It’s simply silly that, in 2022, technology still plays no part in our democracy, other than in the targeting of dubious political messages on social media. But in Taiwan they have used tech to find the best solutions to problems and to build consensus around those solutions. This tech is called Polis. Created in Seattle by the team at the Computational Democracy Project, Polis seeks to enhance all decision-making, at all levels. Social media pours petrol onto political disputes: Polis is the intelligent opposite.
Working with the awesome team at NewRedo, we at the non-profit Crowd Wisdom Project have used Polis, hosting it the cloud under the watchful eye of NewRedo, and making some improvements. Boy, have we relied on the NewRedo team to guide us through the various pitfalls of using public tech! We are political and business nerds, with zero experience of the tech world. Hence, we have needed our hand holding by Royd and his team.
Polis uses open source, copylefted machine-learning technology to run online anonymous conversations. These facilitated conversations are living, breathing, thinking affairs, unlike all other survey tools before it. Polis has been used to seismic effect in Taiwan, revolutionising decision-making, whilst quelling antagonism. (Taiwan certainly has much to teach us about responding to a pandemic.)
Polis allows all voters to anonymously suggest statements and for all voters to vote on all statements. Polis then finds the consensus points and the cohorts within a group of people. Polis allows shy people (like me, believe it or not) to ventilate their thoughts. Polis is laser-focussed on finding the very best ideas, not the ideas most shouted about.
When a Polis conversation is over, transparent organisations send the detailed reports to the voters. Of course, organisations don’t need to adhere to the discovered consensus points, but if they do, they know that the issue has been fully explored and that the best ideas have come to the fore.
At the Crowd Wisdom Project, we offer our service and our expertise to environmental groups – at zero cost to them. Environmental groups need help to find the best ideas, to build consensus – and compromises – around environmentally-sensible positions. With New Year’s Day 2022 being the hottest on record, to save the planet, we all need to make dramatic compromises in how we live: Polis could help us to find those compromises.
We also help businesses, such as my law firm, Truth Legal, using Polis an as anonymous staff survey tool. In hierarchical organisations, such as law firms, often junior employees and newer members of staff, find it hard to suggest new ways of doing things. The anonymity of Polis allows such people a powerful voice, to the benefit of the organisation, as the best ideas come to the fore. My law firm used Polis to create our 5-year strategy as well as helping the Board to create our Covid policies.
If you know of any business, environmental group, community group or political group, who are brave enough to try the very best of technology, please tell them about what we are trying to do at the Crowd Wisdom Project. It might sound cheesy, but we really are trying to make the world a better, less confrontational place, one project at a time.
Andrew Grey – The Crowd Wisdom Project
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