by Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ October 2019
Is the vague democracy claimed as the American model finished? There is growing discussion of this but the coverage in the general media forums generally ends with the traditional admonitions for open attitudes and restoration of community discussion.
That, I think, is bullshit. Efforts to find life in the civic responsibility format does so by discovering that people in a controlled environment can, in fact, communicate and not kill each other. When forced to debate with people on different sides of ‘hot’ issues in a controlled setting and with extensive factual data at hand, most people moderate their initial positions.
This produces the conclusion that, see, American democracy can work! We just have to try harder!
Folks, we are social animals. Homo sapiens evolved living in small packs similar to our closest relatives the Bonobos and Chimpanzees. The base activity is food gathering and social squabbling. The differences between are related species is the proportion of time allocated between copulating and fighting.
At the 21st century level we can work very effectively in large teams and are increasingly comfortable in very large urban environments with shifting virtual tribes. Those large teams and tribes are based on shared goals and skill sets and enabled by detailed, continuous assessment and information flow.
In the contemporary organizational sense this is information facilitated collaboration. Not only are we good at this but we seem to work best in open forms without rigid hierarchies acting as minders. This is, however, dependent on the nature of the work, education, and experience.
This has become true because we have been automating our tasks for several centuries. Initially this was the application of power sources other than human or animal muscle. This is what moved the population from subsistence farming to high productivity farms and urban regional workforces.
The first and second industrial revolutions required regimentation and the breakdown of production into simpler repetitive tasks. High value human production was always recognized as a product of highly skilled workers with the freedom to own the production process and outcomes that they achieved.
We are now facing full automation with the need to emphasize creativity and innovation. More on this in a minute.
So, isn’t this democracy in the American model? No. That is confusing a technically focused innovation development team with a facebook interest group based on memes. One leads to creative production of new technology, products, and services and the other usually descends into name calling and rage.
Moving the same people from the second situation into the first produces very positive changes. No shit, Sherlock.
Which describes the current US political system?
There is one shared conclusion that applies. The whole thing takes work. But one rewards that work and the other doesn’t. We can look at percentages of assets across the demographic, and that is the worst it has been in a century or more, but what if we think of democratic government as our primary occupation? It provides critical services but demands that the mass population pay for its services while the massively wealthy receive almost all the profits.
That is the essence of the American Experiment’s failure. The work of democratic government requires equal labor from all residents. That should be rewarded first.
Digression into modern organizational structure
But government and enterprise innovation teams are different things. Maybe that is the problem but not for the traditional reasons long used to impose defective hierarchical systems on people.
Things keep changing. This is not just a cliche and not simply incremental changes. We are in an age of massive change based on technology and the overwhelming growth of scientific knowledge.
While most people don’t care to think of long periods and big changes, preferring the ‘real’ world of daily routine, satisfaction of immediate needs, and acquisition of pleasurable experiences, we all have come to understand that big issues increasingly intrude on all of us. While we traditionally think of these big issues as existing at some higher social level or ‘higher pay grade’ they now drill down into each of our daily lives. It’s increasingly hard to escape dealing with these big issues on a daily or, at least, weekly basis.
This is the process of evolution that is the driving force in this universe. We now operate in societies that are increasingly virtualized with the ability to interact on a far broader scale, and with the ability to create diverse, virtual, tribal groupings. We also know a lot more than we ever did while evolving toward as-needed information access as our highest ranked skill. We are struggling with this while, yet, barely realizing it.
This process is also the realization that value is now information. Process creation and management will be the basis for all future work. We know that physical labor and repetitive mental activities by humans is inefficient and is rapidly being taken over by robotic systems and forms of machine learning.
Obviously this is all incredibly disruptive and is only accelerating. This acceleration must increase as it is the only way out of the climate disaster we have built for ourselves. That now requires us to massively disrupt our own social, political, and economic systems. Delay in tackling this critically needed disruption will not prevent that disruption but simply remove hope from the process.
All of this has been happening for the last sixty years and at warp speed for the last twenty. Success is the greatest cause of failure. Systems that work well to produce change then are allowed to stagnate while new areas of development capture full attention. We have watched technological change as early success produces later burdens that block future success. This can be seen as a kind of technological version of a ‘one hit wonder’.
In the US the political and social structure has diverged in a variety of ways based on these changes. This is the cause of the gaps between the parts that diverged and those that were able to avoid change by maintaining old values that still worked. Those elements of culture that avoid changes in this era are prone to political manipulation because of their declining efficiency, relevance, and escalating anxiety. That is what has happened.
