Democracies around the world are malfunctioning due to numerous "democratic deficits". One of the key deficits is caused by political institutions such as political parties that generate conflicts they cannot resolve, especially ideological conflicts. These conflicts often cause legislative stalemates that prevent passage of critical legislation, such as laws effectively addressing global climate disruption and the spread of asymmetrical warfare around the world. They also cause popular dissatisfaction with legislative bodies and opposition to elected governments due to their failures to pass laws needed and demanded by their constituents.
These deficits include the following:
- The propensity of political parties to create conflicts and legislative stalemates based on uncompromising ideological stances and partisan agendas.
- The gap between voters' and lawmakers' legislative priorities due to the failure of traditional parties to engage voters in actively determining their legislative agendas and slates of candidates.
- Deliberate contrivance of electoral controversies in order to attract voters' attention, mislead them with false allegations, and divide them into hostile camps in order to get their votes.
- Passive electorates that have no alternative but to choose among electoral candidates already on the ballot running on platforms over which voters have little influence.
- Decreasing voter turnout in most established democracies since the 1960s.
- Electoral laws, regulations and well-funded media campaigns that enable candidates and parties lacking widespread support to win elections, take control of government and pass laws even though they have received a minority of votes cast.
- Legislative decision-making regarding grave and complex matters, such as armed conflicts, that does not engage electorates in actively debating the merits of various options or give them the opportunity to express their views or vote on options.
- Passage of laws in which voters' legislative needs and priorities are subordinated to those of special interests.
These "democratic deficits" in ostensibly democratic and freely elected governments are fueling growing voter dissatisfaction with their elected representatives and governments as a whole. Voters' frustration at their inability to obtain legislation that meets their needs, priorities and demands is sparking protests, legal and extra-legal confrontations, secession movements, and even armed clashes and attempts to overthrow governments whose actions are perceived to jeopardize the well-being of their populations.
The causes of the life-threatening problems, crises and conflicts, such as global climate disruption and the spread of asymmetrical warfare around the world, lie primarily within malfunctioning, democratically unaccountable governments that have failed to protect the well-being of their constituents.
These malfunctioning governments must be made democratically accountable before these problems, crises and conflicts can be addressed through the passage of effective legislation. Although most of these governments have thwarted traditional reform efforts, they can be re-invented by their electorates by means of a unique political consensus building and conflict resolution web technology that fundamentally alters the way democratic forms of government function. It does so by enabling voters to replace dysfunctional and conflict producing political institutions with consensus building institutions.
The Interactive Voter Choice System
will provide access to a unique transpartisan
consensus building and conflict resolution platform that will enable electorates, lawmakers, electoral candidates, political parties, and voter mobilization groups to find common ground and devise consensual legislative solutions to these problems, crises and conflicts.
In particular, the technology will counteract politically and economically motivated confrontations and violence within and between countries and the various protagonists engaging in these confrontations and violent acts.
It will do so by empowering all parties -- especially disaffected and aggrieved individuals, groups and potential recruits to extremist causes -- to forego violence and replace it with effective political influence obtained through self-organizing and consensus building online voting blocs, political parties and coalitions (BPCs) that enable them to use electoral and legislative processes to protect their vital interests without the use of force.
For the first time in history, the Interactive Voter Choice System, will connect voters and other democracy stakeholders to each other horizontally rather than "top down" through traditional political parties. It will enable them to devise common transpartisan
legislative agendas and peace plans to solve transnational
conflicts that cross ideological and partisan lines, and use their own autonomous (BPCs) to elect candidates to enact their agendas and plans.
These BPCs, which can work with traditional parties or independently, can grow large enough to outflank and outnumber the electoral base of any single political party and run and elect candidates to defeat opposing party candidates. This capability enables BPCs to overcome the polarization and partisan divisiveness that traditional parties and special interests inject into electoral and legislation processes.
The Interactive Voter Choice System's social networking platform also overcomes the well-documented tendency of members of social groups of like-minded people -- especially political groups -- to move to extremes, particularly when they are instigated to do so by self-serving leaders. While the common goals of social and political groups can unite their members, research shows that these intra-group goals can exert a divisive influence by prompting their members to adopt extreme positions in order to compete with external groups -- especially in cases where political leaders exaggerate and even invent external threats in order to increase their influence and control over the members of the group.
To counteract this tendency, the consensus building mechanism contained within the Interactive Voter Choice System motivates the members of BPCs to continuously reach out across partisan divides to attract new members so they can build electoral bases large enough to provide the voting strength they need to win elections.
The system's capacity to reduce polarization by facilitating transpartisan consensus building among BPCs can extend upwards from grassroots micro-levels to higher macro-levels within
national boundaries. BPCs that operate within a specific election district can expand and interconnect with BPCs that operate outside their election districts. By using the system's consensus building mechanism, they can coalesce to incorporate broad cross-sections of voters across partisan and ideological lines to collectively create common agendas and peace plans, as well as plan and conjointly implement coordinated electoral strategies to elect lawmakers to enact their common agendas.
The Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS) can be used by virtually unlimited numbers of democracy stakeholders in countries around the world not only to form domestic BPCs but also to form transnational
BPCs to address any transnational
problems, crises and conflicts they wish. To take one urgent example, the system will facilitate the formation of BPCs whose members consensually develop common agendas to address life-threatening global crises such as those created by the global metastasis of asymmetric warfare
as well as the imminent threats posed by global climate disruption and extreme weather.
To implement legislative agendas set by transnational BPCs, individual members of these BPCs can create domestic BPCs within their home countries and elect lawmakers to enact transnational agendas. By operating simultaneously at national and transnational levels, they can surmount the inability of far too many governments and heads of state to agree to adopt and implement common agendas aimed at preventing further global climate disruption and extreme weather.
