(How to )Unite and Move America in the Right Direction!

Let’s talk about the direction our country is going right now and a way we could legally work together to move it in the right direction that was once impossible.

The US is divided into 2 parties.  That’s the way it is, and that’s the ways it has been.

Some of us want to stop illegal immigration, some of us want to help immigrant children, some of us want to prevent gun deaths, some want to prevent abortions, others want universal healthcare, and still others want smaller, less intrusive government.

So how is this going to turn out?

Most people agree that our government is headed in the wrong direction, (60 to 75%). While we do agree on that, we don’t agree on the right direction.  And so many people are pushing so many different fixes, and for each an opposing force is growing,  that little has been changing for years, while the world is moving faster.

It’s not one party’s fault.  It’s the whole system.

Shouldn’t We the People just get together and fix it?

You’ll probably say this is a wonderful idea, but what you really think is that it’s naive, a waste of time, that it’s … impossible.

Lets summarize the objections:

  1. There’s no way we’re all going to agree on one thing.
  2. There’s no ($&#*ing) way this government is going to do anything about it.
  3. There’s no way everyone is going to get together.

There is a process, called deliberative discussion.  A trained facilitator will gather a large group of people, and randomly distribute them among tables. The people would be diverse, and represent different views.  The facilitator would lead them through a series of discussion steps where they would get to know each other, understand their differences, and the find solutions they agree to.

This really works, it does happen, but most people have never experienced it. That’s because it requires someone to organize it, planing, funding, a place, and getting people into the place at the same time.  The more people you seek to gather, the harder this is.

One of the ways this is different than politics, is that the structure and rules are setup to make sure each person is heard, and each person is comfortable expressing their opinions – especially when they are different.  People are encouraged to state their views, and they are also asked to explain why and everyone listens to each other.

Consider that objection – there’s no way we’re all going to agree one thing.  At a small scale, deliberative discussion can overcome that, on a regular basis. It’s not impossible, there is a process.

Now, if you belong to one of the two parties, or even if you are an independent observer, it seems pretty obvious, their message is: there’s no compromise, resist, the other party is killing our country.   Is that where your hearing: we’ll never be able to agree on anything?

So, if we could all, somehow be part of the deliberative process, we could find agreement on one thing.  So, it’s not impossible.

But, there is something they teach in business school, that poses a problem. You can’t market to everyone. You can’t create a pitch, an offering, or a message, that will be interesting to everyone.  There are too many people and too many differences. So you have to pick a target market segment, and tailor you message and your product to them.  So, on Amazon we have 30,000 options for toothpaste.

So, in modern day politics it only makes sense, liberal media targets democrats, and republicans didn’t trust the liberal media so conservative media evolved to fill the need.  Then there is social media, where anyone can target any subset of a target market that they can dream of.

And so, what happens is that each of us is getting a different message, with a different spin, and a different subset of the facts, and maybe even some bias that we don’t realize. And that’s how we become divided and polarized.

And perhaps you’ve heard the saying – “Divide and Concur”.  But in this case, we are doing it to ourselves.

If expert facilitators can get people sitting around a table to understand each other and come to an agreement, we just need to go around the media, and social media, and the political parties and get everyone involved in a process like that.

Well, 250 year ago, that was impossible. Even 25 years ago it was.  Today, we go online.

We get everyone, meaning 300 Million Americans, to submit their idea for what problem we fix first to move this country in the right direction.

That’s a lot of answers. Again, even 25 years ago, it was impossible to imagine how to process it.

Now, we can have a tournament! A multi-stage online deliberation tournament. We ask each person to consider 10 of the ideas, and vote up the best and say why. Then we have 30 Million ideas, each with 10 reasons why’s. We take those ideas and give each person 10 , with 10 reasons and ask them to consider it and vote up the most important why’s and the best idea. And we repeat that process. Just 9 or 10 times because that’s the power of instantly connecting large numbers of diverse people together over the internet. Then we are down to one problem that 2/3rds (or more I expect) of 300M people agree to fix.

So lets take a look at this.