The fact that the segment of the US population that was ‘left behind’ in these changes is also the segment that has disproportionate political power in an antiquated political structure, is an unfortunate historical accident.
There is similarity in Great Britain with the northern population’s reaction to EU integration. The same type of opportunist is drawn to the possibilities of anxious and demeaned populations.
This type of structural failure needs to be fixed quickly even though it will be denounced and hated by those manipulating the failing system as well as those who have been told that their only hope is the rejection of the new.
What this has produced is an ossified political structure delivering huge rewards to a tiny group that has been able to manipulate this antiquated structure while the divergence gap grows. This is a pathological condition that will not survive. How it resolves itself is the current dilemma.
Organizationally we know, as alluded to above, that flatter organizations are more creative if information flows freely. Based on information technology and application development we know that recursive loops are the means of handling constant change with adaption.
We also know that creativity or innovation is what adds value and produces positive change or corrects erroneous change. The ‘move fast and break things’ technological focus is the first stage of that. With maturity that turns into ‘move quickly with data and change continuously with that data’.
Information is the constant feedback to individuals in collaboration. And, yes, we have learned that open collaboration can turn into the social media meme disaster without clearly articulated and shared goals. The system turns chaotic when that happens.
Organizational success requires an open information environment and collaborative teams with ownership of the processes they handle. Goals must be adaptive with constant assessment and these can relate to rewards but equity is far more efficient than hierarchy when creation and innovation are desired .
But that’s not how government works
Democratic government requires work. It needs clearly articulated goals that are adaptive and dynamic. It requires ownership by its citizens. It must be made up of teams within a larger team but those cannot be too big. It requires creativity to succeed.
Does this resemble the American model of democratic government? Not at all. No wonder it is failing.
We are all being asked to work harder and more creatively for our civilization to survive but our ‘shared’ government does not want to pay us for that. We need to solve the problems that are growing exponentially both at the planetary survival level and at the new service development level.
Our old capitalist economy needs to change and our tattered facade of democratic government needs replaced. That is a huge change. How do we do it?
In the current condition we all know that the a majority of citizens are unhappy with the output, such as it is, of the government. The distortions of representation are criminal. All citizens/residents must be actively involved in the democratic process but they need resources, education, and a direct return on their investment of time and energy.
The goal should be delivering expanded services to all residents in exchange for the work of collaborating together to save and then improve our planet.We know that the great majority want expanded services because they have had only a small percentage increase in income over the last forty years while a billionaire elite has grown courtesy of failed government and antiquated economics.
To correct this the government needs to be re-engineered to be more efficient and much more democratic. We need to eliminate redundant levels of administration that fosters corruption. If that can be accomplished, problems will begin to be open to solution at the complex levels that we must address. But first we need to remove the dead weight.
This will result in most government services being delivered at a regional or local government level. This will increasingly be metropolitan for the great majority of the population. Many of our metropoles will change as sea levels rise and temperatures increase producing vast population movements. For all services and well being of all populations to succeed this will require planetary coordination. I cannot see how there would be time for messing about with privatization to achieve this.
An important change will be restriction of sovereignty to the individual level. No groups, districts, or regions can function outside the rules that we determine as fundamental rights. But within those rights local preferences and variations are to be encouraged.
Direct administration of human societies must be local. Individual sovereignty would guarantee all sentients full fundamental rights and a vote in the administration of the planet and anywhere they live. This includes, of course, the right to move wherever resources are available for them. We will have a century or more with this as a critical and complex balancing act.
As the climate is brought back into balance this will allow people to live and work in areas that they find most compatible with their personal needs and desires. Obviously diversity will expand as the protections for rights, livelihood, and direct democratic rule becomes the planetary standard. This is the direct opposite of authoritarian standardization.
Most human societies will opt for inclusion in full public data. A critical planetary right is ownership of all personal (sovereign) intellectual property. The most likely form of Universal Basic Income will include royalties on personal data publicly used. Society will be completely monitored but always at the local (only) government level with permission of and directly managed by the citizens of that metropole.
Other people will prefer to deny use of their personal information assets and will chose to live in smaller communities following a variety of traditionalist policies. These will be constrained only by the sacred rights for all sentients.
We would all share planetary resources and assets guaranteeing us our lives, education, and information access but could chose to live within constraints that we find important. Open movement would allow all to sample and learn from diverse societies.