The year is 2018 and the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the organization charged with selecting the winner of the famous Nobel Peace Prize, has changed their process. They’ve decided to host a global election to allow the people of the world to decide which of the candidates is the most deserving.

Two months before the election, a slate of four possible candidates is announced. The election itself takes place over a 24-hour period and a secure online voting system allows voters to make their selection from any computer, tablet, or cellphone.

As a way to push voters to learn more about each contender, they are given a short test consisting of eight simple questions, two about each candidate, before the official vote is cast.

Peace advocates around the globe are anxious to participate, and once Election Day formally clicks to an end, a total of 740 million voters from 50 different counties have selected the winner.

With spotlights blazing and countless news cameras poised to capture the moment, the winner is formally announced. However, unlike previous winners, this person suddenly becomes the most famous person in the world, more celebrated than any king, president, or prime minister on the planet.

While on the surface this may appear to be nothing more than an ingenious PR stunt for selecting prizewinners, it is indeed much more. Voting software that crosses country lines fall into the category of “catalytic innovations” with the potential of creating new global mandates. Here’s why.

Catalytic Innovation

Unlike “disruptive innovation” that disrupts an existing industry, “catalytic innovation” has the potential to spawn entirely new industries.

Any technology that becomes a catalyzing agent for opening doorways into a world never before seen, falls into the broad new category of Catalytic Innovation.

Electronic voting has long been touted as a more efficient way to conduct an election. But the technology will offer far more than just a new face to an old process.

Possible Scenarios

Early forms of global elections are already in play with shows like American Idol and the Eurovision Song Competition. But moving past the music scene, in what situations do global elections become an appropriate tool for influencing the future?

Certainly there are many relatively harmless scenarios that could be envisioned:

  • Selecting the Time Magazine “Person of the Year”
  • Determining the location of the next Olympics or World Cup
  • Re-designating the official “Seven Wonders of the World”

There are also many ways that a global election could be overreaching, pushing past our present limits of acceptability. Here are a few examples global elections that would likely get censored out of or disallowed in many countries:

  • Selecting the official leader of the world
  • Deciding who officially owns the moon
  • Attempts to globally override the results of an individual country’s election
  • Designating an official religion for the world

At the same time there are huge grey areas where the appropriateness of this kind of election is unknown.

  • Should there be a global ban on plastic bottles that are not biodegradable?
  • Should we place limits on the amount of fishing, mining, pollution, or deforestation that takes place around the world?
  • Could there be a global code of ethics, bill of personal freedoms, laws of right and wrong, privacy policies, etc?

Many of our national systems are becoming part of new global systems. As such, we could use global elections to determine the official policy for:

  • The Internet
  • International airlines
  • GPS – Global positioning systems
  • Global currencies
  • Intellectual property
  • Global passports
  • Central banks

Many people have predicted we will someday enter an era of e-democracy where citizens can weigh in on far more issues than those that end up on a ballot. Since it circumvents the power of elected officials, e-democracy will likely only have limited application in the future.

But going beyond country borders, we circumvent far more than a few local power brokers.

Global Mandates

In the context of a global elections, at what point will the results be large enough and representative enough to influence, even supersede, the authority of an industry group, individual country, or even a group of countries?

As an example, would the participation of 20 million people from 5 countries constitute a global mandate? Probably not.

How about 500 million people from 80 countries? Or would it require a certain percentage of the world’s population, say 10%, which translates into 700 million people?

Every industry or topical area has its own “affected population.” Should the vote require a minimum percentage of an affected population?

If the results of an election were only separated by 1% of the vote, is that still too close to be considered a global mandate, or will it require some sort of “obvious will of the people” supermajority such as 60-70%?

At this point, there are far more questions than answers. But that will not stop people from using global elections to influence the world.

The Coming Battle of the Mega-Influencers

There are several people who have the ability to sway world opinion.

As an example, if a global election were being orchestrated by someone like Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Ma, Larry Page, Jimmy Wales, Mark Cuban, Reid Hoffman, Marrisa Mayer, or Peter Thiel, most of the whole world would take notice.

Companies like Facebook or Google, with over a billion users worldwide, may be the perfect platform for both promoting and conducting early elections for testing the limits, but these are not the only ones.

While the motivations behind a Facebook or Google-led election may seem completely altruistic on the surface, their behind-the-scenes plan may be to influence China, in a way forcing it to open its doors to tech companies or face being “left out” of key global decisions.

Any election with an obvious hidden agenda like that will be destined to fail.

Final Thoughts

So far we’ve only scratched the surface of how the Internet can be leveraged to influence the entire world. Pushing beyond the current playgrounds of photo sharing, online games, and social networks are apps with far reaching implications. Electronic voting is one of them.

