All posts by peterbayley

Equality

When I sat down to add this topic to the list gathered together under the post “Some thoughts on some issues”, I was intending to create one labelled “Indigenous Issues”. The twitter gang had been tweeting extensively about how to talk about indigenous issues, to the point that the growing list of twitter handles left around 20 characters in which to develop a pithy rejoinder.

But as I thought about what I wanted to write, I realised the fact that “indigenous” issues are nothing more than issues of how we treat different members of our society or, more to the point, members of the society who are “different” from us. So I realised a better title is Equality because ultimately, that what this whole topic is about. In the end, the issues are about equality in opportunity, in the protection, encouragement and control our society places on its members and in the sensitivity and tolerance our society has for people who have different values. So here goes my $0.02 on the subject of Equality.

First of all, let me definitely say, people are NOT equal. The American Constitution aside, this is self-evident. In fact, the inequality of people spreads as far as it can, to every single individual being different from every other (even identical twins start diverging, (somatically if not genetically) the moment they become two separate fertilised eggs). To me, this is a clue as to how we approach the equal treatment of all the members of our society. We constantly compare ourselves to others, often forgetting that they have had a completely different genetic base and environment from us and, indeed, from everyone else on the entire planet. We are all of us unique and so can’t be equal. So social equality just cannot be based on anything genetic – male, female, big, small, black, brown, yellow or pink, clever or not. Instead, it needs to be based on outcomes and be targeted to individuals who exhibit something that requires social intervention. If someone is bitten by a snake, we rush them to a clinic or hospital and we treat them with anti-venom or whatever. We do this no matter if the person is young or old, white or black, male or female, Australian or a foreign tourist. The issue is that someone has been bitten and needs treatment and the issue is completely without any other categorisation.

Now how about someone struggling with alcohol. Perhaps they are getting violent when they are drunk and the society decides it needs to step in to save them from injuring either themselves or others. Again, it really shouldn’t matter into which categories the person falls, but what can best be done to ease the situation. If there are a better clinical way of handling a situation when the person has, say a chronic illness, then that information is a useful director into the most appropriate action.

The overwhelming difference between people is between individuals. So all categorisations are generalisations of the true state and often dangerously so. Time was when it might be put about in Australia that Irishmen were all thieves, that Chinese are all penny-pinching or Greeks are all lazy, or New Zealanders are simply magnificent ūüôā These are sweeping generalisations and dangerously so and are, of course, simply not borne out by any facts. There are thieving, penny-pinching, lazy people in all walks of life, of all ages, sexes, ethnicities, etc as well as simply magnificent people everywhere you look.

So my desire would be to have absolutely no mention in any legislation on race or ethnic background, sex or religion, but to identify issues that individuals may have and how society should respond to the issues. If, for example, some people have a connection with certain locations, then that should be considered when legislating about land, regardless of any other factor about the people having the connection.

Categorisation, the allocation of individuals to pre-defined “boxes” is a basic human predisposition and quick categorisation into danger/opportunity has historically helped us tremendously with our survival. The initial categorisation is done immediately and in seconds, and is almost all based on previous and taught experience. “Is this person a danger to me? No, okay, is there an opportunity to gain from an interaction with this person? Can this person inform me more about how the world is, help me to grow, to understand?” To properly participate in a complex, heterogeneous society, we need to be aware that these categorisations are going on but not to act reflexively to them – and, perhaps to evolve them into more accurate and useful categorisations as in – “This person is lying to me – I wonder what they want.”

Now that I’ve so cleverly persuaded you that it’s the interaction of a society with its individuals that matters, the society still needs to decide what are acceptable and unacceptable actions on the part of its members and then to act accordingly. If we as a society decide, for example, that child or forced marriage is wrong, then it should be wrong for all, even for those members practising a religion that condones it. The “category”, for want of a better word to the members of which specific social measures are applied becomes those enforcing the marriage, the parents or legal guardians of the children in question, etc. regardless of religion, age, sex etc.

Some thoughts on some issues

These are, I should stress, my thoughts and my thoughts alone.  In other words they definitely do not represent any formal position of the Virtual Party.  In fact, the Virtual Party doesn’t yet have formal positions on anything, because we don’t yet have a system by which participants can register their preferences by way of a vote.  Instead, this is just one person’s opinions and I’m simply putting them in front of you to get a reaction and, perhaps, to spur you to respond – in righteous indignation, enthusiastic concurrence or anything in between.

