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The Threat to Open Society and the Interactive Voter Choice System

letsgetitdone's picture

The Problem

The biggest problem for Americans in our time is the increasingly dangerous threat to open society posed by the trend toward plutocracy and its effects on the political system. George Soros described the antecedents of these threats in The Age of Fallibility (pp. 100-101):

“Gradually, the methods developed for commercial purposes found a market in politics. This changed the character of politics. The original idea of elections was that candidates would come forward and announce what they stood for; and the electorate would decide whom they liked best. The supply of candidates and the preferences of the electorate were supposed to be independently given, just as in the theory of perfect competition. But the process was corrupted by the methods adopted from commercial life: focus groups and framing the messages. Politicians learned to cater to the desires of the electorate instead of propounding policies they believed in. The electorate did not remain unaffected. They chose the candidate who told them what they wanted to hear, but at the same time they could not avoid noticing that they were being manipulated; they were not surprised when their elected leaders deceived them. But there was no escape. The increasing sophistication of communication methods was built into the system. That is how America became a feel-good society. It was fostered by politicians seeking to be elected.”

One of the most damaging effects of the “feel-good society” is that the people are unable to keep politicians in check (p.96):

“In a democracy, it is the electorate that has to keep the politicians and the political operatives honest. That is where America is failing. A feel-good society, far from being committed to the pursuit of truth, cannot face harsh realities. This leaves it vulnerable to all kinds of false ideologies, Orwellian newspeak, and other deceptions.”

In the years since The Age of Fallibility appeared, we've seen dramatic increases in the amount of money spent on elections. Money is used to shape and distort the public's view of reality, and the problem of its influence has been exacerbated by the Citizens United decision. Elected officials of both parties are influenced by campaign contributions, and a media bought by corporate money, to such an extent that there is no prospect of solving America's many problems in ways that serve the public interest and benefit most people. Some even think that we now live in a plutocracy, and not in a democracy, and that both parties are corrupt, and now represent only the financial oligarchy. So, the central issue of our time is how we can overcome the influence of money on politics and make our political system more responsive once again.

This problem threatens open society in two ways. First, because the ability of the people to change leaders is now illusory, since the new elites are just as much influenced by a financial oligarchy, as the elites previously “in control” were. And second, because the ability for voters to see the truth is severely compromised by the influence over messaging and communications of the financial oligarchy. More and more, elite-dominated communications creates 'reality' for Americans. The actual reality of elite performance and the causes and cures of poor outcomes are viewed through a glass darkly, only.

For open society to function well, the truth about the reality of elite performance must be much more available and accessible to the efforts of citizens to arrive at it. But, increasingly, it is not. So, the two most important underlying conditions of open society, the ability for people to arrive at the truth (their cognitive function), and their ability to act on the truth to change elites (their participative function) are both undermined increasingly over time. As Soros rightly asks (p.110), “Who will enlighten the public” when these functions are compromised? And if the public cannot become enlightened, how will it keep the politicians and political operatives honest and focused on protecting the common good and the public trust? If nothing is done to stop this process of reality construction in the interests of the rulers, the end will certainly be the transformation of open society in America to a closed plutocracy. And given the speed of that transformation, its end may well come sooner rather than later.

Requirements for a solution

We won't be able to stop the march toward plutocracy unless we can create a new institutional framework that allows us to change those aspects of our present situation that support plutocracy and undermine open society. It's no good proposing or wishing for changes in the present legal system where such changes require the consent of the elites, because they have no incentives other than self-interest, except very occasional and intermittent altruism, and perhaps a low level of fear of mass movement-induced violence to motivate them to provide their consent for such changes. So, we need a framework that will operate within the context of existing rules and laws to create changes that will swing the dynamics of change away from plutocracy and toward open society.

The new institutional framework must provide a meta-level of political interaction and networking that places ecological constraints on the current system, driving it back towards a condition in which the ability of individuals to both arrive at more accurate constructions of reality, and act on these constructions, is dominant. Here are the requirements for such a framework.

-- It must provide social contexts and milieus within which people can organize themselves and others around public policy agendas, comprised of policy options and policy priorities, into voting blocs and electoral coalitions ranging from very small to very large blocs of millions of voters without needing sizable financial resources from sources external to these social milieus, and without being subject to external mass media communications influenced by the financial oligarchs and other special interests.

-- These social contexts and milieus must provide the possibility of informal group and social network formation around these policy agendas.

-- These social contexts and milieus must be largely transparent and inclusive in providing participants with previously developed data, information, and knowledge, and in allowing them the freedom to participate in communicating, organizing, collaborating, critically evaluating, problem solving, and decision making within voting blocs and electoral coalitions.

-- The social contexts and milieus must provide a modicum of trust for participants, in contrast to the two political parties, both of which are widely distrusted by a majority of Americans.

-- The new institutional framework must enable participants and voting blocs to communicate their policy agendas (comprised of policy options and priorities) to candidates for public office and office holders, and also secure either commitments to these agendas or clear refusals to support the policy agendas from them.

-- The framework must also enable participants and voting blocs to continuously monitor and rate performance of office holders against the agendas and to decide whether to continue to support office holders after performance ratings are arrived at.

-- The framework must also provide enabling tools for voting blocs and electoral coalitions to organize efforts to get both major party and third party candidates and initiatives onto ballots, and to get people to the polls to vote. In other words, it must provide tools to enable voting blocs to do all the things political parties and factions now do to support candidates they want to elect and ballot initiatives they want to pass.

