Transparency

This article is part of a series: ‘Stigmergy: Systems of Mass Collaboration’.

It is essential to participatory government, that organizations which affect the public be transparent to the public; without full information, people are incapable of making the decisions required to participate in their own governance. In the past, any secrets by public organizations, short of war secrets, were grounds for a scandal. A free media and freedom of speech were essential in a democracy so that transparency of public matters could be ensured.

Our world has now changed so far that the public has to prove why it needs to know any information about its government and go through an expensive and labour intensive process to acquire information that will arrive, if it arrives at all, after great delay and in a very censored form. Information on corporations is simply unattainable except by illegal methods as corporations, which include prison, intelligence, military, pharmaceutical, agricultural, and even police agencies, are considered private. These private corporations now own rights to global commons such as our oceans, space and electromagnetic field, as well as the individual environments of each of us.

A huge industry has built up around filtering, hoarding, spinning and occasionally doling out to the public in innocuous bits without context, all information about organizations and actions which effect the public. The true information that reaches the public is more than drowned out by the equally huge industry of misinformation being produced and distributed by the same public organizations. Our media exists to convince us that our right to information is actually a right to know whether an arbitrarily selected private citizen has had a haircut instead of a right to the information we need in order to govern ourselves.

Another massive industry exists to gather, store, analyze and distribute every conceivable detail of private information on private citizens. Private corporations gather and store information on every aspect of individual lives and make it available to any organization with the finances or skill to retrieve it. There is no discrimination in what is gathered as organizations have decided that any private information is an unknown unknown, they may just not know if they need it or not, so they need it all.

Legal changes and popular propaganda have created such oxymoronic beasts as public individuals and private corporations to cause confusion over these very clear violations of the two basic principles.

There is no such thing as a private organization, outside of purely social groups. There is no such thing as a public person, only public actions by private individuals.

Radical privacy and radical transparency

Under the current system, even when people become convinced of the soundness of the principles of privacy for individuals and transparency for organizations and actions which affect the public, they advocate a modified version of this rule as reasonable, the result of compromise and good sense, and not radical like a whole hearted embrace of the principles would be. They point to many situations where the principles in pure form simply would not work. Principles however, if they are sound at all, must work in all cases. If they do not, there is a fault either with the principle, or the case. The answer in our current society has been to reject the principles as nice ideas which we will keep in our legal foundations but ignore in reality as they are simply not practical. A more accurate answer may be found by looking at the cases where these two principles appear to produce poor results.

The release of the US state cables was widely condemned because of the release of the names of private individuals who were providing information to public organizations. The exposure of any private individual to harm must be regarded as an ill. But if harm had been caused, it would have been caused not by the action which abided by the principles but by the earlier actions in violation of the principles. The individuals in question had a right to privacy. Why were their names recorded and placed in an extremely public and easy to access database? Why were their names recorded at all? Why did those individuals need to make secret reports about public organizations or actions to other public organizations? If the principle regarding public organizations and actions was followed, there would be no need for informants. If the principle regarding privacy for individuals was followed, the names would never have been recorded.

Another case frequently brought forward is the harm to individuals by drug cartels in South America if the cartels knew about individuals who are reporting them. Under the current system, they already know, as do the state cable informant’s enemies. Once information about an individual is stored, the principle of individual privacy which ought to protect that individual has been ignored, leaving the individual completely exposed. Again, that individual ought also to be protected by the principle of transparency for public organizations. If the entire country was working together in a structure that allowed them to expose all actions of the drug cartels, the individuals would not need to be put at risk. If we apply the two principles from the beginning, they work in every hazardous situation I have heard of so far.

Law enforcement and military around the world have claimed the right to operate in complete secret as that is the only way to catch ‘the bad guys’. Transparency would enable the public to catch the bad guys on both sides. A public that was involved in helping to enforce laws could accomplish far more than a police force could by itself, as has been proven many times. Instead of blocking the entire internet under the pretense of blocking child porn sites, the police could just ask for the public to police the internet. If child porn or terrorist plotting sites can be found by anyone, they can be found by everyone, what is required is not secrecy and censorship but a proper structure for policing which involves the public as well. The only cases in which this would not work is when the law is not one the public agrees with, which is a great method of providing feedback that the law needs to be modified to represent the people more accurately.

