afghan computer Part 1: Designing a Nation

Recently Adam Greenfield proposed an open-source collaborative project to develop a manual for the (re-)construction of a nation. The premise is that no group of bureaucrats, military strategists and civil servants can possibly know how to rebuild a country, especially one whose citizens may have never known democracy, freedom, rule of law, or any of the other constructs that we think are essential to the functioning of a civil state. No one has been able to impose (Afghanistan) or quickly and painlessly evolve (ex-Soviet states) a nation-model that works. Even the best current systems have taken centuries of war, intermittant misery and inequity to emerge and are wildly imperfect and fragile.

So the idea is: Design an open-source model using collaborative tools. Let all the people affected participate in its creation, so it’s right for the culture and evolutionary state of those who have to live with it. Let those who think they have the answers write chapters or constitutions or bills of rights or judicial frameworks and submit them for immediate response, editing and referenda by the citizens.

I think it’s a wonderful idea. Now all we have to do is try it out in Afghanistan by setting up a mass of computers in communities around the country, equipped with multi-lingual collaborative and learning tools and facilitators to enable it to happen. Think Bill Gates might chip in for this? And, of course, the ‘conquering nations’ need to pony up the money needed to rebuild and bootstrap the infrastructure and institutions required by the people’s design. That’s a taller order.

utopia Part 2: Designing The Future State for Earth

This idea got me thinking about the possibility of using blogspace to write a novel. I’ve already written the set-up chapter for a utopian novel, and skeleton descriptions of its twelve characters. The plan was to write twelve additional chapters, each written from the perspective of one of the characters. The novel is set in an Edenic future where, after a major viral plague, man has finally learned his place in the world and lives in peace with all the planet’s creatures. It’s not a cautionary tale. Instead, the idea is to show what’s possible on our beleaguered planet if we were to deal with the underlying causes of the problems (e.g. overpopulation, lack of education etc.) instead of their symptoms (war, crime etc.) In business this type of construct is called a Future State Vision.

It occurred to me that these fictional characters’ stories might be richer and more believable if the chapters were actually written by different people. I’ve heard of other collaborative creative exercises working well (a superb example is Jonathan Elias’ Prayer Cycle , which features overlays by Alanis Morissette, Salif Keita and other musicians from all over the world overlaying native-language vocal tracks on Elias’ multi-lingual adagio compositions; the artists apparently never met in person).

Advice, or lessons from other collaborative non-pornographic writing exercises, would be welcome.

This entry was posted in Creative Works, How the World Really Works, Our Culture / Ourselves, Using Weblogs and Technology. Bookmark the permalink.