United Voters of India: The Logic of Collective Action (Part 17)

Decentralised Systems

India’s political parties are examples of extreme centralisation. The members of the national and regional parties practice absolute obedience to a single leader (or in some cases, a family). Every important decision flows from the top. The masses who vote for these parties have no say in even choosing their own candidate. As such, power gets sucked from the people to the party HQ and the isolated, supreme leadership.

Creating yet another centralised system is not the solution to taking on the established political parties. Disruption happens when a new way of doing things is created. Faster mainframes did not transform computing, the desktop PC did. Today, we have more computing power in our smartphones than the most powerful of computers 50 years ago. And there are billions of such devices, not a handful.

India’s political parties and their leaders will not bring about change. If anything, they will concentrate even more power in their hands and centralise decision-making to greater levels. We are seeing this play out with every government in India. Centralisation increases with every election. The previous leader’s playbook becomes the starting point for the next. No change can be expected from such a system.

What is needed is the opposite of a centralised system. Once upon a time, the internet was catalogued by Yahoo’s editors. Yahoo did not lose out to a better editorial team; it lost out to a search engine which leveraged the information embedded in links in pages created by millions of people. Google’s decentralised decisions by algorithms won over the centralised directories of the early Internet.

From Wikipedia:

A centralised system is one in which a central controller exercises control over the lower-level components of the system directly or through the use of a power hierarchy (such as instructing a middle level component to instruct a lower level component). The complex behaviour exhibited by this system is thus the result of the central controller’s “control” over lower level components in the system, including the active supervision of the lower level components.

A decentralised system, on the other hand, is one in which complex behaviour emerges through the work of lower level components operating on local information, not the instructions of any commanding influence. This form of control is known as distributed control, or control in which each component of the system is equally responsible for contributing to the global, complex behaviour by acting on local information in the appropriate manner.

Indian politics needs a decentralised system as its next innovation. Power needs to flow back to the people and be distributed through the chain with the lowest possible unit making it relevant. Decentralised systems + Swarm intelligence + self-organising + co-ordination + digital. This is the magic and promise of UVI which can change India’s politics and our futures.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.