Thursday, 16 December 2010

de Bono on Ayer

The recent Radio 4 Head to Head programme reviewed the 1976 debate between de Bono (who I have previously cited on this blog) and A.J. Ayer, about democracy.

A.J. Ayer is famous for logical positivism in which he identifies empirical data as being essential for knowledge and debate. On the other hand, de Bono is famous for his understanding of creative thinking, introducing a whole wardrobe of techniques. I think that both should be part of Interactive Democracy.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Social Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory is neatly summarised by the notion that the flap of a butterfly's wings may result in a cyclone thousands of miles away. It is the idea that even when all the variables are fully understood, small perturbances in their values can result in wildly different results. If we apply this idea to human systems, where the rules of the game feed into changing people's attitudes and behaviours, we may see that the advantages of social science and the types of policy experimentation I have advocated here, may be limited. Nevertheless, chaos theory also explains that patterns can emerge.


"Information is the currency of democracy." Thomas Jefferson.

Saturday, 11 December 2010


Could hacktivists attack the Interactive Democracy system? Could foreign governments attack it? We are, perhaps, seeing the emergence of cyber wars, cyber terrorism, cyber vandalism, cyber coercion.

The main threat to ID wouldn't be the obvious attacks, we can just press the re-set button and vote again, it would be the unnoticed corruption.

Apart from a wide range of technical defences, each individual should monitor their own ID account, much like we monitor our bank accounts, looking for spurious transactions.

Friday, 10 December 2010

In(form) The Public Interest

Wikileaks is at the centre of an international storm of power brokers. Governments condemn, Paypal and Mastercard cut-off, hacktivists attack, courts subpoena, Twitter squawks, journalists blush, pundits pronounce and editors select. Or so it seems.

To my mind this highlights the relationship between information and power and the essential tension between opposing forces that is crucial for democracy: governments versus opposition versus media versus voters, prosecution and defence. To allow one faction to dominate is rarely in the public interest.

"Watergate" is a prime example, one of many, where journalists have taken on governments, but Wikileaks operates beyond democratic boundaries. It is shining a light on an international game of poker.

In a democracy, who decides what's in the public interest? Based on what information?

Friday, 3 December 2010


MoneyWeek reported: "EU competition authorities plan to investigate allegations that Internet giant Google has abused its dominant position in the online search market. One complaint is that it deliberately pushes rivals' sites down its list of search results. It also allegedly prevents advertisers placing certain types of advertisements on other sites."
This highlights the power that search engines and web masters could have in Interactive Democracy, if they weren't supervised by Parliament.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Civil Service Values and Ethics

The Civil Service "supports the government of the day in developing and implementing its policies, and in delivering public services." The core values are Integrity, Honesty, Objectivity and Impartiality.

I think it would be fair for civil servants to contribute to Interactive Democracy while applying these core values to the way they conduct themselves in debates and how they support the government as it implements policy. I don't see a problem with them declaring their employment position, or a conflict between their sworn support for the government and their democratic rights. But I can imagine, given human nature, that to avoid conflict in the work place, they may want to remain anonymous.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Time is Power

A criticism of Direct Democracy could be that votes are cast most frequently by those with time on their hands. Busy people are less able to consider the issues and vote. So, the argument goes, it is fairer to allow democratically elected expert politicians to make the decisions, partly because we give them the time to consider the issues.

The Swiss may disagree with this argument as their Direct Democracy has proven successful over many, many years.

Interactive Democracy provides an alternative route for involving people in direct democracy because it facilitates quick and simple voting and research via the Internet. However, the schedule should also allow plenty of time to consider the issues, listen to the radio debates, watch TV documentaries, read the papers and chat with friends.