Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

Networking For A Better Future - News and perspectives you may not find in the media

Networking For A Better Future - News and perspectives you may not find in the media

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December 11, 2005

Will Networking Transform Pyramid Of Power?

Steve Bosserman writes in his Diary of a Knowledge Broker, that power is usually arranged in a pyramid configuration - few who are at the top control the lives of many who aren't. He describes the social interactions that make up this pyramid of power in a very clear and revealing manner in Pareto and the Pyramid of Power.

Although our cultures have progressed under this system for the better part of known history, the traditional arrangement of power is very much subject to abuse and is often used to arrange our affairs in a way that suits the few sitting at the top of the pyramid. So a question comes to mind: Could perhaps networking provide an alternative to these traditional power structures?

I believe it could at least transform our way of distributing power and said so in a comment posted at the foot of Steve's article.

Enter Democracy 2.0

No sooner had I finished writing, than I came upon a great example of networked action to try and take back some of that control that we have seen concentrated in the hands of a privileged minority for ages.

Lawrence Lessig posted a link to Wiki-Law, a community effort to build the largest open-content legal resource in the world. This will be an incredible resource once it gets going.

But what caught my eye more than anything is an initiative called Democracy 2.0, linked from and part of the efforts of the Wiki-Law site:

"Democracy 2.0 is a Wikilaw experiment that hypothesizes that a wide range of individuals, not just politicians, corporations, and special interest groups, can contribute to the creation of the United State's laws. All laws listed in this section are the collaborative effort of the Democracy 2.0 community. The site aggregates the viewpoints of all users, after a large number of edits, to reach a consensus on what laws society should impose on us."

If we look at the positive track record of Wikipedia the online user-created and maintained encyclopedia that outpaced the venerable Encyclopaedia Britannica in the space of a few years, it doesn't take much of a flight of the imagination to see that Wiki-Law might just make an impact on how we make our laws in the future. Although directed - for the present - mainly at the USA, this experiment might well show the way to a reform of democratic procedures that would bring us a bit closer to the ever elusive ideal of democracy, government by the people.

"The mission of Democracy 2.0 is to "reboot" the United States's political process by reinstilling the American people's voice in the government. We will write laws collaboratively. Collaborative editing aggregates our varied viewpoints, enabling us to reach better decisions and better laws. These laws will be transmitted to Washington by allowing the users of Democracy 2.0 to "vote" for these laws."

For the record, here is my comment to Steve Bosserman's article and an early snapshot of the proposal - subject to continual revision - on how Democracy 2.0 should be working:

- - -

My comment to this article of Steve Bossermann:

Could networking provide an alternative to traditional power structures?

I like your clear exposure of current power structures.

Reading the article set me thinking whether the current trend towards a more widespread use of informal and formal network-structures could eventually provide a way of organizing society in a more equitable way.

There are clear trends in this direction. Direct democracy allows more intimate involvement of all in the political processes that make up governance. An open source movement is counteracting some of the excessive concentrations of power in the free enterprise area. And finally there seems to be a trend, even in groups and organizations, towards a more open model. The internet is a driver here, making personal interaction independent from geographic location.

So actually I should re-phrase my question. Rather than being an alternative to them, could networking radically transform our traditional power structures to favor majority participation? How about an 80:20 ratio instead of 20:80?

- - -

From the Wikilaw Community

Founders Proposal

This is a proposal. We welcome any feedback.

The mission of Democracy 2.0 is to "reboot" the United States's political process by reinstilling the American people's voice in the government. We will write laws collaboratively. Collaborative editing aggregates our varied viewpoints, enabling us to reach better decisions and better laws. These laws will be transmitted to Washington by allowing the users of Democracy 2.0 to "vote" for these laws.

When our community grows to millions of users, Washington will take notice. The power of special interest groups, corporations, and self-serving politicians will be lessened. Democracy 2.0, just like music in the 1960s, will transform the political culture in the country, enhancing our position as a beacon of light, hope, and freedom for the world.