As discussed below, IVCS-enabled BPCs will possess the unique problem-solving capabilities of interconnected complex adaptive systems (CAS)
. As such, they will accelerate the technological evolution of democratic forms of government by enabling democracy stakeholders everywhere, across the political and ideological spectrum, to find common ground to solve life-threatening societal and global problems, crises and conflicts that contemporary governments are proving themselves incapable of solving.
These online systems and the technological evolution they will accelerate in political systems are particularly needed at the federal level of the United States government where the U.S. Congress is chronically subject to paralysis created by quarreling political parties and lawmakers representing a minority of American voters.
These self-organizing complex adaptive systems, however, are needed just as urgently outside the U.S. in regions plagued by violent conflicts. For they can prevent protagonists from going to extremes by providing them a platform for engaging in online dialogue and debate with people from diverse perspectives committed to devising and implementing peace plans and non-violent solutions to the conflicts. Successful outcomes of these online dialogues and debates will enable them to realize they can use online BPCs to achieve their objectives without the use of force.
How the Technology Works
The technology connects voters across the ideological and political spectrum to each other online and enables them to create a new layer of voter-controlled consensus building political organizations capable of determining the outcomes of elections and legislative decision making.
The technology's agenda setting, political organizing and consensus building
tools enable voters and other democracy stakeholders such as political parties, electoral candidates, issue and voter mobilization groups to accomplish the following:
- Form autonomous online domestic and transnational voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions.
- Obtain, invent, share, discuss, and debate new information, knowledge and understanding of legislative options and alternatives.
- Build large scale consensus on priorities, and adopt as well as update common legislative agendas by casting online votes using the network's voting utility.
- Reach out to recruit voters across the spectrum to their blocs, parties and coalitions in order to grow large enough to elect candidates of their choice in actual elections to enact their agendas, including domestic as well as transnational agendas.
- Prevent and resolve legislative stalemates by negotiating common agendas in advance and during legislative sessions.
- Guide the legislative actions of their elected representatives while legislative bodies are in session by giving them specific legislative mandates, signing petitions, holding referendums, and conducting straw recall votes to inform lawmakers of the number of voters who would like them to be removed from office.
- Hold lawmakers electorally accountable for their legislative track records in implementing voters' agendas by voting for or against them in the next election, including running candidates to oppose them.
The IVCS technology will re-invent democracy because it possesses a built-in consensus building and conflict resolution mechanism
that motivates and empowers electorates to overcome ideological and partisan conflicts and legislative stalemates.
The mechanism works as follows:
- Voters build online voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions by setting and voting on common legislative priorities and agendas.
- These blocs, parties and coalitions can get their priorities and agendas enacted legislatively by electing candidates of their choice who pledge to exert their best efforts to enact them.
- In order to elect candidates of their choice, each bloc, party and coalition must build an electoral base with sufficient numbers of voters to win elections.
- In order to win elections, this electoral base must be larger than the base of any single political party running candidates against theirs.
- They can create such a base by using the technology's tools and services to reach out to recruit new voters across the ideological and political spectrum to their bloc, party or coalition. They can do so by engaging them in compromising their differences and consensually setting common transpartisan legislative agendas, as well as by adopting transpartisan slates of candidates that cross ideological and partisan lines.
- To create a winning electoral base, there is an inherent motivation built into the technology driving these blocs, parties and coalitions to compromise differences and conflicts in order to obtain sufficient numbers of voters so they can outflank and outnumber the electoral bases of single parties that typically adhere to ideological and partisan lines that lack widespread popular appeal.
- The consensus building mechanism rewards with electoral victories the blocs, parties and coalitions that grow large electoral bases through compromise, and motivates those that remain too small to win elections to compromise and join with them to enjoy the fruits of electoral victories -- or remain electorally insignificant.
In the process of creating transpartisan
electoral bases, voters can actively engage in political problem solving and create the collective intelligence and political leverage they need to implement their solutions. Access to the technology's agenda setting and problem solving tools
in combination with its online voting utility
enables bloc, party and coalition members to act pragmatically, flexibly and adaptively to prevent or resolve legislative stalemates that would otherwise obstruct the passage of needed legislation in a timely and effective manner.
Significantly, the technology enables any individual or group anywhere to use its tools to create a bloc, party or coalition at any time to address any issue or set of issues they choose, within a single country or transnationally. It will make it possible for disaffected and aggrieved individuals and groups to attain their objectives through authentic, democratic, voter controlled electoral and legislative processes, rather than confrontations, protests and extra-legal actions, including the use of force.
These organizations will compete with each other to win elections to enact their agendas not
by contriving political conflicts to divide
voters into hostile camps, but by building consensus to unite
voters across partisan lines around collectively set agendas in order to recruit the largest number of voters to vote for their candidates. Voters will play pro-active rather than passive roles in electoral and legislative processes. Instead of allowing lawmakers and heads of state to pass legislation that ignores their constituents' priorities and demands, voters can take action at any time to form, exit and create new blocs, parties and coalitions, set collective legislative mandates and pressure elected government officials to enact them or risk defeat in upcoming elections.
The core technical features of the Interactive Voter Choice System are described in the patent issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (U.S. Patent No. 7,953,628, Class 705/12: Data Processing: Voting or election arrangement).
It comprises a "system to create aggregates of voters with similar preferred policy options to influence elections and policy-making in representative bodies", "a computerbased network", "a website on the Internet", and "computerized databases of objects, each object representing a stance on a policy option of concern to voters".
The system is designed to enable voters to "build consensus, coalitions and voting blocs that can run and elect their own candidates for office and induce elected representatives to enact their agendas".
The Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS) enables voters to build self-organizing voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs), and decentralized networks of BPCs, whose members interact with each other using the information and communication technologies (ICT) available on the website to access the system's structured and unstructured databases. Core databases are comprised of policy options and selected sets of policy options and policy agendas.
The self-organizing capabilities of IVCS-enabled BPCs are similar to those found in "complex adaptive systems"
because they enable virtually unlimited numbers of individual agents, such as voters, to interact and self-organize at all levels to pursue common goals and adapt to change, including current and anticipated changes, as well as complex chains of interacting changes.