  • Everyone is heard. Do you feel heard by your federal government?
  • Everyone’s voice counts equally. Do you feel like your voice counts equally in the federal government?
  • It’s a two way engagement. Do you feel like the two parties are working together to find the best solutions?
  • You don’t have to have a big following on twitter, you don’t have to be a great public speaker.  – When were you last invited to speak on national television?
  • You can do it when and where it’s convenient.

After we agree on the problem, then we follow a similar process with how to fix it.  And that’s an example of structuring a conversation.  If one person is talking about building a wall and another person is talking about banning assault rifles – it’s impossible to come to an agreement.  It is a lot more productive to get people to agree when they first agree on the problems and then start talking about solutions.  And, It’s then a lot easier to get people to agree on the solution because they can evaluate how well it addresses the problem.

2 lessons from deliberative discussion to bring up.

Sometimes, after hearing the problem and many different concerns, somebody comes up with an amazing new solution that no one had thought of and very quickly everyone agrees to.  It’s not just because someone came up with a new solution, it’s because they also presented with the reasons why that addressed the concerns that everyone knew of.  And it’s because everyone else had been engaged in the problem, and knew all the competing concerns. That could happen here – we want that to happen here.

Sometimes, after interacting with a person from a very different culture and having a productive experience with it, people end up being more comfortable with other people from that culture.

Then there is another important phenomenon to bring up called: The Wisdom of the Crowd. There are books, and Ted talks on this, but basically, if you ask a large enough group of people to estimate something, it comes really close to the right answer.

In the classic study, from 1907, Francis Galton averaged the guesses of the weight of an ox at a county fair raffle, and found it (1797 lbs) came really close to the right answer (1798 lbs).  This repeatable with many different forms, was verified yet again in this TED Talk: Lior Zoref: Mindsharing, the art of crowdsourcing everything

It means that while some people guess high, and other’s guess low, and most people don’t know much about the subject (oxen), it averages out.   This is different than voting – where people get a couple choices, none ideal- that were previously decided upon.  The wisdom of crowds come when people have the full range of possibilities they can think of, and they are all thinking independently – and there is a mechanism for accumulating them and finding an average.  Which is a lot like the deliberation process we have just laid out.

This study  “Aggregated knowledge from a small number of debates outperforms the wisdom of large crowds” had 1400 people estimate the height of the Eiffel Tower, then deliberate in groups of 5, and then estimate the height again.  Their title observation is that it only took 5 groups of 5 deliberating, to come up with a better answer than the average all the initial guesses.  But, involving only 25 people, does not solve the polarization problem. Where as, their study also showed that after deliberation, the crowd came to an even closer answer than before, and better than the average of all of the deliberations, and they showed that unlike the herd effect, or mobs, the people’s answer through deliberation got better rather than worse.

However, these examples involve numbers, that are easily averaged.  How do we average the answers to a question like: What do we do to move this country in the right direction?

That’s where the tournament fits in again. In each round of the tournament, people are participating in the calculation of the collective average, and they are also participating in the collective learning of the issues behind why the final answer is the best answer for the whole.

So in the end, we get the best possible answer for the nation, and we will have strong support and belief in it.

Lets look at an example, but don’t let it bias what would come out of this, but lets have an example illustrate it.  Let’s say people start with their ideas about immigration, education and guns, and eventually someone says if we fix the government first, that will make it easier to fix these other things, and then we get to the idea that the fist problem to fix, to move this country in the right direction, is poor leadership.   And then let’s say that the solution we come up with is “term limits”.

When we do it for real, we should expect more, but this example is the kind of thing that fits.  The kind of thing that lots of people could relate to and discuss.  It’s not 20 pages of legalese.  And this is the kind of thing that has to be a constitutional amendment.

But wait, what was that?  A constitutional amendment! There’s no ($&#*ing) way this government is going to do anything about it.

Well.  If this was really a discussion that included everyone, we should include our representatives too, and their families, staff, and advisers.  So, if they were really ‘representative’ they would already be part of the solution.  But if not, we should make it very visible that in their district, their electorate support this solution, and by how much.  And if a rep still didn’t support it (like vote for the amendment for term limits), but so many of their constituents supported it, then there is the next election.

