The Internet Is Here. Why Are We Still Making Decisions Like It’s The 1700s?

It’s time to upgrade the way we make decisions together.

Jon Lemmon
Mar 31, 2014 · 4 min read

How do you feel about the NSA leaks? Ever feel like there are people up top making really dumb decisions?

Or has your boss ever made a poor decision that didn’t consider the complexity of a problem you had some insight into?

But what if you are involved in the decision? Then you have to sit in a meeting room for three hours listening to your opinionated colleagues battle it out over minor details.

Turns out, all of these scenarios are connected. They are about the way we make decisions together, on both a global scale, and on a personal day-to-day basis. The thing is, for the most part, Obama, your boss, and your pedantic colleagues all want the same thing — to make the right decision. The problem is, they have the wrong framework for doing it.

21st Century democracy

In 2014, our proud democratic system consists of ticking a couple of boxes on a piece of paper every four years. The rest of our big decisions are left up to a handful of politicians — a system which is proving to be easily corruptible, ineffective, and paranoid.

In the workplace, decisions are made by either top-down control, lengthy meetings and/or a mess of unorganized emails. The result is design-by-committee nightmares and simplistic decisions that don’t consider the complexity of the problem or the people they affect.

So what’s the alternative? There must be a way to harness the collective wisdom and experience of everyone affected by a decision.

A new way to make decisions

In the same way that Wikipedia has re-envisioned the way we access information, let’s re-envision the way we make decisions together as a society.

What should democracy look like in the 21st Century?

Universally accessible

In the 1700's, access to information was limited and communication was slow. So it made sense that only a small number of people could make the big decisions.

Now, communication is instant and access to information is becoming universal. Access to decision-making should be the same.

Fast and responsive

You’re not always going to know what the right answer is. That’s why we often delegate decisions to other people. But our current systems for delegation involve year-long political campaigns and cut-throat battles over job promotions. Old methods for old times.

Delegation should be instant and dynamic. If I trust somebody to make a decision on my behalf, I should be able to delegate to them instantly. And if they lose my trust, I should be able to take it away with the same speed.

Based on constructive dialogue

When it comes to big decisions, our society has a tradition of banding into separate factions (often just two of them) and battling it out to the death, with no one wiser at the end of it. Similarly, when we make decisions together on a day-to-day basis, often one inconsiderate person can turn a healthy discussion into a polarized debate that doesn’t get anywhere.

Our discussions should exist in a framework where collaboration is encouraged and good behavior is rewarded. Wikipedia and StackOverflow both do this brilliantly.

The good news is, we’re working on the problem.

I’m part of a team that’s building an online decision-making platform. It’s an open source app called Loomio, and people say it could change the world.

“Loomio unleashes the internet’s potential to bring people towards consensus rather than polarized debate.” — Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock

The prototype is enabling thousands of groups to make constructive decisions across the world, including in countries currently facing political strife like Ukraine, Egypt, Taiwan, Brazil, and Hungary. And it’s also being enjoyed in workplaces, city councils, community gardens, schools, and lots of other organizations.

“One thing which I think is truly unique about Loomio is not only the diversity of participation, but how this range of people of quite different backgrounds took each other seriously and communicated constructively.” — Jaime Dyhrberg, Wellington City Council

We need your help to bring it to the world.

Our mission is to make collective decision-making accessible, simple and enjoyable for everyone. We’re almost there. We just need a little bit of money to take this to the world.

We could get traditional venture capital investment, but that would destroy the spirit of the project. Loomio has to be free. Free from ads and corporate interest, and responsive to the needs of real people.

You can help this happen by supporting our crowdfunding campaign.

Thanks to Jesse Doud, Michael Lemmon, and Elizabeth Connor

    Jon Lemmon

    Written by

    @Loomio Designer / Co-Founder. Web developer. Musician. Got love for all the humans. Let’s fix all the broken stuff and have fun together. ♥

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