To achieve this goal, we need your help!


Democracy 2.0 will blend together two technologies: wikis and "social bookmarking." Just like a Wiki everyone can contribute to the site without editorial oversight. Just like Digg and Delicious, registered users will be able to vote on a law and decide which laws appear on our Home Page.


Each user, who registers, will be able to vote for a law once. Once the user "votes" for a law, the user can then update his vote by "un-voting" for the law, if the law is modified to something that the user no longer supports.

Main Page

On the main page will be two main sections: (1) Popular laws; and (2) Latest Laws. Popular laws will be a listing of the 25 most popular laws on the site based on the number of votes a law has received. Latest Laws will be decided through an algorithm that weighs the following factors: votes, edits, time of day, and comments. By placing the laws on the main page, these laws will get more exposure, attracting other members of the community to continue to further edit these laws.

Editing Laws and Voting

As users dynamically update laws this will happen: (1) the laws will be improved and the community will give that law more votes; or (2) the law will devolve and the law will lose votes.

Due to the structure of the site, users will try maximize the number of "votes" a given law receives. To maximize laws, users will have to improve the content of the law to something a greater portion of the community can agree upon. The process will force compromise: the topic will be refined, the language will be refined, the structure will be refined, and the debate will intensify.

Through this process, when the community reaches a sufficient sample size, the most popular laws will accurately reflect the laws that we as a community choose to impose upon ourselves. As our community grows, these popular laws will also accurately reflect the laws that Americans wish to impose upon themselves.


If Democracy 2.0 is successful, then the model will be translated in other languages and applied to other countries.

Through this process, Democracy 2.0 will transform America, and eventually the world. However, we cannot do this without your help! Spread the word.

From Wikilaw:Community Portal

- - -

See also:

The Problem of Power
Steve Bossermann - Diary of a Knowledge Broker


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Sunday December 11 2005
updated on Monday November 29 2010

URL of this article:


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Readers' Comments

Here is an article sent in by a reader in the UK, who writes "yes I think your article illustrates a point I tried to make some years ago about the power of networks. I am sure that the attached will make interesting reading..."

(transcribed from a scanned copy)

Title: The Mathematics of Mayhem
Author: Alun Anderson
Publication: The World in 2001, The Economist
Abstract: Article covering Sarnoff, Metcalfe, and Reed's laws of networking, along with how they might be effected by the wireless networks. Reed's Laws about group forming networks, and the potential impact upon hierarchical organizations through the ability to work and communicate without needing the chain of command.

The Mathematics of Mayhem
Alun Anderson

If you want to know what might happen to society, look at the mathematics of networks. One of the big surprises for Europeans in 2000 was the extraordinarily rapid spread of protests over the high price of fuel. Strangely, no organisation appeared to have planned them. Like-minded people from different occupations simply came together spontaneously to form new groups that organised themselves as protests developed. There was just one constant - almost every protestor appeared to be wielding a mobile phone.

Travel to the other side of the world and you will find that Japanese teenage girls are forming groups around the powers of the "i-mode" Internet phones. There is nothing political here: groups of friends, for example, send out waves of "goodnight" e-mails to everyone else just before going to bed.

What has science got to do with such disparate phenomena? Science certainly won't predict whether there will be fuel protests in 2001 or what particular fads teenagers will follow. But the study of communication networks does suggest that there might be a mathematical imperative behind the appearance of new social groupings as communication webs develop. The new mobile high-speed communication and wireless Internet technologies that will begin to appear in 2001 will further accelerate the creation of fluid new groups. Some might be political. Others might be highly practical, facilitating business or information exchange. Others might be hopelessly silly. Most will be wholly benevolent. But transient group formation is going to boom and organisations that rely on dealing with traditional hierarchies are going to be ever more confounded.

