REINVENTDEMOCRACY.NET

Interactive Voter Choice System
(U.S. Patent No. 7,953,628)

Introduction

The Challenge

Democracies around the world are malfunctioning due to numerous "democratic deficits". One of the key deficits is caused by political institutions such as political parties that generate conflicts they cannot resolve, especially ideological conflicts. These conflicts often cause legislative stalemates that prevent passage of critical legislation, such as laws effectively addressing global climate disruption and the spread of asymmetrical warfare around the world. They also cause popular dissatisfaction with legislative bodies and opposition to elected governments due to their failures to pass laws needed and demanded by their constituents.

These deficits include the following:

  • The propensity of political parties to create conflicts and legislative stalemates based on uncompromising ideological stances and partisan agendas.
     
  • The gap between voters' and lawmakers' legislative priorities due to the failure of traditional parties to engage voters in actively determining their legislative agendas and slates of candidates.
     
  • Deliberate contrivance of electoral controversies in order to attract voters' attention, mislead them with false allegations, and divide them into hostile camps in order to get their votes.
     
  • Passive electorates that have no alternative but to choose among electoral candidates already on the ballot running on platforms over which voters have little influence.
     
  • Decreasing voter turnout in most established democracies since the 1960s.
     
  • Electoral laws, regulations and well-funded media campaigns that enable candidates and parties lacking widespread support to win elections, take control of government and pass laws even though they have received a minority of votes cast.
     
  • Legislative decision-making regarding grave and complex matters, such as armed conflicts, that does not engage electorates in actively debating the merits of various options or give them the opportunity to express their views or vote on options.
     
  • Passage of laws in which voters' legislative needs and priorities are subordinated to those of special interests.

These "democratic deficits" in ostensibly democratic and freely elected governments are fueling growing voter dissatisfaction with their elected representatives and governments as a whole. Voters' frustration at their inability to obtain legislation that meets their needs, priorities and demands is sparking protests, legal and extra-legal confrontations, secession movements, and even armed clashes and attempts to overthrow governments whose actions are perceived to jeopardize the well-being of their populations.

The Solution

The causes of the life-threatening problems, crises and conflicts, such as global climate disruption and the spread of asymmetrical warfare around the world, lie primarily within malfunctioning, democratically unaccountable governments that have failed to protect the well-being of their constituents.

These malfunctioning governments must be made democratically accountable before these problems, crises and conflicts can be addressed through the passage of effective legislation. Although most of these governments have thwarted traditional reform efforts, they can be re-invented by their electorates by means of a unique political consensus building and conflict resolution web technology that fundamentally alters the way democratic forms of government function. It does so by enabling voters to replace dysfunctional and conflict producing political institutions with consensus building institutions.

The Interactive Voter Choice System will provide access to a unique transpartisan consensus building and conflict resolution platform that will enable electorates, lawmakers, electoral candidates, political parties, and voter mobilization groups to find common ground and devise consensual legislative solutions to these problems, crises and conflicts.

In particular, the technology will counteract politically and economically motivated confrontations and violence within and between countries and the various protagonists engaging in these confrontations and violent acts.

It will do so by empowering all parties -- especially disaffected and aggrieved individuals, groups and potential recruits to extremist causes -- to forego violence and replace it with effective political influence obtained through self-organizing and consensus building online voting blocs, political parties and coalitions (BPCs) that enable them to use electoral and legislative processes to protect their vital interests without the use of force.

For the first time in history, the Interactive Voter Choice System, will connect voters and other democracy stakeholders to each other horizontally rather than "top down" through traditional political parties. It will enable them to devise common transpartisan legislative agendas and peace plans to solve transnational conflicts that cross ideological and partisan lines, and use their own autonomous (BPCs) to elect candidates to enact their agendas and plans.

These BPCs, which can work with traditional parties or independently, can grow large enough to outflank and outnumber the electoral base of any single political party and run and elect candidates to defeat opposing party candidates. This capability enables BPCs to overcome the polarization and partisan divisiveness that traditional parties and special interests inject into electoral and legislation processes.

The Interactive Voter Choice System's social networking platform also overcomes the well-documented tendency of members of social groups of like-minded people -- especially political groups -- to move to extremes, particularly when they are instigated to do so by self-serving leaders. While the common goals of social and political groups can unite their members, research shows that these intra-group goals can exert a divisive influence by prompting their members to adopt extreme positions in order to compete with external groups -- especially in cases where political leaders exaggerate and even invent external threats in order to increase their influence and control over the members of the group.

To counteract this tendency, the consensus building mechanism contained within the Interactive Voter Choice System motivates the members of BPCs to continuously reach out across partisan divides to attract new members so they can build electoral bases large enough to provide the voting strength they need to win elections.

The system's capacity to reduce polarization by facilitating transpartisan consensus building among BPCs can extend upwards from grassroots micro-levels to higher macro-levels within and across national boundaries. BPCs that operate within a specific election district can expand and interconnect with BPCs that operate outside their election districts. By using the system's consensus building mechanism, they can coalesce to incorporate broad cross-sections of voters across partisan and ideological lines to collectively create common agendas and peace plans, as well as plan and conjointly implement coordinated electoral strategies to elect lawmakers to enact their common agendas.

The Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS) can be used by virtually unlimited numbers of democracy stakeholders in countries around the world not only to form domestic BPCs but also to form transnational BPCs to address any transnational problems, crises and conflicts they wish. To take one urgent example, the system will facilitate the formation of BPCs whose members consensually develop common agendas to address life-threatening global crises such as those created by the global metastasis of asymmetric warfare as well as the imminent threats posed by global climate disruption and extreme weather.

To implement legislative agendas set by transnational BPCs, individual members of these BPCs can create domestic BPCs within their home countries and elect lawmakers to enact transnational agendas. By operating simultaneously at national and transnational levels, they can surmount the inability of far too many governments and heads of state to agree to adopt and implement common agendas aimed at preventing further global climate disruption and extreme weather.