The balance of this post is some ideas for topics we could discuss.  I hope, when I get the chance, to expand of these each into its own post, but they will initially exist only here, as the labels of potential ideas, nothing more (Although I have started expanding the Web Democracy post)

I hope you enjoy them.

Peter Bayley
Sydney

Web Democracy

Corporations

Equality

Religion

Science

Education

Health

Web Democracy

Winston Churchill famously said something like “Democracy is the worst political system – except for all the others

The simple idea of everyone in a society getting an equal say in how that society should be governed is relatively new and still a very fragile concept.

Even the early Democracies of ancient Greece and the United States of America only included male, slave-owning landowners. Universal Suffrage is a very new phenomenon, little more than 100 years or 3-4 generations old.

Democracy provides a say (a “vote”) in who governs at regular intervals called elections. These are typically every 3-4 years and usually represent the sole chance to have your voice heard as the ability to meaningfully affect things between elections is almost non-existent.

Consequently, Politicians know they have to go to great lengths to convince the people to vote for them, but are confident, once they are “over the line”, they can relax and not necessarily carry out all, or any, of the promises they made. People might be angry at the flagrant deceit that purchased their vote but nothing can be done until the next election, by which time many injustices have been forgotten.

Things have moved on on our societies since the original concept of a vote, especially in the increased ability, thanks to technology, to interact with each other and with those who Govern us.

Democracy over the Internet
Let us contemplate, therefore, the potential impacts to our current democratic process that the Internet represents: a ubiquitous, freely-available interactive communications network linking all the members of the democracy together adn with their leaders and potential leaders.  The current tools that effect this communication across the network are Social Media services such as Twitter and Facebook, Instagram etc but, at its base, a secure, web-connected, bi-directional network could be constructed relatively easily using freely-available open-source tools without the need to register with large US Corporations.

Distributed Democracy
Further, a technology called “Peer-to-Peer” would provide additional security in that there would be no single, central service but multiple, loosely-connected “peers” each of which could participate in maintaining parts of the network when and if needed.

Distributed Democratic Truth
And the integrity of changes made across the network could be ensured using a form of “Distributed Ledger” or “Published Truth” best known as being implemented using the “Block Chain” technology which forms part of BitCoin’s own integrity.

The Basic Concept of Web Democracy
In order to link the social internet to the democratic process, we introduce the basic concept of one person, one vote. For trialling and development purposes, the people might be members of any small group, but it would eventually be all members of a society eligible to vote.  They would log on to the “Democratron” (for want of a better word) to verify who they are, and could then vote by clicking a button on an application or web page they are logged onto, to represent their position on an issue.  Votes could be requested on many different issues and as part of the many steps that might be taken in developing a policy.  Rather than place one mark on a ballot once in three years, the technology would allow us to indicate our preferences often and on a wide variety of issues with a click of a button.

The same technology would support the policy development process by providing downloadable background documentation.  Chat facilities and blogs would allow people to freely interact and discuss issues, while tools such as Calendars and Event Management could coordinate members in coming together in dates and time and in locations.

Well, while the ability to vote often is a wonderful improvement on the current system, it’s just not really very practical.  You might, for instance, like to read up on all sides of a particular argument – say Public vs Private Hospitals – but there are lots of people saying lots of things on the topic.  You will inevitably find it increasingly difficult to be across all the arguments and information. To solve this problem, we introduce the additonal concept of vote delegation

Vote Delegation
When you vote for someone in a normal election, you are effectively ceding them the power to make decisions on your behalf.  Vote Delegation acts the same way but, thanks to the underlying technology, we can improve the process somewhat.
For example, you might provide your vote to one person for anything to do with, say, the environment, but to another person whose ideas on finance you prefer for any decisions about the economy. Every time your vote is used by the person to whom you delegated it, you can, if you opt to do so, automatically receive a message, email, SMS, tweet or whatever informing you about what happened – “Richard Smith, your delegate on the Environment used your vote today in favour of the proposed “Trees are People Too” policy. (I’m joking ūüôā

When you delegate your vote to someone, you can also indicate whether the vote can be further delegated. In other words, you can either allow that person to use you vote but not be able to further delegate it to someone else, or allow that person to further delegate his or her pool of votes to another delegate, and so on.

