Craig Thomler at eGovAU: “…Now we can do much better. Rather than focusing on electing and appointing individual experts – the ‘nodes’ in our governance system, governments need to focus on the network that interconnects citizens, government, business, not-for-profits and other entities.
Rather than limiting decision making to a small core of elected officials (supported by appointed and self-nominated ‘experts’), we need to design decision-making systems which empower broad groups of citizens to self-inform and involve themselves at appropriate steps of decision-making processes.
This isn’t quite direct democracy – where the population weighs in on every issue, but it certainly is a few steps removed from the alienating ‘representative democracy’ that many countries use today.
What this model of governance allows for is far more agile and iterative policy debates, rapid testing and improvement of programs and managed distributed community support – where anyone in a community can offer to help others within a framework which values, supports and rewards their involvement, rather than looks at it with suspicion and places many barriers in the way.
Of course we need the mechanisms designed to support this model of government, and the notion that they will simply evolve out of our existing system is quite naive.
Our current governance structures are evolutionary – based on the principle that better approaches will beat out ineffective and inefficient ones. Both history and animal evolution have shown that inefficient organisms can survive for extremely long times, and can require radical environmental change (such as mass extinction events) for new forms to be successful.
On top of this the evolution of government is particularly slow as there’s far fewer connections between the 200-odd national governments in the world than between the 200+ Watson artificial intelligences in the world.
While every Watson learns what other Watsons learn rapidly, governments have stilted and formal mechanisms for connection that mean that it can take decades – or even longer – for them to recognise successes and failures in others.
In other words, while we have a diverse group of governments all attempting to solve many of the same basic problems, the network effect isn’t working as they are all too inward focused and have focused on developing expertise ‘nodes’ (individuals) rather than expert networks (connections).
This isn’t something that can be fixed by one, or even a group of ten or more governments – thereby leaving humanity in the position of having to repeat the same errors time and time again, approving the same drugs, testing the same welfare systems, trialing the same legal regimes, even when we have examples of their failures and successes we could be learning from.
So therefore the best solution – perhaps the only workable solution for the likely duration of human civilisation on this planet – is to do what some of our forefather did and design new forms of government in a planned way.
Rather than letting governments slowly and haphazardly evolve through trial and error, we should take a leaf out of the book of engineers, and place a concerted effort into designing governance systems that meet human needs.
These systems should involve and nurture strong networks, focusing on the connections rather than the nodes – allowing us to both leverage the full capabilities of society in its own betterment and to rapidly adjust settings when environments and needs change….”