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Designing our Complex Future with Machines

While I had long been planning to write a manifesto against the technological singularity and launch it into the conversational sphere for public reaction and comment, an invitation earlier this year from John Brockman to read and discuss The Human Use of Human Beings by Norbert Wiener with him and his illustrious group of thinkers as part of an ongoing collaborative book project contributed to the thoughts contained herein.

The essay below is now phase 1 of an experimental, open publishing project in partnership with the MIT Press. In phase 2, a new version of the essay enriched and informed by input from open commentary will be published online, along with essay length contributions by others inspired by the seed essay, as a new issue of the Journal of Design and Science. In phase 3, a revised and edited selection of these contributions will be published as a print book by the MIT Press.

Version 1.0

Cross-posted from the Journal of Design and Science where a number of essays have been written in response and where competition winning peer-reviewed essays will be compiled into a book to be published by MIT Press.

Nature's ecosystem provides us with an elegant example of a complex adaptive system where myriad "currencies" interact and respond to feedback systems that enable both flourishing and regulation. This collaborative model-rather than a model of exponential financial growth or the Singularity, which promises the transcendence of our current human condition through advances in technology--should provide the paradigm for our approach to artificial intelligence. More than 60 years ago, MIT mathematician and philosopher Norbert Wiener warned us that "when human atoms are knit into an organization in which they are used, not in their full right as responsible human beings, but as cogs and levers and rods, it matters little that their raw material is flesh and blood." We should heed Wiener's warning.


As the sun beats down on Earth, photosynthesis converts water, carbon dioxide and the sun's energy into oxygen and glucose. Photosynthesis is one of the many chemical and biological processes that transforms one form of matter and energy into another. These molecules then get metabolized by other biological and chemical processes into yet other molecules. Scientists often call these molecules "currencies" because they represent a form of power that is transferred between cells or processes to mutual benefit--"traded," in effect. The biggest difference between these and financial currencies is that there is no "master currency" or "currency exchange." Rather, each currency can only be used by certain processes, and the "market" of these currencies drives the dynamics that are "life."

As certain currencies became abundant as an output of a successful process or organism, other organisms evolved to take that output and convert it into something else. Over billions of years, this is how the Earth's ecosystem has evolved, creating vast systems of metabolic pathways and forming highly complex self-regulating systems that, for example, stabilize our body temperatures or the temperature of the Earth, despite continuous fluctuations and changes among the individual elements at every scale--from micro to macro. The output of one process becomes the input of another. Ultimately, everything interconnects.

We live in a civilization in which the primary currencies are money and power--where more often than not, the goal is to accumulate both at the expense of society at large. This is a very simple and fragile system compared to the Earth's ecosystems, where myriads of "currencies" are exchanged among processes to create hugely complex systems of inputs and outputs with feedback systems that adapt and regulate stocks, flows, and connections.

Unfortunately, our current human civilization does not have the built-in resilience of our environment, and the paradigms that set our goals and drive the evolution of society today have set us on a dangerous course which the mathematician Norbert Wiener warned us about decades ago. The paradigm of a single master currency has driven many corporations and institutions to lose sight of their original missions. Values and complexity are focused more and more on prioritizing exponential financial growth, led by for-profit corporate entities that have gained autonomy, rights, power, and nearly unregulated societal influence. The behavior of these entities are akin to cancers. Healthy cells regulate their growth and respond to their surroundings, even eliminating themselves if they wander into an organ where they don't belong. Cancerous cells, on the other hand, optimize for unconstrained growth and spread with disregard to their function or context.


The idea that we exist for the sake of progress, and that progress requires unconstrained and exponential growth, is the whip that lashes us. Modern companies are the natural product of this paradigm in a free-market capitalist system. Norbert Wiener called corporations "machines of flesh and blood" and automation "machines of metal." The new species of Silicon Valley mega companies--the machines of bits--are developed and run in great part by people who believe in a new religion, Singularity. This new religion is not a fundamental change in the paradigm, but rather the natural evolution of the worship of exponential growth applied to modern computation and science. The asymptote of the exponential growth of computational power is artificial intelligence.

The notion of Singularity--that AI will supercede humans with its exponential growth, and that everything we have done until now and are currently doing is insignificant--is a religion created by people who have the experience of using computation to solve problems heretofore considered impossibly complex for machines. They have found a perfect partner in digital computation--a knowable, controllable, system of thinking and creating that is rapidly increasing in its ability to harness and process complexity, bestowing wealth and power on those who have mastered it. In Silicon Valley, the combination of groupthink and the financial success of this cult of technology has created a positive feedback system that has very little capacity for regulating through negative feedback. While they would resist having their beliefs compared to a religion and would argue that their ideas are science- and evidence-based, those who embrace Singularity engage in quite a bit of arm waving and make leaps of faith based more on trajectories than ground-truths to achieve their ultimate vision.

Singularitarians believe that the world is "knowable" and computationally simulatable, and that computers will be able to process the messiness of the real world just like they have every other problem that everyone said couldn't be solved by computers. To them, this wonderful tool, the computer, has worked so well for everything so far that it must continue to work for every challenge we throw at it, until we have transcended known limitations and ultimately achieve some sort of reality escape velocity. Artificial intelligence is already displacing humans in driving cars, diagnosing cancers, and researching court documents. The idea is that AI will continue this progress and eventually merge with human brains and become an all-seeing, all-powerful, super-intelligence. For true believers, computers will augment and extend our thoughts into a kind of "amortality." (Part of Singularity is a fight for "amortality," the idea that while one may still die and not be immortal, the death is not the result of the grim reaper of aging.)

But if corporations are a precursor to our transcendance, the Singularitarian view that with more computing and bio-hacking we will somehow solve all of the world's problems or that the Singularity will solve us seems hopelessly naive. As we dream of the day when we have enhanced brains and amortality and can think big, long thoughts, corporations already have a kind of "amortality." They persist as long as they are solvent and they are more than a sum of their parts--arguably an amortal super-intelligence.

More computation does not makes us more "intelligent," only more computationally powerful.

For Singularity to have a positive outcome requires a belief that, given enough power, the system will somehow figure out how to regulate itself. The final outcome would be so complex that while we humans couldn't understand it now, "it" would understand and "solve" itself. Some believe in something that looks a bit like the former Soviet Union's master planning but with full information and unlimited power. Others have a more sophisticated view of a distributed system, but at some level, all Singularitarians believe that with enough power and control, the world is "tamable." Not all who believe in Singularity worship it as a positive transcendence bringing immortality and abundance, but they do believe that a judgment day is coming when all curves go vertical.

Whether you are on an S-curve or a bell curve, the beginning of the slope looks a lot like an exponential curve. An exponential curve to systems dynamics people shows self-reinforcement, i.e., a positive feedback curve without limits. Maybe this is what excites Singularitarians and scares systems people. Most people outside the singularity bubble believe in S-curves, namely that nature adapts and self-regulates and that even pandemics will run their course. Pandemics may cause an extinction event, but growth will slow and things will adapt. They may not be in the same state, and a phase change could occur, but the notion of Singularity--especially as some sort of savior or judgment day that will allow us to transcend the messy, mortal suffering of our human existence--is fundamentally a flawed one.

This sort of reductionist thinking isn't new. When BF Skinner discovered the principle of reinforcement and was able to describe it, we designed education around his theories. Learning scientists know now that behaviorist approaches only work for a narrow range of learning, but many schools continue to rely on drill and practice. Take, as another example, the eugenics movement, which greatly and incorrectly over-simplified the role of genetics in society. This movement helped fuel the Nazi genocide by providing a reductionist scientific view that we could "fix humanity" by manually pushing natural selection. The echoes of the horrors of eugenics exist today, making almost any research trying to link genetics with things like intelligence taboo.

We should learn from our history of applying over-reductionist science to society and try to, as Wiener says, "cease to kiss the whip that lashes us." While it is one of the key drivers of science--to elegantly explain the complex and reduce confusion to understanding--we must also remember what Albert Einstein said, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler."1 We need to embrace the unknowability--the irreducibility--of the real world that artists, biologists and those who work in the messy world of liberal arts and humanities are familiar with.


The Cold War era, when Wiener was writing The Human Use of Human Beings, was a time defined by the rapid expansion of capitalism and consumerism, the beginning of the space race, and the coming of age of computation. It was a time when it was easier to believe that systems could be controlled from the outside, and that many of the world's problems would be solved through science and engineering.

The cybernetics that Wiener primarily described during that period were concerned with feedback systems that can be controlled or regulated from an objective perspective. This so-called first-order cybernetics assumed that the scientist as the observer can understand what is going on, therefore enabling the engineer to design systems based on observation or insight from the scientist.

Today, it is much more obvious that most of our problems--climate change, poverty, obesity and chronic disease, or modern terrorism--cannot be solved simply with more resources and greater control. That is because they are the result of complex adaptive systems that are often the result of the tools used to solve problems in the past, such as endlessly increasing productivity and attempts to control things. This is where second-order cybernetics comes into play--the cybernetics of self-adaptive complex systems, where the observer is also part of the system itself. As Kevin Slavin says in Design as Participation, "You're Not Stuck In Traffic--You Are Traffic."3

In order to effectively respond to the significant scientific challenges of our times, I believe we must view the world as many interconnected, complex, self-adaptive systems across scales and dimensions that are unknowable and largely inseparable from the observer and the designer. In other words, we are participants in multiple evolutionary systems with different fitness landscapes4 at different scales, from our microbes to our individual identities to society and our species. Individuals themselves are systems composed of systems of systems, such as the cells in our bodies that behave more like system-level designers than we do.

While Wiener does discuss biological evolution and the evolution of language, he doesn't explore the idea of harnessing evolutionary dynamics for science. Biological evolution of individual species (genetic evolution) has been driven by reproduction and survival, instilling in us goals and yearnings to procreate and grow. That system continually evolves to regulate growth, increase diversity and complexity, and enhance its own resilience, adaptability, and sustainability.5 As designers with growing awareness of these broader systems, we have goals and methodologies defined by the evolutionary and environmental inputs from our biological and societal contexts. But machines with emergent intelligence have discernibly different goals and methodologies. As we introduce machines into the system, they will not only augment individual humans, but they will also--and more importantly--augment complex systems as a whole.

Here is where the problematic formulation of "artificial intelligence" becomes evident, as it suggests forms, goals and methods that stand outside of interaction with other complex adaptive systems. Instead of thinking about machine intelligence in terms of humans vs. machines, we should consider the system that integrates humans and machines--not artificial intelligence, but extended intelligence. Instead of trying to control or design or even understand systems, it is more important to design systems that participate as responsible, aware and robust elements of even more complex systems. And we must question and adapt our own purpose and sensibilities as designers and components of the system for a much more humble approach: Humility over Control.

We could call it "participant design"--design of systems as and by participants--that is more akin to the increase of a flourishing function, where flourishing is a measure of vigor and health rather than scale or power. We can measure the ability for systems to adapt creatively, as well as their resilience and their ability to use resources in an interesting way.

Better interventions are less about solving or optimizing and more about developing a sensibility appropriate to the environment and the time. In this way they are more like music than an algorithm. Music is about a sensibility or "taste" with many elements coming together into a kind of emergent order. Instrumentation can nudge or cause the system to adapt or move in an unpredictable and unprogrammed manner, while still making sense and holding together. Using music itself as an intervention is not a new idea; in 1707, Andrew Fletcher, a Scottish writer and politician, said, "Let me make the songs of a nation, I care not who makes its laws."

If writing songs instead of laws feels frivolous, remember that songs typically last longer than laws, have played key roles in various hard and soft revolutions and end up being transmitted person-to-person along with the values they carry. It's not about music or code. It's about trying to affect change by operating at the level songs do. This is articulated by Donella Meadows, among others, in her book Thinking in Systems.

Meadows, in her essay Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System, describes how we can intervene in a complex, self-adaptive system. For her, interventions that involve changing parameters or even changing the rules are not nearly as powerful or as fundamental as changes in a system's goals and paradigms.

When Wiener discussed our worship of progress, he said:

Those who uphold the idea of progress as an ethical principle regard this unlimited and quasi-spontaneous process of change as a Good Thing, and as the basis on which they guarantee to future generations a Heaven on Earth. It is possible to believe in progress as a fact without believing in progress as an ethical principle; but in the catechism of many Americans, the one goes with the other.6

Instead of discussing "sustainability" as something to be "solved" in the context of a world where bigger is still better and more than enough is NOT too much, perhaps we should examine the values and the currencies of the fitness functions7 and consider whether they are suitable and appropriate for the systems in which we participate.


Developing a sensibility and a culture of flourishing, and embracing a diverse array of measures of "success" depend less on the accumulation of power and resources and more on diversity and the richness of experience. This is the paradigm shift that we need. This will provide us with a wealth of technological and cultural patterns to draw from to create a highly adaptable society. This diversity also allows the elements of the system to feed each other without the exploitation and extraction ethos created by a monoculture with a single currency. It is likely that this new culture will spread as music, fashion, spirituality or other forms of art.

As a native Japanese, I am heartened by a group of junior high school students I spoke to there recently who, when I challenged them about what they thought we should do about the environment, asked questions about the meaning of happiness and the role of humans in nature. I am likewise heartened to see many of my students at the MIT Media Lab and in the Principles of Awareness class that I co-teach with the Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi using a variety of metrics (currencies) to measure their success and meaning and grappling directly with the complexity of finding one's place in our complex world.

This is brilliant, sophisticated, timely. Question, what do you want to do with this manifesto? Socio-economic political cultural movement? To begin with, who do you want to read this? In what spaces?I know people who are working on this on the political side. I am interested in the arts and sciences ie buildable memory cultural side.

Don't know if people would agree with my conclusions here, but I've been working on developing my music in relation to housing issues around the Bay Area recently.I believe that it's important for us to develop a sensibility for diversity not just as an abstract exercise, but in ways that reflect our day to day lives. We're in need of new visions of how we plan to co-exist with one another, and I do think that artists have the ability to pave the way here in very real ways.

I'm also heartened by organizations such as the IEEE, which is initiating design guidelines for the development of artificial intelligence around human wellbeing instead of around economic impact. The work by Peter Seligman, Christopher Filardi, and Margarita Mora from Conservation International is creative and exciting because it approaches conservation by supporting the flourishing of indigenous people--not undermining it. Another heartening example is that of the Shinto priests at Ise Shrine, who have been planting and rebuilding the shrine every twenty years for the last 1300 years in celebration of the renewal and the cyclical quality of nature.

In the 1960s and 70s, the hippie movement tried to pull together a "whole earth" movement, but then the world swung back toward the consumer and consumption culture of today. I hope and believe that a new awakening will happen and that a new sensibility will cause a nonlinear change in our behavior through a cultural transformation. While we can and should continue to work at every layer of the system to create a more resilient world, I believe the cultural layer is the layer with the most potential for a fundamental correction away from the self-destructive path that we are currently on. I think that it will yet again be about the music and the arts of the young people reflecting and amplifying a new sensibility: a turn away from greed to a world where "more than enough is too much," and we can flourish in harmony with Nature rather than through the control of it.

1. An asymptote is a line that continually approaches a given curve but does not meet it at any finite distance. In singularity, this is the vertical line that occurs when the exponential growth curve a vertical line. There are more arguments about where this asymptote is among believers than about whether it is actually coming.

2. This is a common paraphrase. What Einstein actually said was, "It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience."

3. Western philosophy and science is "dualistic" as opposed to the more "Eastern" non-dualistic approach. A whole essay could be written about this but the idea of a subject/object or a designer/designee is partially linked to the notion of self in Western philosophy and religion.

4. Fitness landscapes arise when you assign a fitness value for every genotype. The genotypes are arranged in a high dimensional sequence space. The fitness landscape is a function on that sequence space. In evolutionary dynamics, a biological population moves over a fitness landscape driven by mutation, selection and random drift. (Nowak, M. A. Evolutionary Dynamics: Exploring the Equations of Life. Harvard University Press, 2006.)

5. Nowak, M. A. Evolutionary Dynamics: Exploring the Equations of Life. Harvard University Press, 2006.

6. Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings (1954 edition), p.42.

7. A fitness function is a function that is used to summarize, as a measure of merit, how close a solution is to a particular aim. It is used to describe and design evolutionary systems.


Review, research and editing team: Catherine Ahearn, Chia Evers, Natalie Saltiel, Andre Uhl

I recently invited Steven Johnson, author if Emergence and Tom Malone, the Director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence to join a conversation about Emergence over Authority, one of the principles in our new book Whiplash. This was part of a series of experiments that we are conducting in the Facebook group for the book. We used a software system call to stream the video to Facebook Live.

You can find the audio on iTunes and SoundCloud.

There seems to be some sort of general rule that technologies and systems like conversations on the Internet, the US democracy (and its capture by powerful financial interests), the Arab Spring movement and many other things that were wonderfully optimistic and positive at the beginning seem to begin to regress and fail as they scale or age. Most of these systems seem to evolve into systems that are resistant to redesign and overthrow as they adapt like some sophisticated virus or cancer. It's related to but harder to fix than the tragedy of the commons.

I want to write a longer post trying to understand this trend/effect, but I was curious about whether there was some work already in understanding this effect and whether there was already a name for this idea. If not, what we should call it, assuming people agree that it's a "thing"?

Black and White Gavel in Courtroom - Law Books
Photo by wp paarz via Flickr - CC BY-SA

Iyad Rahwan was the first person I heard use the term society-in-the-loop machine learning. He was describing his work which was just published in Science, on polling the public through an online test to find out how they felt about various decisions people would want a self-driving car to make - a modern version of what philosophers call "The Trolley Problem." The idea was that by understanding the priorities and values of the public, we could train machines to behave in ways that the society would consider ethical. We might also make a system to allow people to interact with the Artificial Intelligence (AI) and test the ethics by asking questions or watching it behave.

Society-in-the-loop is a scaled up version of human-in-the-loop machine learning - something that Karthik Dinakar at the Media Lab has been working on and is emerging as an important part of AI research.

Typically, machines are "trained" by AI engineers using huge amounts of data. The engineers tweak what data is used, how it's weighted, the type of learning algorithm used and a variety of parameters to try to create a model that is accurate and efficient and making the right decisions and providing accurate insights. One of the problems is that because AI, or more specifically, machine learning is still very difficult to do, the people who are training the machines are usually not domain experts. The training is done by machine learning experts and the completed model after the machine is trained is often tested by experts. A significant problem is that any biases or errors in the data will create models that reflect those biases and errors. An example of this would be data from regions that allow stop and frisk - obviously targeted communities will appear to have more crime.

Human-in-the-loop machine learning is work that is trying to create systems to either allow domain experts to do the training or at least be involved in the training by creating machines that learn through interactions with experts. At the heart of human-in-the-loop computation is the idea of building models not just from data, but also from the human perspective of the data. Karthik calls this process 'lensing', of extracting the human perspective or lens of a domain expert and fit it to algorithms that learn from both the data and the extracted lens, all during training time. We believe this has implications for making tools for probabilistic programming and for the democratization of machine learning.

At a recent meeting with philosophers, clergy and AI and technology experts, we discussed the possibility of machines taking over the job of judges. We have evidence that machines can make very accurate assessments of things that involve data and it's quite reasonable to assume that decisions that judges make such as bail amounts or parole could be done much more accurately by machines than by humans. In addition, there is research that shows expert humans are not very good set setting bail or granting parole appropriately. Whether you get a hearing by the parole board before or after their lunch has a significant effect on the outcome, for instance. (There has been some critiques of the study cited in this article, and the authors of the paper of responded to them.)