For a constitutional amendment, 2/3rd of the house and senate have to support it.  And then, the majority of the legislatures of 3/4ths of the states have to ratify it.  If we really have all American support for it, if we build it in to the process to keep the discussion going until we have at least 2/3 of the people in 3/4 of this states in agreement, all of this could be done in weeks, rather than decades. And then we could move on to the next most important problem.

And if you were worried about whether this was legal, there’s a clause in the first amendment: Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Do you  have grievances with the government that it should be addressing?

So, we can agree on something, and we can get our government to implement it, and it’s guaranteed in the constitution.  Now all we have to do is get together.

But there’s no way everyone is going to get together. Were back to that problem from business school. We can’t market to everyone.  We can’t create a call to action that motivates everyone to join in. But, in this case we have to. The wisdom, or magic, or miracle needs all of us.  If we just target millennials – it won’t work.  If we just have people from a few cities or states, it won’t work.   If we don’t all get together, we won’t come up with that answer that everyone believes in, that everyone had a voice in, that averages out to the right answer and happens quickly.

And it might not require all 300 Million of us (the U.S). We shall welcome everybody, and we need to work hard to make sure we have balanced and diverse participation. But there is a study that shows that 3.5% of the population can change the government. So things might start happening when we get to 11 Million people.

Finally, Americans love it when the underdog wins, when right goes up against the system and right prevails, and when the patriots come back from a 25 point deficit.
Well patriot, welcome to Civil Pursuit.com

How about a 6.8% raise?

The U.S economy has been stumbling along at sub 2% growth for years now, and most people haven’t seen their real buying power grow in decades. Shall we fix that, and in a big way?  Economists see 4% has a healthy growth rate in the US but China’s economic grow was last reported at 6.7% and they see that as a slow down.  So lets make 6.8% our target.

I’m frustrates with waiting for our government to do this, and frankly I’m frightened by some of the things it’s done, like the fiscal cliff crisis that got our credit rating reduced in 2011, and the government shutdown of 2013, let alone whatever happened that caused the global economic crash of 2008.

Here is how we do it.   — Or:  I have this vision of how to figure out an amazing solution and I’m building a web application to do it. The web site is starting to take form at civilpursuit.com.

This is how I envision it:

Invite all 300 Million Americans and divide them up into small diverse groups of 10 people. We know that diverse groups come up with better solutions than homogeneous groups, and we know that small groups can get things done where large groups just get stalled and polarized.

We give them the question – how do we get our economy growing faster than China’s economy and invite them to elaborate on the problems that need to be solved.  Sorry you can’t talk about the solutions yet. We know you want to, but we know it’s much easier to get people to agree on solutions after they have agreed on the problems to fix.  And, it is much easier to compare different solutions if you know what you are trying to solve.  Also, we don’t want you defending the one clever solution that you came up with just because of your pride. This is about finding the most effective solution across the whole spectrum. And humans are very inventive creatures and when challenged they will find solutions. So, dig into the problems first.

And this is not a debate. In a debate one person argues for one solution and another person argues for another solutions. Both people are trying to win the debate. So, if there’s a weakness in your argument and your opponent doesn’t bring it out, good for you, but not for strengthening your solution.  Or if your opponent does uncover a weakness in your argument and you are not prepared with the data argue against it, then you lose, and so does your solution.  In a debate really everyone looses  because there are always more solutions but they are not being sought. In fact the more you argue for a solution the more closed you become to information that challenges that solution and the more your pride keeps you arguing for your original solution in the face of newer / better ones.  And in a debate if you did come up with a new solution, or even an idea for one, you’d lose the debate if you brought it up. So debates stifle innovative solutions and everyone looses because what we really need to be looking for is the solution that everyone sees and says wow.

So we convene 300M people in 30M groups of 10 to discuss the problems and only the problems and come up with one or two that they all agree are most important. And these discussions among groups of 10 diverse people are not the unproductive chaos we see on social media. They can be by text, that can be by audio, or they can be by video. And they are structured in order to lead to a conclusion.  Everyone is asked to propose several problems.  Then each can review the other’s problem statements and give feedback to the author and rate the statements whether they are civil and concise. And for each problem posted in the group  can say why it’s important or why it’s not and you can ready what others are saying about why.  Often times the why’s are as important as the problem (or solution) statements themselves.