As discussed below, IVCS-enabled BPCs will possess the unique problem-solving capabilities of interconnected Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS). As such, they will accelerate the technological evolution of democratic forms of government by enabling democracy stakeholders everywhere, across the political and ideological spectrum, to find common ground to solve life-threatening societal and global problems, crises and conflicts that contemporary governments are proving themselves incapable of solving.

These online systems and the technological evolution they will accelerate in political systems are particularly needed at the federal level of the United States government where the U.S. Congress is chronically subject to paralysis created by quarreling political parties and lawmakers representing a minority of American voters.

These self-organizing Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS), however, are needed just as urgently outside the U.S. in regions plagued by violent conflicts. For they can prevent protagonists from going to extremes by providing them a platform for engaging in online dialogue and debate with people from diverse perspectives committed to devising and implementing peace plans and non-violent solutions to the conflicts. Successful outcomes of these online dialogues and debates will enable them to realize they can use online BPCs to achieve their objectives without the use of force.

How the Interactive Voter Choice System Empowers Voters to Gain Control of Elections and Legislation

The technology connects voters across the ideological and political spectrum to each other online and enables them to create a new layer of voter-controlled consensus building political organizations capable of determining the outcomes of elections and legislative decision making.

The technology's agenda setting, political organizing and consensus building tools enable voters and other democracy stakeholders such as political parties, electoral candidates, issue and voter mobilization groups to accomplish the following:

The IVCS technology will re-invent democracy because it possesses a built-in consensus building and conflict resolution mechanism that motivates and empowers electorates to overcome ideological and partisan conflicts and legislative stalemates.

The mechanism works as follows:

In the process of creating transpartisan electoral bases, voters can actively engage in political problem solving and create the collective intelligence and political leverage they need to implement their solutions. Access to the technology's agenda setting and problem solving tools in combination with its online voting utility enables bloc, party and coalition members to act pragmatically, flexibly and adaptively to prevent or resolve legislative stalemates that would otherwise obstruct the passage of needed legislation in a timely and effective manner.

Significantly, the technology enables any individual or group anywhere to use its tools to create a bloc, party or coalition at any time to address any issue or set of issues they choose, within a single country or transnationally. It will make it possible for disaffected and aggrieved individuals and groups to attain their objectives through authentic, democratic, voter controlled electoral and legislative processes, rather than confrontations, protests and extra-legal actions, including the use of force.

These organizations will compete with each other to win elections to enact their agendas not by contriving political conflicts to divide voters into hostile camps, but by building consensus to unite voters across partisan lines around collectively set agendas in order to recruit the largest number of voters to vote for their candidates. Voters will play pro-active rather than passive roles in electoral and legislative processes. Instead of allowing lawmakers and heads of state to pass legislation that ignores their constituents' priorities and demands, voters can take action at any time to form, exit and create new blocs, parties and coalitions, set collective legislative mandates and pressure elected government officials to enact them or risk defeat in upcoming elections.

Technical Features

The core technical features of the Interactive Voter Choice System are described in the patent issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (U.S. Patent No. 7,953,628, Class 705/12: Data Processing: Voting or election arrangement).

It comprises a "system to create aggregates of voters with similar preferred policy options to influence elections and policy-making in representative bodies", "a computerbased network", "a website on the Internet", and "computerized databases of objects, each object representing a stance on a policy option of concern to voters".

The system is designed to enable voters to "build consensus, coalitions and voting blocs that can run and elect their own candidates for office and induce elected representatives to enact their agendas".

The Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS) enables voters to build self-organizing voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs), and decentralized networks of BPCs, whose members interact with each other using the information and communication technologies (ICT) available on the website to access the system's structured and unstructured databases. Core databases are comprised of policy options and selected sets of policy options and policy agendas.

Theoretical and Empirical Foundations

The overarching goal of the paradigm shifting Interactive Voter Choice System technology and web platform is to empower voters to gain control of elections and legislation by building self-organizing online voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs) whose members interact with each other using advanced Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

The self-organizing capabilities of IVCS-enabled BPCs are similar to those found in Complex Adaptive Systems (CASs) because they empower virtually unlimited numbers of individual and group agents, including voters and voter-controlled political organizations, to interact, self-organize and adapt to internal and external change from the "bottom up" by collectively setting and enacting common legislative agendas.

These capabilities are particularly relevant to electoral and legislative processes in political systems and governmental institutions in which small numbers of largely unaccountable lawmakers enact laws for far larger numbers of constituents. Such capabilities permit virtually unlimited numbers of voters to interact with each other from the grassroots upwards to solve societal problems, crises and conflicts that are being left unresolved by increasingly undemocratic governing institutions, including traditional conflict-producing political parties and legislative bodies, especially whose members are unduly influenced by special interests (Hacker and Pierson, 2010).

The RDI/IVCS technology and platform facilitate consensus building and conflict resolution by BPCs within countries as well as transnationally. Voters and democracy stakeholders worldwide can use the technology and platform to build domestic and transnational BPCs, set and implement agendas regarding any issues they choose as they wish to frame them, and elect lawmakers to enact their agendas in whatever countries and jurisdictions BPC members reside.

There are four ways BPCs can use the technology and platform to pressure lawmakers into enacting their agendas and hold them accountable if they fail to do so. They can:

  1. Conduct large scale petitioning campaigns; use the platform's voting utility to tally the number of signatories; transmit the petition to lawmakers electronically; and publicize the results via media of their choice.
  2. Conduct online referendums that convey to their elected representatives their immediate legislative priorities, using the voting utility to tally the number of votes cast to show them how many people advocate these priorities.
  3. Conduct online straw recall votes to inform elected representatives and policy-makers who fail to exert their best efforts to enact voters' agendas and mandates how many people wish to oust them from office.
  4. Defeat in actual elections lawmakers whose legislative track records BPCs deemed unsatisfactory.

