The open-source world has learned to deal with a flood of new, oftentimes divergent, ideas using hosting services like GitHub -- so why can’t governments? In this rousing TED talk Clay Shirky shows how democracies can take a lesson from the Internet, to be not just transparent but also to draw on the knowledge of all their citizens.
Clay Shirky argues that the history of the modern world could be rendered as the history of ways of arguing, where changes in media change what sort of arguments are possible -- with deep social and political implications.
This week’s earth summit in Rio de Janeiro is a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago. By now, the leaders who gathered in the same city in 1992 told us, the world’s environmental problems were to have been solved. But all they have generated is more meetings, which will continue until the delegates, surrounded by rising waters, have eaten the last rare dove, exquisitely presented with an olive leaf roulade. The biosphere, that world leaders promised to protect, is in a far worse state than it was 20 years ago(1). Is it not time to recognise that they have failed?
These summits have failed for the same reason that the banks have failed. Political systems which were supposed to represent everyone now return governments of millionaires, financed by and acting on behalf of billionaires. The past 20 years have been a billionaires’ banquet. At the behest of corporations and the ultra-rich, governments have removed the constraining decencies – the laws and regulations – which prevent one person from destroying another. To expect governments funded and appointed by this class to protect the biosphere and defend the poor is like expecting a lion to live on gazpacho.
2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, by Jorgen Randers, launched by the Club of Rome on May 7, raises the possibility that humankind might not survive on the planet if it continues on its path of over-consumption and short-termism.
In the Report author Jorgen Randers raises essential questions:
How many people will the planet be able to support? Will the belief in endless growth crumble? Will runaway climate change take hold? Where will quality of life improve, and where will it decline? Using painstaking research, and drawing on contributions from more than 30 thinkers in the field, he concludes that:
While the process of adapting humanity to the planet’s limitations has started, the human response could be too slow.
The current dominant global economies, particularly the United States, will stagnate. Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa and ten leading emerging economies (referred to as ‘BRISE’ in the Report) will progress.
But there will still be 3 billion poor in 2052.
China will be a success story, because of its ability to act.
Global population will peak in 2042, because of falling fertility in urban areas Global GDP will grow much slower than expected, because of slower productivity growth in mature economies.
CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere will continue to grow and cause +2°C in 2052; temperatures will reach +2.8°C in 2080, which may well trigger self-reinforcing climate change.
The Report says the main cause of future problems is the excessively short-term predominant political and economic model. “We need a system of governance that takes a more long-term view”, said Professor Randers, speaking in Rotterdam. “It is unlikely that governments will pass necessary regulation to force the markets to allocate more money into climate friendly solutions, and must not assume that markets will work for the benefit of humankind”.
"The only way to manage an economy as complex as this is to allow massively parallel decision making. A huge number of economically empowered people making small decisions, that in aggregate, are able to process more data, get better data (by being closer to the problem), and apply more brainpower to weighing alternatives than any centralized decision making group."
The Finnish government has approved the technology behind a new 'Open Ministry' platform, which will act as a hub for citizens who want new laws voted on in the country's parliament. But could that work elsewhere?
There is growing global sentiment that the era of grand multilateral treaty-making is over. Recurrent disputes over burden-sharing, and the specter of national vetoes, tends to tie negotiators into knots. Rather than seeking common ground–and often bland consensus—among 193 diverse countries, progress at major UN conferences will increasingly depend on individual countries coming to the table to declare what they are prepared to do, at a national level, to advance internationally-agreed goals. To this end, the United States is pressing all governments coming to Rio to arrive with a list of concrete commitments on the Rio agenda’s seven critical issues: decent jobs, energy, sustainable cities, food security and sustainable agriculture, water, oceans, and disaster readiness. The idea is to compile all of these national commitments in an online compendium.
"Like any technology, democracy was once a radical innovation, thought unlikely to work. Now, it is the industry standard. Our aim is to find, analyze, and debate the innovations in governance today that may become the standards of tomorrow, especially those that utilize the best technology for social organization ever developed–the market. We are particularly interested in the meta-innovations that will alter incentives in the governing industry to improve the rate of innovation."
Global Dashboard explores global risks and international affairs, bringing together authors who work on foreign policy in think tanks, government, academia and the media. It was set up in 2007 and is edited from the UK by Alex Evans and David Steven.