In the discussion, some of us proposed the idea of replacing judges for certain kinds of decisions, bail and parole as examples, with machines. The philosopher and several clergy explained that while it might feel right from a utilitarian perspective, that for society, it was important that the judges were human - it was even more important than getting the "correct" answer. Putting aside the argument about whether we should be solving for utility or not, having the buy-in of the public would be important for the acceptance of any machine learning system and it would be essential to address this perspective.

There are two ways that we could address this concern. One way would be to put a "human in the loop" and use machines to assist or extend the capacity of the human judges. It is possible that this would work. On the other hand, experiences in several other fields such as medicine or flying airplanes have shown evidence that humans may overrule machines with the wrong decision enough that it would make sense to prevent humans from overruling machines in some cases. It's also possible that a human would become complacent or conditioned to trust the results and just let the machine run the system.

The second way would be for the machine to be trained by the public - society in the loop - in a way that the people felt that that the machine reliability represented fairly their, mostly likely, diverse set of values. This isn't unprecedented - in many ways, the ideal government would be one where the people felt sufficiently informed and engaged that they would allow the government to exercise power and believe that it represented them and that they were also ultimately responsible for the actions of the government. Maybe there is way to design a machine that could garner the support and the proxy of the public by being able to be trained by the public and being transparent enough that the public could trust it. Governments deal with competing and conflicting interests as will machines. There are obvious complex obstacles including the fact that unlike traditional software, where the code is like a series of rules, a machine learning model is more like a brain - it's impossible to look at the bits and understand exactly what it does or would do. There would need to be a way for the public to test and audit the values and behavior of the machines.

If we were able to figure out how to take the input from and then gain the buy-in of the public as the ultimate creator and controller of this machine, it might solve the other side of this judicial problem - the case of a machine made by humans that commits a crime. If, for instance, the public felt that they had sufficient input into and control over the behavior of a self-driving car, could the public also feel that the public, or the government representing the public, was responsible for the behavior and the potential damage caused by a self-driving car, and help us get around the product liability problem that any company developing self-driving cars will face?

How machines will take input from and be audited and controlled by the public, may be one of the most important areas that need to be developed in order to deploy artificial intelligence in decision making that might save lives and advance justice. This will most likely require making the tools of machine learning available to everyone, have a very open and inclusive dialog and redistribute the power that will come from advances in artificial intelligence, not just figure out ways to train it to appear ethical.

  • Iyad Rahwan - The phrase “society in the loop” and many ideas.
  • Karthik Dinakar - Teaching me about “human in the loop” machine learning and being my AI tutor and many ideas.
  • Andrew McAfee - Citation and thinking on parole boards.
  • Natalie Saltiel - Editing.

Photo by: Oli Scarff

(licensed from Getty Images under a limited use license/do not copy)

Last night, I was on a panel about DRM with Richard Stallman from the Free Software Foundation, Danny O'Brien from from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Harry Halpin from the World Wide Web Consortium following a Free Software Foundation protest march against DRM, which the Free Software Foundation defines as "Digital Restrictions Management" but more commonly refers to "Digital Rights Management."

In the Q&A, someone asked me what I thought about disobedience. I said that I thought it was important and tried to explain why. I'm not sure I did a terribly good job, so I'm posting something here that's a bit more complete.

One of my Nine Principles is Disobedience over Compliance. One day, when meeting with Mark DiVincenzo, the General Counsel of MIT, he raised an eyebrow when he saw this on one of the displays in my office. I had to explain.

You don't win a Nobel prize by doing what you're told. The American civil rights movement wouldn't have happened without civil disobedience. India would not have achieved independence without the pacifist but firm disobedience of Gandhi and his followers. The Boston Tea Party, which we celebrate here in New England, was also quite disobedient.

There is a difficult line--sometimes obvious only in retrospect--between disobedience that helps society and disobedience that doesn't. I'm not encouraging people to break the law or be disobedient just for the sake of being disobedient, but sometimes we have to go to first principles and consider whether the laws or rules are fair, and whether we should question them.

Society and institutions in general tend to lean toward order and away from chaos. In the process this stifles disobedience. It can also stifle creativity, flexibility, and productive change-and in the long run-society's health and sustainability. This is true across the board, from academia, to corporations, to governments, to our communities.

I like to think of the Media Lab as "disobedience robust." The robustness of the model of the Lab is in part due to the way disobedience and disagreement exist and are manifested here in a healthy, creative, and respectful way. I believe that being "disobedience robust" is an essential element of any healthy democracy and of any open society that continues to self correct and innovate.

Ulrike Reinhard posted a nice "best of" video of our DIY Video panel. The panel was a lot of fun. The moderator was Howard Rheingold and the panelists were John Seely Brown, Yochai Benkler, Henry Jenkins and me.

Teo and Larry

According to Wikipedia, "Lawrence Lessig (born June 3, 1961) is an American academic. He is currently professor of law at Stanford Law School and founder of its Center for Internet and Society. He is best known as a proponent of reduced legal restrictions on copyright, trademark and radio frequency spectrum, particularly in technology applications."

I think I met Larry when he was in Japan promoting the Japanese edition of Code and I was on a panel with him. I got to know Larry better when he was in Japan for an extended period in 2002-2003 I think. At the time, I was struggling as an activist in Japan, fighting against the broken democracy of Japan. This struggle and the advice that Larry gave me for how to think about this struggle lead me to write my Emergent Democracy paper and take my struggle to the rest of the world.

Larry is a genius at identifying how complex systems such as law, code and politics influence each other. He's able to figure out where the balance is and turn murky complex issues into sharp, understandable thoughts around which movements can rally and debates can be won. Most importantly, Larry throws himself into acting on these causes with a dedication that energizes everyone around him.

Larry has really helped me evolve from an armchair philosopher to increasingly more serious activist. When Larry asked me to join the board of Creative Commons, I was honored and shocked, concerned about whether I would be make a sufficient contribution. I was even more surprised when Larry asked me to be the chairman of Creative Commons and I'm still concerned about my ability to play the kind of role that Larry expects from me.

However, Larry hasn't left me with much slack or time to wallow in my lack of confidence and the combination of his confidence and firm leadership is pushing me to have to grown quickly into my new position.

Larry is the mentor of mine who sets the standard of high-quality, no-compromise dedication to our higher causes, showing that there is no issue too complex or large that we can't make a difference with enough commitment, persistence and focus.

Lessig has a thoughtful post urging people to urge the RNC and DNC not to use restrictive copyrights on political debates. With more and more political expression being done in video, it is time we consider the importance of free speech in video. Video is covered by stronger copyright restrictions when it comes to citation and remix than text. Having politicians and political parties push networks to air their words under the most permissive CC license, the CC-BY license would greatly enhance the public's ability to participate in the political video dialog.

UPDATE: Lessig has an update with the crazy rules that NBC uses today for reuse of debate footage.

The Emergent Democracy article on Wikipedia has been flagged for deletion. "The article may be deleted if this message remains in place for five days.Prod, concern: WP:NEO and WP:COI This template was added 2007-02-02; five days from then is 2007-02-07." The neutrality is disputed and also is being accused of conflict of interest and neologisms. If you have have an interest in helping keep this article, please contribute to the talk page or help improve the article. I think more citations would help.

John Brockman's EDGE asks a tough question every year. For 2007 the question was "What are you optimistic about?" My answer was:

Emergent Democracy and Global Voices

I am optimistic that open networks will continue to grow and become available to more and more people. I am optimistic that computers will continue to become cheaper and more available. I am optimistic that the hardware and software will become more open, transparent and free. I am optimistic that the ability to for people to create, share and remix their works will provide a voice to the vast majority of people.

I believe that the Internet, open source and a global culture of discourse and sharing will become the pillar of democracy for the 21st Century. Whereas those in power as well as terrorists who are not have used broadcast technology and the mass media of the 20th century against the free world, I am optimistic that Internet will enable the collective voice of the people and that voice will be a voice of reason and good will.

There are other answers from other people on the website.

Happy New Year.

I had lunch today with Jonathan Aronson, the Executive Director of The Annenberg Center for Communication of the University of Southern California (USC).

The Annenberg Center for Communication of the University of Southern California (USC) supports leading-edge interdisciplinary research on the meaning of the new networked information age. Projects focus on drivers that will shape the future and on the impact of new communication and information technologies on politics, society, and innovation.
I've spoken at the center twice in the last year or so and have really enjoyed the interactions. My sister Mimi is a Research Scientist at the Annenberg Center. Among other things, she is interested in Anime, Otaku and... gaming.

So... when Jonathan asked me to become a fellow and I happily agreed. As a fellow, I am just required to drop in when I'm in town and talk to them about stuff I'm excited about and to participate in their conversations on things they are excited about. Sounds like a win-win to me. In addition to the nepotistic happiness of working with my sister I am officially able to make the World of Warcraft an academic research field for myself. ;-)

Of course, gaming is not the only thing they are working on here. Emergent Democracy, Creative Commons, consumer generated media/blogging and some of the experiments in video seem like things I may be able to work on with people at the Annenberg Center.

Thanks for the invite Jonathan and look forward to working with you all.

This ended up becoming a longer and more rambling post than I expected, but I'm going to post it anyway since I don't write enough these days...

The other day, I was doing an interview for a management and strategy magazine and one of the questions that came up in the conversation was why the management structures in Internet companies often end up being very old-fashioned. There is clearly some innovation, but not as much as you might expect considering how much the Internet enables us to be innovative in our communications and collaboration. We talked a bit about leadership and I was reminded of some conversations I had about the Howard Dean campaign.

My theory is that Howard Dean was a "place". He was a cool place to hang out at and the cool kids hung out there. Some of the elements of a cool place is that there isn’t so much of an "authority" but there is a sense of safety. The community was vibrant and Howard Dean seemed to be listening more than he was asserting. Years ago I created an IRC channel called #joiito, at the time for a place for people I was communicating with to hang out. It continues to survive with about 100 people always logged into the channel. I don’t hang out there as much these days, but it survives as a cool place, all of the regulars taking their share of leadership responsibility. One interesting thing about the channel is that I have never had to exercise any "authority" and people don’t really look to me as anything more than a custodian or a quiet host. I was just the trigger for the creation of a place.

Recently I have started playing World of Warcraft (WoW). Our guild, created in September last year, has grown to about 160 people and we have just begun running "Molten Core. Molten Core is one of the higher-level areas that require around 30-40 level 60 (the maximum level) players. It requires a lot of coordination, a balanced distribution of classes, training and leadership.

People pay a $15/month fee to play WoW. In the real world, most people get paid to work. The members of our guild and our raids are people who are paying to participate in what is often very tedious and hard work. Although there are clear goals and rewards for putting time into the game, most of the people in our guild play because they enjoy being together.

I’m sure there are other guilds that are managed differently - our guild is very inclusive and I changed the role name of "Guild Master" to "Guild Custodian". The next rank in our guild is "Guild Admin". Like my IRC channel, so far I have not had to exercise power or authority and Guild Admins are focused more on mediating conflicts and providing stability more than dishing out orders or punishment. We have had our share of problems, but considering the diversity of backgrounds and the geographic and political diversity, it’s amazingly cozy and friendly. Hanging out and chatting in guild chat has slightly more purpose than an IRC channel, but is similar in many ways.

In a raid, the dynamics are quite different. There are dozens of people who have all decided to assemble after preparing various items to use during the raid, training, gearing up and otherwise preparing for the raid. Excitement and tensions run high and a little screw-up from one person can get every killed (a wipe), causing huge repair bills and delays that causes more tension. One of the most important things about a raid is the mood of the raid. When everyone is upbeat and having a good time, mistakes and wipes are shrugged off and people continue to push forward. A well-run raid is an amazing thing to participate in. Each of the classes has a class leader and a class chat channel. There are leader channels, healer channels and voices over teamspeak. Everyone uses all of these modes of communication to coordinate the activities and we are able to execute extremely complicated strategies with very minimal control. However, if one person begins to complain or become abusive, the bad mood quickly spreads and what used to be fun and easy becomes impossible and tedious. People start dropping out of the raid and it unravels. The primary role of the raid leader to mitigate this kind of corrosive behavior while making sure each of the groups are communicating with each other.

I am not the raid leader of our guild and I am in awe of Persimmon who is our raid leader. She works in a hospital in real life. She is the stabilizing force during the raids, supporting the class leaders, nudging the conversation and keeping the raid moving as fast as possible without moving too fast. I find that she reminds me of many successful open source project leaders or Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, except that what she has to do happens much faster and in real-time. Without her fully customized user-interface and scripts she would never be able to manage what she does.

The other leaders in our guild including class leaders and admins include unemployed bartenders, construction workers, students, a priest, a folk music singer, web designers, moms and government employees. Although WoW has been called "the new golf";, it isn't about elitist country clubs and privilege but about an amazing melting pot of personalities and backgrounds tied together with a strong sense of sharing and belonging.

Although the larger raids are scheduled in advance with people preparing and showing up at the scheduled time, many smaller raids are organized at the spur of the moment where a leader is designated on an ad hoc basis. To be successful, a raid requires particular class compositions sometimes requiring our guild members to reach out to people they don’t know to join the raid. We are getting better at raiding and many of these “pickup” members end up joining our guild eventually.

The structure and the organization required to complete missions or quests in WoW adds a great deal of focus and complexity to the community compared to a chat room and the communications and management begins to feel much more like collaboration in a work environment. I think that the ever-evolving user interface and communication tools that we are developing might impact the future of management in the real world. My feeling is that what we are doing in WoW represents in many ways the future of real time collaborative teams and leadership in an increasingly ad hoc, always-on, diversity intense and real-time environment.

UPDATE: I chatted about this at SXSW in Austin yesterday and Daniel wrote about it in CNET.

I just finished my keynote for the 22C3 conference. I'd been mulling over what to talk about from about 2AM or so this morning. After reading the program and the amazing breadth of the 150 or so talks and imagining the 3000 leet hackers that I would be talking to, I decided to put together a brand new talk hitting a lot of the points that often skip because they are controversial or difficult for me to discuss. I was a bit nervous kicking off what I think is one of the most important conference I go to. I am happy to report that it was the best crowd ever. ;-)

Although there is a bit of preaching to the choir, (I got cheers for just saying "open network"), judging from the hallway conversations I had afterwards, it was a smart and motivated crowd and I'm honored and happy that I was able have people's attention to allow me to talk about some of what I believe are the most important things going on right now.

The Syncroedit guys set up an instance for my talk where you can see my notes and things others have said. (Use Firefox please.) Please feel free to add stuff. It's still a test install and fragile so please don't try to break it. It's not a challenge. ;-)

Anyway. Thanks much to everyone at 22C3 for the invite and look forward to spending the rest of the week hanging out with everyone.

A video of the presentation should soon be up at


Here's a home video clip a friend sent that claims to show Paris police shooting in the suburbs. Fairly strong stuff.

Disclaimer: I do not know anything further about the site or the clip.

We just launched the Technorati Live 8 site.

Technorati has teamed up with Live 8 to bring you the latest conversations about the campaign to Make Poverty History. Read first hand accounts of the concerts and events, and get all the news and opinion from the blogosphere.

We've also put together some resources to help you find your way around Live 8 and the blog world:

What is Live 8? Which organisations are behind Live 8?

Are you new to blogging? Find out what it's all about.

Get a Live 8 badge for your blog.

Join in the conversation and find out how to make your posts show up on Technorati.

Do more than just blog - contact the G8 leaders.

The posts listed on the Technorati Live 8 site have been written by bloggers worldwide and appear in real time from Technorati's index of 1.1 million blogs. Find out more about Technorati.

Joe Trippi called us about two weeks ago with this idea. Thanks to a guest appearance of Suw Charman as the producer of the site and extra hard work by the Technorati team, we were able to get this site out in time.

This is such a good opportunity for nations like the United States and Japan to helped their damaged images and also show their solidarity to a cause that they shouldn't have to think twice about. I'm amazed at how poor the response of some of the developed nations has been to this call. Hopefully this concert and the voice of the blogs will help get their attention.

Technorati Tags:

The winners of the Prix Ars Electronica 2005 awards have just been announced. I was on the Digital Communities jury this year. We gave the highest prize, the Golden Nica to Akshaya, an Indian ICT development project.

The two awards of distinction went to the alternative media movements NewGlobalVision/Telestreet in Italy and the Free Software Foundation. We also gave a special prize to BitTorrent as an enabling technology.

The honorary mentions were: Upmystreet (UK), E-Democracy.Org (US), Wikimedia Commons (US), The Sout-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog (IN), Kubatana (ZW), Sistema de Información Agraria vía Internet para Agricultores del Valle de Huaral, Perú (PE), Borneo Project: Mapping Their Future: Digital Communities, Indigenous Lands (US / MY), Catalytic Communities (CatComm) (BR), microRevolt (US), TXTmob (US) and CouchSurfing Project (US)

There will be a proper jury statement coming out soon, but it was a very difficult task. We had to compare the value of telecenters in developing nations with things like BitTorrent. The definition of "digital community" was very broad. I would suggest that next year, we might want to split the category into access/digital divide oriented projects and project focused on new technologies and styles of communities.

Anyway, congratulations to all of the winners. We went through hundreds of projects and these projects are the cream of the crop.

Extreme Democracy, a collection of papers including "mostly" my Emergent Democracy paper has now been published thanks to the hard work of Jon Lebkowsky and Mitch Ratcliffe.
While I'm still importing my mailbox on my main machine, I thought I would metablog by linking to an interview I did for NeoFiles. The interviewer is R. U. Sirius who I met back in the Mondo 2000 "Birth of Cyberpunk" days. I once wrote an article for Mondo 2000 and R. U. Sirius was my editor. He got me to write the weirdest thing I've ever written in my life. This time, he kept telling me I wasn't being interesting enough and triggered a "how would you have explained it to Timothy Leary?" kind of rant. ;-) It reminded me of why Mondo 2000 was so funky and great.

PS I think he's right, "New Edge" was not coined by Professor Takemura, but popularized in Japan by him.

Susan Crawford quotes an essay by John W. Patterson called "Thermodynamics and Evolution", part of a volume of scientific responses to creationism. She ties it neatly to Internet governance at the end.

Susan Crawford
Here is Patterson's conclusion:

"In reality, ... the 'uphill' processes associated with life not only are compatible with entropy and the second law, but actually depend on them for the energy fluxes off of which they feed. Numerous other kinds of backward processes in simpler, nonliving systems also proceed in this way, and do so in complete accord with the second law."

This all ties to internet governance. A sufficiently open net will tend towards order, not chaos -- and will do so on its own, with no external pilot.

Just reading the conclusion, you might think she's making a techno-utopian quantum leap, but the idea of open systems allowing evolution and order and seeming to defy entropy is any interesting one. Order can emerge in a system with increasing chaos around it if the system is open. I don't think being merely open guarantees that it will tend towards order. On the other hand, closed systems will tend to become disordered and the best way to maintain order in such a system is to move very slowly...

I participated in the Global Voices session at the Berkman Center and promised earlier to post my thoughts. The bad news is that we didn't get far enough to come up with a conclusive plan, but the good news is that I think we have enough momentum to move forward. The discuss was quite sober and practical and was not nearly as techno-utopian as we are often criticized of being and often tend to get.

