Transformational Society

Power to the People



Creating Alternative Futures



First publication on April 30, 2005

Principal Investigator

Manhard Schlifni





Countercultures. 2

The Hippie Society – A Road Back to the 1960s. 2

From the Hippies to Cybersociety. 5

The Cultural Creatives and Hippies. 11

The Transformational Society. 11

High-Tech Varieties. 14

High-Consciousness Varieties. 14

The Evolution of Consciousness. 15

Transformational Psychology. 18

Transformational Wildcards. 20

Transformational Politics. 22

Space Age. 27

Space Settlements. 28

Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. 29

Time Travel 29

Four Distinct Categories for Images of the Future 29

Beyond the Limits: Confronting Global Collapse - Envisioning a Transformational Future. 31

Overview: A Political System for the Transformational Society. 36

Part I: A Conceptual Model of Participatory E-Democracy. 37

Arguments. 37

Dimensions of Participation. 38

Part II: The Political System.. 39

Main Actors. 39

Applications of ICT (AICT) 40

Arenas. 43

Function. 46

Part III: Case Studies. 55

Conclusions. 60

Epilogue: From PED to the Strongest Forms of E-Democracy. 61

Literature. 63



This study deals with the future of Transformational Societies. They see humankind on the verge of an incredible revolution. For the high-tech varieties this is technological such that changes in technology will fundamentally alter systems. It is argued that we will see radical transformations. Applications of ICT (information and communication technologies) will lead to participatory and anticipatory electronic democracy, advances in health will reduce suffering, and the society will reach the stage of immortality. We will be in space, living a life of leisure supported by robots. The problem of sustainable development will be solved; We are presently, it is argued, in the third wave. The first was the agricultural revolution, the second the industrial revolution and the present is the computer/information revolution, and the fourth wave is the possibility for a Transformational Society. What will result will be a decentralized and anarchic society. The supplements to the technological orientation of this category of future images are the high-consciousness varieties. They see the future as a time of fundamental change - it is the "Age of Aquarius", a time of global peace, of meditation and the development of planetary and cosmic consciousness. The changes are personal and psychic; through unity and through the expansion of our minds, the unexpected for the present mainstream science will become possible. It will be the end of the military and the end of nation states. This study includes future perspectives for new transformational countercultures and for new hippie societies, too. Unlike Transformational Societies, three other distinct categories for images of the future are presented in this study: (1) Continuation (usually "continued economic growth"),  (2) Disciplined Society, (3) Decline and Collapse. They logically lead to different futures.



When "The Making of a Counter Culture" was published in 1969, the book captured a huge audience of Vietnam War protesters, dropouts and rebels - and their baffled elders. Theodore Roszak found common ground between 1960s student radicals and hippie dropouts in their mutual reaction of what he termed the "technocracy" - the regime of corporate and technological expertise that dominates the industrial society. He traced the intellectual underpinnings of the two groups in the writings of Herbert Marcuse and Norman O. Brown, Allen Ginsberg and Paul Goodman. The student revolt against what they perceived as the acquisitiveness of their parents, which exacted an exorbitant price in corporate conformity, contributed to the development of the flourishing counterculture. Overconsumption and status-seeking goals began to be viewed as "obscene". Environmentalists joined in the movement for new lifestyles as they understood the destructive role of resource-intensive production and consumption on the environment. Outlining views of the future, the counterculture wanted to create an entirely new society and culture. In a new introduction, Roszak reflects on how the counterculture has evolved since he coined the term in 1969 (Roszak, 1995).    


This section explores future visions, where progress can be seen in a spiritual, psychological, or technological form, through the views of Timothy Leary and a group of hippies. William S. Burroughs referred to him as "a true visionary of the potential of the human mind and spirit". Allen Ginsberg proclaimed him "a hero of American consciousness". Leary was called "the Galileo of our age" by Tom Robbins. According to Mondo 2000 magazine, he was the "MVP" (Most Valuable Philosopher) of the 20th Century.


Timothy Leary received a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Alabama in 1943, and got a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley in 1950. He was assistant professor at Berkeley (1950-1955), a director of research at the Kaiser Foundation (1955-1958), and a lecturer in psychology at Harvard University (1959-1963). In his 27 books and monographs, 250 articles, and more than 100 printed interviews published since the early 1950s, Leary helped to define a "Humanistic Revolution" (Ronin Publishing, 2001) which had an impact on world culture. His books and papers as a psychologist in the 1950s supported the start of the emerging of a "Humanistic Psychology" movement with an emphasis on interpersonal relationships, multilevel personality assessments, group therapy, body/mind interaction, and a redefinition of the doctor-patient relationship based on anarchist principles. During the 1960s, Timothy Leary's research and social activism helped to support the counterculture movement.

The Hippie Society – A Road Back to the 1960s

The sixties revolution created a society based on ecstasy, i.e. the experience of individual freedom (Leary, 1998). The hippies were a generation in human history that learned how to "change their own realities". They wanted to experience ecstasy and freedom - freedom from self-imposed limitations as well as limitations imposed on them by society. Hippies belonged to an individual-freedom movement which was not based on geography, traditional politics, class, or religion.


Leary's publication "The Psychedelic Experience" (Leary/Metzner/Alpert, 1964) was credited with contributing to launch the hippie movement. Experiences of expanded consciousness occurred in a variety of ways (e.g., yoga exercises, meditation, spiritual or aesthetic ecstasies). They also became available to the individual through the ingestion or use of psychedelic drugs such as marihuana, LSD, psilocybin, mescaline.


