Democracy X.0

I woke up wondering about what version we are up to now? Democracy 3.0, perhaps more.

Without dealing with too much history, clearly representative government allowed democracy to scale over what I gather was essentially the town meeting model of Athens under Pericles.  Transitioning to something closer to universal suffrage is perhaps another major version advance in democracy.   Clearly, more major advances would be welcome, as most of those that I talk to think that the current system in the United States is horribly broken.

I believe that radically more effective democratic institutions are possible and that ‘we the people’ will create them in the future.  Let me unpack that statement – because it uses  some words that have some conventional meanings.  We have to question the standard assumptions and nuances of commonly used words to get to ‘radically effective’.

First government vs. business – the core problem is independent of these labels – how do we create organizations that are more responsive to the needs of both those who do the work of the organization and those that the organization serves. Thought of in this sense words like business, government, polity, workers, customer fall away – and a blank slate is available at least for conversation.  How do you organize people around goals? How do you obtain and use resources to achieve those goals?  What organizations need to stay in existence for on-going efforts?  How can organizations end gracefully and efficiently once their goals have been met? Lots of similar questions.

Many people are working in this space – trying to scale consensus based activities, so that appropriate subgroups are chartered to act quickly to produce detailed results acceptable to the whole.  Sociocracy, holocracy, and ‘open space technology’ are some of organizational modes in this space.

It feels to me that perhaps (regardless of their success) this is the direction that the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ folks are groping toward. I see reports of twinkling (consensus hand signalling) and bar camp like (open space technology) spontaneous generation of topics, ideas, initiatives.

I tend to think (unsurprisingly for those who know me) that automation – only once it is fully integrated with human centric processes and conventions – can allow real-time consensus to scale. This can create the basis for the next generation of organizations that are more responsive to those they derive their existence from.  Anyone who has experienced both, knows that there is something similar between saying something in a group and seeing immediate hand signals that indicate agreement, and posting something and seeing the lurkers on a forum immediately start posting disagreement – immediate feedback, spontaneous real-time democracy – that works.  That’s where we need to head.

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