I think the key difference between this meeting and others that I have attended was the large number of mediums (Wikipedia, OhmyNews, traditional journalism, human rights organizations, bloggers, TV and radio) as well as the strong regional diversity (Iraq, Iran, Malaysia, Kenya, Korea, China, Japan, Pakistan, US and many others). Most of the people in the room were already members of a variety of organizations and projects so we tried to find a common ground. I think that we came to a consensus that freedom of speech and providing voice was extremely important and this could and should take various forms. We agreed to commit to working together to help each other in our efforts. I'll post more when we are a bit more organized, but you can see the discussion we are having on the blog, see a partial list of the participants on Hoder's wiki (it will be moved to a permanent place soon), see a log of the real-time transcripts provided by SJ and join us on #globalvoices on Freenode to chat. There are more resources on the blog. Sorry it's a bit disorganized right now. We will try to organize it more soon. One of the things we hope to do is be much more inclusive of ways to participate and not focus on any one mode. This will complicate things a bit, but I think it's worth it.

I'm off to Boston today to participate in the About Internet & Society 2004: Votes, Bits & Bytes conference at the Berkman Center. Lots of interesting folks seem to be coming. The theme of the meeting is:

How are technologies changing politics, both in the U.S. and abroad? The purpose of this conference is to take a skeptical, results-oriented look at the current state of politics after the 2004 election and from an international perspective in terms of issue-based campaigns, emerging business models, and new tools that affect politics both online and off. The conference will focus on the following questions:

- Has "citizenship" changed in the online era?
- Are online business models helpful guides for politics and political organizing?
- What international examples are promising?
- Did the web affect the 2004 election?

My session will be at 4PM on Saturday. I'm participating in the Global Voices Online section which has a blog where we've been discussing the issues already. The conference starts today and goes until Saturday. If you're in Boston and are interested in this topic, I suggest you think about dropping by. Look forward to seeing everyone there!

UPDATE: The conference is supposed to be webcast. It doesn't seem to be working for me right now, but it might just be me.

UPDATE 2: Just set up #harvardbits on Freenode if anyone wants to backchannel.

I'm going to quote David's whole post because it has a bunch of good links.

David Weinberger
Metadata without tears

Peter Merholz, AKA peterme, has an excellent article at Adaptive Path called Metadata for the Masses:

But what if we could somehow peek inside our users’ thought processes to figure out how they view the world? One way to do that is through ethnoclassification [1] — how people classify and categorize the world around them.

He takes and Flickr as examples of "ethnoclassification" (a phrase he tracks back to Susan Leigh Star),. (I am enamored of the branch of ethnoclassification on exhibit at if only because people have started calling it "folksonomy.") He looks at the benefits. Then he addresses the problems, and suggests the paths out of the forest we're making for ourselves.

Jay Fienberg points us also to Jon Udell's article on "collaborative knowledge gardening." I've also been looking at some related issues (e.g., here, here, here, here and here), but Peter has the advantage of knowing what he's talking about.

I totally agree that this "ethnoclassification" is really an amazing solution to the metadata problem. Although, as they point out, there are some problems, I think that we'll find solutions. I feeling very taggy these days. I think there should be more cross-site tag linking. Blog categories, wiki pages, music meta data, and many other things can be "tagged". TAGCON 2005! Sorry. Just kidding.

David Weinberger blogs about George Bush denouncing 527 groups. David links to Roji pointing out that this is a serious flip-flop from his original position.

David's point is that on the one hand, the 527 groups represent a way to buy influence. On the other hand, limiting the ability for a 527 group to be formed and express a point of view is limiting free speech.

I think the reason we have this conflict is the nature of media today. It shouldn't cost millions of dollars to get your message out; the system should be transparent enough so we know who is behind those messages; and most importantly, those messages should spark dialog and lies and stupidity should be smacked down as fast as urban legends on snopes. The problem with allowing money to buy "free speech" is that the speech is asymmetrical and not deliberative. ...yet.

The folks at Ars Electronica have translated a shortened version of Jon Lebkowsky's edited version of my Emergent Democracy paper into German. It will appear in this year's book for Ars Electronica. Thanks for coordinating this Ingrid and thanks for the translation Susanne!

Extreme Democracy is a book being edited by Jon Lebkowsky and Mitch Ratcliffe. They've just put the book online in a blog format. The book will included a version of my Emergent Democracy paper edited by Jon. I really need to write another version of this paper that incorporates all of the new stuff and feedback that I've received...

Adina has put up a wiki page with additional thoughts on the book.

Spirit of America is a somewhat grassroots, and quickly growing project to promote humanitarian aid in Iraq. It's interesting to note that both people for and against the war have signed on with their support. Dan Gillmor says, "Marc Danziger, a.k.a. the 'Armed Liberal' Web logger, supported the war in Iraq. Britt Blaser, a Howard Dean campaign adviser, did not." Both Marc and Britt are supporting this effort.

Dan also writes, "'It seemed if you could essentially aggregate requests and syndicate those to potential donors, mainly using the Net and electronic outreach, you could respond with speed and on a scale to really make a difference,' Hake said," in an interview with the founder. Jeff Jarvis says, "I have been wanting to bring more citizens' media to Iraq -- blogging tools translated into Arabic and free blog hosting, for example. I now hope we can accomplish this via SoA," which I think is interesting.

I think this is an excellent example of the use of technology and grass roots organization to see if we can do right, something that top-down methods seem to be failing at. It's also an interesting attempt at citizen-to-citizen communications. Lets hope it works better than leader-to-leader communications.

Passion of the present is covering the genocide in Sudan.

See Jim's blog for more information on how you can help googlebomb to stop genocide.
Rumsfeld bans phone cameras

London - Cellphones fitted with digital cameras have been banned in US army installations in Iraq on orders from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, The Business newspaper reported on Sunday.

Quoting a Pentagon source, the paper said the US defence department believes that some of the damning photos of US soldiers abusing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad were taken with camera phones.

"Digital cameras, camcorders and cellphones with cameras have been prohibited in military compounds in Iraq," it said, adding that a "total ban throughout the US military" is in the works.

via Smartmobs

The increasing reliance of this administration on secrecy is really disturbing. When your government starts to strip the people of their privacy and civil rights and consistently marches forward with a variety of efforts to hides its own movements, you know you're in real trouble.

I've worked on whistleblower protection bills and thought a lot about the importance of the ability for people to come forward outside of the chain of command. It is an essential protection measure against coverups and corruption. I can understand arguments about why allowing random photos could be bad, but I'm sure the importance of having "eyes on the ground" outside of the "main channel" out-weigh the risks.

UPDATE: There are many media sites and blogs running this story, but they all seem to quote the same source. We still have no corroborating original sources. Please see comments on this entry for more.


This morning, I asked a Defense Department spokesperson whether or not the reports of a phonecam ban were true. This spokesperson said that these reports were technically inaccurate -- that the Pentagon is not issuing a new ban on camera phones per se, but that a Directive 8100.2 was issued on April 14 establishing new restrictions on wireless telecommunications equipment in general. The text of this directive is available online here in PDF format: Link. The intent of this April 14 directive, and how commanders in the field will be expected to enforce it, are matters I'll be reporting on in more detail for the NPR program "Day to Day," later this week.

I will be speaking at a Conference in Naples on June 4. The conference is called: Culture Digitali: I WEBLOG E LA NUOVA SFERA PUBBLICA, or Weblogs and New Public Opinion. The Conference has a blog and here is the entry with the program.

The conference registration is not yet open, but I will blog about it when it opens.

Some of us are thinking about getting together for lunch on June 5. If you want to hang out with us, please fill out this form. Look forward to meeting everyone.

Just finished reading the Galley Proof of We, the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People by Dan Gillmor. O'Reilly is the publisher and it should be coming out mid-July. The book will be published under a Creative Commons license and you will be able to download it free for non-commercial use.

Dan is one of the few professional journalists that really understands the impact of blogs and other new technologies on journalism. It's amazing how many professional journalists I know pooh pooh blogs and keep on chugging like nothing is changing. We, the Media is a excellent book that should be enlightening and humbling for professional journalists. It is also a great guide for us little "j" journalists about what the possibilities are as well as what the difficulties will be. Anyway, it's an amazingly important book for anyone interested in journalism and democracy. It goes well with Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture and Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs.

I'm here in Switzerland at the University of St. Gallen ISC-Symposium again. I spoke at a leadership session last year about Emergent Democracy, but felt I didn't get the most out of the conference because I didn't get a chance to get to know the students who were attending, which is why I came. The 200 or so students attending this conference are chosen from hundreds of paper submissions from all over the world and they are an diverse and interesting group. In the addition to the students, there are a lot of government and business big-shots, but I get a chance to hang out with most of these guys at other conferences. I later found out that my friend Martin has been giving the pre-conference talk to just the students to prepare them for the conference and he said that this was a blast because he got to know the students.

This year, I asked the organizing committee and was able to get them to let me participate in the pre-conference too. Martin and I got a chance to do our respective rants about politics, racism, war and a variety of other topics. We asked the students to talk about what they thought was wrong with the world and their respective regions. It was quite enlightening and we had a great mixing dinner afterwards. There were people from just about every region, but the small number participants from the Middle East and North America was interesting. I could tell that the students were actively networking and I think this process can form the basis of a really important channel of communications for the future.

I talked a bit about the possibility of using social software to support this sort of global networking so I hope everyone takes a look at blogging, wikis and other tools.

Mercury News
E-voting panel wants to dump troubled system

SACRAMENTO - Less than seven months before the presidential election, an advisory panel Thursday unanimously recommended an unprecedented ban of touch-screen election equipment used in four California counties.

The panel also urged Secretary of State Kevin Shelley to seek a criminal or civil investigation into the conduct of Diebold Election Systems, the Ohio-based firm that manufactured the troubled voting system.

Yes! We really need to get rid of e-voting. It's such a bad idea and until now, I thought we were losing the battle. We need to make sure this doesn't end with just Diebold.

via Dan Gillmor

Loic blogs about and starts a wiki page on Emergent Democracy in Europe.

I'm the the following panel today at SXSW.

Weblogs and Emergent Democracy
Sunday, March 14
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Traditionally, popular will in democracies is interpreted and applied to decision-making processes indirectly through representatives--legislators, lobbyists, activists, media, etc. Will expanded growth of weblogs and social networks, as well as tools for analysis of content and connections, bring us closer to the ideal of direct democracy?

Adina Levin - Socialtext/EFFAustin
Joichi Ito , CEO - Neoteny
Jon Lebkowsky , CEO - Polycot Consulting LLC
Mitch Ratcliffe - Internet/Media Strategies Inc.
Zack Rosen

If we say anything interesting, I'll post notes here later.

That' me holding Ben

Ethan and Ben

At the Emerging Tech conference, more than one person noted the striking resemblance between Ethan Zuckerman and Benjamin Franklin. Coincidence? You decide.

A lot of the people working on emergent democracy look founding fatherish. I wonder if you start looking like a founding father after you start pondering or whether looking in the mirror each day causes you to go down the "pondering about democracy" path. Where does that put me?

At risk of being labeled an echochamberist, I'm going to agree that danah has a good point in her post about echo chambers. (See David Weinberger's article for more background.) I think it is natural to communicate most with people whom you share context and I believe that if you separate strong ties and weak ties a la Granovetter's Strength of Weak Ties, there is definitely a lot of "strong tie" hang-out-with-your-friends action that goes on on blogs. I think that's natural. Most blogs are conversations between a small group of friends.

It's clear that it's fun and easy to hang out with people you like and trust and shared context allows you to relax and communicate easily. I do not think, however, that hanging out with your friends is exclusive of caring about or listening to people outside your immediate group of friends. This is especially true if you care about diversity or the pursuit of truth. The difficulty with blogs is that a variety of contexts are collapsed and the conversation with your friends, the conversation with a larger community and the general pursuit of diversity and "triangulation" all happens in the same place.

Normally, chatting in the kitchen with my family, hanging out at a geek conference and giving a plenary at an international conference are different contexts for me where I am performing a different facet of my identity and where my mind is in a completely different mode. On my blog, I somehow mix all of these together.

I think that in the real world the amount time communicating with your strongs ties is generally greater than the amount of time communicating with your weak ties. Weak ties are like transferring information across communities and boundaries whereas communicating inside of your group is more like digesting these thoughts. I suppose the question is whether talking about things among your friends tends to reinforce and amplify misconceptions or leads to greater understanding of the issues.

On the one hand, sharing context allows you to communicate efficiently and place new ideas into existing frameworks without the risk of constantly talking past each other. On the other hand, it limits your ability to "think outside the box" and a poorly organized group probably causes mutual back-patting. I think that's what the echo chamber is currently being blamed for causing. Shouldn't we recognize the fact that people will hang out with their friends and create communities and try to focus on how use these communities together with our weak ties?

I think that the project that Ethan and I are planning is an example of this. The idea is to take a group of bloggers to Africa. The strong ties allows us to have a group of people with whom we share a context so that we can support each other and work together to think about and create action based on things we see and learn in Africa. Going to Africa is an attempt to forge weak ties with a community outside. I think that without the smaller group of friends, trying to tie my Africa experience into my daily life would be more difficult and I think that going to Africa will enrich my local community with lots of new information and culture. I think the perfect balance is what we are trying to achieve.

As a child I travelled a lot, but mostly between US and Japan. I dealt with a lot of bicultural issues, but the rest of the world seemed far away. In the 90's I started going to Europe and Asia more, but it was always to "civilized" places.

Several years ago, I became actively involved in trying to reform Japan and I was allowed to be quite vocal about this. Last year, I gave a rant at Davos about how broken Japanese democracy was. Afterwards, Ms. Ogata, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees told me that I should stop ranting as a Japanese and think more about global democracy and global issues. These words stuck with me and last year I tried to think about blogs and emergent democracy outside of the Japanese context. With the US elections front and center, the obvious place to try to apply these thoughts was the US. Having spent a year or so thinking about US politics, I realize how important the US election is, but I'm drawn more and more to countries that need more help.

I think many of us avoid thinking about or worrying about the rest of the world. We hear people talking about poverty, but it sounds like something in some far away country on a National Geographic special. Most people just don't care. To be honest, I cared, but in retrospect, I didn't REALLY care. I guess better late than never. As I prepare for my trip to Africa with Ethan and try to figure out exactly how I can contribute and what I should be studying, I'm drawn back to organizations such as the UNHCR. On the flight back to Japan, I saw Beyond Borders, a movie about relief work and the UNHCR, starring Angelina Jolie. The movie captured some of the experiences of being an activist on a global level and I watched it thinking about what drove some people to such high levels of commitment. Googling around, I found Angelina Jolie's journal from her mission to Russia last year. (We need to get her a blog...) What is really striking to me and something that I'm trying understand is the process that people go through to reach a higher level of caring for human beings outside of their immediate circle. I think that this process holds the key for some of the important contributions that technologies can make.

Bloggers will be reporters tomorrow in Iran

I'm trying to encourage Iranian blogger to go out tomorrow, the election day, and report what they see and hear in their city and blog it. I also plan to gather all posts related to it in one place either in my own Persian blog or in Sobhaneh, the collective news blog.

I also consider a place in iranFilter for those Iranian who know English to provide translations the reports that are gathered in Persian.

This can be the 9/11 for Persian blogosphere. It's the first event that potentially engages every body in every city in Iran and blogs can play a huge role in reporting the news, rumors, and all those things that traditional journalists usually miss.

Iranian bloggers do not vote tomorrow, but the blog.

Update: special page on iranFilter is now set up and it's ready for Persian bloggers' covereage on the election day. Please help us by translating whatever you find interesting in Persian sources into English.

A very important day for Iran and a chance for blogs to make a difference.


Shelly asks the question "What part of you, the writer, is part of a community? Where, within yourself, does community leave off and you begin?" and says, "But I guess we're accountable to each other, and that's the most dangerous censorship of all -- it's the censorship of the commons." This is an interesting question that Shelley has pointed out to me and I have been thinking about. In the comments on Shelley's blog, Doc ties it to the notion of the "echo chamber," the effect where we're all just talking to each other oblivious to the outside world. Many people blame the failures of the Dean campaign to this "echo chamber" and point to this "echo chamber" as a problem that is prevalent on blogs. I do see the risks, but I don't think criticizing the existence of communities or friendships is the solution. I think that communities and friendship are the foundations of trust and love and I do not agree that an aggregate of facts and single voices are the solution to finding the "ultimate truth" in writing.

I believe that communities and the feeling of community are an essential part of the equation, but that the goal is to bridge many communities and try to expand one's notion of community the largest possible size.

For instance, I believe that you can feel your ultimate loyalty to your family, company, city, state, race, religion, nation, type of government or the world. I believe that by putting your loyalty at the highest level allows you to be a global citizen and helps you recognize the importance of whistle-blowers who are often betraying local loyalties for a higher good. I believe that the whole notion of civil rights is a struggle to elevate and increase the emotional size of the community we identify with.

One way to increase the size of the community one identifies with is to participate in multiple communities or to include members from others communities. This is an important part of the "caring problem" that Ethan and I often talk about. I often quote Jack Kemp who once said that, "it doesn't matter what you know if you don't care." One of the problems that mass media faces is that they can report on Iraq, Iran and Africa, but most people don't identify with the people there and they don't care. Salam Pax showed that a single blogger with a voice can increase the caring. Salam Pax is part of our community and we are proud of him and we care about him. Through his eyes, we see Iraq as part of our world and because of him, other Iraqi bloggers have joined our community.

I think the key is to understand that it's not just like a high school. In high school, there is group of friends and everyone spends all of their time concerned about being in that group or not in that group. My life is a jumble of relationships and memberships in a great variety of sometimes conflicting communities of all different sizes and doesn't feel like high school to me. As Ross has pointed out, these can be roughly grouped into three sizes. Big power-law shaped groupings, which are political, medium sized groupings which are social, and smaller groups which are strong-tie/family/close-friend groups. My sister used the word, "Full-Time Intimate Community".

The behavior at each of these levels is quite different and it is when we collapse the context that we get in trouble. Comments made between intimate friends are different from the comments that are suitable for a discussion at a cocktail party. Comments made at a cocktail party are often not suitable for a public speech. One of the problems we have on blogs is that all three of these contexts are often collapsed into one blog.

On the notion of "censorship of the commons," I guess I'd disagree with Shelley. I think censorship by a minority of people with influence over the majority is much more dangerous than "censorship of the commons." If the commons represents a general consensus of the views of the community you choose to participate in, they should have some influence over you. I think censorship is really bad when it is exercised from a position of authority, especially one that has the ability to assert such authority through force. I am personally pulled in many directions from all of the communities I participate in and these tensions are interesting and useful. I see them less as censorship and more as points of view that help me triangulate. My traditional Japanese community, my crypto/security community, my feminist friends, my liberal political community and my latte-drinking, orkut-loving, IRC-addicted community all have opinions about what I write. I think about what their opinions will be when I write and I find that this helps me look at any issue from a variety of perspectives. They are each echo chambers in their own way, but I try to escape this echo chamber not by denying their existence or their influence over me, but by recognizing them and using a combination of communities to help me and my readers triangulate.

Ethan prepared some notes for our session which starts in 2.5 hours.

