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A Revolution is Coming

With our digital age being what it is; a web of social networks, nearly ubiquitous computing, and a constant flow of information, it's unrealistic to believe that the socio-political status quo will remain in the form it's been for the last hundred years.

Education and the workplace will be the first institutions to change. Working from home is becoming the norm in many companies (I should know), while parents are increasingly disillusioned with public schooling and are looking elsewhere. The explosive growth of Khan Academy is not an accident nor a one-off.  Slowly but surely school and the office will cease to be what they are. If these cornerstones of our modern society change so dramatically, others will follow too.

The biggest change will occur when we the people also become the government. We're a long way away from being the sort of peaceful self-governing societies that require no actual government authority or coercive measures to protect ourselves from each other, but the political system in its current state will change -and it won't even be that hard.

I recently wrote a post outlining the key steps to democracy (in Romanian because democracy is still a novelty here). I basically explain that people should interact with politicians on a regular basis, not to let them off when they're unresponsive or neglectful of their duties, and basically to stay informed and keep track of what they do. This way, when it's time to vote at least they know whether the incumbent deserves to be re-elected. But this doesn't solve a key problem, who do you vote for? Why vote for the competition?

Here's the thing, wherever we're from, we all want the same things from our politicians: A genuine desire to help our country/constituency and a certain degree of accountability for the responsibilities with which we've entrusted them. Yeah, that's it. Unfortunately many people who seek political office do it out of personal hubris, self-interest, or other reasons that don't include helping us travel across the country on good roads. The point is, they say one thing and they mostly end up doing another. Since only The Shadow knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men, it's hard for the rest of us to listen to their speeches without a good side-order of cynicism.

It's a vicious circle really; vote 'em in, vote 'em out over and over. Unfortunately, too few are Vaclav Havel's, Aung San Suu Kiy's, or Pepe Mujica's.  In the end if we're not constantly applying pressure it's the same crew bowing down to corporate interests and following the money trail. But the digital world is changing that. And will change it even more.

Writing that aforementioned post made me realize that a big problem exists. One which needs a solution. The problem is that we're not where the politicians are. We think that following them on twitter is enough. We also seem to think that if parliament/congress changes some laws, they do it behind the walls of a great castle surrounded by a moat filled with crocodiles. We get a lot of the 'what' from them, we just never really seem to get the 'why'. The problem is also that we're not keeping track of the ratio of whats to whys. We might have a general idea that 'some' or 'lots' of promises were broken and that 'many' decisions were made in seemingly arbitrary fashion, or that 'it looks like' corporate interests lobbied for a new law, but we just never really seem to know for sure. And our governments are happy to keep it that way.

The irony though is that these statistics all exist. They're just not properly explained, graphed, or displayed for all to see. They come from different sources in different formats and while some are quantitative in nature others can only be measured qualitatively. But with the amazing power of software, it's about time we start looking at politicians and other members of public institutions like this:

This is the only solution because it's the only real quantifiable method of measuring the mettle of somebody who volunteers to take my trust in exchange for 'representation'. I want to be represented, but I want to be represented honestly, transparently, and by somebody who doesn't make a mockery of my vote of confidence. I want their results to be measured just like sales numbers are measured. The same way ROI is measured -because that precious vote is an investment, and I want it to grow exponentially, not to see it become more worthless every four years.

This is no pipe dream. We have the platforms (web/social media/mobile), we have the architects and engineers (software developers), we have the users (all of us). 
The revolution is coming.


  1. I just have a hard time believing that giving politicians such abstract numbers and ratings will have any kind of traction and understanding from the general public.

    Politics is extremely heated, quite personal, based a lot on bumpersticker sound bites, prone to a lot of interpretation, charisma, personal bias, fact checking and so on.

    Trying to convince the public that they should trust some scores seems impossible.

    1. I agree. In a normal democracy, charisma, personal bias, party values, soundbites, and the like play a critical role.

      In Romania where we just want good people to sit in government, it would make a huge difference if the electorate were able to point to actual facts. Politicians could say "I get things done, here's the proof," and people would measure those statements against the facts.

      Nobody here buys the platitudes or catchy slogans. They're turned into jokes before they even come out.

      This is the perfect place for measurable government KPI. As far as I can tell, Harta Politicii, of which you seem to be a fan, is a good step in that direction :)


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