To understand the mathematical imperative take a look at the different communication networks that have appeared historically. The simplest are the "one-to-many" broadcast systems familiar from television. In such systems, the overall value of the network rises in simple relationship to the size of the audience. The bigger the audience, the more you can charge for advertisements and the more valuable your network. To put it mathematically, when you have a "one-to-many" system, the value rises with N, the size of the audience. This relationship is known as Sarnoff's Law, after a pioneer of radio and television broadcasting.

Now turn to the telephone network, a "many-to-many" system, where everyone can get in touch with everyone else. Here the mathematics are quite different. With N people connected, every individual has the opportunity to communicate with N -1 other people (you exclude yourself). So the total number of possible connections for N individuals = N^(N -1) or N^2 - N. This relationship is known as Metcalfe's Law, after Bob Metcalfe, the inventor of computer networking. The value of a telephone network, which will be related to the number of possible transactions, N^2 -N rises dramatically as N grows larger. Of course, not every person will actually contact every other person on the network, but the value of a "many-to-many" network increases with the number of users much faster than a broadcast system. That has been borne out historically with the growth of the telecommunications industry.

What about the Internet? At first it looks like just another telephone system, with e-mail replacing speech, and its value following Metcalfe's Law. But the Internet - and particularly the mobile internet which will hit us in force in 2001 - adds something extra. Internet users have the opportunity to form groups, in a way they cannot easily do on the telephone. Any Internet user can easily join discussion groups, auction groups, community web sites, chat rooms and so on. And now Internet users can build their won group meeting places and web sites.

Now the mathematical laws become really interesting. As David Reed, former chief scientist at Lotus Development Corporation, has recently shown, if you have N people they can in theory form 2^N -N -1 different groups. You can check this formula by considering a tiny N, of let's say just three individuals, A, B and C. They can form three different groups of two people: AB, AC, CB and one group of three people ABC, making a total of four groups as predicted by the formula.

A group of three is nothing to get excited about, of course. What's really remarkable about the mathematics of Reed's Law is that as N increases, the number of potential groups and the value of the network rises at an astounding rate. Of course, only a tiny fraction of potential groups will ever form. But that potential is so stupendous that a lot of the value of the web will be realised by facilitating the extraordinary power to form spontaneous groups.

Politics must change

The trend is already there to see. Early days of the Internet were dominated by a small number of centralised services (Sarnoff's Law), then e-mail exchange (Reed's Law). This process will accelerate in new ways in 2001 and beyond. In 2001, third-generation high-speed mobile Internet phones will go on sale in Japan. Soon afterwards, we'll seee the ready availability of mobile phones that allow people to read and transmit their precise location, wherever they are. In your pocket, you'll be able to carry a device that has a web connection faster than the one you have in your office, that can work from anywhere, and knows exactly where it is. And simpler tools will be available to build web sites tailored for mobile phone access.

These developments will allow for the formation of ever more fleeting groups in time and space. For businesses, there are lots of obvious opportunities for new services: a store could make an instantaneous special offer to any of its customers currently located within a few minutes walk. Or just as easily, a message can go out to all members of a pressure group close to a building where a spontaneous protest is required.

From a scientific point of view, we can't predict what people will do. But we can reasonably predict that businesses will maximise the value of the web by exploiting its extraordinary capacity to form multiple groups, however fleeting. How people will group and re-group themselves in a post 2001 world where everybody can be connected everywhere and any person can become a participant or a hub for a self-organising group, we can only begin to imagine. But it won't be the hierarchical world that politicians have long been used to controlling.

Posted by: Sepp on December 12, 2005 08:16 PM


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The Individual Is Supreme And Finds Its Way Through Intuition


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These articles are brought to you strictly for educational and informational purposes. Be sure to consult your health practitioner of choice before utilizing any of the information to cure or mitigate disease. Any copyrighted material cited is used strictly in a non commercial way and in accordance with the "fair use" doctrine.



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