Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Why democracy is getting routed around

Recent events have brought me back to thinking about an old topic - what's the best way of making a point? This time round, though, I'm slightly more fatalistic about it all.

What seems more obvious now is that established democracy, in its current form, is being outpaced - traditional representative democracy is no longer a priority, to put it bluntly.

Why? Two reasons:

1. Communication has changed. Everyone knows this. Everyone is routing around voting. Electronic voting is boring - we have electronic memes now. Public meeting videos are boring - we have hashtags now. I am talking to national and international strangers about the future of politics more than I talk to my neighbours. Never mind AV, we need something more than simple, single representation.

2. The topics of politics have changed - or, rather, they change ever faster and faster. We have a while to go before the singularity, but nonetheless, we no longer believe the future is 'distant'. Good sci-fi is becoming rare. We do not dare to imagine what we'll be able to do in 4 years' time let alone know what government party we'll want to cope when we get there. The future is flexible, party politics is boring. Far better to rely on the fluidity of networks and social knowledge, than on the heavy infrastructures of politics.

We have secure and instant comms, so we have Wikileaks. We have flashmobs, so we have street protests. We have crowdsourcing, so we have inspirational projects, both as showcases by individuals and as industry-standard, open source giants. Bit by bit, there are people doing stuff, instead of waiting for politics to change for them.

Screw "Government 2.0". Food prices, climate change, economic sustainability, education, wisdom? The next decade will tell us if modern democracy is even out of beta-testing yet. If government is to survive in any respectable form beyond its current version, it needs to "get" reality - the kind of reality that everything else is now trying to work out how to do better.

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