EFFector Online 3.04 - September 11, 1992 - Cliff
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########## ########## ########## | FIGALLO DIRECTS EFF/CAMBRIDGE
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#### #### #### | CLINTON ON HIGH TECH
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######## ######## ######## | ELECTRONIC DEMOCRACY
#### #### #### | The Implications
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EFFector Online September 11, 1992 Issue 3.04
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
FIGALLO ONLINE AT EFF.ORG
Cliff Figallo became the new director of EFF-Cambridge at the beginning
of the month. Former director of The Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link (the
EFF's birthplace), Fig is charged with developing and coordinating the
Cambridge office's outreach activities, increasing active EFF membership,
and expanding overall awareness of the EFF's programs in the computer-
conferencing community and the world at large.
Commenting on his new task, Figallo said, "EFF came upon the online scene
a couple years ago with a big splash. I'd like for us to continue
splashing. EFF is uniquely engaged in many useful and important
activities in the areas of online civil liberties, sane lawmaking and
advocacy of improved electronic highways for the future. I want news of
these activities to get out to the people for whom we are making a
difference. I also want us to develop better channels for these same
people to communicate their wants and needs to those of us with access to
the legal, informational and technical resources. Our purpose is to
serve those wants and needs for the betterment of the world.
"More specifically, I will encourage people to become members of EFF
by demonstrating to them the value of a membership. One should expect
noticeable benefits from paying membership dues and I intend to make it
plain that those benefits exist and will only increase as more people
become involved in telecommunications. I will also be working with
regional groups who may be interested in forming local EFF chapters so
that we can learn together how such affiliations can enhance our mutual
"I'm excited about working here. I believe in what EFF is all about."
Cliff can be reached as firstname.lastname@example.org.
STATEMENT OF BILL CLINTON FOR THE INSTITUTE OF ELECTRICAL
AND ELECTRONIC ENGINEERS (IEEE)
Bill Clinton for President Committee * 1317 F Street, NW, Suite 902 *
Washington DC 20004 Telephone 202-393-3323 FAX 202-393-3329
"We face a fundamental economic challenge today: to create a
high-wage, high-growth national economy that will carry America into
the 21st century. We need a long-term national strategy to meet this
challenge and win.
"Our productivity and income have been growing so slowly
because we've stopped investing in the economic infrastructure that
binds our markets and businesses together, in the education and
training necessary to give our workers world-class skills, and in the
research and development that can restore America to the cutting
edge of the world economy. As a nation, we're spending more on the
present and the past and building less for the future. We need a
President who will turn the country around and refocus on the long
view. As President, I will divide the budget into three parts, creating
a separate 'future budget' for the federal government to make
investments that will enrich our country over the long term. Today
the federal government spends only 9 per cent of the budget on
investments for the future; a Clinton Administration will double that.
We will pay for it by diverting resources no longer needed for
defense, but we will ensure that every dollar we take out of military
R&D goes into R&D for civilian technologies until civilian R&D can
match and eventually surpass our Cold War military R&D commitment.
"As President, I will create an investment tax credit and a new
enterprise tax cut that rewards those who invest in new businesses
that create new jobs. I will also make the research and development
tax credit permanent.
"My administration will create a civilian research and
development agency to support research in the technologies that
scientists have already identified as the basis for launching new
growth industries and revitalizing traditional ones over the next two
decades. This civilian DARPA will coordinate R&D to help companies
develop innovative technologies and bring new products to market.
And without inhibiting the competition that drives innovation, we will
encourage and promote collaborative efforts among firms and with
research institutes for commercial development just as we have done
with defense technologies for 40 years.
"A Clinton Administration will create a high-speed rail network
between out nation's major cities. And in the new economy,
infrastructure means information as well as transportation. More than
half the U.S. workforce is employed in information-intensive
industries, yet we have no national strategy to create a national
information network. Just as the interstate highway system in the
1950s spurred two decades of economic growth, we need a door-to-
door fiber optics system by the year 2015; a link to every home, lab,
classroom and business in America.
"For small defense manufacturers hit by cuts in defense
spending, the Small Business Administration will provide small
conversion loans to help finance their transition, and launch a
Technology Assistance Service -- modeled on the Agricultural
Extension Service -- to provide easy access to the technical expertise
it takes to convert to commercial production.
