This might make me a Twentieth Century Girl — or, oh, God, Nineteen? — but there are two types of power I deeply believe in, and might until I die: the power held by the consensus of cooperating adults, and the caring, curative power of the editor.
In the case of elective and cooperative systems, humans reconcile their common interest and their self-interest in the hope of a sustainable lifestyle in which all participants operate within a clear social contract, relinquish some of their bad-behaviour rights, and in exchange enjoy freedoms which include opportunities for prosperity and fulfilment.
In the second case, in the case of the power that is editorial, a meritocratic system selects, assembles and prioritises the pieces of free-flowing information which is indispensable for managing day-to-day cooperation, and the longterm planning and identity of the community. Attention allocation has its own biological a priori, and, in the textbook scenario, an editorial-led free press would act as the Jury: both to represent the public and in some way be better than it.
Clearly, my generation is dissatisfied with how these two powers are being wielded today, feeling that the trust and transparency — the hope — that held together the governing institutions of the West as well as its media have weakened: while one side of the world is sliding out of freedom, the other looks for a more decentralised way of running their affairs, salvaging their values, pushing them into code.
If five years ago there was only disappointment over the “lost” charms of social media, the two post-Recession generations currently of voting age on the internet have sure since built their strange alternatives: online communities, newsletter aggregators, academia competitors, and other powerful repositories of morality and taste.
What they likely don’t know is that the governance skills honed in the direct, open, extremely short feedback loop driven world of online communities — with their norms, tradeoffs, rights and great freedoms, with their judgements of Solomon and deep, unprecedented trust between strangers — by those managing day-to-day communal life, might lead to a more relevant form of leadership for the 21st century than what any existing official title could provide.
That the self-selected writer collectives, despite their flat structures, are already working on establishing and enforcing a new system of merit and balance in which what is vetted and proven true and most worthy of the attention of others will be decided upon both via the collective itself, and the expertise of the editor.
But this is not a reinvention of the wheel, rather a paradigmatic rethinking of human self-organisation based on extremely old and reasonable ideas. It takes a village to raise and adult, my friend Jessica said. It looks like the adults are raising a village.