Co.Design

How the Internet Creates a New Strain of Democracy

How we can use the power of the Internet to create a new type of democratic power.

Technology is evolving rapidly, with 500 million people spending 700 billion minutes every month on Facebook. That's the equivalent of years, if not decades, of human effort and energy.

But Facebook is just one branch of this new interconnected global network of users. In fact, it's more than a network. It's a series of sparks shimmering around the globe as bold new ideas flicker to life in the minds of individuals that can nurture and amplify them through their embryonic stages.

"E Pluribus Unum" is the dictum on the seal of the United States. It means, 'out of many, one.' The power of networks suggests that there is something bigger than the sum of the parts?perhaps our new motto should be "E Pluribus Magis," or "out of many, more." The potential of E Pluribus Magis is incomprehensible for any one person in it. But collectively, it's a feeling of solidarity, euphoria, and excitement at the revolutionary potential of like-minded people united in the goal of improving the world around them in small as well as big ways.

What exactly does E Pluribus Magis mean? I believe that there are three things that define it:

Purpose

Purpose can't be faked. The individuals in the network recognize authenticity and see straight through hidden motivations. The work that individuals do can be for their local communities, but their work has reverberations that are relevant globally, as well locally. Ideas that succeed in the network are inherently valuable and, for that reason, viable. Recent events in Egypt suggest that a real purpose, in the end, is the catalyst for change.

Self-Sustained

In this model of citizen-driven commerce, capital can be raised directly from the people. Valuable ideas no longer depend on conventional models of funding to come to life. The people can decide as citizen consumers how to vote with their wallets.

Take a look at kickstarter.com?a site where people can raise money for various creative projects?and it's clear that there's an appetite for ideas, products, and services that come from outside of the conventional business models.

Incomprehensibility

E Pluribus Magis is big and beyond any one person, a quality that is its most powerful characteristic. It's a de-centralized control model. It's a meritocracy. Chris Jordan's E Pluribus Unum project shows one million organizations graphically. When seen as a whole, you simply can't see that the image is composed of one million names. As you zoom in, you begin to see what one million of anything looks like.

But E Pluribus Magis is even bigger still, and beyond any one person. And that's its most powerful characteristic. It's a de-centralized control model. It's a meritocracy. E Pluribus Magis is so big that it goes beyond the ability of any one individual to fully comprehend its entirety. Instead, we have to focus on our individual talent and act with the faith that the whole adds up to more than the sum of the parts.

The 700 billion minutes that people spend on Facebook represent the equivalent of 70 million people years of work. Imagine a 70 million person company and what it could accomplish in a single year. And imagine the sheer impossibility of managing such a company from the top down. The network becomes most powerful when we focus on our individual talent and act with the faith that the whole adds up to more than the sum of the parts.

Out of many, more.

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