Diplomats and others in positions of power have complained that transparency makes it difficult for them to do their jobs. Where that is the case, the fault must be found with their jobs. The current system is a massive, tangled tortuous mess of intelligence, media, spokespeople, communication departments, freedom of information laws and lobbies, actions and counteractions attempting to maintain balance in a system which preaches democracy and practices fascism. The dichotomy and confusion is caused by the current system, not the proposed one. Entire industries would be made redundant by adherence to the principle of transparency for public organizations. Transparency in its literal sense, not selected pieces of isolated information wrapped up and presented by an official, but full transparency, of the kind that would allow any passerby to see exactly what an organization was up to. As the current powers have been asking private individuals for decades, what do they have to hide?

The kind of radical transparency that private individuals have been exposed to needs to be turned on all organizations and actions which have any impact on the public. Individuals require a right to privacy. Collaborative society requires full knowledge of organizations and actions which affect the public.

All individuals have a right to privacy. All organizations and actions which affect the public must be completely transparent to the public. These principles do not work in isolation; the fault is not with the principles, but the isolation.

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Governance by user groups

This article is part of a series: ‘Stigmergy: Systems of Mass Collaboration’.

Governments up till now have been run by hierarchical groups, which act as the final authority on all topics for an entire region for an arbitrarily specified length of time or until they are overthrown by another group. What these authorities govern is a series of systems, controlled by the state or corporations, and run as dictatorships where workers’ individual rights are exchanged for the basic necessities of life. These systems have profit and control for the top of the hierarchy as their objective; they are not set up to provide an efficient or superior service or product to the users.

If these systems were organized as autonomous, permeable, transparent user groups, they would be far better governed by themselves. The current political structure does not recognize that every system is not of concern or interest to everyone in the region or that many systems are of far wider concern than one state. We need responsibility and control to rest with the entire user group and functionality for the entire user group, not profit or power, should be the objective.

Autonomous

Each user group should consist of all people affected by the system and no people not affected by the system.

The debate around who the user group is would be the most challenging aspect of this type of governance. When the United States passes laws that allow them to indefinitely detain people around the world, or builds up a massive military, the user group allowed input ought obviously to include everyone with the potential to have their individual rights violated. The potential for hot debate occurs in situations such as abortion where some will argue that only the person pregnant is entitled to an opinion and others that the unborn child also has rights. Still others will argue the loss of a potential child in the future gives the father a vote as well. There are very convincing arguments for each of these positions, which will have to rely in large part on what the underlying principles of individual rights are accepted to be, but it would be impossible to argue that a state could require women to have an internal ultrasound prior to an abortion the state has already agreed the woman is entitled to.

In environmentally sensitive areas such as the Arctic, the few who live in the area must have their rights considered along with the rights of the planet. The global commons deserve an overriding bill of rights similar to the basic individual rights, which are always consulted before the rights of any other user group. Then a balance needs to be struck between the needs of the population, who may, for instance, require (or choose) a seal hunt to ensure the fish population or seal products they need to survive, and the rights of the planet which is not particularly affected by it. The opinion of the people in the rest of the world who may be revolted by the seal hunt must not be allowed to override the needs or wishes of those who live there unless they can prove actual longterm negative impact to the environment. The solution for those revolted will be discussed in Farmgate Importing.

Gun control laws in Arctic Canada dictated through democracy by people in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, would be illogical and unfair. The concerns of people in those cities would need to be considered regarding any weapons that were brought within range of causing harm to the people there, but communities should decide local matters for themselves. Drilling for oil in the Arctic is at the other end of the spectrum, and for one or a group of nations or corporations to assert a ‘right’ to drill for oil in the Arctic, dump iron fertilizer and radioactive material into the Pacific or oil and dispersants into the Atlantic is a violation of the rights of the global commons. Oceans do not even belong to one generation much less one species, one nation or one corporation.

The above examples are not presented as subjects for debate here, just to illustrate the obvious difficulties that will arise in defining user groups. These examples dramatically increase in complexity in the more densely populated and diverse parts of the world.

User groups are seldom simply entire nations and there are users of differing levels of involvement in each system. International systems would include things such as the internet, telecommunications and knowledge, local systems would include things such as transit, food production and social services, and in any situation where only one family or an individual is affected, the responsibility would lie with only them. Each local user group or individual should have access to outside user groups for trade, shared knowledge, disaster relief, etc., autonomous but networked into a larger society for mutual support.

Individual rights

While individual rights applied equally for all works in some cases, sometimes there are conflicting priorities and needs. Censorship on the internet interferes with freedom of speech, but hate speech primarily attacks only vulnerable groups. Invasion of privacy has been conveniently defined by groups such as reddit administrators and moderators to include the names of men posting creepshots but not the naked bodies of women and children posted to the site. The rights of paparazzi to freedom of speech have been allowed to completely overwhelm the rights of women with public jobs to privacy or security which then infringes on their freedom of speech. The right to information about actions which affect the public has been transformed to the right to invade the privacy of any person the media deems newsworthy. The right to produce and broadcast violence has been allowed to overwhelm the right of vulnerable populations to feel secure.

