So…I am not saying that Hulk Hogan didn’t have a case against Gawker but there are much better uses of the 10 million “Washingtons” Peter Thiel invested to punish Gawker. More generally, Thiel and other Tech Billionaires are getting poor returns on the millions they are putting into philanthropic, social, and political investments because they are nibbling around the edges of the biggest problem.
The biggest problem is that it sucks to be an active citizen. You can focus in one area for a lifetime and with a little luck and talent make a real difference but meanwhile twenty other things you really care about are going to hell. Reliable civic information is incredibly hard to come by, organizing is the task of Sisyphus, and meanwhile you’ve got a life to lead, family, a job, and many other things to do in your waking hours besides go to fruitless meetings.
The solution is a completely new kind of civic platform. Build right, the platform can compete with news media, with political parties and with traditional advocacy organizations. The key is to serve the needs of active citizens who are already spending a lot of time and money trying to be good citizens.
Using the array of civic information technology already developed, new civic platforms can be user funded, genuinely user controlled, highly satisfactory for users and influential in civic affairs. New trust-worthy civic platforms can force competitors for civic time, attention, and resources to improve.
Narrow interest and ideology is holding back the development new civic platforms. Applying new technology within old paradigms is accelerating dangerous trends. To improve civic process fundamentally we need to build anew off the fundamental foundations of our democratic republic:
- Democratic process
Republican structure and the protection of individual rights
Scientific method and reason
Scientific method is an often under-appreciated but crucial third leg needed to support new civic platforms. Founding fathers like Benjamin Franklin were real bench scientists. Our civilization and population density are only possible because of science and scientific progress is vital to sustaining the life we currently enjoy.
So…I could rant all day about how Peter Thiel could better invest his money but it’s more important to hear from YOU. Anybody who got to this sentence is welcome to reach out to Civic Decisions (particularly if you have $10 million to invest). We are curious about your ideas, suggested contacts and information sources or anything you might offer related to opportunities in civic tech, civic media and the potential for game-changing new platforms for civic information and participation.