With the support of key systems design methodologies, which are now available, it has been demonstrated that group action collocated face-to-face can be democratically disciplined. Networked communications, similar to communications face-to-face, can also be disciplined to create cyberspace capital, with the support of systems design methodologies. The "Delphi Survey," a well known systems design methodology used in structuring group communications with pen and paper, has also been adapted for a computer based process, as reported by M. Turoff and S.R. Hiltz. This has opened the opportunity to experiment with multiple group Delphis in a computer environment. However, while Delphi was originally used by some practitioners to build consensus between participants, this is not the purpose of Delphi, according to Turoff and Hiltz.
Nominal Group Technique (NGT), is a key systems methodology used to build a structured workshop/meeting/process, including recognized consensus building capacity, usually facilitated by a "third party." NGT has been successfully used in the conduct of group meetings via Internet Relay Chat, described as an Electronic Town Hall (ETH) at various sites, August 1995, see also Use of Internet Relay Chat (IRC) in Distributed Consensus Forming (PDF), as reported by Professor Billy Vaughn Koen of the University of Texas at Austin (also Dean, Graduate School of Decision Science and Technology, The Tokyo Institute of Technology). Science and Technology, The Tokyo Institute of Technology).
Electronic polling of the members of a group can be performed to aid the process of structuring priorities in collective thought and action using a variety of electronic voting systems. In addition, when richly facilitated, utilization of the Internet to create "asynchronous learning networks" (ALN), has confirmed that "collaborative learning approaches can make online learning at least as effective as the traditional classroom."
Another channel of innovation seeking to inject civil spirit into public works was an initiative of The Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems (ICIS). This initiative established broad electronic links to partner and affiliate civil institutions, which had hope to develop resources and networks "to interactively disseminate new knowledge focused on sustaining, renewing, and improving the nation's infrastructure system." The specific goals of ICIS, which this writer was invited to consider at a forum held in Washington, DC, Aug 14, 2000, were "to integrate a broader range of perspectives and disciplines into infrastructure planning, engaging users and communities that host infrastructure services and facilities." After the initial funding was expended, the initiative appears to have ceased operations
Business consultants who serve Fortune 500 firms also opened shop to earn the lucrative profit that can be generated from "Virtual Teams" and "Collaborative Learning Networks," armed with an array of virtual collaboration software tools, and other strategies, such as collaborative study groups used extensively in large Japanese business firms. Most did not make it through the swamp.
However, there are success stories. Dr. Alexander N. Christakis and his colleagues affiliated with the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS), were able to realize development, during the period from 2000 to 2007, of a Structured Design Dialogue Process (SDDP). Motivated by the Humanistic Capitalism Paradigm, and guided by the leadership of Cyberspace Capital with design recommendations by this writer Christakis also developed a spectacular contemporary version of the ancient Athenian Agora, in cyberspace: New Agora. This incldes a revolutionary boundary-spanning electronic version of the SDDP called, WebScope.
Flexible business networks in virtual space, which are grounded in the pursuit of material gain in the global marketplace guided by the logic of reciprocity and the "morality of the marketplace," do not fit the success model of the Italian Emilia-Romagna community, which business network managers speak of emulating. The pursuit of material gain in a business network places one's primary interests in satisfying their own needs as a "private good," or conventional capital, whereas in the genuine civic society one seeks social capital as a "public good"! [Putnam, infra at 170-171]. In a well established civil society government and business function out of a wellspring of public trust and cooperation, which obviously does not come into play in a bare business network.
The attempt to establish large business networks based on mutual trust and cooperation can most likely be expected to breakdown under its weak civil foundation of trust. One cannot capture the beneficial impact on business transactions of the trust and good will arising from a strong civil society, where social capital is lacking and without recognizing the social responsibilities upon which a genuine civil society is predicated.
An example of these principles is the Lovers of Democracy Enterprise Network, which has produced voluntary collaborative support for development of New Agora, and WebScope.
B. Breaking free of the laissez faire framework.
John D. Rockefeller, Sr., described as "the fiercest Robber Baron," in Ron Chernow's biography, TITAN (1998), was among the first during the industrial revolution to realize that business success was not to be built upon the myth of competitive individualism but from the practical benefits of competent consensus building and cooperation between corporate managers. Id., at 153-154. So also Virtual Teams and Collaborative Learning Networks provide a viable strategy for sharing knowledge and skills between members of an industry group, which can add value and increase the profits of participants. Nevertheless, without a radical change in patterns of power sharing and moral relations between insiders and outsiders, rich and poor, natural capital and technological innovation such private collaborative networks and virtual teams will not improve responsible actions by government and big business; they will not remedy the growing crisis of social inequities; they will not prevent the continuing collapse of ecological integrity. These beneficial outcomes can only come from strong civil communities not mere business strategies.