In short, the new institutional framework must provide an alternative to the contemporary world of political parties and established interest groups for analyzing political situations and issues, and for organizing people for political action. The alternative world must embody the key attributes of open society, which means it must provide an informal communications and knowledge network that is very much independent of the mass media, and also capable of enabling the creation of highly cohesive voting blocs and electoral coalitions of many millions of people, and even new political parties, which can offer decisive support to candidates and office holders in return for their continuing support of voting bloc agendas.

The Solution

We can use the Internet and the Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS), to create the alternative world I've just outlined, a network of voter-driven political organizations to counter the influence of money in politics, including the cognitive distortions created by using big money to frame debates and constantly introduce distractions from key issues. The collective action power of the Internet when combined with IVCS will make the creation of such organizations feasible. When fully developed IVCS will provide voters free policy agenda-setting and consensus-building tools to:

-- Define their own policy options and prioritize them to create policy agendas,

-- Social network with others who have similar agendas to their own,

-- Collaborate and solve problems with others to create collective policy agendas, voting blocs, and electoral coalitions that work within existing parties or build new political parties, and

-- Hold elected representatives accountable by monitoring and evaluating how well their performance matches the policy agendas of the voting blocs that have elected them to office.

The result of using IVCS will be voting blocs of various sizes and influence, formed by voters across the political spectrum. People will use the system to formulate common policy agendas, and then create self-organizing transpartisan voting blocs, electoral coalitions, and political parties around those agendas. They can use the system’s search/data mining tools to locate others whose policy agendas are most like their own, and join with them.

From the viewpoint of an individual, it may not be easy at first to organize voting blocs that develop cohesiveness and staying power, because people will have to negotiate out their differences to join together. But negotiating common agendas, and crafting winning electoral strategies at the grassroots, gives voters a lot more power than being hamstrung by the two major parties. The system will support such negotiations, and create the potential for so many policy agendas and voting bloc coalitions to form that it is virtually certain that new and powerful blocs, and even political parties, will emerge, grow rapidly, and begin to acquire national influence.

Voting blocs will at first have only a virtual identity in the IVCS. But the social ties formed in these self-organizing blocs will be real, and much stronger than the ties between political interest groups and the members they communicate with using marketing e-mails and other top-down methods of mobilization. When bloc members start to take their blocs into political party organizations and primaries, the transition will be made from virtual to full social reality. The system and the website built around the system will support agenda formation and political organization better than the legacy political parties because its Policy Options Database enables voters to formulate written policy agendas, and use their agendas as legislative mandates to select candidates and oversee those they elect. (Prototypes of the Policy Options Database and the website can be viewed by clicking here and here.)

In addition, it will provide consensus-building and collaborative tools that legacy parties have never sought to provide their supporters. The content management tools will be better than any political party’s. The social networking tools will be far superior. The problem solving and knowledge processing tools supplied will also be better than those of any existing political party’s, and will support people informing each other about critical issues during the problem solving process. In the context of the IVCS, the answer to the question “Who Will enlighten the public?” is that people will tell one another as part of their everyday interaction. Finally, state-of-the-art campaign organizing tools (and services) will be provided by third party service providers with proven track records.

The IVCS application will supply a richer virtual environment for new voting blocs to emerge from than anything now available. It will also support transparency, and political inclusiveness within its voting blocs, as well as whatever degree of privacy and security a voting bloc wants. Voting blocs will make decisions and resolve conflicts either by consensus or by using the IVCS Voting Utility.

They can also use the Utility to vote on proposed political alliances and coalitions. Since voting bloc members can always “vote with their feet,” by forming new blocs or joining other already existing blocs, and since new voting blocs will always be coming into existence, the dynamic environment of the IVCS will always be biased toward bottom-up organization, problem solving, and influence, rather than top-down control. Since problem solving in the system will be distributed and not centralized, blocs will be able to adapt to their environments better than traditional voting blocs, transcend the awkward stages of initial growth, and develop into new political organizations that can successfully challenge the legacy parties and the special interests as the driving force in the American political system.

The likelihood that national voting blocs will form and maintain themselves is great, because the yearning in America for change is great, as is the potential for many, many groups to form and fail, while giving up their members to those that survive. Most Americans want to do something about the mess we’re in. They want the political system to be responsive to the people. They’ll take advantage of IVCS because it will be the only practical way, in this time of corporate dominance of the mass media and the major political parties, that they can build winning voting blocs, electoral coalitions and political parties they control; select candidates for office on the basis of their own criteria (their written policy agendas); evaluate those they elect; influence them; and, finally, hold them accountable.

Since it will cost little more than time to organize and get one’s messages out by using it, the system will eliminate the need for voting blocs, political parties, and candidates to rely on contributions and special interest campaigns to get support. They'll be able to spread their message using the facilities of the IVCS alone. The system will de-fang the Citizens United decision, and the influence of special interests more generally, because mass media-based propaganda campaigns will conflict with, and be critically evaluated by IVCS-based interactions and messaging within informal social networks and voting blocs.

Since the social ties within IVCS will be much stronger and more intense than the ties between individuals and organizations in mass media campaigns, such propaganda campaigns will become less and less effective in framing debates and influencing the cognitive functioning of individuals. Their role will diminish over time because spending a fortune on them won't work to influence elections, once the IVCS is available and widely used. In the longer run, the transparency, inclusiveness, self-organizing tendencies, and intense political and social interaction within IVCS-enabled voting blocs, parties and coalitions will revitalize open society and assert open society controls over the electoral, legislative, and political processes.


