are forcefully introduced into the public domain)

2) On the other hand, the world of political consumer products like Obama and Berlusconi that the public has no influence over and in fact has diminishing influence over (how can one have crowdsource voting power over an amorphous multifaceted postmodern Ronald McDonald-esque corporate shill?)

The psychic frustration from this disconnect is so far manifested in the same way that many other frustrations are. That is, snarky sardonic memes about the political "products" and people voting on popularity of the memetic criticisms or viral praise of candidates. In this regard, a modern political product is akin to a movie as well as the actor playing within this movie (both being examples of popular consumable entertainment products). The e-voting currently is no more effective than people deciding whether shareholders of studio A or B will get the money for delivering a certain blockbuster.

But we knew that already.

The breakthrough in direct democracy (primary goal and hope of Internet voting) will NOT occur when creative people outside the establishment start delivering blockbusters of their own and when the establishment begins to co-opt the way new things are done (another analogy to movies is current embryonic trend of crowdfunding of an independent movie with substantial popular control over the content and direction). The breakthrough will have to come from outside actors that tap into the disconnect frustration mentioned above.

NGOs spreading democracy in the "free world"

The last article mentioned the concept of a virtual polis that acts as a sort of massive shadow government/cabinet that eventually begins to co-rule with existing legislatures. Something like this does not appear overnight.

Once the generation trained from young age in pro-active consumerism, social network voting, and embryonic e-democracy reaches a certain age, it will then be possible to then evolve the concept of pro-democracy NGOs into directly democratic parallel micro governments with various pools of physical resources and power projection abilities. They will then be in position to negotiate with power.

The ironic thing is that many political scientists and the educated youth in the Western world currently serve as foot soldiers in destabilizing foreign countries and foreign governments via Western government/think tank/elite funded NGOs. See the examples of color revolutions in Serbia, Thailand, Ukraine, Georgia, and current work in the Middle East. These foot soldiers (many children from well to do and/or intelligentsia families) are getting experience in parallel governance that will be turned against their sponsor masters eventually by some of them.

Today, Washington DC and London and various global think tanks are encouraging democracy/neoliberalism spreading NGOs to get creative when wrestling with authorities abroad. US state department went as far as to fund portable high speed Wi-Fi/satellite devices. This is so NGOs and opposition groups they work with in the Middle East can create mini Internets in case authorities totally block net access as happened in Egypt. Native groups and NGOs helping them are pushed by circumstance and need to cooperate to find better and better ways to find consensus, engage in direct action, network, and market destabilizing viral propaganda. Of course the various governments not yet in the neoliberal fold also get creative in suppressing such activity and we see a process of each side learning from each other rapidly.

The political science/international relations majors that today find meaning in their lives by destabilizing governments in Africa and Eurasia in the name of Anglo-American style "democracy" will grow up and return home eventually. That is when things start getting interesting.

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