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The Good Party

… of the people, by the people, for the people!

At last year’s TED, I was selected to pose a challenge to the TED community. I thought to myself, wow, this is a big opportunity.

The biggest challenge I saw facing us and the challenge that is interfering with all honest attempts at solving our other challenges is that we have a totally corrupt political system which is no longer even trying to serve the people or society as a whole.

My simple challenge then, was that we grasp the new tools of democracy before us (twitter, blogging, mobile apps, etc.), align some rich good-hearted technocratic influencers on board for resources, and to start a totally new political party — The Good Party — that would rid us of our dependence on these corrupt politicians beholden to the revolting revolving door financial corruption that is so disgraceful to witness.

The Good Party would be unlike any political party we have seen, as it would not advertise, nor campaign, rather it would spread by word-of-mouth, mobilizing the youth and disenfranchised middle only through its app and its website.  Further, it would not put candidates on ballots unless it was assured that it had enough “votes” to win, whence it would appear out of nowhere for a district and win the election via a massive write-in vote using the “other” slot.  In this way it would truly be the “other party” in both style and substance!

And to further assure everyone that it’s not politics as usual, the Good Party would also be totally comprised of citizen candidates (non-politicians) serving their fellow citizens on single terms,  thus avoiding the financial conflicts of interest that revolving door career politcians plague US politics with today.

Unfortunately, at TED 2013, this challenge went largely unanswered.

However, recently with Russell Brand’s tirade going viral, I’ve been asked by several people whether the timing is right to re-release the Good Party idea / plan, but this time to the public.

I’m more than happy to oblige and if anyone knows Russell, please send him this post… 🙂

So, here, my friends, is a simple (very rough) outline for starting a Good Party to save us from the terribly conflicted corrupt political choices we face today.  If implemented properly, this might actually get me out there to vote for the first time too!

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The Good Party – A Plan

Please let me know your thoughts…  And, if after reading the above, Russell Brand or any one of you  is interested in working further on this idea with me, they should sign up here or reach out to me on Facebook or Twitter.

Cheers! 🙂

Farhad.

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BTW:  If you’re interested in the original TED 2013 challenge, you can view the original docs below.  Note that at the time I was hoping that one or more “white knight” billionaire TEDsters would jump at the chance of saving the world from political corruption by agreeing to provide good-sized endowment to help jumpstart the Good Party from the top down.  Unfortunately, no card-holding member of the rich and shameless billionaires’ club jumped at the chance… but, of course it only takes one.  So I still hold out hope, because fixing our corrupt political system and saving the world from these yucky politicians is so much more gratifying than having another billion in the bank… 😉

TED 2013 : The Good Party Challenge

TED 2013 Presentation Deck

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The Uproar is Unjustified — Vaccination / Communicable Diseases are Not a Major Health Issue in the U.S.

OK, my last blog post on why we chose not to vaccinate baby Noor caused quite an uproar.

I think I should set the record straight:  I am not anti-vaccination.  In fact, I agree with everyone that vaccines are some of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind.  And, I know that vaccinations are largely responsible for reducing (effectively eliminating) many communicable diseases in the U.S.  So, I’m all for them as an invention.

That said,  I just think that the decision to vaccinate or not though needs to always be an ongoing cost benefit analysis. Right now, it makes no sense for my family, where I’m living (reasons here)… if I was moving to another country, or travelling through a infected area, or there was an epidemic in the U.S., I’d obviously re-evaluate.

So, that was my whole point with the previous post.  Now, the thing that I’m actually a little frightened by is that this simple blog-post on vaccination has gotten so much response… calls to tattoo my children, flack for me putting other children at risk, etc., which are all really unfounded given the vanishingly small rate of incidence. I mean, all these severe communicable diseases comprise just a handful of cases of infection (FORGET ABOUT DEATH) each per year in the whole U.S.


