Project Googol

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Google has announced Project 10 to the 100 (or Googol) and the following was submitted by the Metagovernment project.

Your idea's name (maximum 50 characters)

Open source governance: Metagovernment project

Please select a category that best describes your idea

Community: How can we help connect people, build communities and protect unique cultures?

[other options: Opportunity, Energy, Environment, Health, Education, Shelter, Everything else]

What one sentence best describes your idea? (150 chars)

Create Web 2.0 software which enables everyone to participate in every community which affects their life: from small clubs to large governments.

Describe your idea in more depth. (300 words)

As collaboration technologies mature, the shortcomings of decisions made by our representatives become ever more apparent. Already the internet is shaping political decisions, by allowing more effective dissemination of information. Citizens are coordinating through the internet and actively shaping our current government. Most of their effort however, is focused on working with the current system, rather than looking at the inevitable outcome of the changes they are making.

If the community is already discussing decisions and representatives cannot go against the communities' will for fear of loosing the next election, representatives become completely unnecessary: the electorate could just as well make the decision themselves, without an intermediary.

All that is left is to give the public the tools they need to make those decisions. This applies not only to national governments but any community, be it a company, a non-profit organization or a local football club.

Every member of a community should be able to participate in its governance, just as software developers can contribute to open source projects and editors can contribute to Wikipedia.

This will be made possible through software, combining the open editing of a wiki and revision control systems, a peer review process similar to code review among programmers and prevalent in the scientific community, self moderation of discussions inspired by Slashdot, and the spirit of the free software community.

With these tools made accessible to mere mortals, any community should be able to come to consensus on policies, decisions and laws in their community.

What problem or issue does your idea address? (150 words)

Coordination of discussions and collaboration in large communities is difficult in current forums, online or offline.

Effective collaboration among thousands of participants is traditionally coordinated through hierarchical organizations and designated leaders. This is ineffective, a relict from past limitations on communication and human tendencies to tribalism. Representative governments formed before the internet, addressed infeasible communication among citizens of a nation by representing them in the smaller forum of a parliament.

This limitation no longer exists, and the time is ripe for a new form of governance. With the help of the internet, and the lessons that open source communities have learned on online collaboration, we can restructure our society, so that it is much more democratic and inclusive than previously possible.

If your idea were to become a reality, who would benefit the most and how? (150 words)

Any and every community would benefit by being able to move from a traditional hierarchy to a networked organization, which can arguably make better decisions than any individual participant.

Decisions are no longer made by representatives, the lowest common denominator the electorate can agree upon, but by anybody interested in a discussion, effected by its outcome, and/or expert in relevant fields.

There is also great potential in the personal growth of citizens. Todays electorate is in its political adolescence. We whine about decisions made from "above" without knowing or considering their reasoning.

Being responsible for actively shaping decisions will encourage and to some extent force people to grow up. It will foster a new sense of responsibility and community, as every person on the street becomes a peer with whom you can collaborate to build a better society.

What are the initial steps required to get this idea off the ground? (150 words)

Writing of the software, initial development, and testing in progressively larger communities. There are already various communities and organizations who have expressed interest in such software.

Funding programmers who are actively developing the software in their free time will speed up the process significantly and produce a much better implementation. Some experimentation with scoring systems and interfaces, to determine effective means of moderation will be necessary before such a system can be used by large communities.

Education of new participants on effective collaboration and the differences of open source governance to a simple direct democracy, will be the greatest obstacle, but can be gradually approached, as larger and more communities adopt the system.

Describe the optimal outcome should your idea be selected and successfully implemented. How would you measure it? (150 words)

Arbitrarily large communities can collectively govern themselves and make better decisions than any individual participant. Ultimately, a nation should be able to adopt the system, and use it to write its laws, allocate funding and make decisions through individual citizens. As more communities adopt the system, and the world becomes globally connected, nations may even become obsolete, and practices such as large-scale military warfare may become inconceivable.

Measures of success:

  1. Size of the communities
  2. Adoption in existing organizations
  3. Quality of the decisions
  4. Inclusiveness of minorities
  5. Ease of participation
  6. Openness to new participants and ideas
  7. Degree to which mob rule can effect decisions
  8. Time it takes to come to consensus
  9. Formation of new communities previously not possible

External Links

  • [1] The submission form of the Project 10 to the 100th