Accelerating the Technological Evolution of Democracies

The RDI/IVCS technology and platform can accelerate the technological transformation and evolution of democratic forms of government by providing voters Information and Communications Technology (ICT) that facilitate the formation of self-organizing BPCs. The technology and platform combine web-based electronic data processing, structured and unstructured databases comprised of legislative options and priorities, online social collaboration tools and the collective action power of the Internet (Shirky, 2008).

This unique technological combination connects voters to each other horizontally across partisan and ideological lines to build web-based BPCs operating in electoral and legislative processes of their choice. Through the creation of transpartisan legislative agendas, transpartisan slates of candidates and transpartisan electoral bases that cross partisan and ideological lines, this technology enables IVCS-enabled BPCs to grow large enough to decide who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed.

BPCs can align with officially recognized political parties of their choice or work independently. Their ability to use the technology and platform to set transpartisan agendas, and forge transpartisan electoral bases that outnumber the electoral base of any single party, enables them to surpass the influence of many traditional political parties as the driving forces of electoral and legislative processes.

This horizontal connectivity and autonomy of BPCs that self-organize from the "bottom up" contrasts with the vertical "top-down" hierarchical structure of traditional political parties. Traditional party structures primarily connect individual voters to party organizational hierarchies that are vertically rather than horizontally controlled. This structure prevents voters from communicating directly with each other to collectively determine party platforms and legislative agendas, and adopt slates of candidates they wish to place on party ballot lines to enact voters' agendas after they are elected.

In contrast, the RDI/IVCS technology and platform provide formal mechanisms by which voters can set individual and collective legislative agendas on behalf of self-organizing BPCs. These consensus building voter controlled organizations can adopt and elect common slates of candidates of their own choosing as an alternative to accepting parties' requirements that voters choose among candidates who have already placed themselves on parties' primary and general election ballots and run on agendas over which voters exert little influence.

The technology and platform have the potential to re-invent democracy worldwide because they enable voters and their online consensus building BPCs to supercede traditional "top down" political parties as the primary definers of legislative priorities and selectors of slates of electoral candidates. Such a technology is especially relevant in countries where the dominant political parties and their candidates tend to:

  1. Exercise quasi-monopoly control of the institutional machinery of electoral and legislative processes, and use this control to ensure the election of party candidates as well as prevent the emergence of competitive third parties (Maisel, 2007).
  2. Receive the lion's share of their finances from special interests.
  3. Tend to support legislation favoring special interests to which they are beholden even when the legislation diverges from the expressed needs and wants of lawmakers' constituents (Hacker and Pierson, 2010).

According to the conclusions of numerous academic studies (for example, Gilens and Page, 2014), lawmakers beholden to special interests often take legislative actions that do not serve the public interest and fail to effectively address life-threatening crises and conflicts proliferating around the world.

In contrast, voters can use the agenda setting, political organizing, and consensus building tools of the RDI/IVCS technology and platform to create transpartisan electoral bases large enough to elect their candidates to enact their agendas -- without special interest campaign financing. They can use their BPCs to oversee and guide their representatives' actions after they take office to ensure they exert their best efforts to enact the agendas of the constituents who elected them. If BPC members deem their representatives' legislative track records to be unsatisfactory, they can use the platform's political organizing tools to run and elect new candidates in the next election.

Group Forming Network

MIT computer scientist David P. Reed pioneered in conceptualizing the unique group forming properties of telecommunications networks such as the Internet. The one-to-many communications capabilities that electronic networks provide to every member of the network exponentially increases the number of connections that can be made. In what is referred to as "Reed's Law", Reed postulated that "the utility of large networks particularly social networks, can scale exponentially with the size of the network."

These group forming properties of social networks highlight the virtually unlimited number of IVCS-enabled voting blocs, political parties and coalitions (BPCs) that can be formed using the RDI/IVCS technology and platform. The utility and political influence of these self organizing voter controlled BPCs and their interconnections are likely to increase exponentially as the number of BPCs using the network expands worldwide.

In contrast to general group forming social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, the platform will create a specialized group forming social network designed to connect virtually unlimited numbers of voters and democracy stakeholders to each other. The platform's structured and unstructured databases, comprised of legislative options and priorities that users create and access via IVCS agenda setting, political organizing, and consensus building tools, enable voters to set legislative agendas, connect with like-minded members with similar agendas, and create self-organizing domestic and transnational BPCs hosted on a single website running on a single computing platform.

The platform and network will enable individuals and groups with access to the Internet via PCs and mobile devices to create private accounts, user profiles, directories, groups, workspaces and databases. They will have access to advanced Information and Communications Technology (ICT), commencing with the Interactive Voter Choice System. The platform will include a state-of-the-art User Experience/User Interface (UX/UI) and social software enabling them to manage their own private communications and content using a variety of methods to set and update individual and collective legislative agendas specifying the legislation they want enacted. An individual or group that sets an agenda can use the platform's databases to connect with like-minded individuals and groups that have set similar agendas to negotiate common agendas as well as form and merge BPCs to elect representatives to enact their agendas.

Theoretically, there will be no technical limit to the number of individuals and groups that can create accounts and form, join and merge BPCs. Each member can communicate with every other member, singly or through one-to-many communications. Individual BPC members can communicate with members of other BPCs to merge or form new BPCs. These blocs and coalitions will be members of decentralized voter-controlled networks of autonomous self-organizing BPCs that are interconnected to each other by virtue of being hosted on the platform's website, sharing the platform's ICT tools, and accessing its databases.

A primary goal of the BPCs will be to determine the outcomes of electoral and legislative processes by deciding who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed. They will be able to nominate/endorse and elect candidates to public office at any level of government and oversee the legislative actions of their elected representatives to ensure they adhere to BPC agendas. If BPCs decide their representatives have failed to exert their best efforts to enact BPC agendas, they can nominate or endorse other candidates and vote to defeat unsatisfactory incumbents in the next election.