"To enjoy the full benefit of these investments, we must do
everything possible to open up markets now closed to American
products. My administration will provide the leadership for Japan and
the European countries to join us in coordinating our macroeconomic
policies and in reaching multilateral trade negotiations. But we will
also provide the muscle to open up Japan's markets to competitive U.S.
products using a stronger and more carefully targeted "Super 301"
approach. We favor a free and open trading system, but if our
competitors won't play by those rules, we will play by theirs.
"All the investments in the world won't mean much if our
workers don't have the education or the skills to take advantage of the
opportunities they create. My administration will fully fund Head
Start, increase funding for Chapter 1, and provide seed money for
innovative education projects. However, we will also raise standards
by establishing a national testing system in elementary and secondary
schools and instituting report cards for ever state, school district,
and school in the nation, to measure their progress. We will also
create a nationwide apprenticeship program for those young people who
choose not to go to college, and a national trust fund for college loans
for those who do. These loans will be repaid either as a small
percentage of income over time or with a couple of years of national
"With the strategy I have outlined, we can restore the American
Dream by enabling every citizen and every business to become more
productive, and in so doing, restore our nation to the front lines of
ON ELECTRONIC DEMOCRACY AND ITS PROFOUND IMPLICATIONS
by Marilyn Davis, Ph.D.
Principal Software Engineer and Founder
The Electronic Democracy Project on EcoNet
President and Principal Software Engineer, Frontier Systems
One vision of Electronic Democracy is the television show, where we are
presented with some options and we vote, using either phone lines or new
gadgets attached to our television cables.
Experiments in this type of ED (the QUBE system in Columbus, Ohio, 1977-
1984; Canada's Talking Back, 1978-9; the New Zealand Televote, 1981; the
Prime Time Electronic Town Meeting in the SF Bay Area, 1987) can all be
characterized as the "big-vote" type of Electronic Democracy. We are
presented with a set of predetermined options and we press a button to
indicate our choice, and it's over. The articles written about these
systems state that participation runs high, and that participants came
from all walks of life, but that, in the Canadian experiment, at least,
the results were largely ignored by lawmakers.
Getting our lawmakers to listen to us is one problem with this style of
Electronic Democracy. Another problem is that it requires us to all
watch television at some specific times. Still another is the
technological inefficiency involved in building a system that is huge
enough to record everyone's nearly simultaneous vote, but, that is only
used for a half-hour per week.
The worst complaint about this style of Electronic Democracy is that it
is not "democracy" from a political theory point of view. The big-vote
type of Electronic Democracy was criticized in 1982 by Jean Betheke
Elshtain, a political scientist, as being an "interactive shell game
[that] cons us into believing that we are participating when we are
really simply performing as the responding "end" of a prefabricated
system of external stimuli." Elshtain complains that these systems are
not "democracies", but "plebiscites". "In a plebiscitary system, the
views of the majority, ..., swamp minority or unpopular views.
Plebiscitism is compatible with authoritarian politics
carried out under the guise of, or with the connivance of, majority
views. That opinion can be registered by easily manipulated, ritualistic
plebiscites, so there is no need for debate on substantive questions."
Another political theorist, Brian Fay, has said about democracy that
what "is most significant is the involvement of the citizens in the
process of determining their own collective identity." Thus, the primary
activity of a real democracy is discussion, not voting. In a real
democracy, there is facility to bring up issues, exchange opinions, poll
ourselves, re-discuss, and re-poll, until consensus is reached. Here I
suggest two tenets of an ideal democracy:
1. Equal power: In an ideal democracy, every participant has equal
opportunity to bring up new issues, equal opportunity to participate in
every discussion, equal opportunity to vote in every decision, and equal
weight in each vote. Because, until now, we haven't had the technology
for Electronic Democracy, we have been trapped away from this ideal by
the necessity for a representative democracy, i.e., a democracy where we
elect representatives who make our decisions, rather than make our
2. Consensus: In an ideal democracy, group action only results from
a consensus agreement.
Here (and everywhere), by "consensus", I prefer Webster's New Twentieth
Century Dictionary, unabridged, definition that says, "unanimity;
agreement, especially in opinion; hence, general opinion." Random House
has a much longer discussion of the word but has no interpretation that
More practically, by "consensus", I mean the style of consensus
decision-making practiced by Quakers, by many peace groups, and by some
groups of people who live together. These groups don't act until all
agree - or, at least, no one disagrees. You may "stand-out" of the vote
if you still disagree with an action, but don't wish to block the group.
