Each new frontier opened up by emerging technological advancements is followed by some kind of democratic reform. For example, anti-abolition and pro-literacy movements progressed hand-in-hand to break the grip that slavery had on the people, and as newfound technologies opened the door to equality in the workforce, over time they were also used politically to extend the vote not just to propertied men, but to all classes, ethnicities and genders.[i] However, alongside the invention of things like the printing press, standard currency, the metric system, plentiful fuel and access to technology and information, we’ve seen the emergence of omnipotent self-serving banking systems, hideously destructive remote weaponry, a proliferation of spin doctors and slick propagandists, pollution on a global scale, and a dulling of real one-on-one engagement. The catch is that new technologies can just as easily instill social justice as betray it , concentrate power and wealth as share it. At the bottom of each cycle, the ruling class becomes efficient in using technology to monopolize control; at the top, the people find ways to use technology to increase their power enough to tip the scales back in their favor so that power once again flows up from the masses.
The most recent technological evolution has been the invention and wide distribution of global computer networks, which has had very dramatic effects in our lives − united us as a species, opened up markets, and given each of us a soapbox to preach from – but it’s also pushed us into direct competition with each other, fragmented workers’ organizations, increased (!) our workloads, and provided corruption with another curtain to hide behind. The reasonable conclusion to draw is that like all previous eras, the current model for social organization is ineffective and the system as it stands unsustainable. Technology is not being utilized fairly or with goodwill, and as we’ll see in further chapters, fundamental things like justice, opportunity and co-habitation are now seriously lagging behind the distribution of power and wealth… As with every epoch, something must now give.
When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.Despite the hard road to freedom, people around the world have fought and continue to fight for their right to control their own destinies through adapting their technologies to underscore their vote; so getting a vote was never their first step – getting the proper technology in place was. Thankfully, the progression over time has been towards inclusion and representative democracies, but that doesn’t mean that the journey has been easy or that be we can relax and relish our victory. Getting a vote is not the last step either. Since the dawn of civilization, (perhaps even before) the vote has existed in many different forms – long before people stood in line at designated voting stations. The voting process, too, works in cycles. By applying electoral advancements selectively, those in power have been able to swing the power pendulum back in their favor. Using the toolbox we’ve described above, tyrants have been able to modernize their tactics in step with our democratic pinings so much that the industrialized US has produced all of two black senators in the last 100 years, and a measly 14 per cent of their Congress members are women. The real challenge was to get a technology in place that could make sure that our vote works: because in order for that vote to be a vehicle of democracy, it has to be delivered of our own free will; it has to be fairly accounted for; there must be access to information; there must be some kind of written constitution in place to provide a framework; and our voice must be heard.
When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.
When we consider our historical achievements, the challenge put to us becomes how to use the technology available to bridge the gap between the use of votes and the use of wage labor. And although democratic reforms have been around for a long, long time, computer technology hasn’t − and we’re going to have to come up with something new in order to deal with the realities of our times. We’ll need to keep our minds open to new ideas − and instead of fighting the ‘old-fashioned’ hold-your-nose, mark-your-ballot, and shrug-your-shoulders way of voting, some more progressive thinkers wish to use technology to change the very way the votes are counted, to once again allow the democratic spirit to flow upward in the shape of a pyramid. When looked at from this perspective, it should come as no surprise that ideas like creative vote tabulation haven’t even been considered until now – because in the past people simply didn’t have the technology necessary to frame the discussion. It would have been as difficult for them as it would be for us now to conceive what society may need after a century of vote sizing. Let’s take a look at the diversity of ideas and opinions being suggested.
[i] University of Wisconsin, “Sustainable Development: History and Horizons.” http://www.uwex.edu/ces/ag/sus/html/sustainable_development.htmlClick here for reuse options!
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