Twitter Could Have Learned From Alastair Reynolds

Illustration for article titled Twitter Could Have Learned From Alastair Reynolds

Twitter caused a twitstorm two days ago, when it stopped users from being able to see when their friends replied to strangers.'s Basheera Khan suggests Twitter could have learned from Alastair Reynolds' space opera.


She writes:

In some sense it reminds me of Welsh scifi supremo Alastair Reynolds' futuristic vision of one faction of the human race. In his Revelation Space universe, a branch of humanity has evolved with democratic anarchy at the core of its political system, embedded into daily life via a neural implant which constantly polls the user's opinion on aspects of life in the Demarchy. Demarchists are so used to this prompting that they give it as much active attention as you or I might pay to ambient noise - and yet they're constantly contributing to the relatively smooth running of their world.

Okay, so, we're a ways away from the neural implants as a communications channel, but the principle that members of a community should be able to vote on changes that will fundamentally alter the dynamics of said community is not a novel one. Nor is it unheard of in the modern world to involve the user community in a process of discussion and collaboration that feeds back into the iterative development of a product or in the case of government, a body of laws. I just wonder when companies like Twitter or Facebook will catch the wake up needed for them to get in on this action too.

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I'm glad Reynolds never went into much detail about how the Demarchy actually functioned. If you look too closely at this, it's either voting by email (dull), or the worst possible government by mob rule. There's something to be said for making voting just complex enough that it requires contemplation, and to remove some of the proximate responsibility for weighing the pros and cons of laws out of the hands of the madding crowd. You think, for example, the deep South would have desegregated if it had been voted on in real time by people's brainstems?