[governance] Fundamentally broken design of society

Norbert Bollow nb at bollow.ch
Thu Aug 9 09:38:29 EDT 2007

Linda Misek-Falkoff <ldmisekfalkoff at gmail.com> wrote:

> hope I read correctly that the concept of a broken system holds forth the
> hope and vision that either it was once whole, or can be brought into being
> [more] whole.

Yes, precisely:  As long as I thought about the matter as "a social
problem" I had little if any confidence of actually being able to do
anything about it.  But when I read that word "broken", that was
helpful, to me at least, to inspire me towards more contructive lines
of thought.  If something is broken, it can usually be fixed or

Now, while the thought "fix it or replace it" cannot be applied to
society in any reasonably way, it can be applied to rules of conduct,
legal rules, and computer software, all of which have significant
influence on how society evolves.  For example, when a company that
creates and popularizes a new technology has neglected to get that
technology evaluated with regard to its effects on people with
disabilities, certainly justice would demand that there should be a
legal liability connected to any resulting "disabling" or
marginalizing effect on people with disabilities.

Unfortunately this kind of legal change is difficult to achieve in
any country, and even harder to achieve internationally, and on top of
that, probably quite a few such changes would be needed in order to
really fix what I see as overall brokenness in the system of legal
rules and how they are applied.

However there is another path, which seems much more promising to me:
Namely, to try creating a subsystem of the overall economy, by means
of designing an attractive and fair set of rules by means of which
the subsystem of the economy would function.  My inspiration for this
idea is to a large extent the "social hack" approach of Richard
Stallman's founding of the Free Software movement, which was
successful precisely because it was sufficient for success to get
support from a significant number of people who were willing and
interested in doing the right thing, it was not necessary to get
consent or acceptance from anyone else.

The fundamental idea that I want to pursue is to focus on empowerment:

--> What does it take to fully empower those people who are currently
    restricted from fully benefiting from ICT because of some kind of
    digital divide?

I expect that discussing this question will lead to collecting some
set of principles (or sets of principles) that will be supportive of
empowerment, and that will help prevent those kinds of disempowerment
that are possible to prevent.

Then we can discuss how to form some kind of alliance (I'm thinking
of something like a business alliance, but not restricted to
businesses only) to support each other while pursuing this set of
goals.  This alliance would be the "social hack" / "movement" that
can perhaps somehow follow the example of the Free Software movement.

I have set up a discussion mailing list for these matters at
and I would like to invite everyone who is interested in this set of
topics to join me there.


Norbert Bollow <nb at bollow.ch>                    http://Norbert.ch
President of the Swiss Internet User Group SIUG  http://SIUG.ch
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