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Archive for December, 2009

Jeffrey Sachs on Open Source Politics

Jeffrey SachsIn my latter post I described the case of Open Source Society and what learnings there is from the Open Source Movements to use throughout society.

One principle is the famous quote from internet pioneer David D Clark:

We reject: kings, presidents and voting.
We believe in: rough consensus and running code.

It describes the leadership in Open Source Movements. In 2007 economist Jeffrey Sachs touches upon this in his talks on BBC Radio 4s Reith Lectures, when he can be quoted this:

We are entering I believe a new politics, and potentially a hopeful politics. I’m going to call it open-source leadership. If Wikipedia and Linux can be built in an open source manner, politics can be done in that manner as well. We are going to need a new way to address and to solve global problems, but our connectivity will bring us tools unimaginable even just a few years ago. I’m going to try to explain how this can be done, how without a global government we can still get global co-operation, how initiatives like the Millennium Development Goals can be an organising principle for the world — though there is no single implementing authority — and how it is possible to coalesce around shared goals. I am going to explain how scientists can play a fundamental role in this, such as they do in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC is a good example of how a rough consensus is reach when:

(…) there are over 1200 independent scientific authors and 2500 reviewers who have taken part in the preparation of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report published in 2007.(1)

If the COP15 will produce an tolerable agreement, then IPCCs work will be an succes. Jeffrey Sachs continues on open-source global cooperation:

I am arguing for open-source global cooperation as well, meaning a system in which all sectors are invited to offer solutions, under the guidance of an agreed set of targets. Starting with shared goals, backed up by regular and rigorous feedback from expert reviews, we can engender a worldwide outpouring of ideas, actions, and commitments from all parts of society – business, non-governmental organizations, and international agencies. Governments can stand ready to bring solutions to scale, through public finance and other kinds of incentives.(2)

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An Open Source Society

Following Hardt and Negri (Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, 2004):

“One approach to understanding the democracy of the multitude [=masses] (…) is as an open-source society, that is, a society whose source code is revealed so that we can all work collaboratively to solve its bugs and create new, better social programs.”

Underneath this statement lies the question: What can be learned from the open source movements (Free Software Foundation and Open Source Initiative, see as well Berry, 2008) to create a better society?

Certainly a lot can be learned from the power of mass collaboration, which the “Us Now” describes really well in the field of government and Internet. See the documentary on their project webpage.

Other Open Source Principle might be interesting to look at, such as:

  • the radical transparency in each chain of the proces
  • the rough consensus-building rather than the king or presidents demands
  • …(?)
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