The IVCS can be implemented by integrating already developed and commercially available software using Web-Oriented Architecture (WOA). The systems integration work will deliver functionality that fulfills the above requirements, and provides content management and integration capabilities that people can use to track how well knowledge claims about policy options and impacts have survived criticism and evaluation in the past. IVCS will also include a security architecture to prevent its penetration by people who want to disrupt, take over, or manipulate the way it works.

A continuing worry is the ability of people in politics to avoid reality by framing their own narratives for interpreting both it and their own performance. There's no way to stop attempts at that sort of thing from going on. But IVCS will allow people to incorporate counter-narratives and evaluations against the interpretations by the wealthy and powerful of their own performance on an equal footing. This sort of capability to expose everyone's views to critical evaluation in the context of a neutral exchange platform is essential to restoring the effectiveness of the cognitive function in open society.

IVCS will also possess strong viral marketing and “political strategizing” capabilities, since its tools and services will be made available via a social networking platform. These will enable it to grow very quickly in membership and participation after its launch, both to influence the 2012 elections, and to defend itself against attempts to marginalize or neutralize it. The combination of systems integration and software work, strategizing, and marketing needing to be accomplished in a short time means that IVCS's development and implementation must proceed at top speed in the coming months.


The IVCS web site can be developed as a host for a network of inter-connected voter-driven political organizations (voting blocs and electoral coalitions) to counter the influence of money in politics, including the cognitive distortions created by special interests using big money to frame debates and constantly introduce distractions from key issues. The network will provide a meta-level of political interaction that places ecological constraints on the current system so that it is driven back towards a condition in which the ability of individuals to both arrive at more accurate constructions of reality, and act on these constructions is dominant.

In the first quote above from The Age of Fallibility, George Soros identifies what is probably the most important cause of the movement away from open society and towards plutocracy, namely the deliberate manipulation of voters’ perceptions of reality. IVCS will be a powerful counter to this technology of political manipulation. By introducing a transparent, inclusive layer of networked social interaction, insulated from mass media manipulation, emphasizing problem solving and critical evaluation, and giving rise to legislative mandates backed by very large and powerful voting blocs and electoral coalitions, we can introduce open society epistemological and political controls into our electoral and political processes and make our representatives accountable once again. We can enable voters themselves to reverse the movement of the United States toward plutocracy, and move it in the direction of open society once more.

(Cross-posted at All Life Is Problem Solving and Fiscal Sustainability).

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letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Hi Aaron, It's a prototype site. There is a patent pending. As I indicated in the post, the IVCS still must be implemented.

Submitted by lambert on

Go open source for the community building/social networking portion and, I would argue, for the voting portion as well, for exactly the same reason that cryptographic algorithms are made public to be tested for flaws by the cryptographic community, and commercial e-voting software should be, but isn't.

The obvious candidate would be Drupal, which happens to be one of the largest (and arguably most successful) open source CMS projects, and which is -- not so coincidentally, the software chosen several years ago to run this site.

Most of the requirements statement for IVCS could be reduced by throwing it against a checklist of Drupal functionality, and then the real focus of the team would be purely on the IVCS algorithm, whose implementation (I would argue) should also be open sourced. If that's not desired (the algorithm being patented) we'd need an API to it (since it would probably be a compiled black box).

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

I hope IVCS open sources as much of this as possible, and I'm very friendly to Drupal also, not least because of your own experience with it and obvious competence. But I also think that it's premature to make a decision about software sources right now. The requirements need to be tied down a lot more first, and that's not done yet.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Open sourcing where the needed functionality exists open source.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

One more thing, I gave an earlier overview of some thinking on IVCS requirements here in an exchange at FDL with Nathan Aschbacher

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

Ideally, not only would the implementation be as much open source as possible, but the whole project would be managed by our community.

Submitted by hipparchia on

i find it both funny and disturbing that you're using the idea of an 'open society' to patent a 'social process'.

and yes, i've read a lot of words about this project: here, here, here, here, here, here, just to mention a few. and while i get nancy's point about needing money for this project [or any project], what free work [or free access to my identity, my online activites, my political activites, etc] would i be providing to these investors in exchange for my 'free' use of these tools?

Submitted by hipparchia on

i was just linking to this comment at fdl:

letsgetitdone August 18th, 2010 at 4:54 pm «
I’ll leave the patentability question for Nancy to answer, except to say that it’s not specific technical aspects of the software that are being patented, but rather a social process patent that is being sought. I can say that the initial Government response to the patent application is one that provides good reason for hope.

Submitted by hipparchia on

i didn't read all the comments in that thread [and i'm not going to], but maybe the answer to your question lies somewhere in another comment there.

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

My patent application is in the data processing class.

I do not know what Joe meant by social process patent.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

that's the correct term for it.

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

One of my great challenges is figuring out how the U.S Patent and Trademark Office works.

I wrote the patent application myself, with a modicum of legal help.

I am also responding to office actions myself, which is no easy task. I spend hours reading the USPTO manual and trying to learn the ropes. It is very complicated.

Let me just say that what I am trying to do is to make it possible for us to implement IVCS without legal hassles or detours that we have to make because of mischievous conduct by people whose motives run counter to what we are trying to accomplish.