These capabilities are particularly relevant to self-organizing voting blocs participating in electoral and legislative processes in large, complex political systems and governmental institutions in which small numbers of lawmakers enact laws for millions of constituents. For they permit virtually unlimited numbers of voters to interact with each other and self-organize from the "bottom-up" into voting blocs and coalitions to set priorities and elect representatives to implement them.
By setting policy agendas and electing lawmakers to solve societal problems, crises and conflicts by adopting policies reflecting voters' agendas, it is possible for BPCs to counteract the tendency for electoral and legislative processes to be dominated by "top-down" organizations and institutions such as political parties and organized special interests (Hacker and Pierson, 2010)
The technology facilitates consensus building and conflict resolution by BPCs within countries as well as transnationally. Voters and democracy stakeholders worldwide can use the IVCS platform to set and implement agendas regarding any issues they choose, and elect lawmakers to enact their agendas in whatever countries and jurisdictions BPC members reside.
There are four ways BPCs can use the reinventdemocracy.net website to pressure lawmakers into enacting their agendas and hold them accountable if they fail to do so. They can:
- Conduct large scale petitioning campaigns; use the voting utility to tally the number of signatories; transmit the petition to lawmakers electronically; and publicize the results via media of their choice.
- Conduct online referendums that convey to their elected representatives their immediate legislative priorities, using the voting utility to tally the number of votes cast to show them how many people advocate these priorities.
- Conduct online straw recall votes to inform representatives and policy-makers who fail to exert their best efforts to enact their agendas and mandates how many people want to oust them from office immediately.
- Defeat in actual elections lawmakers whose legislative track records are deemed unsatisfactory by blocs and coalitions.
For these reasons, the IVCS technology can accelerate the technological evolution of democratic forms of government by providing voters information and communication technologies (ICT) that facilitate the formation of self-organizing voting blocs, political parties and coalitions (BPCs). It combines web-based electronic data processing, structured and unstructured databases comprised of policy options and priorities, online social collaboration tools and the collective action power of the Internet (Shirky, 2008
This technological combination connects voters to each other horizontally across partisan and ideological lines to build web-based BPCs operating in electoral and legislative processes via the system's web-based computer network. Through the creation of transpartisan
policy agendas and electoral bases that cross partisan lines, the system enables blocs and coalitions to decide who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed.
Although BPCs can align with political parties of their choice or work independently, their ability to use the system to forge transpartisan
agendas and electoral bases that cross party and ideological lines, and outnumber the electoral base of any single party, enables them to surpass the influence of political parties as the driving forces of electoral and legislative politics.
This horizontal connectivity and autonomy of blocs and coalitions that self-organize from the "bottom up" contrasts with the "top-down" pyramidal structure of traditional political parties. Party structures primarily connect individual voters to party organizational hierarchies vertically
instead of horizontally
to enable voters to determine party platforms and decide which candidates shall be placed on party ballots.
In contrast, the Interactive Voter Choice System provides a formal mechanism by which voters can set individual and group-based policy agendas on behalf of self-organizing voting blocs, political parties and coalitions (BPCs). BPCs can adopt and elect common slates of candidates of their own choosing as an alternative to accepting parties' requirements that voters choose among candidates who have already placed themselves on parties' primary and general election ballots and run on agendas over which voters have little influence.
The IVCS technology re-invents democracy by enabling voters and the online consensus building blocs and coalitions that they create to supercede political parties as the primary definers of policy priorities and determinants of slates of electoral candidacies. Such a technology is especially relevant in countries like the U.S. where academic and policy research has found that the major political parties and their candidates tend to:
- Exercise quasi-monopoly control of the institutional machinery of electoral and legislative processes, and use it to ensure the election of party candidates and prevent the emergence of competitive third parties (Maisel, 2007).
- Receive the lion's share of their finances from special interests.
(Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 2010).
- Tend to support legislation favoring special interests even when it diverges from the expressed needs and wants of lawmakers' constituents (Hacker and Pierson, 2010).
According to the conclusions of numerous studies (for example, Gilens and Page, 2014)
, lawmakers beholden to special interests often take legislative actions that do not serve the public interest and increasingly fail to effectively address the life-threatening crises and conflicts proliferating around the world.
In contrast, voters can use IVCS agenda setting, political organizing, and consensus building tools
to create transpartisan
electoral bases large enough to elect their candidates to enact their agendas, without special interest campaign financing, and guide their actions after they take office to ensure their elected representatives exert their best efforts to enact BPC agendas. If BPC members deem their representatives' legislative track records to be unsatisfactory, they can use IVCS political organizing tools to run and elect new candidates in the next election.
MIT computer scientist David P. Reed
pioneered in conceptualizing the unique group forming properties of telecommunications networks. The one-to-many communications capabilities that electronic networks provide to every member of the network exponentially increases the number of connections that can be made. In what is referred to as "Reed's Law"
, he postulated that "the utility of large networks particularly social networks, can scale exponentially with the size of the network."
These group forming properties of social networks highlight the virtually unlimited number of IVCS-enabled voting blocs, political parties and coalitions (BPCs) that can be formed via the IVCS platform and website. The utility and political influence of these BPCs and their interconnections are likely to increase exponentially as the number of BPCs using the network expands worldwide.
In contrast to generic group forming social networks
like Facebook and Twitter, the Interactive Voter Choice System platform will create a specialized group forming social network
designed to connect voters and other democracy stakeholders to each other.
The platform's structured and unstructured databases, comprised of policy options and priorities that users create and/or access via IVCS agenda setting, political organizing, and consensus building tools
, enable voters to set legislative agendas, connect with like-minded members with similar agendas, and create self-organizing online BPCS hosted on a single website running on a single computing platform. The platform will comprise portals for specific countries and facilitate the formation of voting blocs and coalitions that function within countries as well as transnationally.