Vote Rescinding and Reallocation
You can take back your vote at any time and give it to someone else, use it yourself or choose not to participate in a particular debate. In that case, you vote is not counted at all.

Vote Allocation
You have one vote that can be used anywhere. However, you can also divide your vote into fractions – for argument’s sake, say 100 pieces. For example, you might equally like the positions of two people in an Environmental debate. Rather than having to make a choice where one gets our full vote and the other nothing, you could, instead, give them each 50% of your vote. You might actually prefer one a little more so give them 75% of your vote and the other 25%. Because the underlying tech can manage all the intricacies of counting up the votes and ensuring no one is able to express more than one vote in total, we can provide voters the subtlety of casting a nuanced vote and more-accurately representing their backing and their wishes.

The net effect of this ability for your vote to be constantly involved in representing your interests should provide much more effective feedback into the political process.  Currently, a politician can and does say anything to convince people to vote for them, understanding that once elected, they can change their mind, not act on their promises etc. When this occurs, in the Web Democracy, the voter can simply take their vote away from that politician, give it to someone else or withdraw it entirely. If sufficient people act similarly, that politician will find they have less voting power and consequently become less powerful and influential.  Conversely, a politician who is seen as doing great work will find a increased flow of votes to them and thus be better-able to make effective changes.

Comments are welcome but I have had such problems with Spam accounts hitting the subscriber system (100’s a day) I no longer allow logins. Instead, you’re welcome to use Twitter where I am @peterbayley.

Big Fish… Little Fish

A great image by way of @SenatorLudlam’s Twitter feed, for which many thanks and good luck:

BigFish_LittleFish

 

… the point of which is also reflected in Margaret Mead’s great quote:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

 

Please Read Me

To understand what this site is attempting to do, you can read my first post “Welcome to the Virtual Party” as an introduction to the whole idea of a “virtual” party.

We have a Blog area where you can create your own magnificent Posts and comment on other people’s attempts at same. We also have a Forum area lovingly maintained by Lady Fly (@beforeyoucanfly). Please visit the forums and chat with other scintillating fellow travellers on a wide range of topics. Access is via the menu at the top of the page.

Some necessary housekeeping: I was hoping to make this site freely available for people to blog and comment on but the forces of greed have intervened. ¬†I am already receiving many comments each day which are spam, advertising cheap shoes or whatever. ¬†If I let people comment freely, the web site would quickly become unusable. ¬†Therefore, I need to check that a comment is a real one before “letting it through”. ¬† Once you have one comment allowed, further comments are not held up. This also means you have to register before you can comment. Again apologies but the greedy low-lives in this world make this, unfortunately, a requirement. So, although I ¬†don’t like those “Your comment is waiting to be moderated” messages as much as the next man, it seems our more entrepreneurial colleagues make some sort of gate an unfortunate necessity. ¬†I’ll try and get to the Comments page regularly and let slip the valid dogs of commentary with appropriate alacrity.

Hope you understand and can find the time to both comment and contribute ūüôā

Cheers

Peter Bayley
Sydney  

None of this is new…

A society is a group of people interacting and communicating towards a mutually-beneficial outcome.   Communications, then, is at the core of what binds a society and communication has recently become an important social phenomenon, surfing a wave of innovative technology to become affordable, ubiquitous and, most importantly, bidirectional.  Unlike previous attempts at wide-ranging communication, the Internet allows everyone for the first time in human history, to be both reader and writer.

Democracy is a mechanism for formalising the wishes of the members of a society.  As such, it is another way in which a society communicates how it feels.  The potential for technology to improve the democratic will has only recently become available but its potential is enormous.

Interest in the meeting point of ¬†human society and ways of communicating is not new. ¬†What IS new is the enhanced ability of ALL members of a group to actively contribute, using, but not limited to, ¬†the current “social” technologies of FaceBook and Twitter.