What I hope is that people here at Corrente will get to know me and what I am trying to do in a way that reassures them.

It greatly saddens me when I get the sense from someone that he or she thinks there is some way that IVCS might hurt them when I have spent five years trying to figure out how it can help them.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

using the notion of "open society" for her patent. It was my idea to talk about the implications of IVCS for Open Society.

Also, Nancy's patent application, as Lambert says below is technically not "a social process" patent, as I incorrectly termed it but "a business method" patent in patent office terminology.

On the question of:

. . . what free work [or free access to my identity, my online activities, my political activities, etc] would i be providing to these investors in exchange for my 'free' use of these tools?

My expectation is that the investors wouldn't have "access" to any of this beyond the access that anyone who was a member of the IVCS would have. I think Nancy's intent is to provide free membership in IVCS and use of all its tools for all voters who want to participate. If people want to maintain their anonymity, I think they'll be able to do that too. IVCS is about people getting a place to organize with others without needing money to build a political force.

Submitted by hipparchia on

It was my idea to talk about the implications of IVCS for Open Society.

doesn't really matter, i still find it darkly funny that anybody can talk about open socity, re-inventing democracy, and patenting the process all in one breath.

My expectation is that the investors wouldn't have "access" to any of this beyond the access that anyone who was a member of the IVCS would have.

i'm pretty sure that would be everybody's expectation if they were to avail themselves of nancy's product. i won't be using her ivcs, so you don't actually have to give me an answer, but all the same, i am curious about this 'return on investment' that was mentioned back in 2009.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

I'm not the one to ask about ROI on this project. Maybe Nancy can answer your question if she reads the thread.

You said:

. . . doesn't really matter, i still find it darkly funny that anybody can talk about open society, re-inventing democracy, and patenting the process all in one breath


People can patent things for different reasons. Since patents exist, and there's no changing that in America at this point in time, one has the choice of patenting a business method oneself or seeing someone else patent it if it gets out before the idea becomes commonplace enough to be part of prior art. If one patents it oneself, then you can have more control over its use including preventing the idea from being used build political coalitions that would undermine democracy.

Finally, why wouldn't you use IVCS? I'm very curious about this, because in a very real sense the purpose of IVCS, as I understand it, is to help people like ourselves to counter the influence of the Corps.

Submitted by hipparchia on

coupla big reasons, a few small ones...

big reason 1. look for people statistically like me?! dude, i'm a flaming liberal living smack in the middle of tea party central. i already KNOW who all the 27 other liberals within a 100-mile radius are. outside of presidential and possibly statewide elections, this tool is totally useless for me.

big reason 2. the policy database contains opposing ideas?! yes, democracy in general is under thrreat, but the more immediate threat is the pervasiveness of 'centrist', 'moderate', 'neoliberal', 'right of center', 'right wing', 'far right', and 'theocratic' [did i miss any?] ideas and policies. if this project were focused entirely on propagating liberal, socialist, social democratic, and left-of-the-left ideas, policies, voting blocs, and candidates, i'd be interested, but i'll be damned if i'm going to touch anything that gives even a hint of credibility to anything that's to the right of, say, lbj or fdr.

ivcs, as it's been described so far, is a tool for people wh think alike to find each other and solidify their alikeness. what *i* need are tools for finding people who don't think like me and to persuade them to cross over to my side.

Submitted by hipparchia on

my city is 16% below poverty level, 17% old people, and 30% black - can you say 'digital divide'?

more seriously...

an online database [knowledge base, topic maps, insert your favorite data structure here] for policy papers, position papers, links to sites [or to articles, videos, etc] is a terrific resource.

an online source of videos, manuals, etc to teach yourself organizing is great if you don't have the resources to attend a class, seminar, training, wev in person.

an online source of leaflets that you can print out and hand out by the 100s and 1000s is a terrific resource.

but really [no matter what the demographics of your particular physical surroundings], organizing, campaigning, fundraising, finding candidtes to run for office, winning over hearts and minds - these are still very much face-to-face operations. and it takes time - see kip sullivan's description of the citizen jury process, for just one example.

Submitted by lambert on

... on digital divide. That was always my problem with "Check the website." We act like we're a first-world country in terms of internet connectivity, but we're not.

On face to face, yes. If you read what people write over a period of years, you do get to know them, to a degree, but that's no substitute for meeting on the ground.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on


You said:

an online database [knowledge base, topic maps, insert your favorite data structure here] for policy papers, position papers, links to sites [or to articles, videos, etc] is a terrific resource.

an online source of videos, manuals, etc to teach yourself organizing is great if you don't have the resources to attend a class, seminar, training, wev in person.

an online source of leaflets that you can print out and hand out by the 100s and 1000s is a terrific resource.

I think all of these and many, many more resources would be part of the IVCS created by the voting blocs themselves, using IVCS tools.

I noticed that your references to material you've read on IVCS don't include anything by myself or most of the pieces written by Nancy. Here are links to some:
(Part V of a series)

The last comment may present a different picture for you because It goes into more detail about the functionality I envision for the system. Wouldn't you be interested in using an application with that kind of functionality?

