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    • CommentTimeNov 6th 2008

    That's where the ant wheel comes in. If the following ant simply makes a decision based on the ant in front, then they're likely to doom themselves to a long, drawn out death. People can do much the same thing. And even if you have knowledge that you know to be accurate and correct, and enough people tell you different, you might STILL choose the wrong answer, just based on the idea that the other people probably know what they're talking about. Even if they don't.

    It's why people still claim Obama to be Muslim, etc.
      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeNov 6th 2008
    @ rickiep00h and doclivingston - Yes, certainly there are many circumstances where large groups are ill suited. The Wisdom of crowds points out that in areas of skill, such as surgery of flying a plane for instance, large groups are just awful. It does seem that there are a number of areas where they do well though. Specifically when there is a right answer.

    I'm imagining that any sort of constructed leadership model would make good use of this. I find it interesting that one of the main requirements for groups to produce accurate answers is a high level of independence amongst it's members.
    Once again anonymous comes to mind (and then doesn't when we get into memes and lolz).
    It's this strange situation where everyones opinion is important to the process and irrelevant to the end result.
    As someone with a fairly zen mentallity I like th eway this notion affirms the idea that yes, you are just as important as everyone else, now let it go.

    Certain actions that leaders have traditionally taken such as demagoguery or appealing to the base are shown to be counter productive to a collaborative society. Before we can have effective leadership of the group we need to figure out what the most helpful behaviors are for the groups constituents.

    @ Osmosis - yes, voting, absolutely. I didn't phrase that too clearly though. What I was getting at was the question of how to implement this. It works best if it's quick, accessible and automated -ie online- but that method is also vulnerable to gaming and griefing. How do we make participation quick easy and genuinely representative?
    • CommentTimeNov 7th 2008

    I wasn't disagreeing, I was explaining. I just find it necessary to remind myself once in a while to ask myself why I'm making a decision. Do I truly believe the information in front of me, or am I just agreeing with the people that "know" such things?

    inre - demagoguery: Oftentimes leaders with less than wholesome plot hatch them early enough to make their actions seem mandated by the masses, as if they arose to power because the other people demanded it. But most of the time these are designs of people that want to be in power to be in power, not people that are in power because someone has to help break ties or be the face of a group. Just as an example, I use McCain vs. Obama. I think McCain wanted to be in power to tell other people what to do, whereas I think Obama is more likely to do what the people (as in a mass of individuals, not a proletariat-like construct) are directing him toward. Of course, I could expound on that more, but I think that makes my general point.

    Again, the idea that people can, as a group, essentially govern themselves is noble, but in practice it is exceedingly slow and difficult. The reason we have come to representative democracy (in the U.S., anyway) is because it wholly impossible for 300 million people to agree on what is best for everyone, especially when half of that number don't really seem to care. It also makes it difficult for every single individual case to be heard. Furthermore, sure, voting is great for decision-making, it's not so great for originating policy. If one person in the country wants to make a law, should everyone have to vote on it? We'd spend our whole lives voting. That's why we have some people who DO spend their lives making policy voting, while the rest of us get to make input when we feel it necessary (writing your congressman, etc) and use the rest of our time to do things that are generally constructive. Even if it were quick and genuinely representative, it would still eat up entirely too much time.

    "But what if we only voted on things that were important?" Who decides what is or isn't important? That's one layer of the leadership model we currently have. Is it necessary? No, it's not necessary, but it's convenient and, in theory, when everyone is acting in the best interests of the GROUP, it should work. Occasionally there are breakdowns in government and leadership, but ultimately, they zero out most of the time, and if they don't, then we're entitled to rise against them. And when that happens, usually someone has to come along to organize and direct and act as mouthpiece for the dissenting group. While groupthink is great and leads to a lot of innovation, it's exceedingly slow, and most average people don't have the patience to work everything out.

    (sorry for the rant... kinda went off there...)
  1.  (4015.44)
    I agree with @rickiep00h in that true democracy is unweildy. Yes, it's ideal, but it just isn't efficient. If we were a culture that valued representation and equality above efficiency it would be a different story. But we specialize in order to be really good at something, which makes the group as a whole better at it. And that includes having people that specialize in politics, or just in leading. When other people take care of making decisions for the masses, you can concentrate on what you're good at/what you're contributing. But we don't just let anyone lead us, we try to make sure they're at least going in the general direction of what we want. At least that's the way it's been in the past.
    Now we talk about what we want, and people who are connected to us and have the ability to pull it off (if we don't have the ability or time to) do it. Then they continue concentrating on what they're good at - meaning whatever task comes up next that has to do with the group as a whole will be taken on by someone else.
      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeNov 7th 2008 edited
    Well I'm certainly not suggesting an approach where anyone could put forward an initiative and everyone then votes on it. I don't think that would work at all. I'm trying to imagine ways that the behavior of groups and the possibility of groups being better than individuals in certain areas can be effectively harnessed. I'm more of the opinion that there are many tasks that people can perform as ad hoc collaborative groups and do a better job at it than top down government.
      CommentAuthorJon Wake
    • CommentTimeNov 8th 2008
    To be fair, we already have an emergent system of leadership based on very simple rules and a huge number of participants.

