I'm sure all our readers are familiar with the Albert Einstein quote, "The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them," so I won't repeat it here. Heh.
New levels of thinking are required for the problems that exist today, and especially will be needed for the new problems of the future.
Earlier this year, we wrote, "Advanced nanotechnology -- exponential general-purpose manufacturing -- will present problems that do not have simple solutions. Indeed, they may require not only new levels of thinking, but whole new systems of stakeholder representation, consensus-building, decision-making, and perhaps even global administration."
In "Societal-Scale Decision-Making Using Social Networks" [PDF], two computer scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, demonstrate some interesting new thinking.
The increasing complexity and interconnectedness of global society makes decentralization both necessary and attainable; formally, this complexity transition corresponds to a shift from hierarchical control structures to participatory networks. It is our position that dynamic representation is a critical part of this shift as it plays out in the context of public policymaking. In order to manage the complexity of global society, it will be necessary to replace the traditionally static, hierarchical forms of representation with new network-based models which adapt to the rapidly changing dynamics and contexts of decentralized society. It is our hope that future designers of large-scale human decision-making systems will find our social networks-based method of use in meeting this emerging need.
Could this idea of scaled-up social networking be combined effectively with Jim Garrison's proposal for network democracy? In the long run, of course, neither idea may pan out, but it is this type of creative cogitation that must be encouraged.