Tuesday, February 01, 2005

How can a computer uncover physical reality?

The election in Iraq is spun, by the US government, as a victory for the invaders and occupiers of the country. Reality is somewhat different. The leaders of the Iraqi majority, and the Shia & Kurd masses of Iraq, voted as an act of non-violent resistance, so they could get rid of the invaders through international pressure. This is so obvious, and has been mentioned obliquely in almost all US news reports of any length. But somehow, it doesn't stick, and the US government spins around it.

This is very reminiscent of voting in the US, where publicists and pundits debate endlessly the 'meaning' of a vote. Polls actually show the results quite well, but the obvious answers are ignored.

Take the endless referenda on sales tax in Oregon. This is always forwarded by a State congressional body that does not spend money according to people's priorities. And so the State congress wants more money. And people refuse the sales tax. And then the pundits ask "what do people mean?" The answer is in the polls, if anyone bothered to pay attention: people are saying "you don't spend the money well". Then the State congress sets it up as a threat: "give us sales tax revenue, or we'll cut money for schools." People see through this threat, stick to their principles, and still refuse the sales tax. State leadership gets in front of the press and says something like "people obviously don't want to pay for their kids' education".

The only way to fix this bad habit of government, in the US, in Iraq, or anywhere else, is to make institutions directly run by the people. Then they'll know what's going on, everyone will, because only through knowledge can a participatory system work.

In the original democracy, the greek city-state, citizens were elected to council by random selection, a process called sortition. In this way, so went the theory, the citizenry would need to become educated. Of course, more than likely they were just manipulated by the ruling class and their city staff. But the notion of empowerment as a means of full education, something the greeks called paideia, is one that needs to be rigorously pursued. And the internet can help.


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