World's First Large Scale Consensus Building and Conflict Resolution Platform

The RDI/IVCS technology and platform enables not only electorates but the entire spectrum of democracy stakeholders -- including elected representatives, electoral candidates, and members of political parties, civil society organizations, unions, and issue groups -- to connect with each other and use the platform to find common ground for building consensus and resolving conflicts.

The paradigm-shifting nature of the technology and platform derives from the fact that for the first time in history, virtually unlimited numbers of individual voters and democracy stakeholders across the spectrum will be connected to each other on a continuous basis. They will be able to collectively set legislative agendas across the board and build voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs) to elect lawmakers to enact their agendas. The platform provides the technology needed to connect voters across the political and ideological spectrum to each other so they can set common legislative agendas and build BPCs around them that can grow large enough to supercede political parties and special interests as the driving forces of electoral and legislative processes and their outcomes.

Moreover, these stakeholders and their BPCs will not be constrained to work within existing political and ideological frameworks of political parties and issue groups that may not be relevant or appropriate to their current needs, interests and desires, or to the contours of the specific local, regional, national and transnational environments in which they live and in which their BPCs are operating. Although BPCs can work with existing political parties and issue groups of their choice, they can build consensus and resolve conflicts pragmatically without having to fit their evolving and emerging agendas into existing frameworks.

Additionally, the RDI/IVCS technology and platform possess an inherent incentive and unprecedented potential to unite broad cross-sections of voters and connect multiple groups of stakeholders who might otherwise be divided by traditional parties hewing to fixed ideological and partisan lines. IVCS-enabled BPCs can set their legislative agendas using a variety of methods, including formulating their own priorities and options based on the issues, legislation and policies they want to see enacted in response to their own particular needs, wants and situations.

In addition to using the platform to build winning BPCs within a country, entire electorates, elected representatives, policy-makers, electoral candidates, political parties, civil society organizations, unions and issue groups can use the platform and website to form transnational multi-stakeholder voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions whose members work together across borders to build consensus on common peace plans and solutions to transnational problems, crises and conflicts. By operating simultaneously at transnational and domestic levels, they can bring together a far greater number of problem-solvers and a far broader range of perspectives, backgrounds and experiences to the table to complement those of the far smaller number of lawmakers traditionally tasked with devising legislative proposals.

After transnational BPCs set common agendas, their members can use the political organizing tools of the platform to form, strengthen and expand existing BPCs in their home countries dedicated to enacting agendas devised by transnational BPCs. These domestic BPCs can nominate and elect lawmakers to enact the common agendas originally set by the transnational blocs and coalitions, and thereby cause transnational agendas to be enacted in multiple countries simultaneously. The flexibility and global reach of BPCs that act transnationally and domestically simultaneously to determine which lawmakers are in office has the unprecedented potential to overcome the frequent legislative stalemates and paralysis exhibited by transnational organizations whose nation state members cannot agree on what policies should be enacted.

Transnational IVCS-enabled consensus building BPCs endowed with these capabilities are urgently needed around the world to solve life threatening problems, crises and conflicts non-violently -- and counteract the tendency of so many nation states and their leaders to resort to the use of force without exhaustive consideration of the full panoply of non-violent conflict resolution strategies and tactics.

In particular, the escalation of social tensions and the proliferation of confrontations between ordinary people and governments attests to the need for an effective consensus building mechanism that enables all parties to come together to find common ground without the use of force. To remedy this deficiency and facilitate the resolution of domestic as well as transnational problems, crises and conflicts, the RDI/IVCS technology and platform will create the world's first large scale consensus building and conflict resolution platform.

A Closer Look at Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS)

The RDI/IVCS technology and platform will create a group forming global social network capable of spawning transpartisan voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs), and networks of BPCs possessing consensus building capabilities similar to those found in classical Complex Adaptive Systems (CASs). These CASs have the potential to engender goal oriented "human social group-based endeavors" whose members act in ways that flexibly and effectively adapt their groups to internal and external circumstances, pressures and change.

In the case of political CASs, these characteristics enable them to thrive individually as well as merge with other political CASs by using IVCS agenda setting, political organizing and consensus building tools to build transpartisan consensus around common agendas among every larger cross-sections of voters across the political and ideological spectrum, and adopt and elect common transpartisan slates of candidates to enact their agendas. By so doing, they can overcome the political stalemates often created by divisive hyper-partisan political parties and gridlocked governing institutions that all too often paralyze legislative decision-making.

These capabilities derive from the ability of any individual and BPC using the RDI/IVCS technology and platform to communicate with any other individuals and BPCs of their choice to discuss and devise solutions to political issues, problems, crises and conflicts as they define them, and to take collective action to implement their solutions through voter-controlled electoral and legislative processes. They can collectively set and update their legislative agendas as they see fit, and collaborate to build and continually expand their electoral bases to comprise ever larger numbers of voters until their BPCs have enough votes to elect their candidates.

Constant consensus building through discussion, debate and voting on agendas, candidates and action plans will enable BPCs to grow large enough to decide who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed even while they are continuously adapting to changes taking place around them. To win elections, BPCs can continually negotiate renewed consensus among their members regarding whatever modifications of their priorities and agendas are needed to attract sufficient numbers of like-minded voters to elect their candidates.

BPCs will be most likely to succeed if they recruit and collaborate with broad-cross sections of voters across partisan and ideological lines to negotiate transpartisan agendas and build transpartisan electoral bases that cross partisan and ideological lines. By so doing, they will be able to elect lawmakers who can resolve the divisive political and legislative conflicts that traditional political parties often create, which in turn often spark continuous conflicts within legislative bodies that prevent opposing lawmakers from agreeing to enact critical legislation needed to address increasing life-threatening problems, crises and conflicts with solutions that serve the public interest and promote the general welfare.