The first wave of global elections will be orchestrated by people of power and influence who want to test the limits. Most of the first wave of elections will be poorly conceived, attract a “too-small-to-notice” following, and will be considered by most to be a failure.

But much like Peter Diamandis’ effort to catalyze global prize competitions, someone will emerge as a thought leader to pioneer a new global election industry.

Inside what may start out as a playful way to get more people involved in selecting the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is something far more serious – methodologies for establishing new global mandates.

In best-case scenarios, global mandates will serve as everything from a temperature gauge for global opinion to a checks and balance system for over-reaching countries. They may also be used by people in first world countries to impose their will on the less fortunate.

Do global mandates pose a treat to our current way of life, or do they fortell better times ahead? This is a topic that everyone should have an opinion on, so please add your comments below. I’d love to hear what you’re thinking.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Communicating with the Future” – the book that changes everything




9 Responses to “Entering the Era of Global Mandates”

Comments List

  1. <a href='' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Gary Lundquist</a>

    Tom, You did this edition too quickly. You have not thought it through. Your tone implies possibility where none of any serious value exists. Better said, the only value of this toy concept is that we actually have or will have the mechanics to take the vote. If for best international song? Sure. Why not. That is trivia. If for political reality of independent, nations and human nature would have to change at a very deep level. Time frame? Remember how long it took America to allow voting by women. In a global environment, any registered voter could vote. Would the ballet be acceptable if nations prevent the votes of women? Then there is reality. Votes might say “Yes.” Government will have to implement. Would they? Or would they simply ignore. I’ve worked this concept a bit. If we were working toward a worldwide change, (such as peace), half a billion activists worldwide could change the world over time. For the cause women’s equality, it might take three billion. Global votes for Nobel Prizes will be boiled down to qualified experts. 99.9% of Humans will vote based on the Pictures of the candidates, not the science. If the Nobel goes that way, I hope to hell that is only it will be only because no one person stood out from the rest of the top four. PS: You will improve your impact if you do not start sentences with “there is”. Start with content, not fluff.
  2. Antonio C

    Personally, I'd rather a benevolent artificial intelligence running things. But until we can get there, I agree that global mandates have a limited place in the current world but will only become more prominent as time goes on. I've said it once and I'll say it again, the world is moving at such a pace that most people can't comprehend the impact of things that seem fringe but will affect their lives in unusual ways. Even if global mandates don't take off, the idea behind it (increased participation in representative democracy and a sense of global community) is going to be a very large part of the relatively near future. That aside, I was reading one of your earlier posts about the Energy Grid. Specifically, I was wondering if there is any more news you can share with us about that game changing energy generation technology that isn't covered under your NDA? :p In any case, I hope to be doing some more commenting on your blog, Mr. Frey! Only recently found it, though I knew of you beforehand, and I've gotta say: I very much like the way your brain works!
  3. <a href='' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Godfrey Parkin</a>

    Tom, Yes, this is technically possible even now. A billion people on Facebook could, right now, cast a vote on something of global impact. Or an organisation with a large enough mailing list could round up signatures for a petition (look at the awesome numbers manages to generate for its social issues). But it raises the question of qualified franchise and runs us head-on into the fundamental problem that, where an electorate is ignorant or uninterested, populism tends to substitute for democracy -- with the result that idealism trumps pragmatism, simplicity trumps sophistication, or showmanship trumps stature. Even within the best-balanced nation, democracy tends to mediocrity, so global electioneering would seriously dumb-down the outcome. Of course, filters could be put in place to ensure only smart people from the right backgrounds could participate, but the negotiation of what those filters would be would be never-ending, and the very concept of elitist exclusionism would get civil rights advocates hyperventilating. But, within the next couple of decades, when all of us are neurally networked and benefiting from brain-chipped wi-fi connections that give us augmented intelligence courtesy of a benevolent and omniscient Google, the "system" shall simply know what we are thinking and shall respond to our collective will. Or vice versa...
    • admin

      Godfrey, Thanks for taking time with this unusually thoughtful response. I especially like the phrase "populism tends to substitute for democracy." So true! Election results are always driven by the median IQ of the voting public. So how do we involve a high grade of decision making? And as you bring up, how do we somehow automate the process? Some great points. Tom
  4. <a href='' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Thom Loveless</a>

    Interesting but to my mind (and understandably) far too Ameri-centric. Your broad assumption that American values and geo-political sensibilities will shape global thinking is flawed in my opinion. You assume forcing open China is a good thing but that opinion (if shared by America generally) only puts 5% of the world's population sharing that view. Agreed the 20th century was America's, just as the 19th century belonged to the British Empire. I think it far more likely that the 21st century will be shaped by China or possibly India. I really don't think the next century will be America's playground. I like your thinking though would urge you to be more global in the very broadest sense.

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