Numbers of people infected with each disease for the year 2012 according to CDC:

measles 54 people
mumps: 69 people
rubella: 8 people

diphtheria: 1 person (first case in 5 years)
tetnus: 36 people
pertussis: 8,718 people

polio: 0 people (for last 5 years no cases)

source: CDC Morbiity and Mortality Tables

Note that the above is the infection rate in the whole U.S.!  The serious complication / death rate would be a very small percentage (say 1%) of those… So, let’s say, 100 people max died of these diseases last year (almost all from complications related to pertussis, btw. Those complications too, it should be noted, are not uniformly distributed and vary with age, access to medical facilities, and other socio-demographic factors. So, you can’t just take them and apply them straight to yourself).

So, people are saying they are worried that my non-vaccinated child will expose their children to risk. Here’s the amazing part: My child has to first get one of these diseases, then has to infect one of the vaccinated children, then there have to be serious complications for this to be even a matter worth getting upset about. The chances here are super-super-super-unlikely that that is going to happen.

Now, the rub here is that, according to the same CDC, each year over 500,000 people (or >50X more than all these communicable diseases combined) were treated in emergency rooms for bicycle accidents alone last year, with over 700 deaths attributable to bikes. (source: CDC Home and Recreation Safetly Report)

Yet, would you worry about your child mixing with others who encourage him/her to ride a bike? No way. You know why? Because even those numbers aren’t that high. It’s just not very likely (although 50x more likely than by the above diseases) that your kid will end up in a hospital due to a bike accident.

Or worse: Everyone pretty much knows that, it’s sugar intake, food quantity / quality that are by many many orders of magnitude the real health issues in this country. Sugar intake, food quantity / quality are literally directly responsible for obesity and health issues in hundreds of millions of Americans, and millions of deaths per year as they directly contribute to our worst, most prevalent diseases (Cancer, Diabetes, Stroke, Heart Disease, etc.)

Yet, again, most parents are perfectly fine letting their kids associate with all these other kids / families who are making terrible diet and lifestyle choices known as the American Diet. Indeed, many themselves consume vast amounts of processed foods, sugars, etc. And our government / industry / healthcare system does little to systematically discourage this. Is it any wonder that 2/3rd of the population is overweight, with 1/3rd obese?

So, while everyone is up in arms here and arguing about vaccination and the compromise to “herd immunity” and their kids health by those crazies in the unvaccinated camp, my little unvaccinated, sugar free, organic child will have to contend with a sea of children with terrible diet / exercise habits when she enters school… You tell me who is putting who more at risk?

Yet nobody is saying to tattoo sedentary fat kids with a big health warning on their foreheads saying: “Do not eat like this child!” Right? That’d be absurd.

Anyhow… just trying to put things into perspective here.

The point of my original article was that vaccination may not be a rational choice for many in the U.S. right now. Whether you believe that or not, the amount of reaction to this article has led me to another conclusion:

If you care about health, stop worrying about vaccination / communicable diseases altogether. They are not in the set of major problems in the U.S anymore!

Instead put all your “healthy debate” time and effort into improving the diet, environmental inputs (household products, air, water) and exercise habits of your family and community. I say this, because I truly doubt that a blog post on sugar intake would get this type of response or attention (let alone 30,000x more response, which would indicate that people are making a proportionately rational expenditure of time and effort in pursuit of better health!)  

Good luck and health to all…

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@WikiLeaks an idea: let us ordinary people blind-peer review, redact and release one random cable each!

Idea:

Crowdsource the review and redaction efforts.  Allow people to log in with their facebook accounts, pick up a single random document each, redact it and submit it back to the site for posting. Once two (preferably more) different people have blind-peer reviewed and redacted any particular document, it is automatically released.  The released version redacts all the areas that were jointly “agreed” to be redacted by all blind-peer reviewers (blind peer reviewers do not know the identity of each other and are selected randomly).  Each document that is released anonymously attaches the redaction version of the people who did the redaction and any notes.  No person is allowed to redact more than one document (per period, say 1 month) and their FB account is tied to that document in case of improper behaviour. This way, hundreds of thousands of ordinary people can help the redaction efforts by donating just a few minutes of their time to review and redact one document.  The blame / responsibility of releases gets distributed among hundreds of thousands of people across the world, who would be very difficult to prosecute, even if their names became public. 🙂

