Friday, October 19, 2012

One More on Fixing Democracy, Part 1

This is the next to the last in a series of posts on how to make our democracy work better based on an article, The Wisdom of Crowds, How to involve ordinary citizens in complex political decisions,  in The Intelligent Optimist magazine (formerly Ode).


“The Teknologiradet, a Danish advisory council that informs the public and politicians about technological issues, had always relied on experts and opinion formers. It met in panels and committees to report to the government on its findings.  All that changed over a few beers one Friday afternoon about 25 years ago when the council came up with the idea to bring together complete novices instead. ‘After the weekend, everyone still agreed it was a good idea,’ Lars Kluver recalls.


“Kluver was named project manager for the first Consensus Conference. The topic was a tough one: biotechnology in agriculture. ‘Although the technology may be complicated, lay people don’t really have a problem understanding what’s going on,’ [after all, you can drive a car without understanding the finer points of the internal combustion engine] Kluver says. Ordinary citizens were perfectly able to discuss the opportunities and risks and to reach useful conclusions. Many more such meetings have taken place since then on topics like mobility, air pollution and electronic surveillance, in which average citizens have spoken out after extensive research, debate and interviews with experts.”


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