There Is an Alternative

The people are starting to awaken.

“Their complaints range from corruption to lack of affordable housing and joblessness, common grievances the world over. But from South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over.

They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box.”[i]

Given the state of the world it seems increasingly clear that radical change is necessary to avert catastrophe.

What’s next? What do we do next? What’s the endgame?

We are all in this together, we just have not all realized it yet. More of us are realizing that the structures that we have grown to depend on to organize society are broken. How can we organize ourselves as earthlings?  How do we keep ourselves alive as a species—we do have urgent collective problems to address—while maximizing each and every individual’s opportunity to lead a fulfilling self-determined life?

We have seen enough TED talks by now. We know there is a better way. But we do not need a final blueprint, we just need a process. Here is the key question: How do we decide how we collectively decide once we have decided we can collectively decide? If we are all in this together shouldn’t there be a platform for every human to be able to talk, submit ideas, vote up the ideas they like, vote down the ones they don’t? What is stopping us from having websites hosting disputation arenas where open and public policy debates can rage with a critical public eye watching and calling out unfounded assertions and ideologies when they see them?

“We need some way to thoroughly critique ideas, plans, opinions and policies, letting good ones rise while fallacious ones lose repute. The Internet seems to offer potential for a new style of debate, by establishing disputation arenas for truly extended and meticulous appraisal of a topic, moderated by groups or individuals whose passionate avocation is for neutral intellectual rigor. The more interesting the arguments, the more attention each arena would receive, and the less likely that adversaries could turn down invitations to take part.

How to prevent the artful evasions we see so often in political debates? Superficial and brief, these pointless glamour shows reward charismatic prevarication more than argument, and evidence plays almost no role at all.

One of the internet’s great virtues may be its potential for relentlessness. Unlike debates in the real world, there would be no two-hour time limits. Extended online confrontations might last weeks or months, shepherded by proctors whose picky personalities (we all know the type) won’t let go of a logical inconsistency on this side of frozen hell. Ideally each side would doggedly pursue its opponents, forcing them to relent and give real answers — while reciprocating the favor.”[ii]

These types of extended debates can provide the quality information that informed humans need to able to meaningfully self govern. Let’s use the implicitly democratizing power of the internet infrastructure to create an open-source society. We can experiment on formats (and use relevant research) and find the ways that best allow the best ideas to be heard and implemented. We can take inspiration from the open source movement to create a peer to peer government. Iceland has taken major strides in drafting a new constitution with transparency and public input. Let’s allow ourselves the possibility to create this together as a planet.

“Advocates of these approaches often, by analogy to code, argue for a “central codebase” in the form of a set of policies that are maintained in a public registry and that are infinitely reproducible. “Distributions” of this policy-base are released (periodically or dynamically) for use in localities, which can apply “patches” to customize them for their own use. Localities are also able to cease subscribing to the central policy-base and “fork” it or adopt someone else’s policy-base. In effect, the government stems from emergent cooperation and self-correction among members of a community. As the policies are put into practice in a number of localities, problems and issues are identified and solved, and where appropriate communicated back to the core.”[iii]

Decentralizing power as much as possible, limits as much as possible, the possibility and temptation to abuse power.

If we do not take advantage of the fact that we currently outnumber the super rich 9,999 to 1, advantages in cybernetics and gene therapy  and other technologies could very well nullify that numerical superiority and result in terrible new weapons being developed and used by the ultra-wealthy few against us free range serfs . Among the technologies already developed are packs of robots designed to hunt down humans[iv] laser[v] and microwave cannons[vi] etc. As things currently stand, the most heavily propagandized population in the history of the human species[vii]—Americans—seem unlikely to wakeup in time to prevent utter chaos as the most globally powerful state nominally under their control as citizens instead continues to cause civilization to break down in the short term interests of the government’s corporate hijackers. That is, unless mind enhancing techniques or other technological silver bullets hit the popular market in time for civilization to thread the needle so to speak and narrowly avoid energy and environmental implosion.[viii] Humanity faces a stark choice: evolve or die. Introspection has not been the average American’s strong suit. Resignation, however, is not an option. What we choose to do now matters more than ever.

[i] Kulish, Nicholas. “As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around Globe.” The New York Times, 27 Sept. 2011. Web. <;.

[ii] Disputation Arenas:

Harnessing Conflict and Competitiveness for Society’s Benefit

By David Brin, Ph.D.

This unusual article looks at how truth is determined in our four “accountability arenas” — science, democracy, courts and markets. It was lead article in the American Bar Association’s Journal on Dispute Resolution (Ohio State University), v.15, N.3, pp 597-618, Aug. 2000. Copyright © 2000.

[iv] “Packs of robots will hunt down uncooperative humans – Short Sharp Science – New Scientist.” Science news and science jobs from New Scientist – New Scientist. Web. 26 Nov. 2009. <;.

[v] How It Works: The Flying Laser Cannon | Popular Science.” Popular Science | New Technology, Science News, The Future Now. 13 Mar. 2008. Web. 25 May 2011. <;.

[vi] Page, Lewis. “US Justice Dept Builds Microwave Heat-ray ‘rifle’ • The Register.” The Register: Sci/Tech News for the World. 10 Oct. 2008. Web. 25 May 2011. <;.

[vii] Cnn, Taylor Gandossy. “TV Viewing at ‘all-time High,’ Nielsen Says – CNN.” Featured Articles from CNN. 24 Feb. 2009. Web. 25 May 2011. <;.



10 thoughts on “There Is an Alternative

  1. Tj– Tim McEown here. So dude, here’s what I think. It seems like you and I share a similar affliction– we’re bright enough and self-aware enough to realize something is fundamentally askew but we don’t have the resources or the leverage to change much. And, oddly enough, to obtain the kind of power (for lack of a better word) to alter that equation we would need to change who we are fundamentally.
    I agree that most of the important issues we face need collective action to resolve them but I also think, and to some extent you touched on this, the contradictory nature of most humans makes that difficult. People often act against their own interests and that’s doubly true when you invoke emotional, irrational touchstones like religion or patriotism. I live in Canada and its bad enough here but I can’t imagine how frustrating it is to be where you are. Anyway what I’m really trying to say is: you can’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed. Despair lives there and I think sometimes, while it might seem counter-intuitive, if you narrow your focus and pick one or two things to concentrate on you might find more clarity and strangely a more holistic understanding of the larger issues. I know that sounds a little loopy but if you’re anything like me bizarro-world logic sometimes applies.
    Keep plugging away though, man– you’re not alone.

  2. Well, we all have to do something… I decided to go on the radio and rabble rouse that way. Everybody needs to do their part. If you can write about economics and theory, do it. If you can bake cookies for the occupiers, do that. We need everybody.

    I am still working on getting the 99% (especially here in the most conservative county in the USA) to understand, realize and appreciate the fact that they ARE indeed the 99% and it is not in their interests to keep kissing Jim DeMint’s ass.

    Good post.

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