Assumptions:

  • People in general are good
  • They will take such a responsibility very seriously and can do the redaction job
  • People will donate a few minutes to help protect our First Amendment right
  • This is a nice step into participatory democracy which we should all welcome

Benefits:

  • Distributed Responsibility
    • Distribution allows many people to participate and donate their time / energy / name to the cause.
    • >650K people on the Wikileaks FB Fan Page.
      • That’s 3 per leaked cable!
    • Easy for each person to exercise their first amendment right and help
    • Should take less than half an hour to redact a cable and release it.
  • Parallel Processing = Speed
    • Parallel Processing, means much faster releases than the current rate which would take more than 25 years to release these docs
  • Low Probability of Harming Innocents
    • Chances of releasing a relevant raw (unredacted) document to a violent interested party is very very low, since there are more than 200,000 documents and each person can only ever work on one.
    • This means site would be using extraordinary care (probability theory) to protect the lives of innocents (helps in legal defense)
    • The more leaked documents, the better the care that’s being used to protect the innocent… (1 million docs, means 1 in a million chance of giving a doc to a bad guy)
  • Blind Peer Review = Checks / Balances
    • Puts the wiki into the leaks
    • Each document that is released has been blind-peer reviewed and looked at by two or more ordinary citizens
    • Chance that two who match are corrupt and trying to do something malicious is very very low
    • Official criticism would have to be that ordinary people can’t be trusted…  but, that’s not a very democratic notion. 🙂
  • Powered by the People!
    • No longer one crazy person… this would allow hundreds of thousands of ordinary people to get involved in doing the redacting and releasing
    • Makes this a people-powered global democratic movement
    • Democracy itself will be at question if ordinary citizens can’t be trusted with such a simple chore or charged with being spies.
  • Much More Difficult to Prosecute
    • Anonymously linking the redaction versions of each person, two or more to each release, means that anyone can see the care that was taken to do the redactions.
    • It also means that prosecution for each leak would have to involve several individuals in different countries (hopefully 200,000 different cases) and therefore be very very difficult:
      • People will very likely be unrelated
      • People will very likely be from different countries / locations
      • People will very likely have been careful in their redactions
      • Innocent errors will be hard to prosecute and systematic abuse will be impossible to coordinate (due to random distribution of one doc / period / person).

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In support of WikiLeaks : Recognizing, Organizing and Arming the Information Militia

Last year I submitted this (too late) to be considered for a TED U (short talk).

I will post it now in full, partially because I’m so excited about WikiLeaks’ recent moves and also so dismayed that people don’t see the overwhelming good that is coming from the transparency that this is bringing.

The sooner we have our leaders accountable to the people the better we all will be.  Today they are accountable to special interests and lobbies, and that can never be a good thing.

Anyway… here it is, pardon the fact that it makes no mention of WikiLeaks in the body…

Recognizing, Organizing and Arming the Information Militia

George Orwell had a nightmare that by 1984 a big brother would be watching every move we make, turning us into grey-clad automatons scared to even have a non-conforming thought.

Today in 2010, we may be on the cusp of witnessing the reverse — a dream where instead of one big brother watching us, millions of little brothers and sisters armed with camera phones, blogs, twitter, facebook and youtube accounts are watching every move that big brother or its representatives want to make, instantly making the whole citizenry aware of any misstep.

It is a dream where anyone, regardless of status, wealth or power — anyone, who has something worthwhile to add to a debate, a news story, or a discussion — can instantly do so and have their “vote” counted and weighed into forming a more complete picture for everyone.

It is the dream where real people and their simple perspectives and human truths, can stand toe-to-toe against the memes and the agendas that our most powerful institutions — governments, corporations, churches, etc.– try to realize through mass media propaganda, repetition and sensationalism.

But on what is this dream based, and what will it take to make it into a reality?

The dream is catalyzed by our most basic right under the US Constitution: our 1st amendment right to the freedom of speech, press and assembly; broadly, our right to freely access and distribute information.