The similarity of core functions and features of the transpartisan BPCs that will be created via the RDI/IVCS technology and platform to those of Complex Adaptive Systems (CASs) are what give them their paradigm-shifting potential to empower voters to "re-invent" the way democracies function. For this reason, it is worth taking a closer look at these similarities, starting with the functions and features of classical CASs. According to RDI/IVCS team members Firestone and Hadders (2012), essential CAS features include the following:

  1. Coherence in the face of change, or "identity." Coherence refers to maintenance of the characteristic organizational pattern of a CAS through time.
     
  2. Diversity in both form and capability. They range from adaptive software agents to the institutions that comprise the International Social System. They include one-celled living systems, immune systems, organizations, and many other diverse types of system of varying capabilities and degrees of complexity.
     
  3. Population by agents (members) who learn, individually and collectively (Firestone and McElroy 2003).
     
  4. Distributed problem-solving, knowledge processing and knowledge discovery. Individual agents in CASs strive to solve their own and CAS problems autonomously and compatibly. In doing so, they contribute to solving CAS problems in a distributed but organized way.
     
  5. Extensive interactions among their agents. Intermittent individual interactions are not sufficient to establish and maintain a CAS pattern in tandem with the complex patterning of CAS feedback loops and reinforcements. (Langton et al 1992).
     
  6. Self-organization to produce emergent global behavior at the CAS level. This is one of the most important features of a CAS. The key idea is that agents comprising the CAS act in accordance with their own purposes and motives, in pursuit of their own goals, and that their actions produce self-organized emergent global patterns that identify and maintain the CAS.
     
  7. Behavior and learning partly in accordance with knowledge that can be modeled as 'rules.'
     
  8. Adaptation by creating and using new rules as they continuously attempt to fit themselves to their environments. The process of arriving at new rules is "creative" or "evolutionary" learning. It involves generation of new rules and recombination of components of old, well-established rules (Campbell 1974). Once new rules are formulated, they are subject to selection through interaction among CAS agents and interaction of the CAS with its environment.
     
  9. Adaptation by creating and using new rules is greater to the extent that their constituent agents are operating in problem-solving and distributed knowledge processing and knowledge discovery environments marked by relative "openness."

"Openness" is indispensable throughout the various interacting phases of the problem-solving process, especially in the traditional political context where dominant actors, parties and institutions exhibit a tendency to institute closed "top down" hierarchical processes that stifle flexibility and adaptability. Openness has two important dimensions. The first dimension is internal transparency, i.e. availability of, and accessibility to, information by all CAS agents. The second dimension is epistemic inclusiveness and equal opportunity for CAS agents to participate and interact autonomously in the problem-solving and distributed knowledge processing and discovery phases of the system so that it can respond to changes and become more effective. (This is especially critical for voters participating in IVCS-enabled BPCs.) Both dimensions are always found in high-performance CASs.

An example taken from outside the human domain helps illustrate a pattern of epistemic inclusiveness. Ant colonies illustrate 'native' CASs that rely on distributed knowledge processing and discovery that is brought into the system by the individual experiences of their members and shared with all the other members to ensure that the global behaviors at the level of the complex adaptive system as a whole are informed and determined as a consequence of unfettered information flow among these members (Holldobler and Wilson 1990).

There is no centralized planning or "top down" control producing collective behavior in a system like an ant colony. All knowledge created by individual ants contributes to the pattern of collective knowledge reflected in static as well as changed behavioral predispositions within the ant colony, including in the pattern of pheramone trails emerging at the level of the collective. Knowledge at the global level is entirely distributed or "bottom-up" in origin, as is the learning that produces it.

Obviously, social CASs created by humans differ significantly from ant colonies, including the tendency to exhibit less advanced forms of self-organization and evenly distributed and shared social learning! The interactions of agents in human CASs are differentiated to a much greater degree than those of ants because of differentials in the power, authority and influence typically created and exercised by individual human agents who use these differentials to control and change patterns of interaction, as well as alter the distribution of influence within CASs and between CASs and external organizations. These differentials and modified patterns of interaction can strengthen or weaken the capabilities of CASs to adapt to internal and external pressures and changes.

For example, in political systems, they can weaken CASs flexibility and adaptability to changes in their external environments when behaviors result in the institution of "top-down" mechanisms of control that stultify "bottom-up" self-organization and distributed knowledge processing and discovery by agents situated elsewhere in the system. These behaviors often generate tensions and conflicts among interacting agents caused by the efforts of those wielding more power, authority and influence to achieve their own goals through "top-down" command-and-control interventions that stultify and/or pre-empt "bottom-up" idea generation, information gathering, problem solving and conflict resolution by other agents.

For this reason, human CASs have a tendency to create a special type of CAS -- Promethean CASs (PCASs) -- whose normal self-organizing processes are disrupted by the actions of powerful and influential agents (Firestone and McElroy, 2003, pp. 121ff). It is this phenomenon that appears to have prompted German sociologist Robert Michels at the turn of the last century to write his famous book entitled, Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracies (1911). Michels's interpretation and similar analyses of the same genre focus attention on the tendency of "top down" control structures instituted by political parties and other governmental institutions to stultify or pre-empt "bottom-up" self-organization by the voters they are supposed to serve.

The movement toward "top down" hierarchical control structures in human-based political systems accelerates when political elites and institutions discourage, inhibit and even prohibit continuous "bottom up" self-organization by individuals at the grassroots level that might lead to the creation of competitive power blocs capable of contesting their influence.

This tendency is particularly damaging to the adaptive capabilities of political systems because they not only stultify and frustrate "bottom-up" self-organization by voters at large, but they also prevent the utilization of the collective intelligence of their electorates in the solution of problems, crises and conflicts that are far too complicated to be solved by small numbers of often overwhelmed and inadequately informed lawmakers and governmental officials. When these decision-makers are beholden to special interests and pass legislation that serves these interests rather than the public interest and the needs and wants of their constituents, they generate social tensions and confrontations that can ultimately threaten the survival of the political systems themselves. All too often the elites that have interfered with self-organization try to limit the tensions and conflicts by instituting even more "top-down" control, which typically increases tensions and confrontations in a continuing vicious circle.

