Monday, January 12, 2015

Democracy in the digital era

From my editorial at the New Internationalist Democracy in the digital era

Legal hacking

Prior to entering parliament, I had two main objectives. One: to involve the public in reshaping Iceland’s legal framework, through national referendums; through co-creation of a new constitution; and through making strong legal foundations for a new system.
Two: to transform Iceland into a safe haven for freedom of information, expression and transparency, with a strong focus on privacy as a cornerstone of democracy.
The information society has little to offer if the ways of communicating information relevant to the public are constantly under attack
Once elected, I went inside the system, to the heart of it, the legislative assembly, like a hacker, analysing its strengths and weaknesses.
My conclusion is that the rule of law is an illusion: the rules we vote on do not apply to all, and thus there is no rule of law. Laws should be considered universal and the same rule of law should apply to all, not only the 99%.
I now see most of our democracies as one dictatorship with 100 talking-heads on the neck of a corporate monster.
Looking at different models for how to humanize and modernize how we run our societies, I have come to the conclusion that there is currently no one model that fits all.
We need to experiment and study what works for each type of society, depending on the cultural backdrop of each.
Some amazing experiments are now being implemented with success little known to the world at large.
The first seeds of awareness were spread by Buckminster Fuller in his book No More Secondhand God, where he talked about direct democracy and telephonic voting as early as 1940. At last, we are at a stage where the technology for direct access to power is simple enough that citizens can start using it to form opinion and enforce political change in a genuine grassroots, bottom-up way.
New types of citizen engagement platforms are being created and used to form policy and participate in direct democracy, such as the Pirate Party Liquid Feedback4, Your Priorities5, DemocracyOS6 and WeGov7. There is resistance from those who control the current system but I believe it will be futile because people are creating a shadow form of governance, or rather self-governance. This is happening on the fringes still, but it is moving towards the centre at a steady speed.
We need more studies to see the pros and cons of active voting systems and liquid democracy models, with delegates rather than representatives, for example.
We need to do the opposite of what Russell Brand is advocating, we need to use our votes. Even if we don’t want to engage with the current broken system, we should not use that as an excuse for apathy. We should see it as an encouragement to engage in creating our own alternatives, our new co-created systems; to be creative about it and to connect. Connectivity is the key to a rapid change; but information in itself is meaningless if we don’t know how to decode it into wisdom.
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