The system and network enable individuals and groups with access to the Internet to use PCs as well as mobile devices to create accounts, user profiles, directories, groups (communities, voting blocs, coalitions, etc.) and workspaces. They will have access to information and communication technologies (ICT), including state-of-the-art social software, which enable them to build and manage their own communications and content, including using a variety of methods to set and update individual and group policy agendas specifying the legislation they want enacted. An individual or group that sets an agenda can use the system's databases to connect with like-minded individuals and groups that have set similar agendas to negotiate common agendas and form voting blocs and coalitions to elect representatives to enact their agendas.
There is no technical limit to the number of individuals and groups that can create accounts and form or join blocs and coalitions. Each member can communicate with every other member, singly or through one-to-many communications. Individual bloc and coalition members can communicate with members of other blocs and coalitions to merge and form new blocs and coalitions. These blocs and coalitions will be members of decentralized networks of autonomous self-organizing blocs and coalitions that are interconnected to each other by virtue of being hosted on the platform's website, sharing the platform's ICT tools, and enjoying access to its databases.
The primary goal of the blocs and coalitions will be to determine the outcomes of electoral and legislative processes by deciding who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed. They will be able to nominate/endorse and elect candidates to public office at any level of government and oversee the legislative actions of their elected representatives to ensure that they adhere to bloc and coalition agendas. If blocs and coalitions deem their representatives to have failed to exert their best efforts to enact bloc and coalition agendas, they can nominate/endorse other candidates to defeat them in the next election.
The Interactive Voter Choice System enables not only electorates but the entire spectrum of democracy stakeholders -- including elected representatives, electoral candidates, and members of political parties, unions, issue groups and civil society organizations -- to connect with each other and use the system's web platform to find common ground for building consensus and resolving conflicts.
The paradigm-shifting nature of the IVCS platform derives from the fact that for the first time in history, it enables virtually unlimited numbers of individual voters and democracy stakeholders to connect to each other on a continuous basis; collectively set policy agendas across the board and partisan lines; and build voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs) to elect lawmakers to enact their agendas. The platform provides the technology needed for voters across the political and ideological spectrum to set common legislative agendas and build BPCs around them that can grow large enough to supercede political parties and special interests as the driving forces of electoral and legislative processes and their outcomes.
Moreover, these stakeholders and their BPCs will not be constrained to work within the pre-existing political and ideological frameworks of political parties and issue groups that may not be relevant or appropriate to their needs, interests and desires, or the contours of the specific local, regional, national and transnational environments in which they live and in which their BPCs are operating. Although BPCs can work with political parties and issue groups of their choice, they can build consensus and resolve conflicts pragmatically without having to fit their emerging agendas into pre-conceived political and ideological frameworks.
Additionally, IVCS technology possesses an inherent incentive and unprecedented potential to unite broad cross-sections of voters and connect multiple groups of stakeholders who might otherwise be divided along ideological and partisan lines. They can set their policy agendas using a variety of methods, including formulating their own priorities and options based on the issues, legislation and policies they want to see enacted in response to their own particular needs, wants and situations.
In addition to using the platform to build winning BPCs within a country, electorates, elected representatives, policy-makers, electoral candidates, political parties, unions, issue groups and civil society organizations can use the platform and website to form transnational
multi-stakeholder voting blocs and coalitions whose members work together across borders to build consensus on common peace plans and solutions to transnational problems, crises and conflicts. By operating simultaneously at transnational and national levels, they can bring together a broader range of perspectives and a far greater number of problem-solvers to the table to complement those of official policy-makers.
After transnational BPCs set common agendas, their members can use the political organizing tools of the platform to form, strengthen and expand existing voting blocs and electoral coalitions in their home countries dedicated to enacting the agendas of the transnational BPCs. These domestic blocs and coalitions can nominate and elect lawmakers to enact the common agendas originally set by the transnational blocs and coalitions, and thereby determine policies enacted in multiple countries simultaneously. The flexibility and global reach of blocs and coalitions that simultaneously act nationally and transnationally to determine which policy-makers are in office can overcome the policy-making stalemates and paralysis of international agencies whose nation-state members can not agree on what policies should be enacted.
Transnational IVCS-enabled BPCS with these capabilities are urgently needed around the world to solve problems, crises and conflicts non-violently despite the tendency of so many nation-states and their leaders to resort to the use of force without exhausting the full panoply of non-violent conflict resolution strategies and tactics. In particular, the escalation of social tensions and proliferation of confrontations between ordinary people and governmental officials attests to the lack of effective consensus building mechanisms that enable all parties to come together to find common ground. The IVCS technology will create the world's first large scale consensus building and conflict resolution platform to remedy this deficiency and facilitate the resolution of national as well as transnational problems, crises and conflicts.
As indicated above, the Interactive Voter Choice System platform will create not only a group forming global social network, but it will also spawn voting blocs, political parties and coalitions (BPCs), and networks of BPCs, with characteristics similar to those of classical complex adaptive systems
. These CASs involve "human social group-based endeavors" whose members act in ways that effectively adapt their groups to internal and external pressures.
In the case of political CASs, these characteristics enable them to thrive individually and also merge with other political CASs by using IVCS agenda setting, political organizing and consensus building tools
to build transpartisan
consensus around common agendas among every larger cross-sections of voters across the political and ideological spectrum, and adopt and elect common slates of candidates to enact their agendas. By so doing, they can overcome the chronic political stalemates created by divisive political parties and gridlocked institutions that paralyze legislative decision-making.
These capabilities derive from the ability of any individual and BPC using the IVCS platform to communicate with any other individuals and BPCs of their choice to discuss and devise solutions to political issues, problems, crises and conflicts and take collective action to implement their solutions through electoral and legislative processes. They can set and update legislative agendas, and collaborate to build and continually expand their electoral bases to comprise ever larger numbers of voters until their BPCs have enough votes to elect their candidates.