    It's call a brain.
  2.  (4015.47)
    I think the conversation has moved on a touch from this, but I noticed it and wanted to bring it up anyway.
    The US military said on Friday that al-Baghdadi was "an actor who provided a voice for al-Qaeda's propaganda".

    from Al-Qaeda's 'mild' message to Obama []
    We did mention something about an actor being a mouthpiece, someone who could be changed at any time yet remain the same.

    Though back to the task at hand.

    I have a stupid habit of missing the point sometimes and going off on a completely unrelated train of thought. If this is the case... er... let me know and I'll nuke all of this, cos it's probably just patronising garbage.

    I'm more of the opinion that there are many tasks that people can perform as ad hoc collaborative groups and do a better job at it than top down government.

    Maybe, but you can't escape the fact that someone or something (and I'm starting to think it's more Something than Someone) has to provide the impetus to solve the task in the first place. Add to this the fact that people aren't telepathic and can't see the whole picture, so we need some way of organising the component elements together in order to get them to work. Unless we want to focus purely on small problems.

    I'm going to go out on a limb and say that a The Big Idea is the lynchpin to literally everything. I can't back this up with any writings from important educated people unfortunately, but I can explain a little about what I mean. I'll apologise now, but it's all probably really obvious stuff and I've probably missed something important somewhere along the line.

    Let's say we have a problem of getting people from Point A to Point B, it needs to be safe and it needs to be relatively comfortable. We have these things that can fly. What shall we do? The Big Idea is "Safe Air Travel".

    The manufacturers build the planes, mechanics fix the planes, the pilots fly the planes, the air-traffic controllers organise the planes and stop them crashing into each other. Somehow, the whole thing works and we've solved international travel all of a sudden. And there isn't one big voice in the sky saying "do this". But there are the head people of Airbus, Boeing, American Airlines, British Airways, the British Aviation Authority, the Federal Aviation Authority... and so on all playing their part in making sure The Big Idea works.

    It's evident that each level of Government, or - let's face it - an Organisation sees a different pieces of the puzzle, or at least the issues at different distances. Central Government cannot deal with - say - the replacement of a broken park bench, and likewise a Town Council can't (or rather don't need to) see the overall picture of how many park benches there are in the country and how it relates to - say - health.

    The Obama campaign is a decent example of why leadership - especially virtual leadership in the form of The Big Idea - is important. A great deal of the work was done by groups that acted more-or-less independently from each other, but they all used the same language, same iconography, same tools in order to get the job done. They all had their own small organisational structures as well. How the smaller organisations interacted with the gestalt is probably rather different to how the Republicans ran their campaign. A degree of freedom for the small group to deal with the unique issues that it faced in order to get The Big Idea sorted. As a result, I don't think there was any deviation from the Big Idea, and that's what made it work so well.

    I feel there's been an increasing tendency to white-wash low level government (I'm going to assume that it's all Bushs' fault, since he was not a Leader so much as a Decider) and to assume the only democratic voice we have is a General Election vote, when you can just as easily sit in on town council meetings, petition local MPs, meet with focus groups and get little things done that way. ...assuming that US politics is even remotely analogous to UK politics (...and UK politics is just awkward, irritating and somehow functions despite being composed entirely of middle-aged men shouting at each other).

    It is like the smaller issues and our unique situation does not exist, and we want a say in what the Big Idea is rather than how the Big Idea will be solved. so what I'm sort of saying is that we actually already have emergent systems of leadership. And we have ample opportunity to get involved, but someone forgot to tell us about them.
    • CommentTimeNov 8th 2008
    Reading through the beginning of this thread made me think of Mycroft in "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" more than faceless groupthink. I don't want to see supposed "Alpha Males" simply banging their chests without getting stuff down.

    One problem is the lines of communication between those fixing a park and those repairing a downed bridge with those coordinating these efforts.
    • CommentAuthorVerissimus
    • CommentTimeNov 8th 2008 edited
    <em>[...] a mask that someone could wear to act as the mouthpiece, the authenticity of their speech being determined by how well they conform to an archetypal reflection of the group as a whole.

    And something that , in concept at least, fits these requirements came to mind immediately. He's a person and his name is Osama Bin Laden.</em>

    Makes you wonder if the CIA could render the whole Al Qaeda and related organizations powerless by dressing a couple of dozen guys in Bin Laden halloween costumes, giving them a handycam and making them spread gibberish on Islamist websites!

    Imagine a legion of Bin Laden lookalikes on the Internets saying things like, "Bring back Star Trek NOW", "LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE" or "Ayman al-Zawahiri is my bitch." It would elevate the war on terror to a whole new level.
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeNov 8th 2008
    Makes you wonder if the CIA could render the whole Al Qaeda and related organizations powerless by dressing a couple of dozen guys in Bin Laden halloween costumes, giving them a handycam and making them spread gibberish on Islamist websites!

    There are some deeply cynical individuals who would suggest that this is far from fantasy.
      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeNov 9th 2008
    @ Jon Wake - Thanks for so succinctly phrasing what I've been failing to say in my last 1000 words or so. Damn I suck at writing.....