In cases in which other agents wielding less power, authority or influence object to the "top-down" stultification of their self-organizing processes, they will resist "top-down" control and inject ongoing tensions and conflicts into the system that saps its strength and weaken its ability to adapt to external changes. In contrast, the RDI/IVCS consensus building and conflict resolution technology and platform provides all parties effective mechanisms for finding common ground to resolve these tensions in a manner that ensures the survival of the systems. They will remain intact provided all agents are willing to take advantage of the technology and platform to work out their differences, and thereby ensure that the systems continue to maintain the adaptive capabilities of effective CASs that are essential to insuring their ability to cope with internal and external change.

The self-organizing tools provided by the RDI/IVCS technology and platform will prevent IVCS-enabled BPCs from becoming Promethean CASs if any of their members attempt to institute "top-down" control practices. For members of such CASs who oppose these practices can mobilize support from other members to contest the practices,and subsequently move to oust those who are trying to institute them. If the opposing members are unsuccessful, they are free to exit the bloc and use IVCS agenda setting, political organizing and consensus building tools to start their own bloc or join existing blocs.

Along the lines of the analysis by the European political philosopher Karl Popper in his classic book Open Society and Its Enemies (1945), it is likely that IVCS-enabled BPCs will prefer to institute and implement policies and programs that support self-organization in distributed knowledge processing, discovery and problem-solving, as RDI/IVCS technology and platform do, by maintaining openness in problem recognition, identifying and developing alternative solutions, eliminating errors and disinformation, and communicating and disseminating new solutions.

Conversely leadership behaviors, management, and organizational processes that undermine self-organization will transition human CASs -- especially CASs of a political nature -- away from openness and democracy towards internally and externally maladaptive and conflictual systems that may bring about their own destruction, or --in worse case scenarios -- develop into undemocratic and even authoritarian systems. (Firestone and Cavaleri 2009).

Application of Popper's insights to key U.S. governing institutions, for example, calls attention to one of the primary causes of the break-down in governance at the federal level. ''Bottom-up" self-organization by the U.S. electorate has been stultified by crippling obstructions designed to prevent the electorate from exerting a determining influence over the actions of the country's dominant political parties or the special interests that finance them and their candidates.

One of the most effective obstructions derives from the refusal of the dominant political parties to permit their supporters to vote on what their platforms should be or what slates of candidates they should run. Another major cause is the fact that the parties have prevented the emergence of competitive third parties by using state legislatures they control to redraw election district boundaries to ensure the election of their candidates and the defeat of opposing "insurgent" candidates. Party representatives in state legislatures place large numbers of voters likely to vote in favor of party candidates into artificially drawn "winning" districts. At the same time, they divide up voters likely to vote against official party candidates and distribute them throughout multiple districts in order to dilute their vote and prevent them from electing "insurgent" or third party candidates running against dominant party candidates. By so doing, they not only elect their candidates but also prevent third parties from taking root and contesting their dominance by running candidates against dominant party candidates. The manipulation of election district boundaries explains why the U.S. has a two party system rather than a multi party system, and how the two party system limits voters' choices and prevents them from deciding who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed.

The third obstruction is that special interests that finance the two dominant U.S. parties and their candidates have contributed to legislation and judicial decisions legalizing the expenditure by special interests of vast sums of money to prevent competing candidates from defeating dominant party candidates, who then become financially beholden to special interests and pass the legislation they demand.

Integrating IVCS-Enabled Political CASs into Electoral and Legislative Processes

A core paradigm-shifting characteristic of the RDI/IVCS technology and platform is their capacity to support voters' online self-organizing around collectively set horizontally controlled transpartisan legislative priorities, agendas and slates of candidates, as opposed to being compelled to register in vertically controlled "top down" political parties. These legislative priorities and agendas can be viewed symbolically as "tags", per the lexicon of complexity theorists such as John Holland, who wrote about the importance of "tags' for self-organizing in his books Hidden Order (1995) and Emergence (1997), both of which are classics in the field of complexity theory.

The RDI/IVCS technology and platform empower voter-controlled BPCs to counteract the tendency of hierarchically-controlled political parties, referred to above as Promethean CASs, to stultify "bottom-up" self-organizing. They can perform this function because they offer voters an alternative to organizing around parties and candidates over which they have no control by empowering them to self-organize around legislative priorities into autonomous voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs) comprised of virtually unlimited numbers of voters continuously interacting with each other to set and update legislative agendas and adopt and elect common slates of candidates. Their BPCs can continuously increase their size by reaching out to incorporate new members into ongoing transpartisan consensus building processes aimed at adopting common agendas and slates of candidates until the BPCs grow large enough electoral bases to outflank and outnumber the membership and electoral base of any single party and thereby defeat their candidates.

By shifting the emphasis from organizing around party and candidate agendas to identifying, discussing, debating and voting on substantive legislative options and agendas, and running and electing candidates to enact them, IVCS-enabled political CASs can democratize and reinvigorate electoral and legislative processes that have been stultified by "top-down" parties that resemble Promethean CASs.

(Note: IVCS-enabled blocs and coalitions have several options for electing candidates of their choice. They can run their candidates on the lines of any existing party they choose, assuming election laws permit them to do so, or can be altered to permit them to do so. Or they can create their own parties and acquire their own ballot lines. Another possibility is to run their candidates on independent ballot lines, assuming election laws permit them to do so or can be altered to permit them to do so.)

IVCS also provides the foundation for holding candidates and office holders accountable because the primary focus of BPCs is not parties, candidates and lawmakers, but rather on collectively setting and implementing BPC legislative agendas and mandates. The ultimate goal is to oversee, guide and evaluate lawmakers' actions to determine whether they facilitate or hinder the enactment of BPC agendas and mandates and whether BPCs wish to re-elect or defeat them in forthcoming elections.