Submitted by hipparchia on

Wouldn't you be interested in using an application with that kind of functionality?

do i want to get my hands on all those wonderful techno-toys? you bet your sweet bippy i do! i was positively salivating by the time i got to the end of your reply to nathan.

will this entice me to use the ivcs? no.

not so long as there's any of that centrist, neoliberal, or right-wing crap involved. this isn't some principled stand i'm taking, regretfully declining the opportunity of a lifetime because it violates some intellectual or moral precept that's important to me; we're talking deep-seated revulsion, straight out of the lizard brain knee-jerk reaction, can't bring myself to do it. you might as well ask me to bite the heads off of fluffy little kittens.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

hipparchia, Look where we are now. We have an MSM that absolutely restricts content to center-right perspectives and it's very expensive and difficult for those, like us, who don't agree with that perspective to organize. What if we had IVCS?

The minimum that it would do would be to allow voting blocs comprised of people like us to self-organize and produce alternative content and knowledge to what we see in the mainstream. Also, as people got more and more involved with the system what would happen is that they'd spend less and less time using the MSM as a source of information and more and more time using their voting blocs in the IVCS as sources of information. The spectrum of IVCS points on a subject would determine what was "on the table."

So, with hcr, no way the pols would have been able to ignore Medicare for All, because there would have been a voting bloc or blocs within IVCS favoring Medicare for All above all other alternatives and that would have been news. In addition, those voting blocs would be evaluating candidates on the basis of whether they were keeping their commitments to medicare for All or not.

Take the current situation with the debt crisis and deficit reduction. There's virtually nothing in the mainstream press about the MMT point of view. We just can't get through. Everyone says we have a long-term deficit problem. With the IVCS, the view that there is no such problem would be represented by a voting bloc, and perhaps a large one. Embodied this way, it would be impossible to ignore. It would be one of the major alternative views out there. It would not be screened out by the MSM. It would have a chance to grow and to compete with the deficit hawk and deficit dove points of view.

Let's take the view that we should be immediately withdrawing from Afghanistan and Iraq as fast as our legs can carry us. Maybe 20% of the population holds that view. Yet it never gets mentioned in the MSM and no arguments favoring it are ever circulated because the Administration has said that it's not "on the table." With the IVCS, it would be "on the table," and support for it would be tracked every week. The arguments would be available in the IVCS content/knowledge base.

In short, I don't see the IVCS validating center-right views. I see it as opening up the lines of communication for dissent. That's why, once we get it going, I think you'll be among its most frequent users.

Submitted by hipparchia on

I don't see the IVCS validating center-right views. I see it as opening up the lines of communication for dissent.

i can see that, but i still think you're wrong. if y'all eventually prove me wrong, then more power to you!

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

But really, how can you get past the filters without something like the IVCS? Also, the IVCS isn't a replacement for more traditional methods. It's an enhancement of them. What we hope it does replace or at least destroy, because it's pre-empted by the IVCS is the blanket of MSM propaganda we see.

That propaganda is distrusted now. If there's an alternative source of information around presented by one's peers, I think people will just turn off the MSM Ads and quasi-ads.

Submitted by lambert on

... that happened in the trenches at DK happen here? My picture.... Was a boatload of funded trolls from some warehouse in Omaha, who ganged up on their perceived enemies.

Aren't we assuming that legacy partisans are going to play fair and indulge in a deliberative process?

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on


Your comment is intriguing but I am not familiar with the details of the situation.

Please fill me in on what exactly happened in the instance you cite, and how this relates to IVCS.

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

Actually, in your case, you can search the policy priorities database to find people in nearby ZIP codes who have priorities that are different from yours, contact them and arrange to meet if they are interested in discussing and debating divergent priorities.

In fact, you could organize a debate between you and some of the 27 liberals who agree with you, on the one hand, and people who have priorities that diverge from yours but with whom you think there might be a meeting of the minds if you got the chance to present your points of view.

I actually think that IVCS lends itself to bridging all kinds of divides. For example, I've thought about holding an open house agenda setting town meeting, once IVCS is up and running, and inviting different groups of people to attend. I'd include people I do not agree with at all.

At the meeting, each person could set their agenda and then the group as a whole could vote on which policy options they would be willing to include in a common agenda. This might obviously be quite difficult and take a lot of time, many months if not years. But at least it would get a dialogue going. If people attended who really were totally uncompromising and unable to really dialogue, I would not invite them the next time.

The end goal would be to see if a common agenda could be established, and if so, whether the members of the group wanted to get active politically and try to use their agenda to pressure elected representatives to implement it. If this did not turn out to be the case, then the group could see whether it was interested in running a candidate against the incumbent.

Submitted by hipparchia on

you can search the policy priorities database to find people in nearby ZIP codes who have priorities that are different from yours,

i don't have to search a database, i only have to step foot outside my front door.

but yes, generically, people could use your ivcs to search for those people whose policy preferences differ from theirs. otoh, the right-wingers who are motivated enough to actually go online with the intent of organizing around their right-wing policy preferences are probably the ones who will be most resistant to listening to new ideas. i admit that that's a guess on my part, but my personal preference for engaging others would be talking with the ones who aren't already [even if only tentatively] that committed. i want to find them before they get to that point.

For example, I've thought about holding an open house agenda setting town meeting, once IVCS is up and running, and inviting different groups of people to attend. I'd include people I do not agree with at all.

sure! invite people of all stripes, but present them with a range ideas, from liberal to socialist, without any labels like left or liberal or socialist, and without any centrist or right-wing ideas to clutter up the landscape. then see if you don't get results like this.


bottom line for *me* is that no matter how wonderful your tools end up being and no matter how much they could help me personally, if your system appears to legitimize centrist and right-wing ideas and policies, *i* am going to boycott it.