The conversation so far:

Ethan's critique of "Second Superpower", "Emergent Democracy"

Joi's response, on finding the next Salam Pax

Examples of emergent democracy from Joi and Ethan's readers

Views from the rest of the world

Hossein Derakhshan, Iranian pied piper for blogs

IranFilter - translated overview of 100,000 persian language blogs

Living on the Planet - global blog content aggregator

Narconews - trilingual news on the drug war


BlogAfrica catalog and aggregator

Adam Chambas's Accra Crisis Blog

Rebecca MacKinnon's NKZone - alternative reporting from North Korea

Oh My News, South Korea's brilliant citizen journalism project

Ghana Web, news and opinion

Subang Jaya e-news from Malaysia

Blogalization, content in translation from blogs around the world

Efforts to build cross-cultural dialogue, give a voice to people in developing nations

Open Knowledge Network content from the developing world, for the developing world. And, in Kiswahili

Voices04 Voices for folks without a voice in the 2004 election

SARS Watch. Became a platform for Chinese voices on SARS to communicate, uncensored

Taking IT Global

Kabissa - online discussion for African NGOs

What could we do we do:

Online legislation in Estonia

SARI - leading application became lobbying regional government via wireless internet.

Cellphones, talk radio and election monitoring in Ghana

Smart mobs, SMS in Kenya

What does a cellphone-based anticorruption system look like?

How do we launch OhMyNews in every nation

Please help Ethan and I find some projects that might be examples we could use when talking about Emergent Democracy. Ethan describes more clearly what we are looking for.

Jim Moore blogs about the lessons that DeanforAmerica has learned and how it continues to evolve. He gives the example of which started as a movement to "move on" from the Clinton impeachment, then broadened its mission to counter the selling of the Iraq war, and now is purchasing ads to get Americans to think. Obviously, Jim and everyone at DFA is still hoping for a Howard Dean victory, but Jim also muses about the idea of DFA continuing to gain momentum and power.

Jim Moore
DFA's role in American politics

DeanforAmerica will have powerful mission in American politics.  DFA will work out new and effective mechanisms for citizen invovlement.
But win or lose in any particular struggle, we have power.   This is the deepest lesson of MoveOn--win or lose in the Clinton impeachment, MoveOn had and has power.

Ethan and I will be leading a discussion called Emergent Democracy Worldwide at the Digital Democracy Teach-In in San Diego on February 9. Ethan has posted a critique of Jim Moore's Second Superpower and my Emergent Democracy paper. He asks some important questions. One of the questions, which gets developed more in the comments is what made Salam Pax successful? One of the most difficult things that the we face is getting people to care about people in developing nations. Somehow, Salam Pax was able to get Americans to read his blog and get them to care in a way that statistics and objective reporting could not.

Salam Pax wrote English like a native, he was relatively well off, he shared a cultural context (his music, his humor) with his American audience. What else? Will a Salam Pax of Congo emerge? Ethan talks about the current small percentage of privileged elite who currently blog and how this is not representative. I think that Salam Pax is also not representative of the average man in Iraq. From a practical perspective, I think that we are going to have to start by finding a small number of interesting and articulate translator/bridges in each of the developing nations. These people, like Salam Pax, will most likely come from privileged positions, but if they, like Salam Pax strive to recruit more bloggers and help provide voices to those who are less technically or otherwise not currently capable of expressing themselves, this is a start.

I think the two key pieces to work on first are to report on issues in under-reported regions and to help people care about issues in these regions. As Jack Kemp once said, "It doesn't matter what you know, if you don't care." Salam Pax was able to help many Americans care and know more about Iraq. How can we seed this in other countries and increase the scale. Iraq is much wealthier and advanced that many developing nations and it is unlikely that there is a Salam Pax in every country that needs a voice. I'm looking forward to talking to and discussing with Ethan and others who are in or work in developing nations to try to think of ways to make the technology more accessibly and their voices more interesting to the rest of the world.

Ethan's post is quite long and he asks many other questions that are quite important, so I suggest you read it. I thought I would highlight just this point for now.

WDFA - Radio Dean for America

Lots of stuff going on at the Dean campaign, but the Net team just keeps chugging along. Zack has been working on the idea of "happenings" for the Dean Campaign, combining chat and Internet radio. They just did the first trial run and it was great. Anyone who has any thoughts or ideas, please contact Zack directly.

Zack is uberzacker on AIM and his email is zrosen at deanforamerica dot com.

As a former student, I sure wish I had had (via Seb) when I was in school. I would have had a lot to say and I would have felt justified. Maybe I wouldn't have had to start our underground newspaper. On the other hand, I can see how this might be abused. There are some thoughtful comments from many people about the "Adopt A Reporter" idea over on PressThink. This is not a new issue, but an old issue that continues to accelerate. As Loic points out, blogging helps you manage your own identity instead of leaving it up to others. Having said that, any notion that you can "control" your identity is a myth.

Over at Chanpon, someone blogged about a teacher from my high school who passed away. Some students posted some allegations in the comments. Obviously, since the teacher was dead, he couldn't defend himself. On the other hand, the students obviously felt justified and there are very few opportunities for students to speak up about their teachers. We ended up removing the entry and the comments. It was a very difficult decision, but we did what we thought was right. Blogs and other forms of publishing come with a great deal of responsibility and it is very difficult to judge what is right and wrong. That is why we need to think about justice and how we can make the institution of blogs and the Internet just. The technology influences what we can do and how people use it. Having said that, just as with politicians, we get what we deserve. Unless we have a strong sense of justice and speak up, we'll end up with bad technologies in the same way we end up with bad politicians.

Marko points out three mistakes in the moral mathematics of blogging that Clay has been writing about and articulates very clearly some key weaknesses in the arguments.

The first mistake – lets call it the “Natural Social Institutions” view – is the simplistic but widely held view that the patterns resulting from the operation of freely forming networks are acceptable because the rules of operation of these networks are in some sense natural.
The second mistake – lets call it the “Links from Nowhere” view – claims that link choices are made under full information about available options and fully formed values or preferences over those options. We should also reject this view. Autonomous linking choices are always informed by incomplete information and incomplete values and preferences. There are in fact no links from nowhere.
The third mistake – lets call it the “Forced Compensation” view – claims that the only way to address the unacceptable degree of inequality that results from the operation of a freely forming network is to “force” people to change their linking behavior. This is a far too narrow view of the means available to influence the distributions that arise.
Marko ends by asking some more questions about justice.
What arrangements of inequality are preferable over others from the point of view of justice? How do we justify to each other the rules, architectures and tools we adopt in the blogging world?

In answering these questions we should look back to understand the present. John Rawls put the task description well: “The task is to articulate a public conception of justice that all can live with who regard their person and relation to society in a certain way. And though doing this may involve settling theoretical difficulties, the practical social task is primary.”

A public conception of justice for freely forming networks. That could be our shared goal.

You should read the entire entry on Marko's blog.

I've been trying to push against Clay's assertion that blogs exhibit a power law and that power laws cause inequality. You can't "fix" the system without breaking it. We've gone back and forth in different places and I THINK I've boiled it down to a few key points for me.

When Clay uses the word "inequality" he means "not the same" and indeed, in a fair system, the outcomes will usually be inequal. I won't argue with that. What my question was was whether the rules were fair and whether we could counteract the current bias towards those in positions of privilege and amplify those opinions that are currently underrepresented.

I think the notion of trying to modify or influence the system to push it towards a particular outcome sounds like regulation and hits a negative chord with the free market libertarian types on the Net. I am also against unnecessary regulation. However, I do think that we can and should try to influence the architecture to push towards an outcome that we believe in. I think this is the nature of politics.

Clay talks about the power law in his paper, Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality. As most of you are aware, power laws are a type of distribution exhibited by large networks that grow where people are allowed to link freely. Since new sites tend to link to sites that already exist or are famous, the links aggregate to the well known sites making the "rich richer". The power law shows that even with fair rules, the outcome will be very inequal.

Recently, Marko and I blogged about blogs and justice in the context of the power law. Clay recently blogged this:

We can and should talk about the type of inequality we want — right now, for example, most of the high-flow webloggers are men. We can ask why that is, whether we should do anything about it, and if so, what? We can’t ask how we can level out the difference between the high-flow end of the popularity curve and the rest of us, or at least we can’t ask that unless we are advocating the destruction of the blogosphere. The interesting and hard question is “Since there is to be inequality, how shall it be arranged?”

I think we are going to see an explosion in work designed to alter the construction and effects of this inevitable inequality (viz Sifry’s experiments on moving recent blogs up the Technorati list) and I am optimistic about this change, as I believe the concentration of real thought and energy on what is actually possible, as opposed to cycles wasted on utopian declations, will be tremendously productive.

So I'm glad Clay is willing to consider what we might do about the fact that the most influential blogs are by people in positions of privilege.

In Linked Albert-Laszlo talks a lot about power laws and makes a few interesting points. First of all, power laws on the web make two assumptions, that the network is growing and that people tend to link to sites that have the most links. Laszlo cites work by Paul Krapivsky and Sid Redner from Boston University, working with Francois Leyvraz from Mexico,

generalized preferential attachment to account for the possibility that linking to a node would not be simply proportional to the number of links the node has but would follow some more complicated function. They found that such efforts can destroy the power law characterizing the network.
He goes on to talk about Google coming in as a latecomer in the search game and how "fitness" or the likelihood that someone will link to you is not entirely determined by your existing position on the power law curve and that a site worthy of connecting to can quickly scale the power law curve if it exhibits exceptional fitness. All disruptive technologies and innovations break power law curves by exhibiting exceptional fitness.

If you think about the power law as themes or ideas instead of people and you think about fitness as the level in which an idea resonates with people, the power law could be viewed as an amplifier for ideas and memes that are sufficiently interesting. Because fitness so influences a nodes ability to climb the power law, I think the notion that I described in the Emergent Democracy paper, where the tail of the curve is where the creativity happens and the power law is how an idea whose time has come goes main stream still makes sense. I think the key to making the system "fair" is to make sure the tail is as inclusive as possible and to try to encourage technology and norms to value fitness over simply linking to those who are popular. As Ross shows in his three layers of creative, social and political, I think the power law is the final amplification part. In fact, the tail of the power law, the creative layer and the social layer where the initial deliberation occurs might be where we should be focusing our energies.

I have a feeling that the blog power law is like a real-time amplifier. I think it is key to note that nodes that lose the fitness that got them there in the first place retire very quickly and that fitness is amplified in scale-free networks. If we architect blogs to allow the amplifier to be sensitive to positive fitness and quickly retire irrelevant blogs, it will be a good amplifier. If the Technorati top 100 is the Marshall amp, maybe we should be talking about the guitar?

It's $100 to register and you can register even if you're not attending ETech. I'll be doing a session with Ethan Zuckerman on International stuff.

Emergent Democracy Worldwide
Joichi Ito, Founder and CEO, Neoteny
Ethan Zuckerman, Founder, Geekcorps
Time: 3:30pm - 4:15pm
Location: California Ballroom C

While we're building great new tools to build communities, we've done very little to ensure that people around the world have access to them. And even when we've made it possible for people in developing nations to speak, we've done little to ensure that anyone listens. How do we ensure that the "Second Superpower" Jim Moore proposes includes the poor as well as the rich? When a new democratic structure emerges from highly-wired westerners, how do we ensure it's fair and just for those currently unwired? The answer is more complex than bridging the so-called "digital divide" - it involves bridging countless cultural divides. Emerging technologies make it easier than ever to bring first-person perspectives, as well as images, movies and music to people in other nations - is this enough to bring cultures together and ensure they care about one another?

Tim Oren cites a poll by the Washington Post showing that the Internet has not helped Dean close the popularity gap with Bush. He says:

But those who think the removal of big media means the newly empowered wil start singing 'Kumbaya' and turn into anti-Bush, anti-war 'emergent democracy' citizens are indulging in wishful thinking, and we now have evidence to that effect. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Joi.) These newly empowered participants actually have to be persuaded. And that's a very good thing, too.
I agree. There is still a lot we need to do. I think we have to look at our successes and try to repeat them and amplify them. We have to acknowledge our failures and try not to repeat them. I never said this was going to be easy. Also, "emergence" sounds a bit lazy, as if it will "just happen." I never asserted this. Emergence is much harder. It is about creating technical and social systems that allow emergence and these can not be designed literally like most hierarchical system, but require active feedback, architectural tweaking and lots and lots of iterations before emergence really happens. I'm excited by the progress and not surprised that we haven't hit mainstream yet.

I would also like to add that I think big media still has a huge role and figuring out the role of blogs in the context of big media is one of the things that I am actively thinking about right now.

Fifteen "bush in 30 second" ads on MoveOn.Org. "a political advertising contest sponsored by voter fund."

My last blog entry about blogs and justice was a bit theoretical and ended with more questions than answers. Maybe it was confusing. Let me try to be specific. I think blogging will go beyond text and by blogging I mean the whole space that includes all sorts of micro-publishing of micro-content in a highly linked and low-cost way. This includes camera phones, video and audio. There are many things going on right now that will be sand in the vaseline from a technology perspective. Most types of DRM will suck for micro-content distribution. So will things like the broadcast flag. The whole notion of architecting systems for streaming video on demand goes against architecting systems for sharing. These technology and policy decisions will greatly affect the ease in which we publish and share information in the future.

When else can we do? At the last GLT Annual meeting Ethan Zukerman raised an important question during a talk moderated by Richard Smith, the Chairman and Editor in Chief of Newsweek. He asked why the mass media didn't cover Africa more. To summarize, Mr. Smith answered that they were a business and had to print things that people cared about and that they had resource constraints that made it difficult for them to cover remote regions. Resource constraints and caring. Mr. Smith seemed genuinely distressed by the inability to report about things the he believed people SHOULD care about. In Aspen the year before last, Jack Kemp said an interesting thing, "It doesn't matter what you know if you don't care." I agree, and generally people don't care to learn about things they don't care about.

I think blogs can help on both points. There are lots of people in these countries that can help provide voice if enabled with some technology and some support. Witness provides a video voice to people who are oppressed in remote regions of the world. Take a look at the videos. Tell me if you still don't care. Salam Pax our Blogger in Iraq provided a real human voice before the invasion of Iraq. This human voice helped me care about Iraq much more than a statistical body count reported in the New York Times ever could. I'm hoping that Creative Commons licenses will allow musicians in remote regions to share music and culture directly so they have a voice, rather than being mined by studios and commercial interests and being turned into an mere ethnic overtone in an otherwise typically commercial business. I think blogs and technologies that allow people to produce and share information help greatly on the "make people care" part of the equation.

On the "we are resource constrained" part of the media equation, blogs can help too. Ethan Zukerman is planning his second trip to Africa with GLTs and other opinion leaders. I hope to join him on the trip after that. Ethan has been working very hard to try to provide technical support to NGO and other people working in Africa. As I propose in my Emergent Democracy paper, I think that there is a way for information to emerge from regions though several layers of blogs. A group of bloggers focused on Africa, working with people like Witness to try to identify issues, getting first hand sources and dialog onto the Net is the first step. We don't need a lot of these bloggers and they probably won't be your average person, but with a few well positioned bloggers in these regions, these regions can be "lit up" with a human voice and feed culture into our collective consciousness. These bloggers would keep in touch with sources and provide a network similar to the way in which a journalist creates a local network of sources and experts.

I think that bloggers can work closely with the mass media. Richard Smith expressed his interest in hooking up with bloggers and other sources with access to information that his journalists could use. The bloggers who are in or care about regions that are not well-covered by traditional media could become sources for traditional journalists and support by providing an audience that cares and resources at a very low cost.

These are just some examples of things that we can be doing to help make blogs provide real value to society, rather than becoming an echo-chamber for local values or chat rooms to promote new media assets.

So when Clay's asserts that:

I can’t imagine a system that would right the obvious but hard to quantify injustice of the weblog world that wouldn’t also destroy its dynamism.
I guess if the primary focus of a good system is to be just, I can imagine it trying to make technology more inclusive and thinking beyond the market of the privileged that danah refers to.

Lou Marinoff described one definition of Justice as "doing the right thing at the right time." He continued by explaining that it means you have to define "right thing".

There are at least eleven ways of being right.
  1. deontology - rules tell us what is right and wrong
  2. teleology - The end justifies (or sanctifies) the means
  3. virtue ethics - goodness comes from virtues, which are like habits
  4. humanistic existentialism - what we choose to do determines what we value
  5. nihilistic existentialism - "God is dead." And we killed him. So all moral bets are off
  6. analytic ethics - "Goodness" cannot be defined or analyzed
  7. correlative ethics - every right entails an obligation, and vice-versa
  8. sociobiology - ideas of "right" and "wrong" are motivated by our genes
  9. feminist ethics - women have different moral priorities: e.g. ethics of caring
  10. legal moralism - if it's legal, it's ethical
  11. meta-ethical relativism - each situation has its own unique ethical dimension

Aeons ago, Clay asserted that power-laws existed in blogs and that it was in-equal but fair. Maybe he is basically being a deontologists with a bit of legal moralism thrown in. The rules are fair so it's OK. Marko (a philosopher among other things) asks the question, "So the interesting question this raises is: What are the principles if satisfied that would show the blogging world to be a just institutional structure? And the meta-level question: How would we justify these principles to each other?" I know that Marko is an expert on "justice" and my simple explanation above is far to simple, but this dialog about whether blogs are fair, good or just forces us to examine what we mean by fair, right and just. I think that in order for us to justify these principles, we might need to define Virtue. (Since defining "right" is so difficult.) According to Lou:

Aristotle said that Virtue is the Golden Mean between two extremes. It was all about balance. "Rational" comes from "ratio". The idea was to triangulate from two extremes of vice. For example, Courage is the mean between cowardice and rashness.
I know Dave Winer likes the word "triangulation" and the blogs are good at that. Is it possible that blogs can help us get out of the echo chamber and achieve the Aristotelian Virtue of the Golden Mean? (I know many people disagree with this, but I continue to believe as I argued in my Emergent Democracy paper that this is possible.) danah expresses her opinion that blogs are not an equalizing technology and that it is the a technology for the privileged. To her, fair (and probably just) isn't about having rules that are difficult to game, but rather about being available and designed to promote equality. She is probably more of a teleologist with a bit of correlative ethics and feminism thrown in. (Sorry, just playing with the labels a bit. Don't mind me.)

To finally tie it into the discussion about technological determinism vs social constructivism, I think we need to be aware that we have an active effect on how the architecture of this technology evolves. I don't think we can yet "show the blogging world to be a just institutional structure", but rather we can try to determine what is just and strive to make the blogging world into something we feel is just. This requires us to dive into some of the questions that even Aristotle didn't answer. What is right? What is just? Hopefully the tools themselves will help guide this discussion, but rather than be nihilistic or deterministic, I think we should be actively involved in a dialog that best represents a consensus of our views. In order for this to be just, we must try be as inclusive as possible of everyone and on this I agree with danah. The tool is not yet inclusive. I think that blogs are right in many ways, but are far from right in many others. How can we try to make blogs as right and just as possible. I think that this is the question that faces us today.

The Gary Wolf article, "How the Internet Invented Howard Dean" in Wired Magazine that I blogged about earlier just came online. As David Weinberger says, it's a covers the theoretical side of the campaign and is a good addition to Ed Cone's article on the operations and the NY Times Magazine article about the spirit of the campaign.

I'll be at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference February 9-12 in San Diego. It looks like I'll be doing a session with Ethan Zuckerman on the Emergent Democracy Forum day February 9th and a session with danah, Mimi, Howard, Scott and others on the 10th about mobility, identity and culture. Hope to see you there.

The panel members are not "final-final" so they are not on the web yet. I'll post the description of the sessions and the final-final members here when we get everything confirmed.

