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WikiLeaks:Big picture

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Justice is a product of revelation. Only revealed injustice can be addressed.

Contents

Introduction

Take off your journalists hat for a moment and think like a physicist. I will provide you with a useful analogy to understand what we are doing.

Here we make the following claims.

  1. Journalism (investigative) has a substantial positive effect on the world.
  2. The positive impacts on the world are limited by four scalable factors
    1. The number of investigative journalists
    2. The number of sources
    3. The efficient collaboration between sources and journalists and journalists and journalists
    4. Distribution of the results of journalism into minds of the people

Journalism can be seen as analogous to a series of connected systems. Here the arrow '->' represents the flow of causation.

reality -> observation -> non-linearity (cognition) -> action -> reality
  1             2                     3                   4         5

Journalists, the writing process, and their immediate collaboration with each other and their research tools form the cognitive processes at 3.

Since 1 and 5 are connected through time, there is a potential feedback loop — the state of reality can change over time. No surprise there.

We are interested in a property of reality, I will call justice although there are many passionate definitions from liberté, egalité, fraternité to least suffering to the greatest number. It is a property of reality that we can "measure", compare and describe. Let us call this property J.

It is Wikileaks' goal to maximize J. [1]

Assume this system is a complete description and there are no other influences on J. This is not true, but I claim it is true enough to provide us with an abstraction that enables us to think with greater clarity about some aspect of the phenomena.

Let us restrict our consideration to remove some ambiguity in the word-labels we are using for the 4 sub systems:

   a) All change in the state of any subsystem comes from the
      influence of the previous subsystem. In particular a
      subsystem does not change its state over time other than
      through the loop of cause and effect just described.
   b) We are interested in justice, so we restrict our definitions
      to those matters which impact on these conditions. For instance, there are
      many "observations" one can make of reality, but when I
      use the word "observation" to describe subsystem 2, I
      mean those observations which flow through to have an
      affect (positive, or negative) on J. Similarly,
      cognition (3) can lead to many actions (4), but we restrict ourselves
      to the cognition and action that results in changes to reality that
      change J.

With these definitions in place, we can now say the following:

A1. Every change in J, must come from the influence of action (4) on reality (5).

A2. Every change in J, must come from the influence of cognition (3) on action (4).

A3. Every change in J, must come from the influence of observation (2) on cognition (3).

A4. Every change in J, must come from the influence of reality (1) on observation (2).

A5. So all changes in justice ultimately derive from observation.

I have defined our model to come out this way, so the level of external inference one can draw from this conclusion depends on how well you believe the model fits the real world. As this description describes a loop of cause and effect it is tempting to say we may start anywhere, but we start with observation, since reality has a number of changes of interest to mankind (e.g the weather) that are not substantially under its control.

Let us consider the influence of action (4) on J. Call this effect on justice reform.

We want to examine the chain of causation leading to reform, so we can see how it can be enhanced, because it is responsible for all improvements in justice.

Changing the labels and adding some intermediary subsystems, will, at the expensive generality, draw the model closer to the process of journalism.

people -> sources -> journalists -> distribution -> mass cognition -> people
  1          2            3             4.1             4.2              5

Journalists exist at point 3. Publishers and distributors are 4.1. The non-journalistic political feedback process is at 4.2, but in the flow from 4.2 to 5 we are only considering, by definition, that part induced by the flow from 4.1 that contributes to a just society.

We can label the flow of influence between these subsystems as well.


                routing
               of sources               watching, listening
              to analysts                    reading
                   |                           |
                   |                           |
people -> sources -> analysis -> distribution -> mass cogitation -> people
  1     |   2           3         |     4.1             4.2       |   5
        |                         |                               |
     source              routing of analysis to              self interaction
  access to info             publications

Finally we can we can look at this in terms of the capacity of each subsystem and the quantity of influence flowing between one subsystem and another that ends up contributing to justice.


          amount x quality of info
               flowing to
                 journos                               impact
                    |                                    |
                    |                                    |
#people -> #sources -> analysis capacity -> circulation -> readership -> #people
   1     |     2               3         |      4.1           4.2      |    5
         |                               |                             |
  amount of source                     total                         reform
   access to info                 analysis output

Where analysis capacity is approximately the number of analysts x their avg ability x their collaborative ability. All together these can be seen as cognitive device that transforms the output of sources into something else.

What is needed to maximize reform?

B1. Increase the ability for sources to access information

B2. Increase the number of sources

B3. Increase the amount that flows from sources to journalists/analysts

B4. Increase the number, the ability and the collaboration of journalists/analysts

B5. Increase the circulation of analysis output to the readership

B6. Increase the impact of the information on the readership

We can see immediately from outside considerations, that these are not independent variables in relation to their effect on reform. For instance, the full effect of a dramatic increase in the number of sources will not flow through the system unless it coincides with a dramatic increase in analysis capacity. Likewise the full effect of an increase in analysis capacity will not be realized unless there is an increase in the amount of source material that flows through to it.

To demonstrate the reasonableness of the model, let us examine two existing cases with it:

What is going on with the mainstream media?

Technological progress has resulted in an increased uniformity of experience across geographic regions and an ability to centrally manage ever larger companies and distribute information quickly. Combined with proprietor desires to maximize profit by minimizing costs, this has lead to a situation where a story may be written once and reprinted in a thousand publications. In that example most journalists have become superfluous and in fact there has been a very substantial decrease in the number of investigative journalists employed in liberal democracies over the last 30 years. Other technological factors have contributed to the reduced number of investigative journalists, including the circulation speed and volume of press releases, the ease of computer assisted cut and paste and the growth of entertainment industry [2].

