Saturday, September 18, 2004

Open Source Think Tank: The Wisdom Project

This is a pretty cool idea. No idea if it'll work, but it's worth a try. When I hear the term 'think tanks', I conjure up AEI, CATO, and Heritage. Those guys get the most press, by far, of any think tanks. They are Republican, Libertarian/Republican, and Republican, respectively. AEI and Heritage are openly proud of their 'propagandist' ways. The Brookings Institute has been labeled by some as 'left-of-center', but they fully supported the illegal Iraq War, and they continue to go all out pimping the Bush Administration's failed Middle East/War policies (@see work by Ken Pollack, Ivo Daalder, Michael O'Hanlon, Gregg Easterbrook, etc.).

See my earlier lament on the status of Brookings here.

There are a couple of centrist-type think tanks - the Urban Institute, and I guess the Carnegie Endowment gets a little play once in a while, though at least one of their scholars wrote a piece with Ivo Daalder berating old Europe to 'get on the bus' now that the U.S. had successfully turned Iraq into a failed state. It was a piece that even Richard Perle would have been proud of.

So, let's hope The Wisdom Project gets off the ground. Here's a clip of what it's all about:

The Open Source model inspired the Wisdom Project to operate in fundamentally different ways than most modern think tanks. Unlike most think tanks which are classic closed source "invitation only" systems, The Wisdom Project invites anyone and everyone to enter their forums and present their arguments and solutions. Members then work together to evaluate the quality of the commentary and the solutions offered using a simple system of judging the "wisdom" of individual posts. Post ratings are then used to identify the most promising solutions and to calculate a 'wisdom rating' for each active member. Ready says, "Our tools help us easily identify the best contributions to our dialogues and the people who most regularly make those contributions." The system is unique and it encourages accountability. Ready explains, "Our post rating system discourages the juvenile antics common on most internet message boards. As a result, we are building a membership culture of healthy, energized, and creative thought."

One of the ironies of traditional think tanks today is that they often have little inclination to question their assumptions. As Wikipedia describes, many think tanks may be "little more than tools for propaganda." Ready adds, "The purpose of many think tanks is not to figure out how to solve problems, but rather to figure out how to promote their ideology. When you are watching Fox News or reading the New York Times editorials, the arguments and solutions you hear about are not always the result of individual inspiration. Often, those ideas are born in privately funded think tanks and force fed to the public through sympathetic media outlets." The Wisdom Project open source model guarantees that any and all ideological premises are open to examination.

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