Then we take the results from each group and mix them up and redistribute them to all the groups. That’s 30 to 60M problems.to discuss and vote up, or edit or propose innovative new ones.  Then we collect up the results and redistribute them again.  That’s 3 to 6M problems. And again, that’s 300K to 600K problems. And again …


After  about 8 rounds, we are down to the top 10 problems to solve. And these are really well worded statements with good explanation and support.

And something else is different here. We are all on the same page as to what the problems are, we are well informed on this topic and we are not divided and polarized like we have been.

Now we can finally talk about the solutions.  We start the process again with this list of problems and we ask 30M groups of 10 for their best solutions to these problems.  And then we take those 30M solutions and distribute them among our groups and we reduce that to 3M. And we repeat for another 8 rounds until we are down to 10. And somewhere in this something else will happen. Synergy is when people working together do more than they possible could independently. Somebody, having seen the other solutions others have written and having gotten feedback on his/her own wakes up with a new solution the next morning. And the wisdom in the crowd happens when you get a large enough group guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar that, even though the guess are all over, they average out to the right answer. Or, it’s how on the TV show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” the audience was right 91% of the time.

So in the end of all these rounds there are 10 answers. And probably there is one that is way out in front in terms of support, but we vote on them all anyway so that there is one.

And again something is different here.  Everyone has the same understanding. We are all well informed about this, we’ve been working through the process together and we understand the trade-offs and the variety of challenges that had to be overcome.  And we all own and are part of the solution because each of our ideas and needs were heard and considered fairly and in someway contribute to the final result.

It’s been 8 years since the economy crashed, and things just haven’t recovered that well, and no matter who is elected not much is really going to change in our economy (IMHO). How long would it take to have 8 rounds of discussions to find the problems, and 8 rounds of discussions to find the solutions?   A month? Two? It’s been 8 years since the economic crash of 2008 and our nation is still stuck on whether we should raise or lower taxes and on who. But those are solutions, what’s the real problem?

And what’s in it for us? Why should any of us spend our time participating in these discussions? How about a 6.8% raise. For a person with an average income that’s $3,200 in a year, and every year their after. And for our country we are demonstrating to the world the real economic value of a democracy with a free and open internet full of engaged citizens.

Will you join us?

Civil Pursuit.com

Why Find Solutions that Unite Us?

The US is at its most politically polarized (Pew), but we agree: our country is headed in the wrong direction (63% Rasmussen). So how are we going to get together and fix this? Sure, we don’t yet agree on which direction to go, but if we did, like when we sent the first man to the moon (NASA), we can do the impossible.

Here’s the challenge now: Our country is made up of liberals and conservatives and a range of people in between. And our morals are so ingrained by the time we reach adulthood that individuals are unlikely change. But somehow it is completely human that both sides exist in society and that this dance is what moves us forward, carefully. It’s what harnesses the power of the atom and keeps us from destroying our planet. It’s what discovers the miracle of DNA but keeps us from genetically engineering our own extinction.

Now here are some new challenges:

Our liberal side is concerned about global warming. And if it is happening, they tell us we need to do something very quickly because the longer we wait the more impossible the climate change is to reverse.

Our conservative side is worried about the growth of government and the growing national debt.  Not just that there is debt, but that it’s growing more and more rapidly, and at some point it could crash in a way that’s bigger than the financial crisis of 2008.

The point is that things like this look like they are climbing exponentially to the point where something bad is going to happen, and it’s much harder to unmelt the polar icecaps, or un-crash the economy than it is to prevent it from happening in the first place. And it’s not that we have to stop all carbon emissions or that our country can never go into debt, it’s that we have to find the balance of liberal and conservative use that moves us forward, carefully.

So, it’s important to realize that the presence of liberals and conservatives in our society is to our benefit and that we need to continue to succeed in working together to find the solutions that unite us, because the reward is continued progress or the punishment could be extinction.

Democracy v. Politics

Democracy is an ideal that everyone gets a voice in the decision. Politics is more negative and can be summed up as all the forces that lead to decision making that is not in line with the ideal.  Some of those forces are illegal, such as bribery, blackmail, or threat of violence. But there are also many forces that are written in the rules that turn democracy into politics.