One thing that I am struck by, having been at several conferences lately where we have had discussions about US foreign policy is the inability for foreigners to affect US foreign policy. The US seems ready to ignore the UN and the rest of the world when they disagree with it.

So let me get this right. The US is going to become the world's policeman and will bomb the bad guys into democracy. The US will become so rich and powerful that there will no longer be hatred and wars? The US will become the one nation to rule them all and American culture bind them?

In this scenario the US is kind of like a super state, but only American citizens can vote, right? Only American citizens have rights. What does this mean exactly?

I think that the US needs to seriously consider the consequences of alienating the rest of the world and trying to become a super-class global citizen and ruler of the world without a significant change in its attitude towards other nations and other cultures. We are in an integrated world where it is impossible to isolate yourself economically, culturally or even militarily.

I'm not (yet) asking to be allowed to participate in the US elections, but I do think it is important to understand just how important it is for the US to get along with its neighbors. The only way to get along with people is to understand them and talk to them. The tragedy of the human psychological tendency to not care about cultures and people who you don't know or are different from you is something we can no longer tolerate.

I think the US is going down the slippery slope of becoming one of the most hated nations in the world when it still possible for it to be one of the most loved nation if only it learned to listen to, respect and understand the rest of us.

I guess my point is that we need some sort of global democracy that is inclusive of everyone which embraces diversity. I know I'm oversimplifying the issues, but I've been quiet the last few days so I felt like a rant. ;-)

The Dean campaign has an important choice to make. He has to either choose to accept US federal matching funds and have his spending capped at $45 million or waive the funds and be allowed to raise and spend more. Bush is raising $200 million from large companies. With the incredible grassroots fund raising so far, Dean should probably waive the matching funds and go for it, he is asking on his blog and via email to all 484,000 members of his campaign what THEY think he should do.

This decision is no longer mine to make. This is a campaign of the people, by the people and for the people. Your successful effort of raising a historic amount of money through small contributions has made this choice possible. This is why I am putting this decision in your hands.

I am asking you to vote on what kind of a campaign we will conduct from this point forward. No matter how well intentioned both our options are – the choice is difficult: do we choose option (a) to fund our campaign ourselves and decline matching funds, or do we choose option (b) and accept federal matching funds and the spending limits?

You will receive a ballot via email on Thursday and have until midnight Friday to vote. The results will be announced on Saturday.

This is really amazing. This is so grassroots and activating. Way to go folks!

Via Jim Moore who was in Burlington with Dean volunteers. Jim has a great entry about this.

Senator John Edwards, a presidential candidate will start guest blogging on Lessig's blog Monday. The announcement is here. Very cool.

I had a really interesting IM chat with Gary this morning. He's writing an article for Wired about the Internet side of the Dean campaign. He's blogging about it as well. Very cool. It looks like he's having a lot of interesting conversations. A must read blog entry, which will probably lead to a great article. Like Dan Gillmor and Jeff Jarvis, he is another journalists who seems to understand the value of blogging. And... free fact checking. ;-)

Ross Mayfield rants about the problems of direct democracy and the difference between emergent democracy and direct democracy. This was one of the points that I had difficulty making during the Harvard Law School class. Rojisan and I talked about it last night too. Emergent democracy IS NOT the same as using technology to scale direct democracy. Emergent democracy is about leadership through giving up control, activating the people to engage through deliberation and action, and allowing emergent order to grow from the grass roots. It's the difference between a couch potato clicking the vote button and a group of people starting their own Dean coalition group.

That's the difference between the Dean Campaign and what just happened in California. They may both be symptoms of people unhappy with the current regime, but they are very different types of democracy.

I will be speaking about emergent democracy at the Digital Democracy class at the Harvard Law School Tuesday. Thanks to Ethan and Andrew for setting this up. Looks like a lot of fun.

UPDATE: We'll have IRC on the screen so drop by #joiito if you want to participate. We'll also try to set up a video feed from Boris's Mac. It's at the Berkman Center (Baker House) from 5pm-7pm.

Here is a wiki page we can use.

Ant's Eye View
Rushkoff on "Open Source Democracy"

Douglas Rushkoff, in cooperation with UK think-tank Demos, is publishing a short book next week called "Open Source Democracy". He's giving away a PDF version of the book for free, though, with permission to republish it in whatever format you like, so go nuts. Those of you in the UK can also attend a lecture Rushkoff will be giving in London on the subject.

Looks cool. Creative Commons license and everything. I'm going to read this on the plane back to Japan...

The Dean campaign just announced Howard Dean's Internet Initiative.

I will be participating in the Net Advisory Net and I am in good company.

The Net Advisory Net

The Net Advisory Net will present to the Governor and his team diverse and highly-informed opinions concerning the Internet and its potential impact upon society. While many of the members support Dean, he is seeking advice, not endorsements, and the advisors do not necessary support the campaign. Learn more at

The first NAN team will focus on how to bridge the "digital divide" by providing universal broadband access to the Internet. Initial members of the broadband committee include: Hal Abelson, Laura Breeden, DeWayne Hendricks, Joi Ito, Lawrence Lessig, Bob Lucky, David Reed, Richard Rowe and David Weinberger. Other working groups will be established to address the potential of e-government to increase our democracy, balancing the rights of artists and the public domain, protecting the privacy of customers and citizens, electronic voting, protecting children and vulnerable communities from Internet exploitation, and controlling spam without impeding the basic architecture of the Web. The goal of each working group will be to frame issues and hold conversations about public policies in order to prepare specific suggestions for the Governor to consider and proposals for addressing these issues in a Dean administration.

I think the Dean campaign's involvement of the Internet could revolutionize the way politics and democracy work. I'm excited to be part of the team and am very interested in how this ties into emergent democracy. I'm also looking forward to taking what we learn and bringing it back to Japan.

There is a less boastful and better post about this with a bunch of links on David Weinberger's blog.

Steven Johnson, the author of Emergence, (the book that inspired me to start thinking about Emergent Democracy) recently blogged about grassroots political ads created with desktop tools. He created a cool quicktime mock ad for the Clark campaign and later Sean created a version with music and voiceover. Steven created this with iPhoto and Keynote.

Very cool use of desktop technology and weblogs. I hope we see a lot more of this stuff. I particularly like the collaborative aspect. Steven, you should put a creative commons license on your ad. ;-)

I'm off to Kyoto for the day to give a talk on Emergent Democracy. I think the audience is mostly professors and it's a 40 minute talk with 50 minutes of Q&A. Pretty long Q&A. It should be fun, but I'm sure I'm going to be ripped to shreds. ;-)

There are some other interesting speakers. If I have wireless access, I'll be on IRC and will try to post the interesting thoughts.

UPDATE: My wireless card works so I'm going to drop into IRC sometime between 0430 and 0510 GMT/UTC to give a demo...

David Weinberger blogs about some of the negative comments from "The Net" to Howard Dean's blogging. He says:

David Weinberger
Before this, what would you have had to do to get the ear of a potential president of the United States? You could have a column in a national newspaper or you could get a hernia toting sacks of cash to the campaign headquarters.

Can we at least pause for a moment of delight before we become blasé?

I totally agree. This is SO MUCH BETTER than what we have today with other candidates. I don't think we need to necessarily "cut him a break" but I think we can be more encouraging.

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

Thanks Michelle!

Professor Shumpei Kumon of Glocom has translated the Emergent Democracy Paper into Japanese and has been published it in their journal and is available online in PDF. I am a big fan of Professor Kumon and am honored that he has translated it himself.

Glocom is also in charge of the Creative Commons localization in Japan.

While I was asleep, a debate raged on the IRC channel about whether IRC logs should be automatically turned into blog entries. kensanata pointed out that VotingIsEvil so I proposed a sort of deliberative democracy approach. Lets all have a discussion on wiki page and post our positions on the issue. The point would be to change your mind freely and try to sway the opinions of others and recruit them. Like neuronal recruitment. I don't feel strongly about this issue and it appeared quite controversial. I thought it would be a good experiment in emergent democracy on wikis. That and the emergent democracy of picking a party date. ;-)

Boris writes about it here.

Had an interesting chat with Alex Schroeder on the #wiki IRC channel. We were talking about whether my #joiito channel was increasing concentration of attention, etc. Alex has written some interesting stuff on his wiki about Attention Concentration.

I thought a lot about the name of my blog, wiki and IRC Channel and chose very egocentric names "Joi Ito' Web", "JoiWiki" and "#joiito" because I wanted to make it clear that it was my own space. I have several reasons for this.

In the past, I have run maling mailing lists with names like "netsurf" which I put a lot of energy into setting up and running. At some point, these "places" became public places and I ended up becoming a custodian. It's like having people come over to your place to party leaving you to clean up the mess. I lost control of the community, but not the responsibility. If it was called "Joi Ito's list" I think people wouldn't have come into the discussion thinking that it was a public place.

Also, I think that putting my name on the blog makes it clear that it's my personal perspective and point of view -- nothing more, nothing less.

I do agree with Alex that there is an attention concentration element to my #joiito channel on IRC, but I think of my blog, wiki and IRC channel as my living room. I'm happy to host parties and discussions in my home, but am also happy visiting other homes to join discussions there. I spend a lot of time on the wikis and blogs of people who I meet on my blog, wiki and irc channel. I think that although there is some concentration in my living room, people can meet, speak and draw traffic back to their living rooms quite easily. I think it's a fairly inclusive. I'm MUCH MORE likely to go and read the blog or wiki of someone I just talked to on IRC than someone who sends me unsolicited email.

Having said that, I think that there may be other structures than "this is a place, this is my living room." I think that the best case might be if we ALL had our own blogs and we could get rid of blog comments all together and use trackbacks or a similar mechanism to have our conversations across the blogs. Then the "places" would be the topics of conversation.

I don't know what the wiki equivalent of that would be. I have a sense that wikis and irc channels work better with multiple contributors and are inherently places, compared to blogs which could turn into identities and voices that participate in places that are conversations across blogs.

Figuring out how to deal with the attention concentration issues, inclusiveness and responsibility and accountability in these places is the key to Emergent Democracy, I think.

President Roh of Korea is visiting Japan and I was invited to attend a lunch with him today. He has been in office for about 100 days and was widely reported as being the world's first "Internet President". I wrote about it in Feb. Since then, his popularity has gone from about 60% to 40% because of difficulties in execution of domestic financial policy and constantly changing positions on the US and other issues. His trip to Japan was also very controversial back in Korea because Japan just passed a new law broadening the powers of the Japanese military's ability to defend itself on Friday. Former victims of Japanese military occupation are very negative about any expansion of the Japanese military.

I was very interested in how the Internet would play a part in his leadership and deliberations so I was anxious to meet him and ask him about Emergent Democracy. Unfortunately, the "lunch" turned out to be a pretty formal and huge lunch with 150 business leaders. There was only time for two questions and the people asking the questions were already pre-chosen. The discussion focused around free trade, helping each other's economies, China and about Korea trying to become a hub for Asia and a railroad gateway to Europe.

Mark Norbom, the CEO of GE Capital was at my table and I hadn't seen him for a long time so that was nice. Also got to see Chairman Nishimuro of Toshiba who I'd also not seen for a long time. Other than generally schmoozing around, it wasn't much fun and there definitely wasn't any emergent anything going on as far as I could tell.

Karlin Lillington was at my small session at the ISC conference in St. Gallen where I talked about Emergent Democracy. I think she was the only blogger at session and she's written a very nice piece about the session for The Irish Times. Thanks Karlin!

Hooked up with Jim Moore at FiRe. He shares an office at Harvard with Dave Winer. The last time I saw Jim was at the Fortune conference in Aspen last year and it was nice to see him again and catch up. We talked aboout the debate about googlewashing that his Second Superpower paper triggered.

Jim, Dave Winer, Doc Searls blog about the current discussion which includes recent comments by the New York Times.

We talked about Emergent Democracy and some of the problems with my current paper. He agreed to try to comment/edit it on my Wiki. People have made a lot of great comments on the Wiki and it's getting really interesting, but as far as I know, no one has edited the actual paper directly yet. It will be interesting to see who does it first. It's currently signed, "Mostly by Joichi Ito" but if enough people edit it directly, I will change it to something like "Hosted by Joichi Ito" or something like that.

Interesting post on my wiki by Bayle Shanks about Liquid Democracy.

Bayle Shanks
Another option is LiquidDemocracy . In LiquidDemocracy , everyone does indeed get to vote on every issue. But you can give your vote to a proxy. AND, they can give your vote to their proxy. So, say you don't know much about the space program -- you give your votes on things relating to the space program to someone who has similar political views to you but who knows more about the space program (and they can pass the vote on if they choose).

It seems to me that LiquidDemocracy solves the "ordinary people have no time to learn about every issue" problem.

One way to look at LiquidDemocracy is as representative democracy, but much more fine-grained; you don't have to elect just one guy to represent you on every issue, you can have different specialists for different issues. Second, there is no GerryMandering (at least, not in the process of choosing representatives); your single vote empowers your chosen representative a little bit; you don't have to get more than 50% of the people in your area to vote for the same guy before there is any effect.

More on the idea here (these pages are a bit murky, though; but there are some good "scenarios" in LiquidDemocracyVotingSystem ):

-- BayleShanks

Finally got a chance to talk to Dan about his new book and the future of journalism over lunch. We talked about what journalism really was. My thought was that journalism is defined in the constitution and is a part of democracy. Dan's notion is that the Net and blogging is changing the nature of journalism which in turn has a huge impact on society and democracy. This huge impact is one of the missing parts of my/our emergent democracy paper. Dan's going to focus on journalism, but obviously recognizes the connection with democracy.

We tried to deconstruct what traditional media was. My thought was that the founding father defined "the press" as individuals and small groups with printing presses to represent the voice of the people and that currently, newspapers are just printing machine owners and paper distributors just like telephone companies are a bunch of telephone poles and pipes. Dan asserted that there was more to it. He explained that the protection from lawsuits is an very real risk to journalists and that media companies protect their journalist from such suits. I can see that. Relates to the discussion about the Creative Commons license.

We talked about reputation a lot and about technorati. Nob Seki, follows up the discussion on his blog and discusses the notion of Trusted TrackBacks and the relationship between the interviewer and interviewee.

I gave a short talk and participated in a discussion about my Emergent Democracy paper at Glocom. Professor Shumpei Kumon, the executive director of Glocom translated my paper into Japanese. I am EXTREMELY grateful for this. He said that the paper would not normally pass his requirements for publication because of the sloppiness in the logic and the attributions, but since he thought the process as well as the topic were relevant and interesting, he agreed to publish the paper in Japanese in their journal in June. I'll be able to post the Japanese translation by Professor Kumon on my blog after that. In parallel, Illume, a scientific journal is publishing another version of the paper (edited and trimmed down) in June as well. So, we'll see what the Japanese think about ED soon.

I got a great deal of interesting feedback from the discussion.

Satoshi Hamano, (moblogged it here.) a student at Keio SFC, a rather progressive university, said that he got excited about ED, but when he tried to explain this to his peers, he got kind of a blank look. We discussed the issue of whether Japanese Net users would be interested in discussing democracy and whether blogging would take off in Japan. I explained that even on the English language blogs, not many people were interested in emergent democracy. ;-)

Hiroshi Azuma talked a lot about the fact that Japanese diary sites and the anonymous BBS 2ch in Japan have defined a Net culture that is different from that of the US and that the style of blogging in the US may be difficult to introduce into Japan. He described it in a very interesting way. I had talked about how blogs were interesting because of the weak-tie links between the blogs. He said that Japanese dairy sites are very strong-ties oriented and the anonymous BBS is where the weak-tie stuff happens. He said the balance of weak-tie and strong-tie communication in Japan is maybe different than the US. This is an interesting and important point and relates also with Dan's thoughts on the future of journalism. I guess the big question is, can new entrants into blogging change the somewhat small-group/strong-tie oriented communications of Japanese diaries and the anonymous nature of the 2ch BBS's in the way that AOL changed the nature of USENet. (I know that's not a great example.)

Glocom has been studying the Power Law a great deal and they made a few notes. I'm sorry I can't remember who said this, but someone pointed out that even in small groups of 12 often power laws occur. Social networks also tend to have power laws. The notion was that there were lots of big and small power laws in a somewhat fractal way. Maybe the way to look at Mayfield's Layers is to think of the limiters. IE 12 is the limit for giving everyone an equal voice and 150 is the limit to a peer-to-peer communication network.

Also at the top of the power law curve, things are a bit more flat and at the bottom, maybe more steep.

Shumpei also questioned emergence and the notion of trying to rally a movement around it. Politics is intentional, while emergence just sort of happens. Seems contradictory. I sort of agreed, but unlike a revolution where we are trying to take over, we are tool makers who have learned lessons about the Internet and the nature of chaos and emergence. The Internet is a working anarchy. We like and embrace distributed power, open standards and lack of control. We understand how it works and don't feel uncomfortable with the lack of control or the inability of one to know the whole of it. Designing the pieces of emergence and hoping that this emergence causes good is very different than trying to get voted into office so you can exercise your good judgment with control.

I also discussed the nature of leadership, how I have put my paper on my wiki and changed "by Joichi Ito" to "mostly by Joichi Ito" urging people to edit the text directly. (Ross's idea.) Shumpei said that maybe the paper would continue to become not by Joichi Ito and finally even disappear. ;-) I described how the ED discussion section of my wiki was getting pretty intense and how the paper is now a PLACE. (Yes, I know... I need to clean up that page...)

Last, but not least, I got to meet the infamous one way trackbacker that sparked such an interesting discussion on this blog a few weeks ago. ;-) Actually, he's a nice and smart guy with a cool MT blog in Japanese.

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?

Gave a talk at the American Chamber of Commerce of Japan yesterday. Americans living in Japan are the most fun to speak to because they generally agree with what I say. ;-) It's a bit like preaching to the choir and obviously, I'm not adding as much value as when I'm debating with my opponents, but the Q&A session after my talk was good and there were a lot of good comments and thoughts. In addition to my "ad hoc society of Japanese revolutionary wannabes" maybe I should try to participate in more meetings about democracy with foreigners living in Japan...

I was at the lunch table with Thierry Porte and Kumi Sato, both vice presidents of ACCJ who told me that I have to become a member of the ACCJ. ;-)

Anyway, I talked about Democracy, Weblogs, Risks and Japan. It was a slightly modified and improved version of the talk I gave at the MIT Forum. Here is the 32MB PDF file of my Keynote presentation.

Update: Here's the 12MB Keynote file.

A new group weblog authored by Elizabeth Lane Lawley, Ross Mayfield, Sébastien Paquet, Jessica Hammer and Clay Shirky to focus on social software was announced at ETCon I hear. Great team and looks interesting. It's also great that Clay is finally blogging after all of that "it's not for me" business. ;-)

Reid and I were talking about humility and how most truly confident and capable people are usually pretty humble. We talked about how even a few self-defacing comments can go a long way and making you look pretty smart. So here's the paradox. When you know that I know this and I say something self-defacingself-effacing, it can look stupid if it is intentional and not sincerely. So how do you know when someone is sincerely humble, or just acting humble. Or does it even matter? I guess acting humble insincerely is still better than being arrogant and having to prove yourself at someone's expense. Being humble naturally is probably the coolest, but it isn't just a matter of trying. Kind of like trying REALLY hard to meditate doesn't help you meditate. ;-)

So, Friendster testimonials. Friendster is yet another site that is a networking site, which if it didn't ask you whether you had an open marriage when you signed up, wouldn't seem so much like a dating site. Anyway, Friendster has a feature which allows you to write testimonials about each other. I have received two. Frank and Liz wrote REALLY nice things about me. I assume they are sincere since they are sincere people. I am going to write something nice about them back since I like them both A LOT. But... what if someone writes something nice about me even though they don't really mean it. I will feel guilted into possibly writing something nice about them back. If I don't I look like a jerk. If I do, I could look like fake.