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

is the empowerment of voters across the political spectrum (not special interests or political parties or candidates backed by special interests) to build voting blocs and electoral coalitions around common agendas that decide who runs for office, who gets elected and what laws are enacted into law.

It is a framework for voters to get control of electoral processes by negotiating common agendas and running common slates of candidates.

Now your situation is quite distinct and frustrating, I agree.

I also see why IVCS would not help you the way if might help voters in more diverse populations. However, I still think that you could use the IVCS agenda setting as an opener for getting discussions and debates of policy options started with voters who are not intransigeant.

And if not, IVCS, what are your other options?

Submitted by hipparchia on

And if not, IVCS, what are your other options?

well, i could always follow in the footsteps of malcom x and martin luther king and get myself assassinated.

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

You have already made a contribution to IVCS by explaining how it needs to serve folks like you who are isolated inside voting populations that have already been manipulated into endorsing ideologies and policies that are inimical to their best interests.

Thanks to you, I am going to think about such political contexts and how to show the ways in which IVCS can help.

I think it is important to keep in mind that polls dating back to the late 90's show that the large majority of Americans are in favor of progressive policies.

They want government to be pro-active in resolving societal crises, like job-creation and unemployment, the lack of universal affordable health care, infrastructure decay, reliance on fossil fuels, etc.

But the two major political parties and their special interest backers have rigged elections to prevent them from doing so, per my posts How Voters Can Unrig the 2012 Elections with Transpartisan Voting Blocs and Electoral Coalitions, and Third Party Rising?.

Only IVCS, IMNSHO, empowers voters at the grassroots to overturn our corrupted electoral and legislative systems without changing any laws or passing new laws.

Obviously, not all grassroots voters can do this if they are locked inside voting populations like you are. But you can still use IVCS to start an agenda-setting, consensus-building group where you live to weigh the various policy options provided on IVCS, and formulate your own options. You can start with the 27 liberals already there, and slowing but surely add people to your agenda-setting group that are interested in learning more about the whole spectrum of options that exist, to complement the limited set that they are already aware of.

You can be the moderator and bridge-builder to assist your invitees to explore, discuss and debate the options, in order to build consensus about an agenda that everyone feels comfortable with. This group would be the beginning of a voting bloc that, in the fullness of time, might be able to build an electoral coalition with other blocs around agreement on specific policy options, and the desire to replace locally-elected candidates whose votes do not support the enactment of your options.

Let me note that even though the IVCS Policy Options Database is at an alpha stage (you can view a prototype here), it does contain 104 options that I have researched fairly intensively (please note that they have yet to be simplified, tested and reframed as needed). Each option contains links to web pages that contain information about them. Although I know that non-liberal views are repugnant to you, the database comprises opposing options and links to give people a chance to compare and contrast them, and weigh their advantages and disadvantages. I believe that if we voters get together to engage in this process, we can become far more knowledgeable than our elected policy-makers about the whole spectrum of options open to us BECAUSE we are more numerous than they are, and we have our own vital interests at heart, whereas they are kow-towing to the special interests who finance their elections.

We will be able to zero right into the inner sanctums of policy-making and point out to our elected representatives the ways in which the legislation they are considering would harm our best interests and serve special interests. If we are allied in voting blocs and electoral coalitions, we can make it clear to them that if they enact legislation we oppose, per our written policy agendas, we will defeat them at the polls.

Back to your own agenda-setting group, I would start small and increase the numbers of your groups as you find people who are genuinely interested in becoming more knowledgeable about the options open to them. A lot will depend on the ambiance you personally establish of seeking common ground, and of course on your decisions about who you want to include in your group as it grows and gathers momentum.

Submitted by hipparchia on

Obviously, not all grassroots voters can do this if they are locked inside voting populations like you are.

the interesting thing about this voting population is that it was a bunch of long-time yellow dog democrats, back when the democratic party did believe in making government work for the rest of us. it's actually very easy to get most of them to listen to me and like my ideas.

and for those who ask me where they can find more on the internet, i don't send them to sites that have even the merest appearance of giving 'fair and balanced' treatment to 'both sides' of a question. if, when you get your ivcs up and running, it still has this 'balance' between 'opposing views' then no way in hell will i be sending my newly-won converts to your site to browse around and risk their being lured back into their old familiar ways of thinking about policy and politics.


Please don't! We Need You! [...] Only IVCS, IMNSHO, empowers voters at the grassroots to overturn our corrupted electoral and legislative systems without changing any laws or passing new laws.

well, i was only kidding about the getting myself assassinated part. but more seriously, this country is in mortal peril, we're short on time, and it would be folly to ditch the old fashioned, tried and true methods of mobilizing people to pin all our hopes on one new-fangled method. we're going to have to get to work organizing on all fronts.

Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

I finally got around to reading the comments, and am not so educated as you are re: ICVS.

But, I gotta say, Hipp, your comment about "all I have to do is step out my front door" resonated with me. I mean, I know which state you live in, and I trust you know mine, and it ain't CA, despite my moniker.

So, I think that local experiences can enormously influence one's take on this.

Thus, I ask Nancy Bordier where she lives.

Submitted by hipparchia on

yep, and i would guess that your situation and mine occur in a lot of places throughout both the south and the midwest, as well as my original home state [texas]. i don't know enough about either the east or west coast to hazard a guess about them.