Individual rights need to ensure consideration and respect for all; those that are decrepit or ill, those that are not fully matured, those that can give birth, those that are raising children or are in other ways directly responsible for the wellbeing of others, as well as the general population, without special interest groups having to form and lobby for their voices to be amplified. In defining all rights, special care must be taken that those rights will not infringe on the rights of others. In this way systems which respect individual rights can operate autonomously knowing they are infringing on no others.

Global commons

Anything which is not only of global interest but also does not belong to any one generation cannot be destroyed and cannot be claimed as the property of any individual, group, corporation or government. Global commons would include space, the atmosphere and electromagnetic field, deep sea ocean, land and water masses of sufficient size to have global impact, areas of the biosphere which are rare or important enough to be of global concern, and knowledge. Knowledge includes discoveries, history, creative works, and the information people require in order to govern themselves and excludes personal information regarding individuals. If society is to progress, there should be no restriction on the use of ideas, although creativity needs to be compensated and credited.

Anything belonging to the global commons must be held under stewardship of a porous and transparent organization set up for the purpose, and the mandate for all global commons must include the protection and preservation of the commons. Like individual rights, the needs of the global commons must take precedence over all user groups.

Permeable

Contribution at all levels of each user group must be open to all users. Expertise can be assessed and acquired in concentric user groups, and work can be contributed and accepted or rejected by stigmergy. Having all German federal law and regulations on github is a great idea, but only if pull requests are allowed from the people affected by the laws of Germany. An open meritocratic working group provides workers with autonomy, mastery and purpose. People can work on anything they like, they are not required to submit resumes, acquire accreditation, seniority, or approval from an individual authority. If their work is good enough it will be accepted by the user group. Everyone can work on the system that interests them, doing the jobs at the level they are capable of, with as much or as little involvement as they choose. If the worker is also part of the user group, the benefits to themselves are immediate and obvious. The most effective way to prevent producer and consumer conflict of interests is to eliminate separation between the two. The farmer who eats their own food has an interest in producing healthy food.

Transparency

All information related to the system must be fully transparent in order for users to participate in tasks or auditing and to learn how to contribute to the system. Transparency allows every user of the system to explain to anyone interested what is being developed and why, why the structure is the way it is and any other information new users require. Transparency allows users to act as the knowledge bridges to train new users.

If individual rights and the rights of global commons are accepted as being paramount, every user group should, subject only to these conditions, be entitled to govern themselves.

Society vs Dissociation

This article is part of a series: ‘Stigmergy: Systems of Mass Collaboration’.

It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world. – Mary Wollstonecraft

In Individuals in Society I wrote of a state of nature where society did not exist. In truth, such a state has never existed outside of social contract theory because humans are social animals and we have always created societies. In today’s structure, society with its dependencies and relationships has been converted to a completely monetized system of dissociation. For the first time in human history, people have been effectively dissociated from each other and are living in a state of no society. [Side note: For those who ask what does Occupy want, this is one of my personal two answers. Humans are social animals; they want a society. The other answer is we want our human dignity, including the right to attain adulthood and achieve our full potential. Both of these are biological needs hardcoded into humans and we feel deep unrest at their removal.]

This image is a placeholder until I have time to make an image that describes what I am saying or some kind person contributes one.

In the diagram above, everything that people in society need is enclosed in the space called System. This can include food, housing, health care, education, lifework, and even family. These essential resources are separated from society and held in a space not accessible to the user group. If the resource is health care, a member of the public is not able to review the work of the health professionals; they do not have access to pharmaceutical studies, cannot choose the remedy they wish, and cannot assist others. All resources are funneled through the second space, called a leech. A leech is a blood sucking parasite that attaches itself to a host and drains the host while contributing nothing. In society, our leeches are financial institutions, old style media institutions (the ones internal to each system as well as public broadcasters), regulatory bodies, training and licensing institutions, and all other bodies set up to regulate the flow of resources to the society. None of these leeches contribute to society, they control access to resources.