Our computer networks offer the only means to implement a method of
organization and decision-making where these ideals can be efficiently
Although the number of on-line participants is growing fast, still there
are only an elite few of us. The first tenet of an ideal democracy
demands equal access; we don't have that yet. But, if providing tenet
#1 becomes a national priority, it would also provide an economic
alternative for some of our dependence on technical weapon-making.
Each of us, who is a member of a BBS community, has equal opportunity to
introduce and discuss issues, but very limited decision-making tools.
Even so, these systems are proving themselves to be powerful political
tools. In Santa Monica, where there is a city-provided computer network
with a public BBS, the on-line citizens have been able to coerce their
lawmakers into opening the public beach showers in the early morning so
that the homeless can clean up and possibly find work. On the
Association for Progressive Communications (APC) networks, EcoNet,
PeaceNet, and others, 10,000 peace and environmental activists world-
wide participate in discussions and organize for actions with the goal
of saving the planet.
In October of this year, these networks, and all C/Unix-based
conferencing systems, can add voting to their list of features.
"eVote", vote-keeping software from Frontier Systems, will be available
for integration into these systems. This software will enable the on-
line communities to take votes and polls, to spend budgets
democratically, and to develop consensus opinions.
IMPORTANT TECHNICAL DETAILS
Most C/Unix-based conferencing systems maintain a number of conferences;
each conference is a discussion about one narrow (or broad) subject. To
organize the discussion, each conference has a list of "topics",
relevant to the conference, that are posted there by users as the
conference grows. Each topic has a number of "messages", also posted by
users, that carry the thread of the conversation on the topic.
When eVote comes on line, votes will be taken at the "topic" level only,
not on messages. This means that you will always be able to add a
message when you vote, to qualify or explain it.
The list of topic titles for a particular conference appears on the
"index screen". When eVote is in place, the index screen will also list
statistics indicating the number of readers, and, if a vote is being
collected on the topic, the number of voters and average vote.
The user who originates the topic dictates the format for the vote:
whether the vote will be from "0 to 9", "Yes or No", or "Vote for 3 of
the following 10". The voting can be configured so that users can
change their votes and see how others voted. These are essential
features for enabling consensus and/or for emulating an in-person
The "Vote for 3 of the following 10" feature can be used to
democratically spend a budget. In this case the instructions will be
"Distribute your 100ED-bucks among the following 20 proposals". The
group can decide (probably by consensus) to spend the real budget
according to the group's average distribution. This then, is a
mechanism for determining and carrying out group decisions without
depending on a representative.
A group can decide to spend money on a political campaign. The
Electronic Democracy candidate would be a figure-head who, if elected,
makes all the decisions of the office according to the decisions of the
This computer-networked, discussion-dominated, type of Electronic
Democracy provides both tenets of an ideal democracy: equal power, and
consensus facilitation. In addition, we can democratically direct funds,
thereby facilitating an ideally democratic process from the first
expression of a new idea, all the way through discussion and decision-
making, to implementation by spending the money.
In face to face meetings, the consensus process works. It is easy to
imagine that it will work in small on-line groups of similar mind (like
the EcoNet community). Mathematics and computer science will provide
algorithms to insure that each group deals fairly with other groups
Indeed, special cases and special privileges are very difficult to build
into software. Because we will be starting with small groups, we won't
confront big decisions until we've built the software to coalesce our
small-group decisions into larger and larger circles of consensus.
There can be no danger in it.
WHAT WILL THIS MEAN TO THE HUMAN RACE?
A seminal difficulty of our species, is the struggle we each face with
two distinct, universal, and somewhat opposing human drives. The first
is our need, or at least our expectation, that we should have "self-
determination". It is this expectation that has compelled us to rebel
against despots throughout history. Our struggles with the "terrible
two's" and "troubled teens" can be interpreted as our struggle to
reconcile our expectations of self-determination with our other,
apparently opposing need: the need to belong to groups.
To survive, we must conform to the expectations of our parents and of
our cultures, and compromise our sense of self-determination for a sense
of security, and for the love of others. We must organize ourselves
into groups; there must be some method of decision-making, and of
carrying out those decisions.
Electronic Democracy offers a path of reconciliation for these two
powerful forces in each of us. Using this technology, we can experiment
with decision-making by consensus, the only method of organization that
can fully materialize our dreams of self-determination.