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

You are correct in your analysis that I come from densely-populated areas whose voting populations are fairly evenly divided from a political standpoint. However, voter control of these elections has been seriously compromised by the gerrymandering of these districts to prevent competitive candidates from running against Democratic and Republican candidates.

I was born on the East coast, New York, and currently live on the East coast, but have lived in California and Europe (for ten years). Recently, I lived in northern Virginia for 5 years, so I got a taste of what living in a red state represents, though of course northern Virginia is quite blue in certain counties.

Since you have effective ways and means to mobilize voters where you live, then IVCS is less valuable to you than to folks living in more populous, politically diverse areas.

IVCS is designed to enable voters to create voting blocs and electoral coalitions around shared transpartisan policy agendas that can potentially span whole states, groups of states and the country as a whole, blocs and coalitions that can potentially elect a new Congress and possibly impact the 2012 presidential elections. This capability of empowering voters to set the agenda is important in light of recent revelations that a well-financed third party is going to be launched in New York next month. (See New grassroots group targets centrist voters. Note that this URL occasionally defaults to a request for a subscription; other times it does not.)

This new party, according to the article, appears to have been initiated by individuals associated with Michael Bloomberg, although there is no proof of this (John Heileman in the New Yorker provides corroboration). According to one critic in No Labels: What’s Behind “Forward?” Pro-Corporate Economic Policy , it has already established a conservative fiscal agenda which is designed to pull in fiscally conservative Independent, Democratic and Republican voters.

With Obama's weakened support and calls from prominent Democrats for him to be primaried, and the special interest-backed Tea Party front groups and fringe groups threatening to take control of the Republican party, this third party might well prevail in the 2012 elections, and even elect Bloomberg president.

While I am all in favor of competitive parties and candidates challenging the Democrats and Republicans, if these third parties are structured on the same "take it or leave it" basis of these parties in which voters have little influence over their agendas, and run candidates who enact policies that harm the public interest, then voter-controlled democratic elections will continue to elude us. And if these new third parties fragment the electorate, 80% of whom oppose the two major parties and most of the elected officials put into office under their aegis, then one of the two major parties will prevail.

IMNSHO, only IVCS has the capacity to empower voters to build broad-based electoral coalitions that can outflank and outmaneuver special interest-backed parties and candidates.

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

Not all investors are predators. I hope to find angel investors who are as committed to voter empowerment and voter re-invention of democracy as I am.

Most inventors do not have capital to bring their inventions into operation. So accepting capital makes it possible to develop them, offer them to the public and improve them over time.

And patent rights can protect inventions from being misused by predators, or misappropriated by people who are trying to unfairly exploit other people's work and prevent the inventors from realizing the fruits of their invention.

The primary reason I filed the IVCS patent application was to prevent dishonest parties from filing their own patent on my invention and then preventing me from using it.

The second reason is to prevent misappropriation.

And the third is that having a patent makes it easier to raise capital than not having one because it gives investors a reasonable expectation that if they invest in a project with a patent that someone else is not going to be duplicating the effort and possibly competing unfairly with the inventor.

Implementing IVCS in a way that creates a truly user-friendly interface and satisfying/fulfilling experience, and provides tools and services that are free to individual voters, requires capital.

I am very cautious and concerned about protecting IVCS users' information, confidential, and privacy. I want IVCS to foster authentic but protected dialogue, deliberation and internal consensus-building, including voting within groups, voting blocs and electoral coalitions.

So the last thing I am going to do is to allow external parties to be privy to what goes on inside thes groups, blocs and coalitions.

There is no reason an investor in IVCS would or should have access to this information

Submitted by hipparchia on

rather than a potential user, how would you answer my questions about what returns i could expect and how you expect to raise that money, etc?

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

I have done financial projections that could be used to make these determinations.

Frankly, I am looking for investors who are primarily concerned with empowering the U.S. electorate to wrest control of government from special interests, and only secondarily with their return on investment (ROI).

If ROI is their primary concern, they should invest elsewhere.

Submitted by wlarip on

"Implementing IVCS in a way that creates a truly user-friendly interface and satisfying/fulfilling experience, and provides tools and services that are free to individual voters, requires capital."

It seems to me that the skill set you need to succeed is almost totally open-source.The open-source designers and programers are some of the best in the world. They can be convinced to help you if they believe in what you are doing, that is, if what you are doing is interesting. They are not particularly motivated by money but, if they hear you have investors, they will want some of it. Why pay for it when you can get better for free? You can know before you start whether you have the volunteer talent to succeed or not.

Depending on how the patent is written, open-source licensing can be a problem.
If you buy commercial software and distribute it in a typical client server model, you can be liable for a licensing fee for everyone who downloads a client depending on what the client does.

IVCS could be a portal to online voter registration in those states that support it.
At the same time, it could allow you to collect innocuous demographic data from users who, on condition of using your portal to register, create a userid behind which is a real person. They won't tell you their birthday but they don't mind telling you their age.

Users are rightly privacy paranoid about collected information. But if they are convinced that 'First do no harm' is your motto, they will tell you things that couldn't be used to hurt them but certainly would be useful in helping them.

For example, if your FB app was a game called "Politrix" that predicted your future by analyzing data stored on IVCS against a user input set of parameters such as:

"What are your chances of getting a job in the year NNNN making NNNNN.NN dollars if you live in AAAAAA and Obama is relected and you are now NN years old?"