Some of these have been necessary because of the size of our population. In the U.S. there are 300 million of us.  Even in 1789 when the U.S. Constitution was ratified, there were 3 million of us. But it was impractical for 3M people to meet and discuss the issues, so the founding fathers agreed to have 59 people represent the 3 million in the House of Representatives.  They also agreed that those people would be elected every 2 years. And they left it up to the state’s legislatures to decide how the districts would be drawn so that each elected representative represented about the same number of people.

These were very practical compromises to democracy due to the size of our population. But they are compromises that are inefficient.

1) They have no real way (especially at the time) of knowing or discussion the issues with the 30,000 people they represented. The representative is left with using his own judgement to decide the issues and even whether or not he is going to represent the majority or something else.

2) They get only one vote in congress, so they have no way of representing that 2/3rd’s of the people think one thing and 1/3’rd thinks something else.  This prevent’s the 1/3rd’s of many districts from adding up and being measured.

3) The elections only takes place every 2 years – but people may change their opinion any time.  States’ do allow recall elections, but those are a lot more time consuming and costly than just changing your mind.

4) Since districts are drawn by the state legislatures, the legislators in power tend to draw the districts in a way that helps them, or their political party stay in office.  (This is called gerrymandering).

5) Further, people don’t get to choose what district they are in when the lines get redrawn.

6) As time has gone by, our population has increased. At first, the number of representatives were increased, but as that got too large, the Constitution was amended so that the number of representatives would be fixed at 435 and the number of people that each represents would increase.   Now each representative votes for 700,000 people.

7) Since there are only 435 representatives, and they all meet in Washington DC most of the time, an organization (a business, a union, or a group of people with a special interest) with a desire to influence the laws in their favor needs only focus on the 435.

The ideal was a pure democracy, but it was not practical so we setup a “Representative Democracy” with all it’s impracticabilities.

If we were implementing our democracy now, would we decide to do it this way? Probably, we could come up with something more efficient now that we have the Internet.

Low Voter Turnout – What if We could decide what goes on the ballot

This article talks about a Pew Research study that show’s the of the 63% of people who didn’t vote in 2014, 34% or people were too busy to vote, and 35% couldn’t get time off, and 20% didn’t like the candidates, didn’t know enough or didn’t care.  But doesn’t it seem like the 20% were telling the hard truth and the 34 and 35% were just being nice.  If it’s important, we can make it happen.

A ton of people didn’t vote because they couldn’t get time off from work – Washington Post

Why didn't you vote, America?

There is certainly a problem with the process of voting – it’s a manual, time-consuming, out-dated thing.  But that’s not the biggest problem with voting.

The biggest problem with voting is what we get to vote on.  It doesn’t matter. It’s not as important as watching YouTube or eating dinner, or taking time out of work.

Why do more people turn out for the presidential election? Because they think it matters. Because they hope that if they elect the right person to be president, that it will make a difference.  But they don’t FEEL that their congressman or senator makes a difference.

If we want people to vote, we could put things on the ballot that are really important to them.

What if we just put it on the ballot to change the way voting works to make it more convenient to voters. That would probably work once, and help but not solve the problem later.

Gallup keeps a running poll on what are the most important problems in the US.

Most Important Problem – GALLUP

Percentage of Americans Mentioning Economic Issues as the Nations Most Important Problem

The top two individual issues are Dissatisfaction with Government and the Economy in general.

If fixing either of these issues were on the ballot, wouldn’t we all be able to make the time to study the issues, get out of work and make it to the voting booth?

Or what if we could decide what goes on the ballot?  But wait, then it would take an election to decide what goes on an election.  But now we have the Internet and we can do things what couldn’t be imagined in 1789.

Stay tuned.

We’re Going in the Wrong Direction

Rasmussen Right Direction or Wrong Track June 18 2015

Most people think our country is headed in the wrong direction (Rasmussen Reports). Since this is a democracy, if most people think it is going in the wrong direction doesn’t that mean it IS going in the wrong direction?  Of course this doesn’t mean that most people agree on what direction to go, but how would we go about doing that?  But as long as we don’t agree on what direction to go – things are going to keep going further in the wrong direction.

What if we all did get together and agree on a direction. That is tremendous potential.

We need a way to get together and find the direction that unites us.