Constant consensus building through discussion, debate and voting on agendas, candidates and action plans will enable BPCs to grow large enough to decide who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed while adapting to continuous changes taking place around them. To win elections, BPCs can and must continually adapt to changes taking place in their environments by negotiating renewed consensus among their members regarding whatever modifications of their priorities they collectively deem necessary in order to attract enough voters to elect their candidates.
They will be most likely to succeed if they recruit and collaborate with broad-cross sections of voters across partisan and ideological lines to negotiate transpartisan agendas
and build transpartisan
electoral bases that cross partisan lines. By so doing, they will be able to elect lawmakers who can resolve the divisive political and legislative conflicts that parties often create, which in turn spark continuous conflicts within legislative bodies that prevent quarreling lawmakers from agreeing to enact critical legislation needed to solve increasing life-threatening problems, crises and conflicts in manner that serves the public interest and protects and promotes the general welfare.
The similarity of core functions and features of the transpartisan BPCs that will be created via the Interactive Voter Choice System web platform to those of "complex adaptive systems" (CASs) are what gives IVCS its paradigm-shifting potential to fundamentally transform and "re-invent" the way democracies function.
They do so by ensuring that electorates can form self-organizing BPCs and decentralized networks of BPCs that can supercede traditional political parties and special interests in determining legislative priorities and the outcomes of electoral and legislative processes.
For this reason, it is worth taking a closer look at these similarities, starting with the functions and features of classical CASs.
According to Firestone and Hadders (2012)
, essential CAS features include the following:
- Coherence in the face of change, or "identity." Coherence refers to maintenance of the characteristic organizational pattern of a CAS through time.
- Diversity in both form and capability. They range from adaptive software agents to the institutions that comprise the International Social System. They include one-celled living systems, immune systems, organizations, and many other diverse forms of systems of varying capability and degrees of complexity.
- Population by agents (members) who learn, individually and collectively (Firestone and McElroy 2003).
- Distributed problem-solving and knowledge processing. Individual agents in CASs strive to solve their own and CAS problems autonomously and compatibly. In doing so, they contribute to solving CAS problems in a distributed but organized way.
- Extensive interactions among their agents. Intermittent individual interactions are not sufficient to establish and maintain a CAS pattern in tandem with the the complex patterning of CAS feedback loops and reinforcements. (Langton et al 1992).
- Self-organization to produce emergent global behavior at the CAS level. This is one of the most important features of a CAS. The key idea is that agents comprising the CAS act in accordance with their own purposes and motives, in pursuit of their own goals, and that their actions produce self-organized emergent global patterns that identify and maintain the CAS.
- Behavior and learning partly in accordance with knowledge that can be modeled as 'rules.'
- Adaptation by creating and using new rules as they continuously attempt to fit themselves to their environments. The process of arriving at new rules is "creative" or "evolutionary" learning. It involves generation of new rules and recombination of components of old, well-established rules (Campbell 1974) . Once new rules are formulated, they are subject to selection through interaction among CAS agents and interaction of the CAS with its environment.
- Adaptation by creating and using new rules is greater to the extent that their constituent agents are operating in problem-solving and distributed knowledge processing environments marked by relative "openness."
"Openness" is critical because it must apply across various phases of the problem-solving process, especially in the traditional political context where dominant actors, parties and institutions exhibit a tendency to institute closed hierarchical processes. Openness has at least two important dimensions. The first dimension is internal transparency, i.e. availability and accessibility of information across CAS agents. The second dimension is epistemic inclusiveness and equal opportunity for all autonomous CAS agents to participate and interact in the problem-solving and distributed knowledge processing of the system so that it can be more effective. (This is especially critical for voters participating in voting blocs, political parties, and coalitions.) Both dimensions are always found in high-performance CASs. An example taken from outside the human domain helps illustrate a pattern of epistemic inclusiveness.
Ant colonies illustrate 'native' CASs that rely on distributed knowledge processing informed by the individual experiences of their members and global behaviors at the CAS level determined as a consequence of information flow among these members (Holldobler and Wilson 1990)
There is no centralized planning or top down control producing collective behavior in a system like an ant colony. All knowledge created by individual ants contributes to the pattern of collective knowledge reflected in changed behavioral predispositions of the ant colony, and in the pattern of pheramone trails emerging at the level of the collective. Knowledge at the global level is entirely distributed or "bottom-up" in origin, as is the learning that produces it.
Social CASs created by humans differ significantly from ant colonies, including exhibiting less advanced forms of self-organization and evenly distributed and shared social learning. The interactions of agents in human CASs are differentiated to a much greater degree than those of ants because of differentials in the power, authority and influence created and exercised by individual human agents who use these differentials to change patterns of interaction and alter the distribution of influence within the CAS and between the CAS and external organizations. These differentials and modified patterns of interaction can strengthen or weaken CASs capabilities to adapt to internal and external pressures and changes.
For example, they can weaken CASs adaptability to changes in their external environments when behaviors in managerial and political systems result in the institution of "top-down" mechanisms of control that stultify "bottom-up" self-organization and distributed knowledge processing by agents situated elsewhere in the system. These behaviors often generate tensions and conflicts among interacting agents caused by the efforts of those wielding more power, authority and influence to achieve their own goals through "top-down" command-and-control interventions that stultify or pre-empt "bottom-up" idea generation, information gathering, problem solving and conflict resolution.
For this reason, human CASs have a tendency to create a special type of CAS -- Promethean CASs (PCASs) -- whose normal self-organizing processes are disrupted by the actions of powerful and influential agents (Firestone and McElroy, 2003, pp. 121ff)
. It is this phenomenon that appears to have prompted German sociologist Robert Michels at the turn of the last century to write his famous book entitled, Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracies (1911)
. Michels's interpretation and similar analyses of the same genre focus attention on "top down" control structures instituted by political parties and other governmental institutions to stultify or pre-empt "bottom-up" self-organization by the voters they are supposed to serve.
The movement toward "top down" pyramidal control structures in human-based political systems accelerates when political elites and institutions discourage and inhibit continuous "bottom up" self-organization that might lead to the creation of competitive power blocs capable of contesting their influence.
