What would be your answer to the Answer Man?
Listening to the Cause last night, the last line from St. Stephen (written by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia) struck me: "What would be your answer to the Answer Man?" Though I've heard this line sung so many times before, this time my brain mapped it differently than I have before, with Google (plus all other hunter/gatherers of personal information - I'm looking at you, Facebook and Amazon) playing the part of the Answer Man. What should our answer be to the increasingly powerful and privacy-invading Big Brother-like environment that we now face?
With the political playing field now so tilted severely towards the richest - usually the corporate owners - and increasingly so since the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United that money is free speech, the situation can feel hopeless. The way I see it, it's going to take strong community participation to enact any significant change. One problem is how to connect people of shared beliefs, especially while simultaneously wanting to embrace and support diversity? Churches do this and have thus become a powerful political force but often at the cost of diversity and also - perhaps worse - providing too many answers and not enough questions. (And don't get me started on the separation of chrch and state...)
If we are going to effect change, I'm thinking it's going to be a grassroots movement that goes viral. Actually, given our diversity, it will more likely be many national and perhaps world-wide grassroots movements working for change made up of communities of people who have developed enough trust in each other to support forward movement. One way that trust can be developed is through reputation, and many distributed online communities, from eBay to community portals such as Reddit and Facebook, to open source software development project teams have found that reputation can be a powerful mechanism for building trust and tying a community together.
I've talked about reputation before and attempted to build a distributed reputation management system (OpenPrivacy). Now, over a decade later, I think the technolgies are coming together. My goal is to re-enter the conversation that I dropped so many years ago, first with a brief review of some of the current work in distributed (mesh) communication networks currently under development, and then will continue with some plans on how to utilize these ideas into empowering people to make their own choices (and connect with others making the same choices).