But, how can we know if we should take this path? How can we know if we
can trust our collective human nature? The concept is so radical, how
can we know if it is right?
Luckily, living on islands, and deep in the rain forests of Panama, are
the Cuna Indians, who can serve as a model of a consensus-run culture.
ABOUT THE CUNA
These amazing Indians, 40,000 in number, have been making decisions, by
consensus, since before Columbus discovered them on his fourth voyage.
Because the Cuna have been living for centuries in the only truly
democratic culture, we look to the Cuna to answer, "What happens to
people who live democratically"?
There is very little literature about the Cuna. However, from ALL
accounts, they are well-organized, harmonious, wise, resourceful,
energetic, playful, gentle, astute, even enlightened.
But how do such innocents fair in dealings with the rest of the world?
The Cuna are possibly the only unconquered native Americans, still
living on, and in control of, their homeland. They won a short war with
Panama in 1925 when it tried to usurp their autonomy. When, in this
decade, Catholics came as missionaries, the National Catholic Reporter
reported, "Panamanian Indians Evangelize Evangelizers".
Although non-Cuna Panamanians may not participate in the affairs of the
Cuna, some Cuna work and study in Panama City, and have been elected to
offices in the Panamanian government.
While preserving their own culture, which they value more than money,
the Cunas capitalize on the world market for their "molas", the colorful
fabric art pieces that the women sew.
A connection between the Cunas' consensus-run politics and their obvious
enlightenment, their unity, their individuality, and their strength is
evident here. As we, through Electronic Democracy, claim our earth and
our rights, we will become like the Cunas: free. As Electronic
Democracy replaces our old political systems, and our strengths as
individuals and as communities grow, we will experience a profound, even
miraculous, change in human attitudes in most cultures.
Of course, it's a big leap from our current reality to imagining
ourselves, like the Cuna, loving our system of organization for its
fairness and responsiveness, and for making us feel heard, and for
making us feel powerful.
In addition, we will love our system for being efficient and for not
tempting us to be influenced by clothes, or speech impediments, or age,
or a thousand other irrelevancies. We'll base our decisions only on the
content of what is written. We'll make excellent decisions.
Like the Cuna, WE will BE our system.
This tool has been waiting for us, in our future; like speech once
waited for us to discover it; and writing. When we, as evolving humans,
were given the dexterity for speech; it must have been, somehow, left
for us to discover our ability and invent language. Given our manual
dexterity and our speech, inventing writing naturally followed. Given
writing, accumulation of knowledge follows. Given knowledge, technology
results. Given technology and our innate and inalienable rights,
Electronic Democracy is inevitable.
Indeed, when you consider the mountain of mathematical, scientific and
technological advances that this system is being built upon, we are a
hair from finished; and just in the nick of time. Our old structures
for civic organization are buckling under the pressures of bad
decisions. Our old structures breed bad decisions. There is, and there
has been, much suffering. We can make it better now.
Electronic Democracy is an answer. There is no other. Electronic
Democracy is inevitable. Our deepest natures hunger for it. The
quicker we adopt Electronic Democracy as our system of civic
organization, the less total suffering there will be.
Becker, Ted, "Teledemocracy - Bringing Power Back to People", The
Futurist, December, 1981, p.6.
Elgin, Duane, "Conscious Democracy Through Electronic Town Meetings",
Whole Earth Review, Summer, 1991, p.28.
Elshtain, Jean Betheke, "Interactive TV - Democracy and the QUBE Tube",
The Nation, August 7-14, 1982, p.108.
Hallowell, Christopher, "A World of Difference", Americas, Jan.-Feb,
Mazlow, Jonathan, "A Tramp in the Darien", a B.B.C. Adventure Series
Moran, Julio, "Computers Forge PEN Pal Link", Los Angeles Times, Feb 25,
Myers, Norman, "Kuna Indians, Building a Bright Future", International
Wildlife, July-Aug., 1987, p.17
Wirpasa, Leslie, "Panamanian Indians Evangelize Evangelizers", National
Catholic Reporter, Mar 8, 1991, p.8.
Wittig, Michele, Ph.D., "Using a City-Owned Public Electronic Network
for Community Organizing", American Psychological Association, Division
9 Newsletter, July, 1990.
Wittig, Michele, "Electronic City Hall",Whole Earth Review, Summer 1991,
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