This tendency is particularly damaging to the adaptive capabilities of political systems because they not only stultify and frustrate "bottom-up" self-organization by voters at large, but they also prevent the utilization of the collective intelligence of their electorates in the solution of problems, crises and conflicts that are far too complicated to be solved by small numbers of lawmakers and governmental officials. When these decision-makers are beholden to special interests and pass legislation that serves their interests rather than the public interest and the needs and wants of their constituents, they generate social tensions and confrontations that can threaten the survival of the political systems themselves. All too often the elites that have interfered with self-organization try to limit the tensions and conflicts by instituting even more "top-down" control, which typically increases tensions and confrontations.
Where other agents wielding less power, authority or influence object to the "top-down" stultification of their self-organizing processes, they will resist "top-down" control and inject ongoing tensions and conflicts that sap the strength of the systems and weaken their ability to adapt to external changes. In contrast, the IVCS consensus building platform provides all parties mechanisms f0r finding common ground to resolve these tensions in a manner that preserves the CASs intact, provided all agents are willing to take advantage of it to work out their differences to ensure that the CASs maintain the adaptive capabilities they need to survive and cope with external change.
The self-organizing tools provided by the IVCS platform will prevent IVCS-enabled BPCs from becoming Promethean CASs themselves if any of their members attempt to institute "top-down" control practices. For members of these CASs who oppose these practices can attempt to mobilize support from other members to contest the practices as well as oust those who are trying to institute them. If the opposing members are unsuccessful, they are free to exit the bloc and use IVCS tools to start their own bloc or join existing blocs.
Along the lines of the analysis by the European political philosopher Karl Popper in his classic book Open Society and Its Enemies (1945)
, it is preferable to institute and implement policies and programs that support self-organization in distributed knowledge processing and problem-solving, as IVCS does, by maintaining openness in problem recognition, developing alternative solutions, eliminating errors, as well as communicating and disseminating new solutions.
Conversely leadership behaviors, management, and organizational processes that undermine self-organization will transition human CASs, especially CASs of a political nature, away from openness and democracy towards internally maladapted and conflictual systems that may develop into authoritarian or totalitarian regimes. (Firestone and Cavaleri 2009)
Given the current paralysis of U.S. governing institutions at the federal level, especially the chronic stalemates between the two major political parties, Popper's prescriptions appear to have had little impact on the U.S. political system, especially the party system. For it is now gridlocked at the top by so many partisan and ideological conflicts among its political parties and lawmakers that key legislative decision-making institutions like the U.S. Congress are chronically unable to enact needed legislation, including passage of the legislation that is required to keep the federal government itself in operation.
A primary cause of this break-down in governance is that ''bottom-up" self-organization by the U.S. electorate has been stultified by crippling obstructions designed to prevent the electorate from exerting a greater influence than the two major political parties, and the special interests that finance them and their candidates, in determining who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed. One of the most effective obstructions derives from the refusal of the dominant political parties to permit their supporters to vote on what their platforms should be or what slates of candidates they should run.
The second is the fact that the parties have redrawn election district boundaries to ensure election of their candidates by placing voters likely to voter for party candidates in critical districts while voters likely to vote against official party candidats are divided up and assigned to multiple districts so as to dilute their vote and prevent them from running "insurgent" candidates against official party candidates.
The third obstruction is that the parties and the special interests that finance them and their candidates have legalized through legislation and litigation the expenditure of vast sums of money by non-voting entities to prevent competing candidates from defeating official major party candidates who are financially beholden to special interests and will pass the legislation they demand.
The quasi-monopoly of electoral machinery held by the two major parties does get the large majority of their candidates elected. However, contrary to democratic theory, the party that succeeds in controlling the U.S. Senate and/or House of Representatives is typically able to do so by obtaining the votes of only a minority of eligible voters.
Nonetheless, the fact that a controlling party's lawmakers are elected by a minority of eligible voters does not prevent these lawmakers from claiming they speak for "the American people" and asserting that the legislation they pass represents the "will of the people". This transgression of democratic theory is compounded by the fact that internal Congressional committee rules and practices, such as the Senate's filibuster
, enable a handful and even a single Senator representing less than a fraction of 1% of the entire U.S. electorate to decide which legislation will be enacted or rejected.
The harm done by these obstructions to the self-organizing capabilities of the U.S. electorate, and to lawmakers enactment of legislation that serves the public interest, is inestimable. To take just one example, the consequences of "top-down" minority rule by U.S. political parties and lawmakers beholden to special interests that finance their elections is reflected in their failure to pass and fund the legislation required to repair the nation's economically indispensable infrastructure of roads, bridges, tunnels, waterways, etc. -- the cost of which has now risen to a colossal $3.6 trillion.
A core paradigm-shifting characteristic of the Interactive Voter Choice System is its capacity to support voters' online self-organizing around common legislative priorities and agendas and slates of candidates, as opposed to registration within top down political parties and endorsement of official party candidates. These priorities and agendas can be viewed as "symbols" and "tags", per the lexicon of complexity theorists such as John Holland who wrote about the importance of "tags' for self -organizing in his books Hidden Order (1995)
and Emergence (1997)
, both of which are classics in the field of complexity theory.
IVCS can enable voter-controlled BPCs to counteract the tendency of hierarchically-controlled political parties", referred to above as Promethean" CASs, to stultify "bottom-up" self-organizing. It can do so because it offers voters an alternative to organizing around parties and candidates over which they have no control by empowering them to self-organize into autonomous voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs) comprised of virtually unlimited numbers of voters continuously interacting with each other to set and update legislative agendas and adopt common slates of candidates. Their BPCs can continuously increase their size by reaching out to incorporate new members in consensus building to adopt common agendas and slates of candidates until they grow large enough electoral bases to outflank and outnumber the membership and electoral base of any single party.
