Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

The emergent democracy paper was scobleized thus:

Robert Scoble
Next time I see Joi, I'm going to ask him how his emergent democracy idea will help get radical new ideas into political life. Letting the masses run things is OK, but you don't get the radical innovations that only a small wacky minority sees at first.

Remember, 50 years ago most Americans thought it was OK to discriminate against blacks. It took a radical minority to push the idea through that that wasn't OK.

Here are my thoughts...

So, in the paper, I am arguing that democracy should protect the rights of the minority while being governed by the will of the majority. In emergence, for instance in the brain, the trick is to allow diversity to stimulate new ideas and creativity.

In Calvin's theory of how our brain works, he explains that the edges or parts of the surface of the brain which are not adjacent to many other areas is where new ideas form which can come back and influence the rest of the brain.

In evolution and the theory of genetic drift and gene pools, it can be shown that when you have large populations, genes tend to stay more similar and drift more slowly but on islands with smaller gene pools, genes can go wild... like the Galapagos islands.

So I believe the trick is to have the various levels. The radical ideas and the great products come from small groups (the creative layer) to be allowed to work on a diverse set of ideas. When these ideas reach a certain level acceptability, the social level (the early adopters?) picks up the idea and "puts it on the radar." It then gives the opportunity for the idea to take a real shot at the masses. If you think about The Woz, I would say that the Home Brew Computer Club was the creative layer where the idea percolated. Then, Silicon Valley (the social layer) decided to give the idea a try. Eventually, it chanaged the world (the political layer). Many ideas don't make it past the first layer or the second.

What I think good emergent democracy will enable is exactly the kind of thing you are talking about Scoble. Right now most "thoughts" are thunk by experts in powerful positions. Was The Woz, an "expert"? Smoking might not have been intuitive, but it took a huge number of people fighting against Big Tobacco for A LONG TIME trying to break through the resistance that Big Tobacco were able to put in place with their money before this thing was able to happen. Couldn't this have been enabled more easily with emergent democracy where the debate could have captured the hearts and minds of bloggers more easily than the years in court that this took for people to notice?

Scoble... why are comments turned off on your blog?


It strikes me that the progression - of ED, of radical ideas and innovative products - being suggested and explored in the threads of conversation is essentially the process articulated in the book "The Deviant's Advantage - How Fringe Ideas Create Mass Markets", by Watts Wacker and Ryan Matthews.

From Fringe to Edge to Realm of the Cool to Next Big Thing to Social Convention - I'll bet that the behaviours and social norms created by combining human imagination and ideas with software and then connecting it all together electronically absolutely can't help but follow this path.

The roadblocks put in its way have to be mighty - and most of them (current) are well known and have been well described. The obstacles are structural, political and psychological, supported by legislation and the inertia of money in the current capitalist society.

But it seems that the process described is a fundamental pattern, and will have its way. Up to us that care to help give it appropriate nudges wherever and however we can, in our own spheres of influence.

Good point Jon and sounds like a good book. Just ordered it from Amazon.

Bought another book from Amazon. Blogging kills trees...

...and this doesn't mention the power that some people, even by themselves, can immediately have over masses. In Communication theory, these people are called Opinion Leaders, the 'father' of which was Walter Cronkite. In the days when he was on air, when Walter said something, America listened. I think this same process occurs in the blogging world, as is evident by looking at peoples' link lists. When Jason says something, I take note. Tons of people base some of their opinions on the words of Michele, and I won't even get into any of the blog gods such as Kottke and the like. My point is that there are many processes, be it Joi's discussion of the rise of Apple or the viral quality of opinion leaders, by which the small innovative ideas of some can quickly influence (or not influence) a massive number of people.

"I argued that there were many local maximums and that a two dimensional power law analysis did not capture the more interesting aspects of the weblogs."—Joichi Ito, Emergent Democracy, Version 1.3, March 12, 2003. The significance of this is at each local maximum, there is "a small wacky minority," not at all the reviled mob in "Letting the masses run things is OK, but...."

Check out Howard Bloom's description of how bateria colonies and other emergent life forms "decide" to evolve in his last book , The Global Brain

Remember, 50 years ago most Americans thought it was OK to discriminate against blacks.

What changed this? One word: television. When people started seeing what was actually happening in the south, they started to care, and forced change.

There is often this focus on "running" things by humans. The point about emergent behaviour, like Plan 9, is that it isn't run. Agents act independently co-operatively. Few, if any, ants "receive" "orders" from anyone, they simply behave appropriately to the conditions and there is a consequent emergent behaviour.

As for "leadership," there will be much more opportunity for this in an emergent rather than hierarchical democracy. Any one can assert or offer leadership, but only those who make sense and are followed will lead. Is Bush "leading?" Or is he "dragging?"

In an emergent democracy, anyone can offer a new idea, and it cannot be blocked by vested incumbent interests. This must generate more innovation, in a world of ends, all can be seen and the distributed distribution and optional user-selected intermediaries, based on open reputations, will distribute what makes sense.

Kinda like those neuron things in your head.

Democracy of any other form seems to be suborned by money or power. Power (which money grants) often attempts to control communication, to stifle change which might threaten the current power structure.

All the whuffie in the world won't *stop* other ideas.

Here here! Well put.

What is the process for subscribing to the Emergent Democracy mailing list?

It depends what your idea of leaders is.

Ten Habits of Well Beings

is a draft paper I put together on what
progressive leaders' duties is. Focus
is on the PRAXIS part.

If you don't see why this is necessarily
a large-G Green Party project, you are
clued out. Any non-Green Emergent
Democracy is no better than a mafia.

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For Joi Ito, blogs and computer communications are part of the key to 'emergent democracy'. Roughly speaking, 'emergent democracy' is Read More