[governance] Fundamentally broken design of society

David Goldstein goldstein_david at yahoo.com.au
Fri Aug 10 00:58:28 EDT 2007

Hi Norbert et al,

I agree with the views expressed here, in short, on making technology accessible to all regardless of location, income and ability or disability. However there are many constraints in achieving this. In the developing world, what does a funder or government spend money on - malaria nets or internet access? To name just one issue. Safe drinking water, child poverty, sanitation, disease, infrastructure such as roads, railways, airports?

This is reflected in the UN's 8 Millennium Development Goals. These are:
Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty
Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education
Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality
Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases
Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability
Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development.

See  http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/

You could argue technology fits within goal 8, but it's a low priority. Even Bill Gates has seen that the issues raised in the 8 goals above is more important than technology. So a business alliance, while laudable, is going to be difficult to get to work when the essentials are in other areas.

Do we support the development of technology in the developing world, but people die who, if the money was spent on the above goals might have lived? Of course, we make all sorts of decisions and they all have costs in other areas. The chocolate bar, the flight to visit my parents, the coffee... the money purchasing all these things, it can be argued could go to better use.

I don't have an answer. There are many views and maybe there are many right ones. Maybe talking to an organisation such as The Gates and/or Ford Foundations or others working towards the above goals could give guidance on how support can be given in the area of technology. Who knows, they may like the project and give money!


----- Original Message ----
From: Norbert Bollow <nb at bollow.ch>
To: governance at lists.cpsr.org; ldmisekfalkoff at gmail.com
Cc: allies at QuitBabylon.com; IDC-ICT-Taskforce at yahoogroups.com; AdHoc_IDC at yahoogroups.com
Sent: Thursday, 9 August, 2007 11:38:29 PM
Subject: Re: [governance] Fundamentally broken design of society

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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