I think that as we design tools for social networking, some of these nuances are going to become important. Different circles have different cultures. Some people thrive on ego and put-downs. Some people thrive on humility. How does this affect the design of the tools...

Ross provides an improved picture of the Ecosystem of Networks and ties in the idea of Social Capital.

Kevin Marks has written a nice rebuttal to Andrew Orlowski's article about googlewashing.

Also, FYI it wasn't because I am a "a colossus of authority" that Jim Moore's article took off on Google, but probably because the true colossus, Dave Winer wrote about it. Actually, I first heard about Jim's blog because Dave met Jim and emailed Doc and me about Jim's new blog. (In any event, collosal is a collosal word. I think Andrew had probably just finished reading the article about the colossal squid.)

Andrew Orlowski has an article in The Register about how Jim Moore's paper about the Second Superpower spread so quickly it now ranks #1 on Google. Talks about how A-List blogs contribute to the ability for a single entry to quickly outrank versions of the word. (Cory talks about this phenomenon a lot.) Flattering mention of my blog... ;-p

Moore's subversion of the meaning of "Secondary Superpower" - his high PageRank™ from derives from followers of 'A-list' tech bloggers linking from an eerily similar "Emergent Democracy" discussion list, which in turn takes its name from a similarly essay posted by Joi Ito [Lunch - Lunch - Lunch - Segway - Lunch - Lunch - Fawning Parody] who is a colossus of authority in these circles, hence lots of PageRank™-boosting hyperlinks, and who like Moore, appeared from nowhere as a figure of authority.

Lunchin' Ito's essay is uncannily similar to Moore's - both are vague and elusive and fail to describe how the "emergent" democracy might form a legal framework, a currency, a definition of property or - most important this, when you're being hit with a stick by a bastard - an armed resistance (which in polite circles today, we call a "military").

The phenomenon Andrew writes about is quite interesting although the article is a bit nasty. Obviously Andrew doesn't think much about blogging.
Andrew Orlowski
Andrew Orlowski on blogging
Here's a mechanism which allows a billion people who can't sing, can't write a song or make an original beep, and have nothing to express, the means to deafen me with their tuneless, boring cacophony.
IMHO, I think Andrew should join the conversation instead of griping and acting like a magazine on the coffee table at a cocktail party...

Mitch has blogged about this article.

Thanks to Kevin, Anthony and George on the ED list for the links

Great paper by James Moore at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society about how the "will of the people" is the emerging second superpower. He talks about emergent democracy, the Internet and gives a bunch of great examples.

In any case, what I most want to share with you is my paper “The Second Superpower Rears its Beautiful Head” (the title was suggested by Esme Bashwiner).  The point of the paper is that “the movement” is now approaching the status of “the second superpower,” after the United States.  This is due to (1) critical mass of people who identify with the world rather than the nation, with each other rather than just themselves, (2) the web and interactive media “neurology” of the movement—including texting, email lists, and blogging—which is giving it a kind of collective mind and ability to act, and (3) the advance of international institutions and international law, which provides a venue or a forum in which the second superpower can work with sympathetic nations to press its cause.  The Bush administration is attacking the fabric of the international system, but it is unlikely to prevail.
Jim is one guy who I was HOPING would start a blog. Thanks to Dave and Doc, he's got one now.

Gave a talk on March 19 at the MIT Enterprise Forum in Tokyo hosted at the Nikkei BP office. I tried to tie a bunch of things together. I started out by saying that at a macro level, I was very depressed, but that at a micro level, I was extremely excited. I talked first about the lack of entrepreneurs in Japan, the problem with the economy and democracy in Japan. Then I talked about the nature of risk and why risk/return is broken in Japan. Then I talked about weblogs and about how excited I was about the political, media, social, communications and tool building aspects of weblogs. I closed by talking about open standards and the impact that open standards could have on consumer electronics. I promised to upload the slides so here they are in a 16.2mb pdf file and a1.2mb QT file. I don't have any notes on the slides, so by themselves, they're pretty useless, but...I promised. I used keynote, which was a true pleasure. I also fixed up some of the slides so the images are newer than the presentation date.

Generally good response. Blogging seemed to be new to people so the blow-by-blow of how a blog works seemed to be useful. The democracy issue was very interesting to some, irrelevant to others. ;-)

I'm a bit late in commenting on this, but Adam released it in the middle of my Silicon Valley immersive experience and had a hard time concentrating. His paper which is available as a pdf file or on his web page is an interesting idea. The basic idea is to create a constitution and manage it like we manage open source software projects. It's a short paper and he doesn't elaborate on some of the details of how it would be done, but I think it is an interesting notion.

I've worked with some UN model law around electronic commerce and cyber arbitration, and some of the ideas are similar. Create a core code base that people can adapt and use locally. Helps harmonize. The main difference between what the UN does and what Adam is suggesting is the use of an open structure like open source.

I think the paper is a bit too geeky for lawyers and a bit to constitutional law oriented for geeks. I have the same problem with my emergent democracy paper.

Adam is releasing 1.0 this summer, I think. Look forward to reading it.

I'm gonna get my deep geek on here, and go public with something I've been putting a great deal of thought and effort into lately: apropos of many recent discussions of "emergent democracy," here's a proposal - a "minifesto," if you will - for the constitution of virtual, post-national states. The relationship to conceptions of democracy should be obvious.

Go 'head and shoot holes in it: I'm not a constitutional lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. The ideas proposed herein may well not stand up to extended inspection, which is OK with me. Think of this, then, as a public beta, offered as a conversation starter only.

Doug Fox asks some great questions about Emergent Democracy.

I'll try to respond to some of them.

Doug Fox
Question 1: A New Form of Democracy?

What are some illustrations of what your “emerging democracy” will look like? In other words, how specifically will it “rectify the imbalance and inequalities” of the world without jeopardizing the many benefits of our existing representative democratic institutions?

I think that initially emergent democracy should be looked at as something that will be an addition to the current system. I think the initial impact will be in more activity by the people and a clearer more intelligent voice of the people. It seems to me speed has increased with global TV journalism, but that now politics and discourse tends to revolve around short soundbytes. I am over-simplying here, but if you can imaging what scaling of deliberative polling might look like. Add a self-organizing element to this. If there was a clear "opinion of the people" on every key issue, this could help guide politicians and force/help mass media to be less reactive. Eventually, if this "opinion of the people" really worked and became intelligent enough, (This will take some time, I believe) maybe people could play a greater and greater role in governance. Again, I think this is an experiment which will take time, and I am not pushing to replace anything right away. I believe that creating a new voice through blogs is a great way to get started.
Question 2: The Face-to-Face Universe

The Internet does not exist independently from other forms of citizen engagement. From your article, I have the impression that the Internet is a panacea from which will eventually emerge new types of democratic systems and institutions that will solve the ills of society. You do discuss deliberative democracy, but what other types of transformations have to take place in the way citizens engage in face-to-face dialogues and deliberations in order to contribute to the improvement of our political, economic and social structures? And how will these new types of face-to-face encounters work in tandem with your discussion on emerging democracy in the digital sphere?

I also think that face-to-face is very important. I think that the Internet lowers the cost of interaction greatly, increasing the ease of organizing and the value of face-to-face meetings. The Internet is no replacement for face-to-face. In fact, I think the number of face-to-face contacts should INCREASE as emergent democracy puts people in touch with more and more people who they want to meet.
Question 3: Hijacking Self-Organizers

You write, “It is possible that there is a method for citizens to self-organize to deliberate on and address complex issues as necessary and enhance our democracy without any one citizen being required to know and understand the whole… If information technology could provide a mechanism for citizens in a democracy to participate in a way that allowed self-organization and emergent understanding, it is possible that a form of emergent democracy could address many of the complexity and scalability issues facing representative governments today.”

Could you elaborate on this idea? It’s intriguing. What would be a possible illustration on the national level? And if such self-organizing initiatives could be created with the help of information technology, what mechanisms would be in place so that these participative endeavors were not hijacked by individuals or groups with their own political motives and agendas?

I think this is an interesting question. I think about this a lot. I think that the key is that when everyone is active and engaged, it's much harder to "pull a fast one" on them. In a representative democracy, most people don't really know what is going on behind closed doors or what "deals are cut." In an emergent democracy, everyone is watching and the process is quite transparent. This ties into the question about co-opting bloggers, but I think that such attempts would be quickly found out and discarded and that mechanism for detection could easily be put in place.
My question is do you see the co-opting of the bloggers who benefit from the Power Law as a major obstacle to your theory of Emergent Democracy?
No, because I do believe that this is the strength of blogs and other very active feedback networks. It's actually VERY easy for people to join the dialog. For instance, you posted a comment on my blog, and now you are an active part of my conversation. In fact, just linking to me guarantees that I will read what you said, if it is picked up by technorati, a simple process. On the other hand, deliberate attempts to co-opt the community, such as the Raging Cow thing by Dr. Pepper, is a good example of how sensitive the community is to co-option. I think that the more popular your blog is, the more people are watching and checking to make sure integrity and honesty is maintained.
Can the weblog community really come close to replicating the levels of trust engendered by people within communities who have spent life times together engaged in the discussion and implantation of political, social and economic issues?
No. The problem is, many people have only these "strong tie" community trust networks to work with. How else are you going to get to know someone in Iraq, or Afghanistan? The idea of the strength of weak ties is that you need to reach beyond your local network. Also, in an exceedingly open and complex world, you are made to interact with more and more people from more and more places which reach beyond your community. A trust network that spans communities could be built which could enhance your ability to communicate with, interact with and build trust in such a world. Like, face-to-face, I don't think that this new trust network necessarily displaces strong tie trust networks in tight communities, but enhances it by allowing weak ties to be more easily created and managed.

I think you raised some great questions and issues that we need to think about when trying to design the tools for ED. I don't think I answered your questions completely, but wanted to get some thoughts off in a timely way. Thanks for reading the paper and sharing your thoughts.

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?

Sébastien Paquet quotes Tom Munnecke's comments on Dee Hock's letter, Dee Hock's article leader-followers and the World of Ends and has an "ah ha" moment about why David and Doc's vision is difficult to implement.

Reading this helped me pin down precisely what makes me uneasy about David and Doc's World of Ends piece. They're trying to do exactly that, make current executives and the ilk streamline themselves, instead of targeting, giving hope to, and helping organize those who have little to lose. I suspect that the attitude shift that David and Doc are hoping for is only going to materialize once this groundwork alternative organization effort is well underway and pretty much everybody has woken up and smelled the coffee.
Yes... my precious... This is what I was trying to talk about in my entry about the lust for power. It is really difficult to ask the people who have power to give it up. Even if they are your friends. Telling them may even tip them off to your strategy and allow them to more easily resist it. How do you organize a more grassroots, "lets just get on with it" attitude? It is important to have a message and a framework that is easy to understand, but we have to make sure that we target the people and empower the people instead of targeting power and trying unpower them. (Not trying to say here that World of Ends is wrong. It is just that some people are asking, "who are you talking to?")

Jon Lebkowsky
Whuffie in Links

The Emergent Democracy tribe's been discussing a possible enhancement of href links. Since Google's page ranking uses the number of times a page is linked as part of its algorithm, it might make sense to include other information about your evaluation of a page when you link to it. The idea is to contribute your assessment of the whuffie (reputation) of the link, so that you wouldn't assign more credibility to a bogus page if you linked to it for some reason. Broad implementation of a method like this could improve Google's assessment of value, and it might have other uses as well.

There's a debate about the best way to implement something like this. My opinion is that you would add an attribute called "whuffie," after Cory Doctorow's term for reputation in the imagined future of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Whuffie could have a value of -10 to 10, so you might have <a href="" whuffie="10">.

This is a great opportunity to identify the blogroll from the entry. Various sections of your blogroll indicate a static vote of confidence about the blogs they point to, whereas entry links are more about the articles they point to. Blogstreet should look at only the blogroll, Blogdex, only the entry links and Technorati a combination of both. I guess the URL tells you, in a sense, if you are pointing at the entry or the blog, but you could make it explicit in the tag.

This meme reached mailing list escape velocity in only one day! Almost missed it. ;-)

I'm sitting in the Councilors meeting of the Internet Association of Japan. This is a foundation and the "process" is rather stuffy and official. I was thinking of speaking up against their rating and filtering system, but the "mood" is quite formal and not too conducive to "speaking up." I think I'll contact them privately and ask them to explain it to me in detail before making any official statement.

A custom that is common in Japan is that instead of the US style "motion", "second", "all in favor say..." process, many Japanese boards clap to vote yes. There isn't a clear way to show your lack of support for an issue other than not to clap. From a governance perspective, this clap to vote method seems to lack... robustness. ;-p

Oops. Almost missed another motion... clap clap...

Alexa shows us that of the top 5 websites in the world, 2 are Korean and they rank above Google which is 5th. Korea's new President is a self-proclaimed Internet president. Howard Rheingold sends the Korean cyberspace generation a message. The message has four main points, the first one sounds almost like it was written to me. ;-) Although his message is to the Korean cyberspace generation, his points are broadly applicable and are very relevant to the emergent democracy discussion.

Howard Rheingold
First, do not mistake the tool for the task. The democratization of publishing, communication, and organizing that is afforded by PCs, the Internet, and wireless mobile devices is indeed an important tool for grassroots activism. But it is the knowledge, intentions, and actions of people in the real world — where ballots are cast, political decisions are made, wars and demonstrations take place — that empowers democracy. Netizens must have more in common than their technical expertise in order for them to conduct discourse rather than flame each other, to act collectively in the physical world rather than sit in front of keyboards and type all the time. Long-term political organizing is hard work.

I just finished version 1.3 of the emergent democracy paper. I think this will be my final revision for now and I will focus on new work. This revision includes edits from Chris Case (Thanks Chris!), softening of my stance on a variety of issues vis a vis direct/representative democracy, the point that these tools can enable bad things as well as good things, addition of quotes from Dee Hock's email, re-write of the conclusion to make it clear that we are focusing on the tools for now to try to create some examples, and admitting that we needed to address the necessity to cause action and that this paper was focused primarily democratic dialog/debate. Left the ant stuff in although that seems to be an issue. I tried to add a bit after the weblog part so that it sounded more like weblogs being similar to ants rather than human beings being similar to ants.

Dee Hock, the founder of VISA and well known for his work on leadership and "chaordics" wrote me an very thoughtful email in response to my emergent democracy paper. He talks about blogging, the Internet, VISA, culture, democracy, power, corporations, leadership and many issues that are relevant to our current discussion.

Dee Hock
From: Dee Hock Date: Sat Mar 8, 2003 1:46:34 PM US/Pacific To: Subject: Blogging, and your paper related thereto.


How nice to hear from you and how kind of you to take time to send your paper on Blogging, a singularly uncharming term, but none the less interesting. I have read it several times with considerable interest, for it deals with a number of subjects in which I am deeply interested, such as democracy, scaling, the failure of the Internet to fulfill its promise, and the ability to perceive and honor differences without losing perspective of the parts as inseparable from one another and from the whole. To distinguish without dividing is a state of mind badly needed in the world today.

As you may know, I have been arguing for a decade that the Internet was fatally flawed and would go the way of the telegraph, telephone, radio and television as far as its promise of elevating ideas and discourse, advancing democracy, enhancing liberty or facilitating economic and political justice. I have lived long enough to remember the claims that were made at the advent of radio and television, and read enough of the history of the telegraph and telephone to realize that the claims made by the messiahs of those forms of communication were not dissimilar from the claims made by aficionados of the Internet. The reason, from my perspective, is not complicated.

Culture brings us together, usually at a very small scale through mutual belief, trust and common interest. It educes, not compels, behavior. Culture codified is law. It is as inevitable as the day the night that as scale increases, law increases. Law enforced is government. Government does not, in the main, educe behavior, but compels it. Democratic or otherwise, rarely, very rarely, does any concentration of power or wealth desire to see subjects well informed, truly educated, their privacy ensured or their discourse uninhibited. Those are the very things that power and wealth fear most. Old forms of government have every reason to operate in secret, while denying just that privilege to subjects. The people are to be minutely scrutinized while power is to be free of examination.

Unless new cultures are able to consciously visualize, create and implement new forms of governance (remember, that means the codification and regulation of its new relationships and values), the old forms of corporate and political governance will assert themselves, penetrate the new culture and turn it to the same old ends. The Internet culture was too enthralled by new toys to pay attention to such mundane matters as governance. It failed to "Institutionalize its deinstitutionalization." That is, the architects of the Internet failed utterly to see the need for a new form of commercial and political organization that emulated and capitalized on the principles inherent in its technology. structure and capacity. It is, therefor, completely unable to deal with its own excesses, to enhance the quality of its communication or to resist the onslaughts of commercialization. The evidence is everywhere about. I gave up arguing such things with Internet aficionados several years ago, for the vast majority were so intoxicated by their new toys that they defended its emergence and lack of governance with zealotry bordering on religious. Do you think many have sobered up enough to raise their heads from computer screens and enlarge their perspective?

The failure of democracy to scale is also not complicated to understand. The founding fathers of this country, the "egalitie, fraternitie and libertie" of France and most other liberals that moved society toward freedom and liberty in the 1700's could not have been expected to visualize the growth of populations, radical evolution of science, vast increases of technology and incredible increases in mobility of information, money, goods, services and people. Nor could they know or visualize the topography of countries such as the United States, Canada and China, or continents such as Africa, Northern Europe, Russia or Latin America. They laid out such vast topography to the best of their ability on grids that bore no resemblance to the reality of the environment or to the huge increases in scale of population commerce and government. In the main, they did not foresee a need for the right to self-organize -- to adjust scale and degrees of separation as such increases occurred. At every scale, organizations were vested with the power to prevent smaller scales from forming and thus distributing power. That which was properly within scale for the time and technology rapidly became out of scale as everything increased in size and complexity and our power to interfere with nature mushroomed.

They were giants for their time, but their time has come and gone. Except for a notable few, one of whom was Abraham Lincoln, they could not imagine that corporations, once a creature of nation states, would so expand while ridding themselves of social responsibility to the point they could hold virtually any government to ransom for the priviledge of their presence. Today, nation states and elected politicians are more creatures of corporations than corporations are creatures of nation states. Unfortunately, while it was democracy and liberty corporations needed to reach their present dominance, in the main, their governance is the antithesis of democratic, free and just. I do not think it bodes well for the future of democracy.

It is futile to directly challenge such institutions, political or commercial, for they have an oligopoly on power, money and instruments of compulsion. Nor do they hesitate to use them if threatened. However, they will prove to be vulnerable, rusted out hulks if confronted with new and better ideas of organization which transcend and enfold them. Ideas that excite the very people they expect to remain passive. What they cannot resist is the searchlight of informed public opinion. Once the public begins to withdraw relevance from them they are helpless, as Gandhi so ably demonstrated in India. While I don't begin to understand Blogging, your paper set something turning in the back of my mind that whispers it may be one of the keys to the puzzle.