The backbone of the existing problem situation is supported by the nine million most educated families in the United States with incomes above $100,000 annually, who are known as "the establishment." Despite high praise by political leaders for the economic prosperity of "the establishment," the large majority of the American people who are on the middle and lower rungs of the economic ladder suffer from a profoundly unfair structure of political power., and an ever widening gap in income inequities in the United States, with admittedly rising levels of absolute poverty in the world. And these "afflictions of inequality" lead to unhealthy societies, which cannot be sustained.
Well regarded scholars from a wide spectrum of viewpoints have verified this appalling condition over the past decade or more, see e.g., Isaac Shapiro and John Springer, The Not-Rich Are Getting Not Richer (Oct 2000), reprinted in Common Dreams News Center, from Los Angeles Times; Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, The Widening Gap: Income Disparities in the 1990s (1999); George Soros, The Crisis of Global Capitalism (1998); James K. Galbraith, Created Unequal (1998); William Greider, One world, ready or not : the manic logic of global capitalism (1997); Edward Luttwak, The Real Masters of the Universe: Alan Greenspan and Other Dogmatic Bankers Keep Inflation Low and Pain High, in The Washington Post, Feb 2, 1997, at C1, col. 1; Kevin P. Phillips, Arrogant Capital (1994); Kevin P. Phillips, Boiling Point (1993); Kevin P. Phillips, The Politics of Rich and Poor (1990).
Moreover, the situation is likely to get much worse before it can be turned around by any possible global countermovement. A 68-page report released by the CIA Monday, Dec 18, 2000, Global Trends 2015: A Dialogue About the Future With Nongovernment Experts, predicts that most of Africa, much of the Middle East, Eastern Europe, South, Central and Southeast Asia, and South America, especially the Andean countries, "could well be left far behind the wealthier and more technologically advanced countries, led by the United States. (Globalization's) evolution will be rocky, marked by chronic financial volatility and a widening economic divide," according to the report which resulted from 18 months of consultations between the official intelligence community and non-governmental experts.
C. Breaking free of ecological myopia.
The most severe global ecological problems are now well beyond all professional debate:
The historical trend viewed with alarm for more than a century is inevitably leading toward a catastrophe of overpopulation, according to data provided by the US Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, now on display in a Public Broadcasting series. Presumably, the great loss of human life expected from overpopulation will naturally fall most heavily upon the poorest developing nations and their predominant non white populations. There is also the expectation of massive biodiversity loss (see e.g., Habitat Loss, and Red List of Threatened Species), in which, at the lowest estimated rates, "about half of all species could be extinct within 100 years." This desperate situation is further exacerbated by the quibbling of the US Senate and Administration of US President George W. Bush, over implementation of the international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as the Kyoto Protocol. The decision by American political leaders guided by an ethic of unabashed greed shaped by narrow economic self-interest, was sharply condemned by the great weight of opinion by commentators and global leaders -- in religion, in science, in governments of other developed nations, and in global media reports by the US Information Service.
At a White House news conference March 30, 2001, Mr. Bush defended his rejection of the climate treaty, "because it exempts many countries from compliance and would cause serious harm to the American economy," insisting that he would "place America's economic interests over diplomatic efforts to control climate change." A note of sympathy for the US position was also added by the US Information Service, reporting the observations of the Hong Kong daily: "plenty of lip service, but scant progress." The official defense of America's economic interests by rejection of the manifest global interest in the survival of the biosphere of the Planet Earth, is unsustainable.
Jan Pronk, the Dutch environmental minister and chair of the Conference of the Parties (COP) 6 subsequently announced an agreement of the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol that participating nations will sign on July 27, including 178 nations. The accord by delegates to an international climate summit in Bonn Germany, July 16-27, was described as a "watered down climate treaty" by environmental and public interest advocates, in a report July 26, 2001, by the Independent Media Center, Washington DC. A report on "American isolationism" published online by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, July 27, stated that "The United States was the only holdout" refusing to join the Bonn accord.
