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A Wiki for President

  • Digital technology is progressing quickly when it comes to commerce: novel ways to link consumers and goods are continuously introduced and "improved". The Web is becoming smarter and smarter in presenting merchandise to consumers.
  • Digital technology is instead progressing very slowly when it comes to government: the link between the citizen and the politician is often just a "feedback form" on the politician's website. Very little effort has been made to link the citizen and the decision making process in more effective and creative ways.
  • The difference is that commerce has a strong motivation to motivate consumers to look for and find goods, whereas government has little motivation to motivate citizens to get directly involved in the decision making process.
  • The reality is that government (any government) is reluctant to let citizens get involved beyond the elections. Once linked to a customer, business wants to keep selling to that customer. Once voted in power by the citizen, government wants to govern, not to be voted on a daily basis by that citizen. Therefore de facto government discourages creative ways to link citizens and decisions.
  • The real revolution in political use of digital technology is coming from non-government processes, for example lobbying and campaigning. Both lobbies and electoral campaigns are looking for ever more creative ways to link citizens and government. A politician has a mailing list of a few thousand people, and most of them don't even read the politician's emails. A lobbyist has a mailing list of people who are very committed to the cause and sometimes those are millions of people.
  • It is just a matter of time before the ordinary people will demand more power via the same digital technology that politicians use to get elected and that lobbies use to influence decisions.
  • Democratizing political decisions via digital technology will be similar to democratizing encyclopedias via digital technology: Wikipedia democratized the creation of and access to an encyclopedia; a wiki-like system will allow ordinary citizens to create, change and monitor government.
  • This means that eventually democratic societies will have a wiki making government policy.
  • Just like the wiki to store knowledge, the wiki to make policy will be vulnerable to "the mob" and to the agendas of powerful commercial and ideological organizations.
  • There was once the fear of the day when robots and not humans would run the world. We may soon face the scary prospect that the world will not be run by robots but instead by wikis.