Participatory Democracy - A plea for intelligent rule setting
by Oebele Bruinsma, Synmind bv
Oebele Bruinsma is also a Knowledge Stream Leader about Trade in Asia at the Summit for the Future - May 3-5, 2006.
In democracies, like any endeavour under the stars, it may pay off to set rules and guidelines. This observation is based on the fact that human knowledge and behaviour are usually flawed. In other words, we should be able to start every new venture with a clean sheet of paper; otherwise the word new is meaningless.
Based on the cliché that transparancy leads to understanding and understanding to knowledge, and knowledge in a number of cases to acceptance, we advance the assumption that rule setting will enhance the acceptance of the game, in this case (participatory) democracy.
From experience it has been shown that chaotic processes when governed by the simpliest of rules will rapidly order themselves, often because it appears the most efficient way of reaching a goal.
A number of examples of such rule setting exercises are being discussed:
1) The football Cambridge rules
2) Rules of evidence based medicine
3) Synmind mental arena rules
The Cambridge rules
In 1848 an 8 hour long meeting with 15 representatives of British colleges and schools produced the first set of modern rules governing the game of football. Before that date it was nearly impossible for schools to play each other, as each school played their own rules.
The universal acceptance of these transparent rules, which are still under development, has contributed in a significant way to the global spread of the world’s most popular game.
Evidence based medicine
Evidence based medical practise is the basis of modern patient treatment. The complex environment surrounding the diagnosis and subsequent treatment is forcing participants e.g. medical personnel, their organisations, patients and their organisations, insurance, regulators, politicians, to act within certain priorities and limits. These priorities and limits are ordered on the basis of evidence thus are considered a feed-back loop refining the medical process at hand. Furthermore such rule based standardisation of treatments allows for their rapid spread among practitioners.
The conclusion is drawn that without rules there will be no development. In other words, survival and development is the goal of the game. Note that development in this context is a process leading to an aspired level of affairs.
When we analyse the internal machinery available to individuals participating e.g. in a democracy, we observe that this machinery, the brain, has different states or mindsets.
These different mindsets will generate different outputs. Consequently, individual behaviour (e.g. setting priorities) even when presented with identical stimuli, will vary all the time.
This variability is obstructing the basic functioning of a participatory democracy.
Variability in time and space (cultural) will generate a fluid base of debate and discussion often to such an extent that the ability to absorb, let alone synthesize the presented knowledge, experience or information, is lost.
We use a simple set of rules to overcome this: the Synmind rules.
One way of solving that variability is to advance the idea that individuals, including their thoughts, strife to survive; in a participatory democracy this can be done in a “mental arena” in which opinions are treated in an equivalent (not equal!) way. Through peer review and a first round of intuition based contributions from participants, a priority based filtering system is growing automatically. The beginning of goal setting! And all done by the participants.
The second round based on ratio and experience generates a (self-) filtered argumentation base coupled with individual, or group voting, allowing transparent and rapid decision making.
Why should this work?
Because of the way the brain works:
The conscious mind is a serial processor, one thing at the time. The unconscious mind, which in fact is totally conscious, is a parallel processor coping with numerous things at the same time (intuïtion). In the Synmind “mental arena” the alternate use of these two mind types allows participants to leap ahead in time in formulating goals, solutions, plans.
Studies comparing intuïtive and analytical contributions to (simple) problems showed that members of the intuïtive groups were half as likely to achieve a perfect answer, but the range and magnitude of their errors was much smaller than that of the analytical problemsolvers.
In other words when analysis was done correctly, it was near perfect; but when it was done poorly, it was wildly wrong! (Food for thought)
In combination ( with the rules of “engagement”) these two mind types are able to perform remarkably well, as being discussed in the Science article of January 2006, Vol 311 pp 47 – 52, which is just scraping the surface of this intriguing phenomenon.
 The conscious mind has different modes or mindsets due to impacting levels of comfort, status and uncertainty.