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Short Story: "Wobbly Premise" (7th in a series)

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"It's another name for the International Workers of the World. The I.W.W. operated like that. It was started in Chicago in 1905 by Eugene Debs and a bunch of communists and anarchists. They wanted to unionize workers around the planet, but they assiduously avoided having leaders. The prospect scared business and government so badly that they started sabotaging it within a decade. You may have heard about the Palmer raids. Anyway, they eventually encouraged the development of more structured labor unions to draw off its power. But the thing was, my section chief said it was nearly impossible to defeat an organization like that, if it maintained its focus."

Derek drummed his fingers in thought. "Why are you bringing this up?"

"I thought it might be useful to know the weakness of the people who might want to put progressive organizations like this out of action. That's why the US government keeps covertly installing dictators in client nations. They're easier to control."

"I wish Gisela could have been here," Rodney said. "This kind of talk just makes her day. But still, we're not in this for any kind of confrontation. The idea's to work out how to fix what's broken, and then spread the brainstorm."

"Speaking of brainstorms," Derek said happily, "I think you just gave me one. Concerted, leaderless action is also a good way to describe crowdsourcing -- distributing a task among a group of interested people. I was wondering if there was a way to turn the Wobbly strategy into a part of government, and I think I have one."

"Do tell."

"Put yourself in congress for a minute. Doctor, lawyer, baker or cop, whatever your background, you'll be voting on legislation you know absolutely nothing about. You're overwhelmed. So what do you do? Like anyone else, you ask the experts. Unfortunately, the experts offering their advice are mostly lobbyists, working for the businesses your bill affects, so you've just offered yourself up for manipulation. Heck, sometimes, those lobbyists even write the bills themselves. Not a very promising situation, is it?"

"Deadly. And your brainstorm?"

Mischief lit his face. "What if we could be that expert? What if each bill was also submitted to a crowdsourced legislative wiki? People like us would supply background information to help you. We'd be directly participating in government, even if we weren't elected or appointed to anything."

Rodney frowned. "Nice idea, but wikis have been known to be wrong."

"Or tampered with," Ron added. "Maybe I shouldn't have said that."

"You didn't. But we get your drift. How do you counter that, Derek?"

"When someone messes with a wiki, you end up with disputed sections, edit wars, people going back and forth correcting one another. The audit trail shows it up, and the topic can be locked down, so only vetted contributors can participate."

"There's something else," Richard said, then paused.

"Don't be shy. What's on your mind?"

"It's not just background info on an issue before congress that can benefit from this. If the bills themselves are open to crowdsourcing, the logic in them can be validated. Think of the legalese in a bill like the software that runs the government. It might benefit from a good debugging. There are plenty of folks out there who would love to get their hands on bills before they're turned into laws. It could ensure that the law actually serves the common good, and prevent a lot of needless litigation."

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Ever since I learned to speak binary on a DIGIAC 3080 training computer, I've been involved with tech in one way or another, but there was always another part of me off exploring ideas and writing about them. Halfway to a BS in Space Technology at (more...)
 
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When I learned about the union movement in school,... by P. Orin Zack on Friday, Oct 9, 2009 at 10:53:47 AM