In the food system, duty, trade restrictions and trade treaties control access to food and government regulatory bodies control both production and distribution, even preventing food sharing between people or scavenging from waste food (for example by requiring chlorine bleach to be poured over food in dumpsters). In the education system, the universities control who can learn, control their learning, and produce a credential that allows a person to perform work; the freedom to learn and the power of peer promotion is removed to an outside regulatory body in almost every profession. In science and art, intellectual property laws prevent collaboration, study and use of prior work and encourage secrecy and information hoarding. Even sport (games) are strictly controlled and entertainment is regulated by bylaws, causing both to be largely replaced by professionals with access funneled through leeches. Every conceivable resource has had access removed from the society and placed in the control of leeches.

This system of dissociation is so entrenched in society that it is very seldom questioned. Money for health care is equated to money for insurance, even though insurance companies do not provide health care. Banks need to be propped up to provide housing, even though banks do not provide housing. The almighty economy must be saved even at the cost of untold lives or life on earth itself; but we can’t eat the economy. Education and information are controlled, not produced, by existing institutions; both could and should be replaced by transparency and open access. Distributors should be replaced by farmgate importing, information wants and needs to be free, and choosing one’s own lifework is a basic right not to be removed by regulatory bodies.

In this system of dissociation, individuals have no societal protection. Each is dangling from the leech by their own little vein with a limited access to resources; there are no direct relationships or dependencies. Even if the access allows the person plentiful amounts of everything, there is a built in awareness of shortage and reliance on the system that strongly discourages sharing. If one person’s vein is broken, their need is met by hostility from the others dangling by their own veins; to rescue another is to weaken oneself. Predictably, rescuing those in need requires the creation of more leeches in the form of NGO’s and government regulatory bodies for people in crisis, resulting in a transference of responsibility that prevents society as a whole from spending much time considering those who their society fails.

Ironically, the individuals whose access to the leech is for some reason broken are referred to themselves as leeches. As discussed in The Financial System, The Tax Payer was invented to assert control over other members of society such as children, anyone in crisis, prisoners and anyone who dares to work outside a corporate approved role. The Tax Payer is encouraged by relentless propaganda and enabled by the financial system to consider themselves both the backbone of society (as evidenced on monetary flowcharts and nowhere else) and personally robbed by all others. When people look for the source of the obvious flaws in the systems of dissociation, they are always pointed to those that are not acting as The Tax Payer. Seldom does society look past the propaganda to the real leeches.

A society is formed by a mother* giving birth to a child. Once a mother becomes pregnant, dependency has been created and she must surround herself with a support network, or a society; at the very least, if her society is to survive, she must create a support network between herself and her child or find another caretaker for her child. A woman and a child is the basic unit of a society, a unit with dependencies and unequal ability working for a common goal. This is where a new society must start to plan a new direction.

In today’s un-society, the core element has been two or more men* shaking hands. That is not a society, that is a trade relationship. A trade relationship must occur among equally advantaged partners if one is not to be taken at a disadvantage. Dependencies are abhorrent in a trade relationship. Dependencies and sharing weaken a trading partner; ownership strengthens them.

There are many dependencies in a full society besides children. The reason children are the core is of course because without them, a society dies, but a full society will also have people with a variety of mental and physical limitations and gifts. In today’s society people with any dependencies are seen as worthless, or at best inferior, instead of different. Today’s ideal is a young, healthy, intelligent adult with no dependencies. The fallacy of equality for women is dependent on their simulation of that ideal; women have an equal opportunity to participate in trade relationships. As long as women or men perform society building roles such as child rearing, including protecting, feeding, educating, sheltering and clothing children, or all of the support services required in a healthy society, they are vilified and abused by the structure today. Educating children pays far less than educating adults who are perfectly capable of educating themselves; parenting usually pays nothing at all. Giving birth is a financial, health and social liability; killing people is a lucrative and highly respected career. Advocates for women seek to empower them to leave society building roles for corporate endorsed ones instead of creating a society that respects and values societal support as a role for all.

There have been several instances of people in the west today seeking to create a moneyless society, but these people are predominantly (exclusively?) healthy and male, or partnered with a healthy male. When a child, an elder, or someone with severe mental or physical dependencies can live in a money free society we can call it a society; until then it is a trade relationship. There is a great deal of work ahead before dependencies can be supported freely and with no real or implied charity.

This image is a placeholder until I have time to make an image that describes what I am saying or some kind person contributes one.

A true society is shown above which is starting to manifest in various forms around the world. In it, every system includes the entire user group and no one but the user group. No one outside the user group can control the activity inside. Access is restricted for none. Information is available to all through transparency. Education is available to all from their peers, and through epistemic communities with knowledge bridges, and anyone can submit work through concentric user groups or stigmergy.

* Women give birth. Women do not have control in trade relationships in places where men refuse to allow them control. The use of the words ‘mother’ and ‘men’ in these statements is factually correct.