Glenn Reynolds, a past Foresight Director, writes some analysis of the recent special election in Mass.:
Of course, what the GOP apparat does is less important nowadays than it was. As I noted before, there’s a whole lot of disintermediation going on here — Scott Brown got money and volunteers via the Internet and the Tea Party movement, to a much greater degree than he got them from the RNC. Smart candidates will realize that, too.
And lies don’t work as well as they used to. Obama promised transparency and pragmatic good government, but delivered closed-door meetings and outrageous special-interest payoffs. This made people angry. If Republicans promise honesty and less-intrusive government, but go back to their old ways, the likelihood that the Tea Party will become a full-fledged third party is much greater. …
We don’t deal with politics here but we are concerned with technological developments that improve social decision-making and governance. The internet has clearly been such a technology. As one very tiny part of the generation of computer scientists that built it, I will happily accept the plaudits of a grateful world in their behalf …
Of course, the Internet could be improved as a fact-finding device, and ought to, as Eric Drexler notes:
We could benefit immensely from a medium that is as good at representing factual controversies as Wikipedia is at representing factual consensus.
What I mean by this is a social software system and community much like Wikipedia — perhaps an organic offshoot — that would operate to draw forth and present what is, roughly speaking, the best evidence on each side of a factual controversy. To function well would require a core community that shares many of the Wikipedia norms, but would invite advocates to present a far-from-neutral point of view. In an effective system of this sort, competitive pressures would drive competent advocates to participate, and incentives and constraints inherent in the dynamics and structure of the medium would drive advocates to pit their best arguments head-to-head and point-by-point against the other side’s best arguments. Ignoring or caricaturing opposing arguments simply wouldn’t work, and unsupported arguments would become more recognizable.
Success in such an innovation would provide a single place to look for the best arguments that support a point in a debate, and with these, the best counter-arguments — a single place where the absence of a good argument would be good reason to think that none exists.