I wonder if you realize that a dozen or two people like yourself with the right combination of communication, technological and organizational skills could design and implement a global government without the consent of any present form of organization and provide it with the neural network to insure its success. A government that could continually evolve to ensure that no matter affecting the public good or the health of the planet fails to be disclosed, examined and understood. Or that any existing organization could escape being confronted with synthesized opinions and alternatives that would swiftly emerge. Such an organization based on rights of participation and withdrawal and consent of the participants could be something entirely new in this tired world. Now that would be something truly worthy of the best within us and the best among us. And a great deal of fun in the bargain! It would, in the fullest sense, be far from democratic since the Internet remains largely a tool of the privileged and technologically savvy. That, we can hope, will change in time. One must always begin somewhere, remembering that the sages tell us our responsibility is to succeed in the world as we find it if it is ever to become the world we wish it to be.

Please accept my apologies for this over-long reply to your message. Young people have their desires, middle aged people have their enterprises and old men have their dreams. My son, Steven, now fifty, and I have been working for some time on these ideas as well as with new concepts of organization in such industries as health care and food systems. We realize, as Machiavelli pointed out, that nothing is more hazardous or uncertain of success than to take the lead in a new order of things. The time has passed when I am capable of leading such an effort, but were it to begin you may be certain I would not miss the party.

With all best wishes and appreciation that you would take time to share your thoughts,

Dee Hock

PS: I have attached a file that will give you a picture of "blogging" called Visa. At the heart of it is a communication network linked in an unimaginable number of ways. Consider that a resident of a small town in Japan can appear at random anywhere on the globe, say a resort hotel in Venice. He presents his card to the cashier who swipes it through a terminal providing information which excites a neuron of code in the terminal to recognizes this information will be exciting to a neuron of code in the computer of the hotel and passes it along. The neuron of code in the hotel computer recognizes the message will be exciting to a neuron of code in the computer of Bank America d Italia in Rome, which enrolled the merchant and holds its bank account, and passes it along. There, another neuron of code is excited to realize the message will excite a neuron of code in the central computer of the Visa European center in Blasingame England. That computer recognizes the message will excite code in the central computer of Visa in San Mateo California which realizes the message will excite a neuron of code in the computer of the Asia Pacific Region in Japan, which recognizes it will excite a neuron of code in the central computer of Sumitomo Bank where another neuron of code recognizes that it will excite code in the Branch of the Bank with issued the card to its customer and holds his bank account. That neuron recognizes that its response will be exciting to the chain in reverse order and instantly provides information of acceptance or rejection. Along the path, other neurons of code are excited to provide language translation, currency conversion and net settlement between the parties at a system wide agreed rate, protection from fraud and counterfeiting and a host of other activities. Every neuron trusts the other neurons to perform in an acceptable manner which results in the trust between cardholder and merchant that is essential to the functioning of the system. Multiply this single transaction by twenty thousand banks, 220 countries, millions of merchant locations and more than a billion card holders and you have a whole hell of a lot of excitement. Imagine what such a system would look like if its currency were ideas and concepts rather than money. Is this what you mean by blogging?

From left to right: John Vasconcellos, Brian Murphy, Mitch Saunders, Susan Hoffman
California State Senator John Vasconcellos is an old friend and my mentor on many issues. He helped make self-esteem an important part of modern politics and is currently working on the Politics of Trust. When I am trying to think of new things, I often go to him for advice. I assumed he would know something about democracy so I sent him my emergent democracy paper and asked him for his thoughts.

He invited a few of his friends, Mitch Saunders, Brian Murphy and Susan Hoffman to join us in a brainstorming session of emergent democracy.

The discussion was quite fascinating. We started talking about the republic and representative democracy. It was pointed out (sorry, I took notes, but not always about who said what....) that the republic was not formed for the sake of efficiency but out of a more elitist attitude that certain people were more fit to govern and that it would be impossible for an uneducated mob to rule. In that sense, it really wasn't just a more efficient democracy. I asked John what he thought about the current representative democracy and he said, "not functioning well, but functioning barely". He said the people are "so busy, distracted and spoiled". I agreed with them that a direct democracy in our current environment was not feasible, but that maybe our thoughts on emergent democracy might, in the short term, be a great tool for supporting a the "not functioning well, but functioning barely" representative democracy that we have today.

I think we all agreed that weblogs could support change through a competition of ideas. It was mentioned maybe we should also think a bit about the formation of ideas as well.

I expressed a point that Antoin made earlier about the dissemination of ideas only being half of the problem and that execution was key. We talked about leadership. Mitch is a leadership consultant/coach, having coached some of the most impressive people I know of. We talked about trust and self-esteem and how to activate people into becoming more active citizens and how to grow good leaders. I talked about Liz Fine who wrote that the web opened her eyes and that she has become addicted to research and questioning what is put in front of her. I explained how that "conversational" nature of weblogs was a key element of activation. Once activated, I think many people can grow to become leaders so that we don't have to rely so much on professional politicians whose power spans generations and where politics is more about power for the sake of power and less about "representation."

We talked about the target for the paper. John suggested that the paper should target, me, the toolmakers and then the outside. I talked a bit about how many of the problems with the Net today is because the toolmakers didn't have a vision that included some of the problems that would come up such as spam, security and privacy. I said that I would like to engage the toolmakers to think about democracy as the tools are developed and that the Net can so easily cause harm and the architecture of the tools can have an effect on the future of democracy. We agreed that the next version of the paper should probably present more of a balanced view including the risks of emergence and the Net such as emergent terrorism or dumb mobs and explore how tools might encourage good over bad.

Had lunch with Ross Mayfield yesterday. Ross wrote a piece called The Ecosystem of Networks which described the three different networks: the political network, the social network and the creative network. This piece provided an essential framework for my paper on Emergent Democracy. (To give credit where credit is due, Ross coined the term "Emergent Democracy" here.) Ross and the SocialText crew also provided much of the essential infrastructure for the first "happening" on emergent democracy. Those of you who want to hear more about SocialText will probably hear more about it at the PC Forum.

Ross has a political science background which is very helpful in our discussions. We talked about emergent democracy and about what the next version of my paper should address. We talked about the idea of "The Journal of Emergent Democracy" and how I probably shouldn't blog about it until we thought it through some more. ;-p We talked about doing another happening and testing emergent democracy on the process of discussing emergent democracy. He promised that he would release version 2.0 of his Ecosystem of Networks soon. I better work on my next release Emergent Democracy soon as well. Maybe I can write it on the plane back to Tokyo.

Anyway, it was the first time to spend time on-on-one with Ross and great to meet a person who has a healthy balance of academic, public sector and business interests. Something I strive to balance myself.

Had dinner tonight with Lawrence Lessig to talk about emergent democracy and other things. Larry pointed out some interesting work called deliberative polling being done by Professor James S. Fishkin. Since polling forces people to vote on something they don't really know too much, the data may be statistically accurate, but is not necessarily the best way to promote a democratic system. Deliberative polling takes a diverse group of people, forces them to discuss the issues in small group, in large groups, small groups, over and over again for a fairly lengthy process until everyone has a pretty good idea of the issues and a balanced and educated position. Polls are conducted through the process to track how people's opinions change. Afterwards, many of the people who have participated become much more active citizens. I think that this is similar to the emergent democracy idea that we have. Maybe we can try to do this deliberative polling using the online tools that we have.

Deliberative polling turns to the representatives to execute on these opinions. Antoin was the first to point out (many others have pointed this out later) that my paper misses an important part of the democratic process. The execution. It focuses on the deliberation part. Maybe emergent democracy should focus on those interesting moments in history where the people wake up and change government. Larry talked about how there were three such instances in the US. When the framers went against the bill of rightsarticles of confederation in writing the constitution, during the civil war and during the "new deal." Each of these involved a deviance from constitutional democracy because of a huge swell in the opinion of the people. Maybe emergent democracy enables the people to force an issue when it become important enough to engage the public to rise up. Sort of an information militia. We can rely on the experts in the representative democracy when this are running smoothly and the people are not engaged... Anyway, still very malformed thoughts, but a lot to think about.

Yesterday, I had dinner with Robert Kaye. He is the founder of Musicbrainz. Musicbrainz is a metadata project that is creating a database of album artist, title and track information similar to how CDDB used to do it when they were not a corporation. Many people were upset by CDDB's move use the commons created by the community for commercial purposes. Robert was so angry with this betrayal of the community that he started Musicbrainz. Musicbrainz will be set up as a non profit and Robert swears that he will never "sell-out". In fact, we talked about using some sort of emergent democracy that would allow the users to force a way to take shift control in the event that something like this might happen. We talked about the value of such escrow agents of perhaps the DNS and domain name with some sort of tool to allow the users to discuss and trigger a shift in control. This could be a way to force projects like this to stick to their original principles and help build trust at the same time.

Robert seemed like an extremely dedicated, smart and visionary guy and I think his focus and commitment to deliver this service is extremely admirable.

His service is unique in many ways. He is using a sound fingerprint key method to identify the songs. (He got beat up a bit on slashdot because he was using patented technology for this, but I think this is fine. He can always switch later if someone decided to make an open source version.) Basically, his client software scans all of your mp3's looks them up on his database and fixes all of your bad tags. If you have data that isn't in his database, you can submit it. It is a much more automatic and viral approach to what CDDB does.

So far it is only available on Windows, but he's working on an OS X version now...

Ever since the Wired article came out, his server has been swamped so you may not be able to access it... But keep trying and donate some money so he can buy a new server. Thanks for the intro Lisa!

François Granger just finished translating my Emergent Democracy paper v 1.2 into French. Thanks François!

Allan Karl sent me suggestions and edits via a marked up word file. I've made some edits based on his comments and accepted his suggestions on grammer, etc. I've replaced the original file with the new file and put the old one here. I still have to integrate the Stigmergy paper, thoughts from Howard on the Public Sphere, more on the social issues, probably more detail on the discussion on democracy itself, thoughts from Steve Mann's paper, and a variety of other things. I hope to do this on my flight to SF this weekend and include these features in the next version release.

I think I've read a lot of the feedback including the criticism, but if I'm missing any more "features" for the next release, please let me know. Also, if anyone would rather comment on a word file, I'll be happy it to send you one. Would rather only have one out at a time so that I don't branch the word file.

Another question: Should I track the changes in a separate file/page? I wonder what the best way to do it is. Diff the files?

Thanks again to everyone contributing to this effort.

So I don't know how "emergent" this new Korean president is, but he is clearly much more aware of the Web than most world leaders. Korea has always been touted as leading Asia in Internet. It sounds like they are leading in Internet democracy as well.

The Guardian
Jonathan Watts in Seoul
Monday February 24, 2003
The Guardian

World's first internet president logs on
"The development of internet technology has changed the whole political dynamic in South Korea to an extent that the outside world has not yet grasped," said Yoon Yong-kwan, the head of foreign policy formulation in Mr Roh's transitional team. "It will affect foreign policy."

Korea has looked very progress recently. Having said that, I recently met with a fellow GLT who told me that they were throwing entrepreneurs in jail with fake charges just because they lost money for important people or pissed of the establishment. These stories sounded horrific and not what I would expect from a leading democracy. I don't know if these stories are true, but if they are, maybe this Internet enabled president will be able to change things.

Thanks for the link Khalid!

Inspired by Clay's claims about the power law distribution of blogs, I've been thinking and writing (with many others) about emergent democracy in the hopes that blogs will not create an elite ruling class, but will allow direct democracy to emerge from the chaos. The irony of my technorati and daypop rankings increasing because of this does not escape me. It feels good to get attention, and this feeling is the lust that drives people to stare at power law curve. Liz and I were chatting in IM about this today and she quoted: "One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them." So, who is the Frodo Baggins of the Internet? Are bloggers hobbits? Who can resist the power law distribution and try to create a more democratic process.

It is not just the Net that suffers from this. In my attempts to change Japan, Oki Matsumoto and I have been plotting the overthrow of the ruling elite. The problem is, to change anything in Japan, you have to be powerful and elite. Once you are powerful and elite, it is almost impossible by definition to overthrow yourself. We are thinking about setting up an organization with limited terms for leadership positions, mandatory retirement at a certain age (You can move on to the next platform.), and a variety of other measures to prevent people from accumulating too much power. I don't know about Oki, but I definitely have the "urge" to take control and lead this thing to the end. But I know from watching all of the others that it will eventually go to your head and you won't realize when you're not as smart as the "followers". It is only at this moment where I have enough power to organize, but not to control, that I must help forge the rules to prevent anyone from spoiling it for the rest of us in the future. I trust my ability to resist the urge to abuse power today, but history shows that most of us are not hobbits and this ability to resist becomes exceedingly difficult.

I would like to quickly point out here that competition is at the center of a healthy market and I would not want to question the value of competition where you have a mechanism to keep it fair. It is in power law distribution oriented situations where power accumulates beyond fairness. Bill Gates lives on the edge of this definition.

So, is lust for power uncontrollable? I don't think so. People have sexual lusts and they overcome them to make society possible. People lust for big SUV's but the US seems to be making it politically incorrect to fulfill this lust. We have lusts of many kinds, can't we try to condition ourselves away from the lust for power? Hollywood movies tend to reinforce the lust for power. Maybe it starts by changing the role models in society?

What is this leadership thing anyway? Dee Hock has a great piece about how leaders should focus on managing their superiors first and peers next and that the followers are the ones who manage the leaders. Emergent leadership is not about control or taking power, it is about ethics, integrity and holding together so that you are empowered by others. A system that promotes leaders quickly as necessary and destroys leaders who retain power for power's sake is what I want.

However, whether we promote good leaders or bad leaders depends on the people. The people will get the leaders that they deserve in such a system and the burden will be on them. (Which, I think is how a democracy is supposed to work.)

I saw an interesting entry about emergent terrorism.

This brings us to emergent totalitarianism, or emergent terrorism. At first they may not seem susceptible to analysis as emergent phenomena, since by definition totalitarianism is a command system, and the greatest terrorist threat today demands obedience (at least nominally) to a strict and inflexible code of behavior. Yet many have noted how the decentralized network of Al Qaeda makes it difficult to cripple or destroy. This is not the first time they have been discussed as an emergent system, yet I think it's important to study their dynamics as deeply as possible if civilization is in a war to the death with them - we must know their strengths and weaknesses better than they know ours. And if we are truly to pit emergent system vs emergent system (rather than command vs emergent as the communists did economically) it must be at least in part us rather than our government who think about it.
I have always believed that terrorism is emergent in a lot of ways. Steven Johnson points out in his book, Emergence that not all emergence is good. I think Danny Hillis once pointed out that destruction works to beat up an ordered system such as US troops in Desert Storm, but has difficulty fighting chaos, such as terrorism. So how do we combant chaotic emergent threats? David discusses this in his Art of Peace entry a bit. I think you have to understand the conditions that cause the emergence as well as the the nature of the "units". I think one of the big problems in our quest to understand terrorism is that we think that "they" are not humans. "How could humans hate America? How could humans try to hurt us?" "They're evil, so they're not human in the same way we are human." Well, "they" are among "us".
WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 -- The possibility of war with Iraq could unleash acts of anti-American violence in the United States or overseas by individual extremists who do not belong to Al Qaeda or other Middle Eastern terrorist groups but sympathize with their grievances, intelligence and law enforcement officials say.
I think the more quickly we decide that we are humans fighting humans and focus on the conditions that cause terrorism, the more effectively we will combat it. I think that using force and "order" against a chaotic system is a mistake and destined for the same results as the mayors who built "projects" to "get rid of" the slums. If you don't change the basic conditions through emergence, you'll never win.

In my paper and throughout the "happening" I have argued that we are similar to ants in that blogs are exhibiting a emergent intelligence beyond that of the individual blogs. This is one of the few points that people seem to feel strongly divided about. Liz Lawley blogs

Liz Lawley
But I did still manage to extract key concepts from what we discussed. Key among them was the rallying cry among several participants that "We are not ants!" What does that mean? Well, we were discussing Steven Johnson's book Emergence , in which he discusses the emergent behavior/intelligence in environments like ant colonies. The problem, several of us noted, is that ants do not have much self-awareness, while people do. (Yes, I know, that can be argued on many levels. Let's take it as a given for now.)
Steven Johnson describes the ant-like aspect of blogging much better than me in his blog.
Steven Johnson
The objection revolves around the fact that humans are both more nuanced than ants in their assessments of the world and their decision-making capacity, and that they're capable of understanding the dynamics of the larger system in ways that ants cannot. As Adina Levin says, "The atoms of ant action are simple: pick up crumb, bring crumb to ant colony. The atoms of human action are more complicated: identify people and groups interested in opposing Total Information Act, encourage people to persuade local congressperson."

I think there's a lot of validity to the distinction, but I still think there's value in thinking about ants in this context. To me, when you're talking about emergent democracy in the online world, the equivalent of the ant is not the individual human, it's the software. The atoms of human action are indeed incredibly sophisticated ones, but the atoms of software that enables those actions to connect in new ways are much simpler. It's more like: "follow this link, connect this page to other pages that share links, look for patterns in the links." The decision-making process that leads one human to link to another person's page is indeed more complex than the instinctual actions of ants following pheromones, but the decision of the software to manipulate those links, and learn from them, is much more like the way ants behave ---- or at least it could be, if we choose to build it that way.

In my comments section of the emergent democracy paper, Howard Rheingold says to think about he public sphere, Ashley Benigno, says "Instead of being viewed as enablers, the tools come across as drivers of a process. Ultimately, the human experience is missing from the picture." and she blogs about it on her weblog.

So there are two very important but separate issues here: the will of the people and the social aspect of what's going on and what it means and what we can do and the tools, architecture and the way the tools interact with each other to create a feedback mechanism that increases the signal to noise ratio and encourages intelligence. They relate to each other, but the tools for thinking about these two aspects come from different disciplines and the key will be to try to allow these two disciplines to cross-pollinate and add value to each other, rather than scaring each other away.

Thank everyone for all of the constructive feedback and support in getting my thoughts to where they are. This was a community effort and a great example of emergent democracy itself. I've posted version 1.0 of the paper. I'm going to get the translators started on this. I missed various points that came up in the email dialog. I hope I can integrate them in this paper or work with everyone on the next paper. I'm happy to continue to get suggestions for version 2.0. It was a bit rushed since the publishers are on my case to get this finished, on the other hand it probably wouldn't haven't gotten this far so quickly if it weren't for the pressure. ;-)

I just finished the day pounding away at my emergent democracy paper. I am very tired. Today was the deadline. It's 1000 words short and I'm so tired, I think the conclusion is quite weak. I'm going to beg them to give me another day... It's about 5000 words now. If anyone has the interest and the time to take a look, I would greatly appreciate comments. Since I still have 1000 words to write, I can elaborate on any of the points really.

My thesis is basically that weblogs will allow the net to exhibit emergent behavior and properly used, this will allow us to create a new form of global democracy. I think the community of toolmakers is the key to getting this done.

Here it is in html.

Clay and Ross, can I use the images from your papers?

I've finally started working on my paper on emergent democracy. It basically tracks the "Happening" but it will be for a non-blogging crowd so I will have to describe blogging and a variety of other things we take for granted. I'm going to write it in OmniOutliner and will render it with ActiveRendere and upstream it to my Radio page.

In case you missed this in my Toshio Yamagishi entry...

There is an interesting discussion going on in a Yahoo Group called Decentraliation. Rich Persaud made an interesting comment. I responded. People asked me to post Toshio Yamagishi's paper so I got permission and here it is.