Significantly, IVCS will not only shift the locus and focus of discussion and debate from political party controlled Promethean CASs to voter-controlled CASs. It will also engender the creation of a "parallel universe" of political discourse and political action controlled by voters -- one that is capable of counteracting and overcoming the distorting influence on public perceptions that is often exerted by hyper-partisan and special interest controlled media.

As a corollary, this parallel universe of discourse can lead to the creation of voter-controlled legislative agendas and the enactment of coordinated, multi-faceted legislative programs that accurately reflect and respond to the needs and wants of actual constituents -- a desperately needed substitute for piecemeal, special interest-driven legislation that all too often fails to serve immediate constituent needs or the public interest. By shifting to grassroots voters the power to define and set overall priorities in their own terms, the technology and platform can counteract the tendency of contemporary politicians to use market research to pass piecemeal legislation designed only to appease specific voting segments of their constituencies, instead of reconciling the needs and wants of their constituents into workable legislative programs that serve the public interest as a whole.

This piecemeal, market research driven approach is a often one of the primary causes of lawmakers' inability to see the "big picture" in terms of what is required to adopt workable, interconnected public policy programs that protect the broader public interest. An equally critical example of the governance crises now hampering democracies around the world is the proliferation of armed conflicts among nation states and aggrieved paramilitary groups operating within and across their borders. Suicide bombings resulting in injuries and deaths of innocent civilians have become common place because the protagonists show little if any inclination or capacity to negotiate non-violent solutions to their conflicts.

What is most alarming is that the protagonists' divergent portrayals of the causes of the conflicts typically do not recognize each others' contentions or the objective facts underlying the conflicts. Often, the conflicts are rooted in complex events that date back years, decades and even centuries. Objective analysis of these roots often reveals that grossly unjust acts have been committed by all sides. Yet the distorted collective memories of the protagonists obfuscate what really happened and who did what to whom. The lack of a consensus building/conflict resolution technology platform makes it virtually impossible for protagonists to objectively exchange and adjust their views in order to find common ground.

These natural human tendency to misperceive and distort reality and adopt extreme views is what makes the IVCS platform indispensable for solving the complex problems, crises and conflicts that are currently jeopardizing the planet's sustainability and humanity's survivability. Fortunately, these challenges can be surmounted by the formation of IVCS-enabled consensus-building/conflict resolving BPCs that operate simultaneously at domestic and transnational levels to devise peace plans and set legislative agendas for implementing them which they can enact in multiple countries simultaneously -- especially by virtue of the fact that they can decide who is going to be elected to policy making positions in these countries.

Summary and Conclusion

The paradigm-shifting nature of the RDI/IVCS technology and platform derives from their potential to empower voters to re-invent democracy by injecting "bottom-up" voter controlled voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs) into electoral and legislative processes that unite rather than divide voters and lawmakers into hostile camps, as do many traditional conflict-producing governing institutions that currently control these processes.

The primary reason that IVCS-enabled BPCs can re-invent these processes is because they can inject into ongoing electoral and legislative processes a new informal layer of online consensus building organizations that possess the capabilities of Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS). These organizations can flourish at micro and macro levels, including evolving into macro-level CASs that function at increasingly high levels within and across nation state boundaries. They can move divisive political conflicts away from the seed beds of contrived controversies to the common ground that will be created by the world's first large scale consensus building and conflict resolution platform. IVCS-enabled political CASs will build consensus on a voter-by-voter and issue-by-issue basis, starting with small numbers of voters and democracy stakeholders at the grassroots to virtually unlimited numbers of voters and stakeholders at regional, national and transnational levels.

Their focus on legislative options provides voters across the political and ideological spectrum with powerful catalytic and symbolic "tags" that enable them to self-organize to create BPCs around collectively determined common agendas and slates of candidates. Legislative priorities and agendas can serve as more effective "tags" for political organizing than parties or candidates because the IVCS platform will enable virtually unlimited numbers of voters to locate and connect electronically with any number of other voters based on the similarity of their respective "tags" rather than their party affiliations. They can engage in developing voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions by first finding people whose agendas are similar to their own, and then negotiating and compromising differences regarding their preferred "tags" by building consensus around common legislative agendas, which they can subsequently modify and update as they see fit.

Because of these tags and related IVCS agenda-setting, political organizing and consensus building tools, the IVCS platform can ensure continuous "bottom-up" online self-organization into highly adaptive BPCs around any issues their members choose, at any level, within any nation state or transnationally across nation states and entire regions of the globe. Moreover, the members of IVCS-enabled political CASs will always be capable of overcoming the classic tendency for leaders of Promethean CASs to stultify "bottom-up" self-organization and exacerbate the divisive effects of the political conflicts around the world that are now threatening to create uncontrollable and chaotic conditions.

By continuously building consensus within their own growing transpartisan ranks comprised of broad cross sections of voters, they can seamlessly merge into ever larger decentralized networks of autonomous self-organizing BPCs. By so doing, they can gain control of legislative agenda setting as well as electoral and legislative processes at all levels and acquire the political influence they need to elect their own representatives to enact their agendas.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle observed that monarchies were subject to transformation into tyrannies, aristocracies into oligarchies, and constitutional governments into mob rule. Needless to say, he was not able to delve into the possibility that dysfunctional transformations in modern governments in the future might be caused by obstruction of "bottom-up" self-organizing processes, and the ensuing lack of adaptivity of political institutions such as political parties to continuous change caused in large part by the massive population growth that has taken place within most nation states in modern times.

Nor did Aristotle envision the urgent need for modern democracies to overcome their susceptibility to multiple interferences obstructing governing processes themselves, especially those stifling the multi-stakeholder problem-solving capabilities that have become indispensable to the generation of workable solutions to complex problems, crises and conflicts occurring within and between nations. Fortunately, the solution that the RDI/IVCS technology and platform bring to the fore can ensure the institutional openness and systemic "bottom-up" self-organization that is indispensable to re-inventing conflict-ridden political systems plagued by deliberate efforts to undermine democratic electoral and legislative processes.