These are not exact demographics but suggest expectations that allow you to construct an avatar that, when analyzed as group, could be remarkably accurate in creating a targeted web based strategy for organization. Once they decide that you are on their side and that their data is safe, they will tell you anything you want to know(within limits).

A lot of work but doable.

A word to the wise. They won't trust you if you smell like a bank.

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

I have given quite a bit of thought to developing revenue streams that will enable the project to adequately pay the people who work in it, as well as enable the tools and services to be provided to individual end-users free of charge, etc.

I really do want to engage the most politically dedicated and inventive people in making IVCS come alive, but I want them to be paid for their work.

I actually think that IVCS development activities can incorporate those that incubate new ideas and pay people to think them up! After all, it aims to serve the entire U.S. electorate, so there will be plenty of opportunities to think up inventive ways to serve the needs of this constituency.

I have taken the concept of boot strapping and obsessive solo entrepreneurship to such an extreme that you need not worry about similitude to banks.

Re open source issues, there are many complicated challenges and decisions that we will have to thread our way through, but I have no doubt that we will succeed in doing so.

Submitted by lambert on

Because when I read "there are many complicated challenges and decisions that we will have to thread our way through" that's how I translate it.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

is that if Open Source Software is available to deliver the functionality we need we'll use it. If not, and its available in commercial form, we'll probably have to use that.

We badly need to have this be a factor in the 2012 elections. Most people here, I think, would like to see huge voting blocs, holding office holders responsible and challenging the Two Party Duopoly from inside or outside the two Parties. I don't think that's going to happen without something like this helping people to organize.

Submitted by lambert on

I argue that, just as with e-voting, the only way to assure the integrity of the system and the results is to open source the code. Period.

The issue is not functionality, but integrity.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Integrity is important, but perhaps not equally important for all parts of the system. For example, integrity of voting/decision making is very important for the system so people know that voting can't be manipulated. However, it doesn't seem to me that the code for the integration software co-ordinating the application components of the system needs to be open sourced to safeguard integrity.

Nancy Bordier's picture
Submitted by Nancy Bordier on

I am in total agreement with this.

That said, my conversations with Joe Firestone lead me to believe that we may decide to blend open source software in some instances with software that is proprietary because the open source does not yet provide the functionality that the proprietary software provides.

The e-voting functions, however, would probably not be one of those for which we would select proprietary software, IMNSHO.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Hi wlarip, I have no doubt that all the skills need are available open source. But the issue is whether our requirements are met by software that is available currently, and is open source.

Here are some of the requirements I envision.

Do you think all of the software needed to fulfill these is available open source, including software that will provide an integration capability allowing composite applications created by power users without coding or people needing access to APIs to implement component integration?

Submitted by wlarip on

Hi Lets:

That's an ambitious agenda. It seems to be essentially a political neural net.

I don't think you will find software, either open source or commercial, that you can install and accomplish this functionality.

But it can be done. The trick is to use an adaptive database. Content becomes keys to new structures. Relationships develop and schema emerge.

Everything else is a cottage industry of the database. In fact, the network that serves the database should be controlled by it. In this way, you can start small but as the database evolves so does its reach and the diversity of the information it collects.

I would imagine this is Facebook's approach. APIs are easy ways to provide specs to programmers but they aren't technically necessary, at least not any more.

The utility of the information in the database is pretty much open ended. But you will be fighting the same issues that Facebook is now. That is the age old question of "Why do you want to know?".

You will have to be Caesar's wife.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on


It seems to be essentially a political neural net.

I don't think you will find software, either open source or commercial, that you can install and accomplish this functionality.

But it can be done. The trick is to use an adaptive database. Content becomes keys to new structures. Relationships develop and schema emerge.

I do see the network at the heart of IVCS as a Complex Adaptive System. I don't want to use the term "neural net" because that has particular AI model connotations these days.

I agree that we won't find a piece of software accomplishing everything I've outlined in my spec. But I do think that some combination of Open Source and commercial software, or maybe even all open source can fill the bill if the integrative pieces of software are the right ones.

I think the idea of an adaptive database is a useful one here, but I'm much more interested in the unstructured content management aspects of the application rather than the structured data aspects. People using the system will be generating a lot of text and meta-text is specifying policy options and in critically evaluating them in the process of constructing voting blocs and electoral coalitions. We're very interested in cognitive mapping of policy options and agendas and similarity analysis and clustering of these, and also pattern search and similarity technology.

In addition we're very interesting in the problem solving and Knowledge Management aspects of the system. While my vision of the system is more network with interfaces-based, rather than portal-based, it is grounded in some of the thinking I've outlined in my book: Enterprise Information Portals and Knowledge Management, and in the following blog series: here; and here.

Submitted by lambert on

... do we mean a database (possibly not a relational one....) that modifies its own schema?

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

People are doing work on databases that evolve over time, and yes some are working with evolutionary models.

Submitted by wlarip on

"Neural net' is a little overused, isn't it?

"Fixed Fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man."

George Patton

My post wasn't clear. Structure, in this context, is intended to imply nothing
more than a placeholder for the relationship('s') that may exist between two(or more) pieces of ...well, anything.

The whole purpose of the database is:

when read, it provides a view of the world;


how you view the world depends on how you read it.

Populating it is the issue. That will require some thought.

Speaking of reading, I need to read your book.
Ain't Amazon wonderful?
Nice chatting with you.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Nice chatting with you too.