Letter to Dan Askt

March 21, 1996


I enjoyed your article in today's Boston Globe, "Casting Ballots in Cyberspace".

There are several points you did not cover:

  1. Today our constitution requires representative government. How would the ideas expressed in your article address the constitutional issues?

  2. A critical issue is avoiding a plebiscite from of government. They are very easily manipulated by appeals to emotions. Perhaps this is why dictators are so fond of plebiscites. I argue that today's abuse of instant polling has already driven America far too close a plebiscite governance. Polls, after all, are basically limited to measuring emotive states, and are not a reflexive and rational process. When was the last time you called a pollster back with a better idea? Is it wise to guide this great nation into the future with emotive navigational tools? Is this a sound path to an optimally successful evolutionary outcome?

  3. The real challenge is to restore meaningful participation in a process over time which allows us to reflect on new points of view, other ideas, and new information: A process which allows us to learn and evolve. See, for example, the Open Meeting experiment that was run by the Vice President and The National Performance Review for a two week period in November of 1994.

  4. Another key question is to ask what is the role of politics in our society. For my views on this, please see my essay 'The Politics Question' which you can find on my web site under 'what's new'.

  5. A key aspect of the New Media, when compared to the legacy media, is that it restores to us the ability to treat each other as partners. Legacy media, with its primitive one way technology, can only treat us as target objects. I suggest that one hundred years of treating each other as target objects has had very pathological consequences.

  6. The second key aspect of the New Media is that it is at least 50% about LISTENING -- not just instant expression of opinions [votes]. This is what process over time does: it re-integrates listening and learning with dialog.

I will be a lot more interested in the work of David Chaum and Lorrie Cranor when they integrate the MIT AI Lab's Open Meeting process over time work with their own voting projects. In a word, a dynamic feedback mechanism is essential for successful adaptation to a constantly changing fitness landscape. Merely cyberizing, in a primitive Maclunanesque manor, our current late industrial era political process is, simply, a bad idea. A new political theory must at least restore partnering and eliminate the target object component from the process.

I look forward to your thoughts. And please feel free to forward this note to Chaum and Cranor.


Jock Gill

                                Jock Gill
                            Penfield Gill, Inc.
                               Boston,  MA