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A companion technology to the Interactive Voter Choice System, the patented System for Playing an Interactive Voter Choice Game is a multi-party online interactive game of electoral strategy and chance.

The Citizens Winning Hands® game built around the patent belongs to the new genre of "world changing" online games in which players collaborate online to develop real world skills for making the world a better place.

By playing the game, they learn how to form winning voting blocs and electoral coalitions that can surmount obstacles in their political systems that prevent voters from deciding who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed.

It is called the Citizens' Winning Hands game because it is built around two decks of cards. It comprises a "system for playing an interactive voter choice game involving strategy, chance, a computer network, a game board, a plurality of players using remote terminals to access the game, electronic databases and a voting utility, in which players compete to develop strategies for setting legislative agendas and building voting blocs and coalitions of voting blocs to elect a candidate for public office to represent a fictive electoral district."

The game enables players and their friends, family members and people they meet online to play an intriguing game of electoral strategy that shows them how they can increase their political influence in the real world. By using the agenda-setting, political organizing, and consensus building tools of the Interactive Voter Choice System, they learn how to create winning voting blocs and coalitions around common agendas and slates of candidates.

As the renowned game developer, Jane McGonigal, points out, many of the 500 million people who play online games every day -- especially massively multiplayer online games -- prefer games of collaboration and camaraderie to games of warfare and aggression.

She observes that these players are creating a global "collective intelligence" about ways and means by which ordinary people like themselves can dramatically improve the quality of human life and solve societal problems that cause preventable physical and emotional suffering.

McGonigal believes that many people play world-saving games because real world environments and institutions deny them the power to be heroic. Participation in these games adds meaning and happiness to players' imaginary lives by enabling them to make valuable contributions to their communities.

While they are playing these games, they are developing interpersonal skills that they can use in the real world to play collaborative, pro-active roles in real life that enable them to join forces with legions of other people to solve problems causing human suffering.

The Citizens' Winning Hands game belongs to this genre of world-saving game because it enables disillusioned voters who are losing faith in democracies and elections to learn how they can collaborate online in building voting blocs and electoral coalitions large enough to determine the outcomes of elections.

By playing the game, they will have an opportunity to see that the Interactive Voter Choice System enables them to surmount impediments to the exercise of popular sovereignty by circumventing the obstacles in their political systems that prevent them from deciding who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed.

How the Game Works

Although the two systems were originally invented by the Company's founder to enable the U.S. electorate to obtain control of U.S. electoral and legislative processes, their generic democracy-building tools can be adapted for use in virtually any country in the world.

Playing the Citizens' Winning Hands Game will show citizens and voters around the world how they can use the system's tools and databases to circumvent impediments similar to those that exist in the U.S. and those that are unique to their own countries. The game can be played by face-to-face groups of players in homes, schools and communities and online by any number of participants using mobile devices and computers. In both face-to-face and online versions, participants play the role of voters creating and joining voting blocs and electoral coalitions. They will reside in a variety of simulated election districts that each participant selects from the game's Election District Database, which will be modeled after U.S. Congressional districts.

Players will compete with each other to develop winning strategies for setting legislative agendas and building voting blocs and electoral coalitions to elect a candidate for public office to represent the election district that players have chosen. Players can search the online Election District Database to obtain strategic information about each district, which they can use to plan their electoral strategies and decide how to set winning agendas and build winning voting blocs and coalitions. This information will include voting patterns, voters' legislative preferences, and prior choices of particular combinations of priorities, trends and significant political events.

To initiate an online game, which can be played synchronously or asynchronously, at least two prospective players must choose the same election district from the Election District Database. Players set their legislative agendas by choosing options from a database modeled after the Legislative Options Database that will be accessible on reinventdemocracy.net.

To help game players find and recall where different options are located in the database, the options contained in the database are divided into 8 themes and visually displayed on cards in two decks of playing cards.

Each deck contains four suits of cards. Each suit has its own theme.

The four suits of cards in Deck 1 have the following four themes:

   Livelihoods
   Health, Education and Welfare
   Security
   Civil and Political Rights

The four suits of cards in Deck 2 have the following four themes:

   Democracy
   Environment
   Wealth Creation
   International Relations

As the players move around the game board, they develop strategies for managing the effects on their legislative agendas, voting blocs and coalitions of planned and unforeseen events that add or subtract votes from their voting bloc.

Their challenge is to use events they control to add votes to their blocs and coalitions and offset the votes they lose as a result of events they do not control, so they can ultimately build winning blocs and coalitions that cast the highest number of votes for their candidates.

Each player develops strategies for setting a legislative agenda and building winning voting blocs and coalitions that reflect their own personal legislative priorities, as well as the voting patterns and changing demographics of the district, per information they can access in the Election District Database.

The player who builds the largest voting bloc that casts the most votes for its candidate is the winner. Or if two or more players merge their blocs into a coalition that casts the most votes for its candidate, these players are the winners.

The complexity of the political landscapes of most of the simulated election districts modeled after U.S. Congressional districts will already be familiar to many players of the game. The obstacles erected to obstruct voter choice and the expression of popular sovereignty are also likely to be familiar to voters around the world.

What will be unfamiliar to them, and what they will discover while playing the game, will be the ease with which they can surmount these obstacles by using the Interactive Voter Choice System to build winning voting blocs and electoral coalitions around collectively set legislative agendas.

Players will realize that the consensus building and conflict resolution tools provided on the reinventdemocracy.net platform, combined with the large scale collective action power of the Internet, make it possible for voters around the world to build consensus around their own solutions to problems, crises and conflicts that current governments appear unable to devise. They can get their solutions implemented legislatively because they will be able to build winning voting blocs and electoral coalitions that determine who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are enacted.