Toshio Yamagishi

Dear Joi,
I have sent the paper out for review--it will take some time for the
paper to get published. Yes, I'm happy that it is widely distributed.
You may do whatever you want to do with the paper.
Best regards,

Improving the Lemons Market with a Reputation System: An Experimental Study of Internet Auctioning by Toshio Yamagishi

I'm sorry if this is redundant, but I wanted to sort out this thread and make sure people saw Toshio Yamagishi's paper which is great.

Finally finished reading this book. Mimi recommended it to me when I was trying to write my paper for Ars Electronica. Now I can't remember the context of her recommendation. Anyway...

A dense book, but a great book.

It approaches the process of the progress of science and the development of "facts" from the human and social perspective. Latour starts out the book by chronicling the discovery of DNA and the development of the Eclipse MV/8000 computer. He shows how "facts" are black boxes that become fact through a process of competition that involves building networks of references until people start to refer to your theory as a fact and use it to build their facts. In fact, black boxes can be re-opened, but it becomes increasing difficult and costly to do this. I felt this very much when working at ECD. We worked in the area of disordered materials. Most devices are/were made of solid state crystalline materials. It is very difficult to get people think about devices in other ways. In this way, ECD discovered huge bodies of amazing materials with amazing properties, but convincing the world of the reality of this alternative universe took decades and the resistance was phenomenal. (It took Stan Ovshinsky, an amazing leader with the combination of a scientific mind and the will of a political activist to convince the world.)

Latour writes about how many scientists believe that "Nature" can tell us if the facts are true. He explores laboratories and their methods and shows us that "Nature" doesn't really "tell us" anything. Nature proves something only after something becomes a fact. Laboratories are design to prove or support facts and the design of the experiment and the interpretation of the data are ambiguous and always disputable. It costs a great deal of money to open a "black box" and to create a laboratory to create or debunk scientific facts. The more "scientific" one gets, the more ambiguous the facts become and the higher the costs become. Because of the time and the costs involved, this questioning of fact and creation of fact becomes an enterprise that require a great deal of funding and thus a great deal of political and non-scientific activity.

He makes an interesting point about scientific papers which I will quote :

There is something still worse, however, than being either criticized or dismantled by careless readers: it is being ignored. Since the status of a claim depends on later users' insertions, what if there are no later users whatsoever? This is the point that people who never come close to the fabrication of science have the greatest difficulty in grasping. They imagine that all scientific articles are equal and arrayed in lines like soldiers, to be carefully inspected one by one. However, most papers are never read at all. No matter what a paper did to the former literature, if no one else does anything with it, then it is as if it never existed at all. You may have written a paper that settles a fierce controversy once and for all, but if readers ignore it, it cannot be turned into a fact; it simply cannot.

You may protest against this injustice; you may treasure the certitude of being right in your inner heart; but it will never go further than your inner heart; you will never go further in certitude without the help of others. Fact construction is so much a collective process that an isolated person builds only dreams, claims and feelings, not facts. As we will see later in Chapter 3, one of the main problems to solve is to interest someone enough to read at all; compared to this problem, that of being believed is, so to speak, a minor task.

So! This ties into our discussion of blogs. (I get to talk about blogs again.) Remember that article by the Brazilian who was abused by INS in LAX? It was posted/blogged on the Net and David Farber wrote about it on his mailing list. Someone wrote that they had a brother that was in the same Rotary Club as the victim. Then, Brock Meeks called INS and confirmed the incident. This "theory" quickly became fact or very close to fact. People prodded and probed many of the weaknesses in the original article and conducted experiments. But... I think one of the most important things was that the current global political climate made the original claim very relevant. People read it and blogged it. Now we know for a "fact" that INS has cells in LAX that they throw people into for not having the right "papers."

Omi-san, a friend who left NTT recently is working on a database for academic papers. I am going to see her again soon to show her blogs and how blogs can create automatic links such as the trackback feature that Movable Type has. I think that blogs will have a huge impact on journalism and news, but after reading Science in Action, I realize that blogs or something similar to blogs could have a HUGE impact on Science. Science is obviously more rigid and structured, but the ability to link quickly and amass support for your claim or idea should be great. The blog architecture is probably much more suitable for many types of exchange than the current model of professional journals.

Great article in the NYT about how a study shows that people's brains react positively when people cooperate. Using MRI scanning and the Prisoner's Dilemma, researchers were suprised by the results. This reinforces many of Toshio Yamagishi's ideas that I wrote about in a previous entry.

Hard as it may be to believe in these days of infectious greed and sabers unsheathed, scientists have discovered that the small, brave act of cooperating with another person, of choosing trust over cynicism, generosity over selfishness, makes the brain light up with quiet joy.

Studying neural activity in young women who were playing a classic laboratory game called the Prisoner's Dilemma, in which participants can select from a number of greedy or cooperative strategies as they pursue financial gain, researchers found that when the women chose mutualism over "me-ism," the mental circuitry normally associated with reward-seeking behavior swelled to life. And the longer the women engaged in a cooperative strategy, the more strongly flowed the blood.

The NYT Article

Here's another example of the clash of cultures on the Internet. Google, trying to do a good thing has run into the wrath of old school Usenet types. ;-)

From David Farber's Interesting People Mailing List:


This article explores the conflict between the cooperative online culture of users who have created Usenet and the corporate commodification of Usenet posts by companies archiving the posts. The clash of decision-making processes is presented thorough the details of how Usenet users choose to petition a company to provide protection for the public archives it had collected. The company disregarded the petition and the archives were sold to another company. The new company has begun to put its own copyright symbol on the posts in its archives. How will such a commodification affect the cooperative nature of Usenet itself and the continuing vitality of Usenet's cooperative culture The article explores this culture clash and considers possible consequences.

from "Commodifying Usenet and the Usenet Archive or Continuing the Online Cooperative Usenet Culture?" by Ronda Hauben
in Science Studies 15:1(2002), 61-68

He shows that in closed systems people who focus on the relationships of the members and who do not trust work well whereas in open systems where it is more important to find many trustworthy people, it was better to assume people were trustworthy at the beginning.

He is a social psychologists and talked about some experiments he did where he found that people who trusted people more generally did better in his open market simulations. He found that people who trusted people more tended to be better at quickly discerning the trustworthiness of the partner. He shows that in closed systems people who focus on the relationships of the members and who do not trust work well whereas in open systems where it is more important to find many trustworthy people, it was better to assume people were trustworthy at the beginning.

Anyway, I don't do his work justice with this small comment. His most recent paper is not yet available in Japanese, but his early work on trust is also very interesting and is available on his site.

Here is his web page.

For the Keizai Doyukai Newsletter

Self Esteem and the Information Age

For the Keizai Doyukai Newsletter

Translated From Japan (v1.0) 2/28/99

by Joichi Ito

In "Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity", Francis Fukuyama explains that Japan, Germany and the US each had method of forming large organizations based on trust. Germany had its guilds, the US had secular, non-state controlled religion and Japan had non-blood based family structure or "iemoto". Each of these systems allowed people to group into communities and organizations basing their trust beyond the family, but not relying on the state.

These systems of trust allowed large firms to develop and become the core of capitalism, market economics and the manufacturing and distribution based global economy. Today, the economy is shifting quickly from a manufacturing economy to an information economy. In this change, the US is taking global leadership. It appears that organizations must be resilient to change and very fast. An important element in causing change and being fast is for people to question authority, think for themselves and act. In the information age, only new or different information adds value and what is required is creativity, not obedience.

For people to behave this way, they need to trust not the organizations, but themselves. This trust comes from self esteem. California State Senator, John Vaconscellos, calls for a government that governs through educating and causing people to act responsibly because of self esteem rather than a government that governs by causing obedience through shame and guilt. The self esteem idea is has developed as a movement and is spreading. Unfortunately, such a movement has not begun in Japan. Obviously education is an important part of self esteem, but social capital and culture are also important in supporting self esteem.

In order for Japan to enter the Information Age new structures and a new way of thinking is necessary. Japanese must change their mind set and the cultural capital must be manage and developed. Simply mimicking the superficial aspects of the US systems in not enough. After the war, the Keizai Doyukai helped build a powerful country by supporting the development of communities and organizations in business, politics and bureaucracy. For the Information Age, what is required is not market oriented organizations, but communities based on people with self esteem supported by culture, art and nonprofit organizations.

An article I prepared for the Inter-Pacific Bar Association about Cyber Arbitration.

For the Inter-Pacific Bar Association Newsletter

February 4, 1999

by Joichi Ito

Technology, Security and Cyber Arbitration

As the technical advisor for the Cyber Arbitration program held at the IPBA annual conference in Auckland last year and for the Cyber Arbitration program to be held at the IPBA annual conference in Bangkok this year, I am responsible for providing assistance and advice regarding the technical requirements of the Cyber Arbitration programs and providing guidance as to what the future will hold for Cyber Arbitration. In this article, I would like to discuss the technology used at the Auckland program, future technical possibilities, and various security concerns related to Cyber Arbitration.

Auckland Cyber Arbitration Demonstration

At the IPBA annual conference in New Zealand, we conducted the Cyber Arbitration demonstration using PictureTel video conferencing technology, which is widely used internationally. PictureTel has many configurations with various quality levels. We chose to use the 128K system, which is equivalent to two ISDN channels, because ISDN is either deployed or is being deployed in most countries and is the most common transmission speed used for video conferencing today. The purpose of using such technology was to give a true-to-life example of what a Cyber Arbitration might look like using widely available technology. Because a videoconferencing bridge was used to allow split screen multi-point video conferencing this also caused an inevitable delay in sound and picture transmission since the bridge has to decode everyone's video signals and create a multi-screen signal to send to each participant.

Cyber Arbitration and the Internet

Although the Auckland Cyber Arbitration demonstration showed that an arbitration using multipoint videoconferencing technology was feasible even given the low-level of current widely available technology (and, per force, will be much more feasible with the rapid advance of the general level of technology), one of the critical issues highlighted by the demonstration was cost. ISDN, telephone and leased lines offer dedicated circuits which allow high quality communications, but the cost of creating a network of high speed ISDN connection worldwide for several hours can become prohibitive.

This is where the Internet comes in. The Internet promises to lower the cost of communications by allowing multiple users to share circuits, making communications much more efficient, thus lowering the cost. Nevertheless, at present, one of the primary problems with trying to conduct video conferencing over the Internet is that the Internet is what is called "best effort" connectivity. On the Internet, one traditionally does not have a dedicated circuit, but instead, shares the circuit with everyone else who happens to have their routes going over the same lines. When any segment of the chain of routers, leased lines or servers that one would go through to reach each other gets crowded, the connectivity slows down and video frames freeze up and audio starts to cut out. This sort of "lossy" video is now quite common on the Internet, but is used primarily for non-critical or entertainment applications. It is absolutely inadequate for the requirements of a real Cyber Arbitration, and is why we were unable to demonstrate a Cyber Arbitration using the internet in Auckland.

Nevertheless, high quality video transmission and video conferencing is currently being tested around the world. Using high speed lines with special routing technology, Internet service providers will be able to guarantee bandwidth to users requiring high quality and high speed lines. Applications are being developed to allow personal computers and hardware from many vendors to communicate using open standards, thus lowering the price of video conferencing equipment. It is likely that, over the next several years, it will be quite common to find video conferences being conducted over the Internet at quality levels equivalent to, if not superior to the quality currently being achieved using 128K ISDN and PictureTel. Until such time, however, it will still be of benefit to use the infrastructure and technology available to us today to work out many of the legal and procedural issues that we can identify only through actually conducting Cyber Arbitrations.

The Internet and Security

One of the primary concerns in the age of open networks is security. E-mail and other internet communications (such as the types that would be necessary to conduct Cyber Arbitrations) are typically transferred through several servers and travel over open networks. It is a trivial matter for even a minimally computer-literate individual to, for example, intercept and even replace e-mail while it is traveling between a lawyer and his client. In the age of advanced digital technology, wiretaps are not conducted by people "listening" to phone calls, they are conducted by voice recognition software which can scan thousands of connections or scan stored conversations in databases. E-mail is searched by keyword or intelligent pattern matching software that can search through and organize billions of pages easily. Not surprisingly, therefore, thousands of computers which serve mail are penetrated each year and corporate espionage on computer networks has become a growing concern and a real threat.

This is why cryptography and digital signatures are essential to ensure the integrity of a Cyber Arbitration system. Digital signatures using public key cryptography are becoming more and more widely used. Digital signatures allow e-mail or any other form of electronic message to be digitally signed by the sender and for that signature to be verified by the recipient. Digital signatures are typically authenticated by a certification authority ("CA"). The CA uses some method of identification verification and then certifies the key which is used to sign documents.

Using public key cryptography, documents can also be encoded in a way that allows only the holder of a particular key to decode and view the document. Public key cryptography is unique in comparison to other forms of cryptography in that the key used to encode (encrypt) the document is different from the key used to decode (decrypt) the document. The key used to encrypt the document is referred to as the public key and the key used to decode the document is referred to as the secret key. By distributing one’s public key widely, anyone who receives the public key can then send confidential encrypted documents to the holder of the secret key without fear of the un-encrypted (plaintext) data falling into the hands of unauthorized viewers.

In combination with digital signatures which use the same public and secret keys as public key encryption technology, public key technology allows people to conduct private and authenticated communications over the internet. It also allows the creation of tamperproof documents and allows electronic documents to be presented "in writing" which can not be modified without breaking the digital signature associated with the document.

The risk that a public key that you believe belongs to a trusted colleague is not actually the correct key is supposed to be managed by the CA. The problem with the CA is whether one can trust the CA. Companies running CA's are not infallible and possibly more importantly, they are overseen by government agencies which may be incentivized to allow forgeries or deception to occur in order to collect information about unfriendly governments, organizations or individuals.

A CA managed by the IPBA with an identification verification procedure which is open, capable of being audited, and conducted face to face at the IPBA’s annual meetings could easily become one of the few trusted forms for authentication of keys. Such an authentication mechanism could be used not only to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of Cyber Arbitrations, but also could be used to manage membership, standardize document execution, store and date evidence, conduct encrypted telephone and video conferencing, and a myriad of other applications.


New technology will allow international arbitration and negotiation to become faster, more efficient and less expensive. Although procedures and law will have to be developed and modified as technology develops, many of the issues (including security issues) will only become apparent as these new technologies are deployed and tested by real lawyers and arbitrators. This is why continued research and development of a Cyber Arbitration system by the IPBA is so important to ensuring a bright and new technological future for international arbitrations. The IPBA is in a unique position to create a testbed for developing a workable Cyber Arbitration system and should not let this opportunity slip from its grasp.

By Joichi Ito


  1. Nobuo Miyake, Esq., The Future is Now: The IPBA and Cyber Arbitration, IPBA Journal, September 1998, pp. 16-18
  2. David F. Day, Esq, Conducting the Electronic Arbitration, IPBA Journal, September 1998, pp. 19-20
  3. Jasna Arsic, International Commercial Arbitration on the Internet, Journal of International Arbitration, pp. 209-231

Release Notes

  1. Draft Version 1by Joichi Ito February 3, 1999
  2. Edited by Joseph Gourneau February 4, 1999 for submission to IPBA
  3. Edited by Joichi Ito February 16, 1999 for web publication (In particular, modified the 128K = ISDN edit by jg and re-included the bibliography)


Copyright 1999, Joichi Ito

Reference Bibliography:
Marcel Mauss, The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies
Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity
Toshio Yamagishi and Midori Yamagishi, Trust and Commitment in the United States and Japan

Benkyokai December 26, 1998

Reference Bibliography:

Marcel Mauss, The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies

Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity

Toshio Yamagishi and Midori Yamagishi, Trust and Commitment in the United States and Japan

The Gift

The Potlach, the Kula... The obligation to give, accept, reciprocate...

"According to Malinowski, these vaygu'a follow a kind of circular movement: the mwali, the bracelets, are passed on regularly from west to east, whereas the soulava aways travel from east to west."

Now the gift necessarily entails the notion of credit. The evolution in economic law has not been from barter to sale, and from cash sale to credit sale. On the one hand, barter has arisen through a system of presents given and reciprocated accordining to a time limit. This was through a process of simplification, by reductions in periods of time formerly arbitrary. On the other hand, buying and selling arose in the same way, with the latter according to a fixed time limit, or by cash, as well as by lending.

From ancient Roman law.. nexus... "The thing pledged is normally without value; for example, sticks are exchanged, the stips in the 'stipulation' of Roman law..." "Above all, they are still the residues of formerly obligatory gifts, that were owned because of reciprocity."

"It is our western societies who have recently made man an 'economic animal'. But we are not yet all creatures of the genus."


"The accumulation of social capital, however, is a complicated and in many ways mysterious cultural process."

"many neoclasically economists have come to believe that economic method they have discovered provides them with the tools for constructing something approaching a universal science of man." "rational choice theory"

"In the words of one economist, 'The first principle of Economics is that every agent is actuated only by self-interest"

"Jeremy Bentham; that utility is the pursuit of pleasure or the avoidance of pain."

"But this type of formal definition of utility reduces the fundamental premise of economics to an assertion that peole maximize whatever it is they choose to maximize, a tautology that robs the model of any interest or explanatory power. By contrast, to assert that people prefer their selfish material interests over other kinds of interests is to make a strong statement about human nature."

spontaneous sociability

"Durkhem labeled 'organic solidarity'"

"Geertz's own definition of culture is 'an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes towards life."

US/Japan/Germany have large companies because of protestant and secularism/iemoto/guilds

saddle shaped family intensive state intensive do not scale, except Korea which was intentional

US communities breaking down. Japanese system changing with recession...

State can control and affect greatly how culture grows and is used in economy.

"Social apital is like a ratchet that is more easily turned in one direction than another; it can be dissipated by the actions of governments much more readily than those governments can build it up again. Now that the question of ideology and institutions has been settled, the preservation and accumulation of social capital will occupy center stage."

Trust and Commitment in the US and Japan

"purely selfish utility maximizer postulated by economists"

"Trust can thus be defined as a bias in the processing of imperfect information about the partner:s intentions. A trusting person is the one who overestimates the benighity of the partner's intentions beyond thelevel waranted by the prudent assesment of the available information."

"Perception of the risk or the subjective social uncertainty may be higher among those who mostly deal with insiders in committed relations than those who are regularly in contact with outsiders. In this sense, commitment may actually reduce the level of trust in outsiders, and a s a result, those who mostly stay in the security of committed relations experience higher subjective social uncertainty."

"Reputation can provide an extra assurance for committed people to deal with social undertainty involved in the deals with outsiders."

"reputation often works as a sanctioning mechanism against dishonest deeds"

"People may often refrain from misconduct because they are afraid of getting a bad reputation."

"we suspect that informational role of reputation is more imortant in American society, whereas the sanctioning role is more important in Japanese society."

"Whereas knowledge-based trust is limited to particular objects (people or organizations), general trust is a belief in the benevolence of human nature in general and thus is not limited to particular objects."

"Americans consider honesty more important than do Japanese"

"On the other hand, knowledge-based trust is conceptually distinct from assurance, which is another derivative of committed relations."

"committed relations are in fact expected to reduce development of knowledge-based trust."

balance between committed relationshis and general trust...

"Japanese society currently faces the problem of creating that balance in respoonse to the pressures of opening-up of the society and the economy, whereas American society faces the problem of maintaining it in the face of increasing social uncertainty."