And, it is aided by technology on a ubiquitous internet that allows for almost costless information production (or “speech”), broadcast (or “press”) and large-scale human-to-human connection (or “assembly”)… Technologies that allow a sort of 1st amendment 2.0.

However, while this dream is founded in philosophy and aided by technology, the most important distinguishing factor that could turn it into reality, is that it is truly powered by the people…

Ordinary people who will come to be known as the heros of the Internet age!

But who are these heros?  Where are they today? And what can we do to help them?

That is the purpose of this talk…

First, though, let’s start by giving this emerging class of heros a name:  I call them the Information Militia.

And, I chose that name carefully, because just like a conventional militia — a group of armed citizens, authorized by the 2nd amendment of the US constitution to stand ready to physically defend the republic against anyone who would try to meddle with our rights — especially the only right that precedes it, our 1st amendment right to free speech — the Information Militia are an emergent entity, ready and armed with tools like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, and legions of friends and followers that they are connected to.

They form a new heroic class who should first be recognized as essential to the realization of a dream of true democracy.  Then organized, motivated and empowered to perform this most important of modern civic duties…

After all, we have long known that the pen is mightier than the sword, but now, in the internet age, it is becoming apparant that the tweet may be mightier than even the pen.

So then, it should be no surprise that an organized Information Militia can be much more important to a democratic movement than any physical militia ever was… and so its emergence should be officially recognized and eulogized as such.

Think of it as a sort of “information age” upgrade to the 2nd amendment which recognizes the need for a new kind of militia, one who by instantly and bravely distributing essential truths of the people, by the people and for the people, defends the republic by ensuring that its citizens are aware and active, so that democracy can work as it was originally designed.

OK… assuming that we all agree that the idea of an Information Militia is important, let’s now try to recognize members of this emergent heroic class so we can thank them, help them and aspire to be like them…

Who here is a wired journalist?  Raise your hand…  Thank you!  You’re a member of the Information Militia!  Who here has a blog?  Raise yours…   Who has ever tweeted?  Or has a facebook account?  You too raise your hand and be counted… you’re all potentially a part of a new class of heros known henceforth as the Information Militia.

In fact, all of us, citizens, activists, bloggers, journalists, really anyone with an internet connection, can be a modern day hero…  All we need to do is to realize it, take our civic duty seriously, and have some guts to say what we feel is right, broadcast what we know to be true, and retweet, post, forward, and e-mail, valuable information that we come across to our assembly of friends and followers.

Of course, all this banter brings about the potential problems of cacaphony, of too many voices, and of information overload.  But that is where all of you in this room — technologists, inventors, smart and powerful movers and shakers — can find an important role to play in this coming revolution.

If you believe in true democracy (or even if you just believe in stirring up the status quo a bit… ;), get out there with this new framework of an emerging Information Militia in mind… Find and support people, start-ups and platforms which are helping to organize and empower this movement.  Make tools and algorithms that help the most useful voices rise the quickest, and that ensure that the best ideas and truths of the people, are efficiently gathered by the people, and quickly distributed to the people.

And make sure you think of it as civic duty… not as an investment…  Platforms like Twitter, Wikipedia, WikiLeaks, WeAreAnonymous and countless others need to be recognized, supported and expanded, whether or not they make any money… because something much more important is at stake!

As an example of what, just look at what Twitter has allowed to happen for the Iranian people…  A few short months ago that whole nation — rulers and its people — were seen by many as one unified threat.  But now, thanks to the brave and heroic action of the Information Militia in Iran who are risking their lives each day to tweet about the people’s truths, the whole world is witnessing a historical struggle between a freedom-loving people and their brutal and oppressive leaders… and it’s obvious now, because the truth is out there for all to see, which side must eventually prevail.

Now imagine what the next generation of such tools could do for democracy here and in the rest of the world!  Then get out there and put your time, energy and money into this most worthwhile of endeavors:  Let’s figure out how to best organize and empower the emerging Information Militia… It’s what the world needs, now!

Addendum: Thanks to Wikileaks, it’s what the world is getting now too!  Go Juilan!

 

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