(…kind of random ramble here…maybe I think it sounds silly in a few weeks…)
I never really “got” Neal Stephenson’s concept of federated and FRANCHISED governments in Snow Crash. I mean, I understood he was trying to feel all cyberpunk and future-y, but I didn’t immediately see practical drivers which would necessitate the transformation. Beyond Stephenson’s plot need for a fictional generic doom and gloom everything falls apart into a gritty underworld backdrop, what would be the systems benefit of evolving into a real life situation where government is significantly geographically non-contiguous and people have to buy in to their state of choice? No answer.
Fast forward a few years. The other day I attended the kick-off for the “National Cyber Security Awareness Month” this year at the national press club. Suits from the non-profit org, Symantec, and DHS were on the panel. They talked about their plans to raise awareness (it seems to involve schools, but not much else?) and current threats (ye olde “insider threat” spiel. What a cop-out. Who are your insiders? Your users? Your business partners? Your supply chain? The wife and kids at home who are on the same network as your laptop? The starbucks-going-public? Wake up. You don’t have an inside. But, I digress).
Apparently this is the fifth year there has been an awareness month. Wow. I’ve certainly never noticed it before. Why is that? At first it seemed like the government just couldn’t get its shiot together. But then you have to wonder two – why is this a government issue at all (why arent people self-organizing?) and is this limited to security awareness? Are we having these issues coming to social consensus elsewhere?
(Bear with me here, I havent completely thought this post out yet)
It really seems that the answer to the second question is a resounding yes. We cannot seem to come to agreement on anything in the US lately…and when we do, it’s a conclusion based on only the most oversimplified non-complex versions of “facts”. The reason the government is involved is because people throw up their hands and go “this is too much! help!”
Why is it too much?
A combination of too much data and a lack of common interests and needs on a geographical basis. A geographically federated state system assumes that people nearest each other have the most in commun wrt value systems, needs, desires, beliefs, culture, etc. Do we have that now? Somewhat…but not nearly, IMO, as much as we used to and maybe not as much as we need to.
Look at it this way: If 30% of people in one area agree on something, but so many other people disagree that the 30% is a majority, it’s the 30% that gets represented ultimately. That’s expected and fine when it happens on some issues. But what happens if interests and values have become so diversified within geographic voting/opinion districts that this kind of discord is the norm? We may be vastly over-normalizing our opinions to the point where they’re not meaningfully reflective of reality and no one will ever happy with the results. We’re essentially making decisions based on noise.
Related to voting, and more pertinent, is that we’re not having nearly as many -conversations- or -dialogue- between people based on geo-centric shared interests. Rather, we’re talking over the internet and national TV. People with shared interests are collaborating around the world. Virtual communities of interest have become as normal in many areas as real ones.
This is where Neal Stephenson’s franchised governments start to come into play. States are usually formed around a group of people in one “place” with shared values and interests. If we virtualize and abstract out “place”, what do we end up with?
Can we or should we reorganize voting/opinion districts around these opt-in shared communities? You choose which group to join and be a part of. Everyone in said virtual community votes and that virtual community subsequently votes in large polls/electrions the way its community voted.
Would that work? Would it help? Is that where we’re headed?
This post obviously needs to be fleshed out in a lot more detail, but I really dont have the time. Just thinking out loud :)