By shifting the emphasis from organizing around party and candidate agendas to identifying, discussing, debating and voting on substantive legislative options and agendas, and running and electing candidates to enact them, IVCS-enabled political CASs can democratize and reinvigorate electoral and legislative processes that have been stultified by "top-down" parties that resemble Promethean CASs. (Note: IVCS-enabled blocs and coalitions can run their candidates on independent ballot lines or the lines of any party they choose by recruiting enough registered members of the party to enable them to place their candidates on party primary and general election ballots).
IVCS also provides the foundation for holding candidates and office holders accountable because the primary focus is not on parties, candidates and lawmakers, but rather on BPC legislative agendas and mandates and the extent to which lawmakers' actions facilitate or hinder the enactment of BPC agendas and mandates.
Significantly, IVCS will not only shift the locus and focus of discussion and debate from Promethean CASs to voter-controlled CASs, but it will also engender the creation of a "parallel universe" of political discourse and political action controlled by voters -- one that is capable of counteracting and overcoming the distorting influence on public perceptions exerted by partisan and special interest controlled media.
As a corollary, this parallel universe of discourse can lead to the creation of voter-controlled legislative agendas and the enactment of coordinated, multi-faceted legislative programs that accurately respond to the needs and wants of actual constituents -- a desperately needed substitute for the piecemeal, special interest-driven legislation that all too often fails to serve the public interest. By shifting to grassroots voters the power to define and set overall priorities in their own terms, IVCS can counteract the tendency of partisan politicians to pass piecemeal legislation derived from the segmentation of their constituents into statistical "voting blocs" by market researchers who require respondents to reveal their stances on discrete issues framed by market researchers rather than voters themselves.
This piecemeal, market research driven approach is a primary cause of lawmakers' inability to see the "big picture" in terms of what is required to "promote the general welfare" and adopt workable, interconnected public policy programs that protect the broader public interest. As noted above, a concrete example of these shortcomings is the failure of U.S. lawmakers for the past twenty years to enact and fund the legislation that is urgently needed to repair the nation's crumbling infrastructure.
An equally crucial example of the governance crisis afflicting democracies around the world is the proliferation of armed conflicts among nation-states and dissident groups operating within and across their borders. Suicide bombings resulting in massacres of innocent civilians have become common place because the protagonists show little if any inclination or capacity to negotiate non-violent solutions to their conflicts.
What is most alarming is that the protagonists' portrayals of the causes of the conflicts often do not jibe or do justice to each other's contentions. Often, these conflicts are rooted in complex events that date back years and even centuries. Objective analysis of these roots reveal that gross injustices have often been committed by all sides, yet the collective memories of the protagonists obfuscate what really happened and who did what to whom.
These normal human tendencies to misperceive reality are what make the IVCS platform indispensable for solving complex problems, crises and conflicts -- especially those that are transnational. Fortunately, these conflicts can be solved by the formation of IVCS-enabled consensus-building BPCs that operate simultaneously at national and transnational levels to devise peace plans and set legislative agendas to implement them that they can enact in multiple countries by virtue of the fact that they can decide who is going to be elected to lawmaking positions in these countries.
The paradigm-shifting nature of the Interactive Voter Choice System derives from its potential to re-invent democracy by injecting "bottom-up" consensus building IVCS-enabled voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs) into electoral and legislative processes that unite
rather than divide
voters and lawmakers into hostile camps, as do the traditional conflict-producing political parties and institutions that currently control these processes.
The reason IVCS-enabled BPCs can re-invent these processes is because they can inject a new layer of problem-solving "complex adaptive systems" into micro-levels at the grassroots that can grow into macro-level "complex adaptive systems" that function at higher levels within and across nation-state boundaries. They can re-route divisive political conflicts from the contemporary seed beds of political party-contrived controversies to the common ground that will be created by the world's first large scale consensus building and conflict resolution platform. IVCS-enabled political CASs will build consensus voter-by-voter and issue-by-issue from small numbers of voters and democracy stakeholders at the grassroots to virtually unlimited numbers of voters and stakeholders at regional, national and transnational levels.
The IVCS focus on legislative options provides voters across the political and ideological spectrum with powerful catalytic and symbolic "tags" around which to self-organize to create BPCs around collectively determined common agendas and slates of candidates. Legislative priorities and agendas can serve as more effective "tags" for political organizing than parties or candidates because the IVCS platform will enable virtually unlimited numbers of voters to locate and connect electronically with any number of other voters based on the similarity of their respective "tags". They can engage in developing voting blocs and electoral coalitions by first finding people whose agendas are similar to their own, and then negotiating out differences among their "tags" by building consensus on setting, modifying and updating common legislative agendas as they see fit.
Because of these tags and other IVCS agenda-setting, political organizing and consensus building tools, the IVCS platform can ensure continuous "bottom-up" online self-organization into highly adaptive BPCs around any issues they choose, at any level, within any nation-state or across nation-states. Moreover, the members of IVCS-enabled political CASs will always be capable of overcoming the classic tendency for leaders of Promethean CASs to stultify "bottom-up" self-organization and exacerbate the divisive effects of the political conflicts around the world that are now threatening to create uncontrollable and chaotic conditions.
By continuously building consensus within their own growing transpartisan ranks of broad cross sections of voters, they can seamlessly merge into ever larger decentralized networks of autonomous, self-organizing BPCs until they dominate legislative agenda setting and electoral and legislative processes at all levels through which they can elect their own representatives to enact their agendas.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle observed that monarchies were subject to transformation into tyrannies, aristocracies into oligarchies, and constitutional governments into mob rule. He did not delve into the possibility that such transformations in modern governments might be caused by the obstruction of "bottom-up" self-organizing processes, and the ensuing lack of adaptivity of political institutions to continuous change and the massive population growth that has taken place within most nation-states in modern times.