Others have considered these issues before us and we can only benefit from familiarising ourselves with their thoughts. ¬†To this end, I would like to suggest we all contribute links to and quotes from other sources of information and opinion on this exciting new “Techno-Social” ¬†world. ¬†We can read each other’s contributions and thus enrich our discussions.

I will start the ball rolling by pointing to an interesting site by Pia Waugh @piawaugh and Will Grant @willozap ¬†called Society 5. ¬† It was launched two years ago and has not really taken off so far, but that doesn’t diminish it as a source of some interesting writings on the ‘Social Internet”.

Pia’s a rather dynamic young lady in Canberra whom I have yet to meet, but whoi I follow in twitter and who inspires with talk about Open Government, Open Society and Open Information.¬†

Pia and Will also mention, on their site, another initiative, also in its infancy, called “Distributed Democracy” which you may also find of interest.

I leave it to you to read and comment, but please also contribute your thoughts and links to things that moved you and so might move us.

In the end, it’s not important which of these many, halting attempts at starting a discussion succeed or fail. The beginnings of such a comprehensive subject as how we live together on our ball of dust will necessarily be messy, confusing, even cacophonous. ¬†That fact in no way reduces the importance of continuing the discussion and just talking together.

Welcome to the Virtual Party

This is an experiment.  A comment casually dropped during a twitter conversation somehow became a meme and a stimulus to further thoughts.

“Virtual Party” – what do we mean by “Virtual”? ¬†– not real? insubstantial? ¬† How about “Party”? – all the rigmarole of candidates, elections? ¬†Well, maybe – or perhaps, “eventually” or “in good time”. ¬†You won’t find easy answers here, at least initially. What we’re hoping for is, as we said, an “experiment”.

The core idea is this. ¬†We are all familiar with the political system called “Democracy” as it is practised in much of the world, notably in the West. ¬† Democracy, especially the inclusive kind we currently practise, ¬†is, itself, a relatively young experiment. ¬†There are no guarantees it will survive. ¬† It is understandably unpopular with the elites, diluting their ability to mandate and requiring them to convince us that their power over us is good and should be supported.

We are also aware that the way the world communicates is changing rapidly and fundamentally.  An exponential growth in the tools of information has meant, for the first time in human history, the vast majority of society can both inform themselves and inform others.  We can get together in completely new ways.  We can filter so we amplify some voices as we mute others. The planet is buzzing with our voices, much of the content inane, but some, totally profound and life-changing.

The Virtual Party seeks, in the first instance, to be a discussion on the opportunities presented by the intersection of these two ideas, the democractic process by which we organise ourselves as a society, and the potential of new information opportunities to enhance that very organisation.  What happens when we stick universal communication and universal democracy together?

The potential is substantial. ¬†Democracy is unique in that it allows everyone a say, at least in theory. ¬† This is also one of its weaknesses ¬†as it requires all those “says” to be canvassed and collated regularly.

The Social Internet parallels the universality of Democracy by also allowing everyone a say.   The Web allows everyone to both publish and consume commentary.

Inevitably, there are huge practical problems in allowing everyone exercising their right to have their say on every issue.  So a mechanism is needed by which each person can allocate their vote to another person who would use the vote on their behalf, thereby allowing all voices to be represented and thus heard.

The person trusted with the vote acts as a delegate much as Members of Parliament do.   In our current democracy,  this processes happens every three years, on election day.   Technology could allow a more frequent voice and more-nuanced profile of voting preferences by allowing people to support different delegates for different issues. Delegates could, in turn, delegate the votes they represent to further representatives.  Of course votes could be both re-allocated and withdrawn at any time, further strengthening the flexibility people have in how their vote counts in overall policy directions.

This blog entry is little more than thoughts from one of the interested parties as he populates a web page in support of the experiment.  Hopefully, much more erudite and illuminating content will join it as other like-minded individuals are encouraged to declare themselves and participate.

Democracy’s greatest weakness (that it “lets in the riff-raff”) is also it’s greatest strength (in representing everyone, including us, the riff-raff). ¬†To paraphrase Winston Churchill, ¬†“Democracy is the worst political system – except for all the rest.” ¬†There’s just a chance that the wise application of the gift of communication that technology has provided us might make our democracy just that little bit better. ¬†In pursuit of that lofty goal, ¬†“Long Live the Virtual Party!”