It is not that people are suddenly too stupid to be interested in investigative journalism. Biologically (due to improved nutrition) people are smarter than ever, but profit per word is now higher for press releases and fantasy. The former are subsidised by their creators and fantasy is able to achieve tremendous economies of scale by tapping into primitive emotional responses which are uniform across human civilization.

Result
(1) Fewer investigative journalists and consequent reduction in total fourth estate analysis capacitiy.
(2) A slowing in the movement towards justice brought about by the activities of journalists.

What is going on with the blogosphere?

In the case of the blogosphere, there has been a very substantial increase in analysis capacity and perhaps, distribution. However, there has not been a corresponding increase in the source input. Consequently the analytical ability uses its own output as its primary input. This is why one has the sense that somehow, the blogosphere is talking to itself -- because it is. Reform must ultimately be grounded in and initiated by the truth. Communicable truth, being a distillation of observations about a shared reality can not be derived from introspection alone.

We can see that this accords with our model:

All improvements to justice ultimately derive from
observations of reality.

[3]

In other words,

Journalists without fresh sources have nothing to say that is worth listening to.

How can we maximize the humanizing potential of journalism?

Let us go back to our picture:

          amount x quality of info
               flowing to
                 journos                               impact
                    |                                    |
                    |                                    |
#people -> #sources -> analysis capacity -> circulation -> readership -> #people
   1     |     2               3         |      4.1           4.2      |    5
         |                               |                             |
  amount of source                     total                         reform
   access to info                 analysis output

What is needed to maximize reform?

B1. Increase the ability for sources to access information

B2. Increase the number of sources

B3. Increase the amount that flows from sources to journalists/analysts

B4. Increase the number, the ability and the collaboration of journalists/analysts

B5. Increase the circulation of analysis output to the readership

B6. Increase the impact of the information on the readership

We can see immediately from outside considerations, that these are not independent variables in relation to their effect on reform. For instance, the full effect of a dramatic increase in the number of sources will not flow through the system unless it coincides with a increase in analysis capacity. Likewise the full effect of an increase in analysis capacity will not be realized unless there is an increase in the amount of source material that flows through to it.

All reforms of significance are either driven or made permissible by the information flows of the forth estate. The quality of the political process that lays behind all decision making is absolutely dependent on the knowledge people have of the world. Insofar as all economic decisions are decisions, knowledge about the true state of the world is dominant to other economic factors.

Reducing the costs of investigative journalism means more investigative journalism

Investigative journalism is supply-side limited. The costs per-word are high when compared to other forms of journalism. The supply side costs can be broken down into four parts

  1. Costs of grooming or developing sources
  2. Costs of analysis
  3. Costs of writing
  4. Costs of libel actions, suppression orders, political & economic retaliation, careful self censorship and lawyers to vet stories.

Currently the analytical ability of the both professional journalists and the blogosphere (B4) are limited by these costs. When the cost per word of investigative journalism is high, journalists resort to talking about each other or illusions (entertainment, propaganda). But real world reform can only be effective when driven by a true observations of the real world.

Wikileaks was designed to be the most effective means of boosting the amount of investigative journalism being performed by reducing its disincentives, i.e the cost per word of investigative journalism.

Remember what we needed to maximize fouth estate driven reform:

B1. Increase the ability for sources to access information

B2. Increase the number of sources

B3. Increase the amount that flows from sources to journalists/analysts

B4. Increase the number, the ability and the collaboration of journalists/analysts

B5. Increase the circulation of analysis output to the readership

B6. Increase the impact of the information on the readership

Wikileaks was designed to address these six points by:

1. Taking advantage of the increase in ability of sources to get hold of large amounts of information as a result of the computer revolution (B1)

2. Making it easy for sources to step forward, hence increasing the number of sources (B2)

3. Making it easy for journalists to connect with sources, increasing the flow between them (B3)

4. Providing the currently large number of journalists and bloggers with fresh source material about the real world and providing an uncensorable site for collaborative analysis, increasing both the total participation rate in investigative journalism and the efficiency of collaboration (B4)

5. By directly providing uncensored documents and analysis to readers and by decreasing the cost per word of investigative journalism for other media interests, insuring greater take-up among readers. (B5)

6. By increasing the portion and quality of investigative journalism, the total impact is higher, but additionally by providing access to the raw source material impact per word may also be higher. (B6)

Addendum

The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie. This must result in the corrosion of internal communication and decision making mechanisms and consequent system-wide decline in strategic and tactical abilities used to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption.

Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems find themselves in crippling conditions compared to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.

Notes

  1. Any understudy of mankind knows that the stated goal is rarely the only one. While it is true that we, as individuals, all have additional motives, from revenging murdered or tortured friends and relatives, to obeying the dictates of character, J is what we share. It is our commonality.
  2. built on the back of technological inventions which make it hard for primitive sub-conscious processing regions of the brain to tell fantasy and reality apart. A good example is the raised breathing and heart rate of any horror movie attendee, or perhaps more interestingly, the change in reactions they show on returning home to what was, and still is and what they will claim to "know" still is, a perfectly innocent closet. Advertising, including political advertising, uses analogous techniques to modify people's feelings and behavior without changing what they "know" to be true declaratively.
  3. Reformers who are always compromising must understand that the truth is the only firm ground on which to stand.
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