The increasingly urgent struggle for survival of ecosystems in the biosphere of the Planet Earth, exacerbates the inequities and rigged structures of power in the world. Much of this also is the outcome of pathetically irresponsible pretense and failure of major leadership groups. On this conservative and liberal pundits can agree. The paradigm shift that one expects in a movement away from ecological myopia is quite simply, stuck in a rut. We are lacking a definition of a new paradigm principally because of a deep seated reluctance to name human overpopulation as the root cause of the ecological dilemma. Presently it is merely considered an ancillary afterthought. With this fundamental admission constructive action will begin.
David Brooks wrote an amusing little book, BOBOS* in Paradise : The New Upper Class and How They Got There (2000). "BOBOS" means "Bourgeois Bohemians," and as Brooks explains, infra at pp. 61-70, radical changes in the behavior of the most educated American class have emerged by integration of the life styles of the Bourgeois and Bohemian, the historical roots of which began in the early 18th-century with the first glimmerings of the industrial age. BOBOS recognize a movement in thought away from laissez faire capitalism, but as Brooks reveals, these changes in life styles of wealthy Americans, are hilarious pretensions of sensitivity without serious commitment to civil and ecological responsibility.
The dark side of unbridled capitalism in Africa, another global flash point, is portrayed by John le Carré in his new novel, The Constant Gardener (Scribner 2001). He sounds this alarm, "(I)tís time educated men and women had some balls to speak out for truth instead of cringing in the shithouse like a bunch of craven cowards." Id., at 365. Though a work of fiction, in the Authorís Notes le Carré observes, "As my journey through the pharmaceutical jungle progressed, I came to realize that, by comparison with the reality, my story was as tame as a holiday postcard." Id. at 489, 490.
Insight into the reasons for such paradoxical behavior is offered by Harvard Professor Chris Argyris, in his book, Reasoning, Learning, and Action 23, 191, 182-183 (1982). Argyris observed that in dealing with "hot issues" that are emotionally ladened and politically sensitive, "basic changes are unlikely ... unless someone can violate [existing] norms and rules with impunity." Moreover, Argyris writes, people are unable to produce transformative action, "even if they espouse it, wish to learn it, and practice it." The basic assumption in transformative action is that
people require others to help them discover, invent, and especially produce new actions. It is not, for example, sufficient to help ... the client ... become aware of his counterproductive aggressive actions. It is important to help him alter those actions. But this will not occur overnight; it will require many experimental tries; it will depend on iterative learning. Hence, learning is not an individual activity. Double-loop learning [i.e. learning involving deeply seated values] especially requires the help of others and a particular facilitative organizational milieu.
Such conditions confirm once again the essential role of civic organizations in the republican form of government. Responsible government and big business can be secured only by the constructive power of the main body of citizenship, as Mary Parker Follett observed early last century, by "the living democracy of a united, responsible people." Indeed, the wisdom of moving a "united, responsible people" into full democratic citizenship is now viewed as a pragmatic response to contemporary societal needs. Management guru Peter Drucker observes in Post-Capitalist Society:
(T)he greatest contribution that the autonomous community organization makes is as a new center of citizenship. The Megastate has all but destroyed citizenship. To restore it, the post-capitalist polity needs a "third sector," ... It needs an autonomous social sector. Id. at 171.
Clearly, voluntary action by "the establishment" alone cannot be expected to turn the existing situation toward democratic sustainability; rather, the possibilities for genuine transformation must also come from "the People" themselves. A massive buildup of cyberspace capital is needed to secure a rebirth of the core promose of America. Taking to the streets of major cities around the world, as reported by Independent Media Centers, ordinary citizens are demanding fundamental changes in the established order. However brutal the resistance by "the establishment" the world citizenry will not be turned aside. Responding to these formidable pressures, and evidencing an attempt to put life into the rhetoric of the "New Dreams and Promises" of global leadership institutions, work has begun in cooperation with the United Nations to: reduce global poverty; and unite the power of markets with the authority of universal ideals.
The work of legitimate social transformation is not a process either of top-down command or bottom-up protest but may best be achieved by constructing a global network of "the People" in all desirable dimensions of professional training and perspective -- systems designers, systems insiders, systems outsiders. All together "the People" may apply their creative abilities to adapt available or obtainable key systems design methodologies, which can most likely maximize the interdependent collective use of the networked communications process toward betterment of humankind.
Back to PART I