Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

The Emergent Democracy page on my wiki is starting to turning into a real wiki discussion. This is the first time I've participated in one. Since I'm the custodian, I guess it's my job to organize it. I just finished editing a bit, but it's still a bit sloppy. Very different style/dynamic than comments or mailing lists, but still very intriguing. Love the feeling of editing some kind of living text...

Feedback would be appreciated. Do you think my header fonts are too big?


I think Wiki's are supposed to be a bit sloppy, its part of their creative energy.

Most highly productive people have been shown to have pretty "messy" desks. They are too busy doing things to worry about how neat everything looks. Its better to have that important paper close by then neatly filed away...

The wiki might not look so great, but it mirrors the kind of sloppiness that occurs in real world conversations, ideas don't always flow in orderly linear paths.

The other side of it is that Wiki's create a healthy barrier to entry. They encourage you to learn about what is going on before jumping in. Comments are set up to make it really easy jump in and say anything. Which can be good, but can also lead discussions astray and be distracting. In the Wiki it seems there is a bit more commitment needed before people start getting involved. You are forced to think more about the content and structure.

And no I don't think the headers are too big, really like them that size actually.

I'm enthusiastic about blogging, I'm interested in the VC world and I support several new radical approaches to politics myself. It is therefore quite natural that I follow the debate on Emergent Democracy as it goes on.

Instead of creating ever more spaces for loose debate, however, I would be more interested to see stricter definition; to see Ito-san apply to his own ideas on Emergent Democracy a crucial tool I'm sure he -- as a Venture Capitalist -- uses on his subjects, namely the Elevator Test:

Can you communicate what your organisation does, with the minimum words but maximum impact? Try the elevator test.

  • Who is the product aimed at? [Customer segment]
  • What problem does it solve? [Problem]
  • What category of product is it? [Category]
  • What is the key differentiator? [Differentiator]
  • What/who is the competition? [Competition]

Then your 15 seconds of opportunity are crystalised by:

"For [customer segment] who have [the problem] our product is a [category] that [differentiator]. Unlike [competition] our product [differentiator]."Without such a statement, it's easy to get caught up in all hype and little substance, as Richard Bennett has pointed out, like the "emperor's new clothes". With such a statement, however, all interested parties have a common basis for future, more fruitful debate.

Abe requested much the same over at MarginWalker, i.e. that the term Emergent Democracy ought to be more properly defined. Granted, Adam Greenfield suggested a handful of points, but he offered no argumentation or resonating behind them, and didn't declare any premises on which he based his conclusions.

Rand's Razor (not to be confused with Occam's Razor) encourages intellectuals to "name your primaries":

Identify your starting point(s). This is the ultimate razor: it goes to the root of the roots of any argument. [...] Since all knowledge is hierarchical, it must have a foundation. Identifying and evaluating that foundation will reveal if the corresponding structure is built on top of matchsticks--or if it could withstand an earthquake--or if it is completely illusory.
The thinking behind Rand's Razor is that politics and political systems are not primaries; they rest -- philosophically -- on ethical judgements, which again are based on epistemological and metaphysical observations.

What is the philosophical foundation for Emergent Democracy?

Ack, the blockquote HTML was ruined by MT. It is supposed to stretch around the entire Elevator Test quote.

I'm not sure we're even on the same page, Fredrik. Those aren't "conclusions," they're provisional boundaries. I didn't offer any reasoning behind each of the points offered because they're intended to sketch *what we already agree on*: "If you agree with these statements, you may be interested in ED."

The challenge I invited goes to whether or not those are the proper parameters of a useful definition, not as to whether those statements are sound in and of themselves.

BTW, I'm not sure ED needs a different "philosophical foundation" than those underlying any other flavor of democracy. To me, ED is merely about using the tools and metaphors our age offers us to extend the reach and power of a profound and venerable idea: that ordinary people have the right, the responsibility, and the capability to govern themselves.

Further, it's just fatuous to expect something as nuanced as a system for global governance to be encapsulated in an elevator pitch. You're a Randian - can you explain why you believe altruism is a fiction in thirty seconds? Convincingly? In a way that cannot be disassembled at leisure later on?

"[O]rdinary people have the right, the responsibility, and the capability to govern themselves"

Granted, governing myself sounds very nice in a laissez-faire-capitalist way, but that's not quite what you're proposing, is it?

Rather, you seem to be proposing some form of *democracy* -- in other words a system where a majority governs a minority, ultimately by the use not of reason, not of eloquence, but of force (to paraphrase George Washington).

Editor of Newsweek International, Fareed Zakaria, recently pointed out that "freedom comes not from politicians' slavish obeisance to the whims of The People, divined hourly by pollsters. It comes from an intricate architecture of liberty."

I happen to agree, and envision a strictly limited government apparatus, where the people uses new technologies for coordination of *voluntary* interaction as opposed to the force of democratic processes.

Maybe "Emergent Liberty" or "Emergent Freedom" would be better names.

PS: As for Rand, who was not the main point of my post, she did indeed give an extremely concise definition of her entire philosophy.

Wikis don't have to be messy. I agree that the ED page is messy, but that is just because it is being worked upon all the time. The simple reordering and adding of subheadings was already a big win. Next is to split larger sections onto their own pages. For some other examples, see the Emacs Wiki (very structured) or my homepage (slowly gaining structure on the front page).

from PlasticBag the ugly wiki and why it doesn't matter

best, mark

(p.s. i think alex is right on)

I'm not really a wiki expert, but I was under the impression that the point is to collaboratively edit a document. Wikipedia is an example. Your wiki is basically a bulletin board system, because everybody signs his own name and doesn't edit other's comments. Since wikis keep an audit trail, anyone can see who wrote what if they really care; but in general I don't think the contributor's individual contributions ought to be so obvious, and I don't think anything written by others is supposed to be sacrosanct.