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Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

The Japan Media Review just ran an edited version of the Emergent Democracy paper.

Thanks Michelle!


American emergent democracy fans may find this interesting.

A message from a thread on the Novelty-Lifeboat mailing list:


--- Chris Case wrote:

Speaking of ants and Emergence, there's a paper on
Emergent Democracy written
by Joi Ito, who has one of the
most interesting blogs in Japan ( ).


Good stuff! A couple tangential thoughts:

Communities like slashdot demonstrate the potentials
of this well. If you go to and click on
"just level 5" comments for any particular story,
you're seeing the result of a massive democratic
experiment. The problem of slashdot is that the
highest rated ideas often turn out to the those which
cater the "lowest common denominator" of the
demographic (Natalie Portman jokes are still high
currency on /.) also has an "emergent
moderation/ratings" model, but it works better just
because it has a higher signal to noise ratio by
virtue of being less visited.

The same problem exists in state democracies, setting
aside the possibilities of fraud and vote scamming.
47% of people *still* would vote for GWB, despite the
fact that if they were really paying attention, they'd
be forced to acknowledge that he's really
unsupportable. Should these people be allowed to vote?
Should their vote count as much as that of someone who
has really been paying attention? I'm not just being
biased to the left here; if someone has been really
paying attention and choosed to vote GWB, then
obviously they're psycho, but I think their vote
should count as much. It is the ignorant and credulous
whose votes should be penalized, IMHO.

But how to do this in a state situation? Impossible.
Any politician who suggested such would be out
immediately (given the large numbers of ignorant and
credulous). Plus you have the problem of who would
"police the vote police"; i.e. how could oversight of
the system be granted so as to prevent misuse?

OTOH, in a technology domain, it is possible; if the
software tracks an individual user, allows other users
to rate them, etc etc, a "karma" value can be derived
through a fairly simple set of algorithms. This can be
used to make the democracy more intelligent, and
thrust it towards the realms of meritocracy.

Tangentially my wife & I were discussing the failure
of humans to emerge as succesfully as ant colonies
last night -- we came up with the idea that perhaps
the number of entities that are vying to emerge
(nation states) is too small; perhaps the "global
emergence" would work much better if there were 1000
or 10000 entities working towards cooperation than if
there were only the present 150. While some of the
10000 would naturally be stronger than others, no two
of the 10000 would be as much at loggerheads (in terms
of overall detriment towards emergence) as two the 150
could possibly be; that is: Nevada and Camargue would
have far less to argue about than US and France; Des
Moines and Istanbul still less that US and Turkey. On
a state or county level, wouldn't a consensus on the
Kyoto agreement be easier to achieve? Additionally, at
a state or county level, corporations don't have undue
say (unless they happen to be HQed there); many many
counties and cities are fighting wal-mart, for
example, whereas the US government wouldn't dream of
going against the wishes of the walton clan.

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USC's Japan Media Review reprints Joi Ito's "Emergent Democracy" paper which was recently translated into Japanse (PDF) by Shumpei Kumon... Read More