Nor did Aristotle envision the urgent need for modern democracies to overcome their susceptibility to multiple interferences obstructing governing processes themselves, especially those stifling the multi-stakeholder problem-solving that has become indispensable to the generation of workable solutions to complex societal problems, crises and conflicts occurring within and between nations. Fortunately, the technology solution that IVCS brings to the fore can ensure the institutional openness and systemic "bottom-up" self-organization that is indispensable to re-inventing paralyzed, conflict-ridden political systems gridlocked by deliberate efforts to undermine democratic electoral and legislative processes.
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A companion technology to the Interactive Voter Choice System
, the patented System for Playing an Interactive Voter Choice Game
is a multi-party online interactive game of electoral strategy and chance.
The Citizens Winning Hands®
game built around the patent belongs to the new genre of "world changing" online games in which players collaborate online to develop real world skills for making the world a better place.
By playing the game, they learn how to form winning voting blocs and electoral coalitions that can surmount obstacles in their political systems that prevent voters from deciding who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed.
It is called the Citizens' Winning Hands
game because it is built around two decks of cards. It comprises a "system for playing an interactive voter choice game involving strategy, chance, a computer network, a game board, a plurality of players using remote terminals to access the game, electronic databases and a voting utility, in which players compete to develop strategies for setting legislative agendas and building voting blocs and coalitions of voting blocs to elect a candidate for public office to represent a fictive electoral district."
The game enables players and their friends, family members and people they meet online to play an intriguing game of electoral strategy that shows them how they can increase their political influence in the real world. By using the agenda-setting, political organizing, and consensus building tools
of the Interactive Voter Choice System, they learn how to create winning voting blocs and coalitions around common agendas and slates of candidates.
As the renowned game developer, Jane McGonigal, points out, many of the 500 million people who play online games every day -- especially massively multiplayer online games -- prefer games of collaboration and camaraderie to games of warfare and aggression.
She observes that these players are creating a global "collective intelligence" about ways and means by which ordinary people like themselves can dramatically improve the quality of human life and solve societal problems that cause preventable physical and emotional suffering.
McGonigal believes that many people play world-saving games because real world environments and institutions deny them the power to be heroic. Participation in these games adds meaning and happiness to players' imaginary lives by enabling them to make valuable contributions to their communities.
While they are playing these games, they are developing interpersonal skills that they can use in the real world to play collaborative, pro-active roles in real life that enable them to join forces with legions of other people to solve problems causing human suffering.
The Citizens' Winning Hands game belongs to this genre of world-saving game because it enables disillusioned voters who are losing faith in democracies and elections to learn how they can collaborate online in building voting blocs and electoral coalitions large enough to determine the outcomes of elections.
By playing the game, they will have an opportunity to see that the Interactive Voter Choice System enables them to surmount impediments to the exercise of popular sovereignty by circumventing the obstacles in their political systems that prevent them from deciding who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed.
Although the two systems were originally invented by the Company's founder to enable the U.S. electorate to obtain control of U.S. electoral and legislative processes, their generic democracy-building tools can be adapted for use in virtually any country in the world.
Playing the Citizens' Winning Hands Game will show citizens and voters around the world how they can use the system's tools and databases to circumvent impediments similar to those that exist in the U.S. and those that are unique to their own countries. The game can be played by face-to-face groups of players in homes, schools and communities and online by any number of participants using mobile devices and computers. In both face-to-face and online versions, participants play the role of voters creating and joining voting blocs and electoral coalitions. They will reside in a variety of simulated election districts that each participant selects from the game's Election District Database, which will be modeled after U.S. Congressional districts.
Players will compete with each other to develop winning strategies for setting legislative agendas and building voting blocs and electoral coalitions to elect a candidate for public office to represent the election district that players have chosen. Players can search the online Election District Database to obtain strategic information about each district, which they can use to plan their electoral strategies and decide how to set winning agendas and build winning voting blocs and coalitions. This information will include voting patterns, voters' legislative preferences, and prior choices of particular combinations of priorities, trends and significant political events.
To initiate an online game, which can be played synchronously or asynchronously, at least two prospective players must choose the same election district from the Election District Database. Players set their legislative agendas by choosing options from a database modeled after the Legislative Options Database that will be accessible on reinventdemocracy.net.
To help game players find and recall where different options are located in the database, the options contained in the database are divided into 8 themes and visually displayed on cards in two decks of playing cards.
Each deck contains four suits of cards. Each suit has its own theme.
The four suits of cards in Deck 1 have the following four themes:
Health, Education and Welfare
Civil and Political Rights
The four suits of cards in Deck 2 have the following four themes:
As the players move around the game board, they develop strategies for managing the effects on their legislative agendas, voting blocs and coalitions of planned and unforeseen events that add or subtract votes from their voting bloc.
Their challenge is to use events they control to add votes to their blocs and coalitions and offset the votes they lose as a result of events they do not control, so they can ultimately build winning blocs and coalitions that cast the highest number of votes for their candidates.
Each player develops strategies for setting a legislative agenda and building winning voting blocs and coalitions that reflect their own personal legislative priorities, as well as the voting patterns and changing demographics of the district, per information they can access in the Election District Database.
The player who builds the largest voting bloc that casts the most votes for its candidate is the winner. Or if two or more players merge their blocs into a coalition that casts the most votes for its candidate, these players are the winners.
The complexity of the political landscapes of most of the simulated election districts modeled after U.S. Congressional districts will already be familiar to many players of the game. The obstacles erected to obstruct voter choice and the expression of popular sovereignty are also likely to be familiar to voters around the world.
What will be unfamiliar to them, and what they will discover while playing the game, will be the ease with which they can surmount these obstacles by using the Interactive Voter Choice System to build winning voting blocs and electoral coalitions around collectively set legislative agendas.
Players will realize that the consensus building and conflict resolution tools provided on the reinventdemocracy.net platform, combined with the large scale collective action power of the Internet, make it possible for voters around the world to build consensus around their own solutions to problems, crises and conflicts that current governments appear unable to devise. They can get their solutions implemented legislatively because they will be able to build winning voting blocs and electoral coalitions that determine who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are enacted.