Leary invented and popularized the slogan "Turn On – Tune In – Drop Out". "Turn On" means to go within, with the help of drugs, special meditations, or other methods. This means to become sensitive to the higher levels of consciousness. "Tune In" is defined as "to interact harmoniously with the world one is surrounded by, to express one’s new internal perspectives". "Drop Out" is an active process of detachment from traditional societies and established cultures. In general, revolutionary psychological methods can help to create a "new consciousness" and motivate people to reject traditional politics, war, violence, military, racism, erotic hypocrisy, sexism, and established religions.


It was Allen Ginsberg who influenced Leary's belief that psychedelics could be used for mass social reform, insisting that the use of LSD should not be limited to an elite. Psychedelic drugs were promoted by Leary as having the potential to bring about major change in personal consciousness, in western society, and in politics in general. Hippies drew a distinction between "good" and "bad" drugs. Very generally they approved substances as marijuana, hashish, LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, peyote, psychedelic mushrooms and morning glory seeds but usually disapproved of other kinds of drugs such as speed, barbiturates, opiates and heroin etc. Substances that were perceived as expanding consciousness were good; drugs that made the user dumb were bad. Drug taking linked to the idea of being an outlaw. The use of drugs connected with the idea that by changing the individual consciousness, one could change the world.      


The term "flower power", a symbol of the non-violence ideology, was coined in 1965 by Ginsberg at an anti-war rally in Berkeley. It was Ginsberg's strategy of encouraging a non-violent response to violence protesters encountered. Since hippies were fond of wearing and sharing flowers, "flower power" was an important element for the movement. They were called "flower children" because they wore flowers in their hair, on their colorful and/or individualistic clothes, and some were vegetarians and/or had aesthetically focused lifestyles. Hippies constituted "the love generation", a people of peace, sweetness, flowers, light, optimism. The idea of free love was not just a state of mind, but also an issue of ethical conviction. They had the idea that love could activate social action.


Cultural forms emerged in the counterculture. They were perceived as opposed to the old ones, which evolved to shape and reflect a new culture's emphasis on transformation and experimentation. Many young people rebelled against the socio-economic systems. Material benefits no longer compensated for the political authoritarianism and cultural conformity imposed by industrialism. Underground media emerged in cities and towns, serving to define and communicate a range of countercultural phenomena. Radical actors included groups, some of whom formed communes to live outside of the established system. Disillusioned with the Continued Growth future, these hippies sought inspiration in different fields. While many were simply lifestyle experimenters, others searched for a revolutionary alternative to modernity. The counterculture was primarily "male" defined. A big gap between the rhetoric of equality and liberation and the treatment of women existed and from this emerged the radical feminist movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s.


Most of the countercultural communes formed in the 1960’s and 1970’s fell apart. The ones that usually disintegrated were those organized primarily for psychological purposes - to solve the problem of loneliness, to provide intimacy, to promote interpersonal sensitivity, etc. They had no cybernetic-economic base and viewed themselves as utopian experiments. On the other hand, the communes that have succeeded over time are those that have developed an economic base, an external mission, and a practical, rather than utopian, outlook. 


The counterculture celebrated "play" as opposed to "work". The counterculture's rejection of work involved a refusal of the division between work and leisure as well as as rejection of the concept to leisure as something earned by the person in compensation for her/his loss of freedom caused by work. According to Allen Ginsberg, the new society would need lifestyles of ecstasy and social forms appropriate to whatever ecstasy is available for whoever wants it. The counterculture, however, did not completely refuse work. They rejected the idea of meaningless work in a society where work was supposed to disappear.


The hippies were also inspired by anarchist ideas. For instance, the diggers, a radical community-action group, set about opening free health clinics and free stores where goods were given away. They combined spontaneous street theater, anarchistic activities, and art happenings. Hippies organized free housing, free newspapers and set up communes, eventually declaring the suburb of Haight Ashbury in San Francisco a "Free City". Their politics has been sometimes categorized as "left-wing". But more accurately they were "community anarchists".   


Radical hippies rejected active political engagement with the mainstream, following Leary’s slogan, attempted to transform society by dropping out. If critical larger numbers of people "turn on" and "drop out" (which means to quit the job, quit school, quit university, quit membership of parties of the establishment, not to vote for traditional parties, etc.), they contribute to the transformation of existing political and social systems. Political dimensions of participation were associated with participation in political actions of the counterculture (e.g., peace movements, including peace activities such as the USA marches on Washington; civil rights activities; Anti-Vietnam War demonstrations including the 1968 Democratic Convention; countercultural communes). 

The Psychedelic-Cybernetic Age

The term "psychedelic" was introduced in 1956 by psychiatrist Humphry Osmond to describe the effects of mind-altering drugs. "Psychedelic" means ecstatic or mind-opening. Leary defined the person who thinks for him-/herself cybernetic. This term is derived from the Greek word for pilot. The term "psybernetic" refers to the psychedelic experience expressed in electronic form (Leary, 1998). For other hippies, however, the method of attaining a liberating transcendence was not psychedelics but meditation. 


Festivals were means of developing and maintaining commitments to alternative lifestyles. They provided entertainment, a notion of togetherness and a kind of ritual where participants could experience the new consciousness. The Trips Festival (January 21-23, 1966) at Longshoremen’s Hall, 400 (North Point St.) was the first big psychedelic event for the hippie movement. It featured the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Loading Zone, Chinese New Years’ Lion Dancers and Drum and Bugle Corps, Stroboscopic Trampoline, and Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. Charles Perry termed it "McLuhanite Global Village/electronic art happening". The first "Human Be-In" took place in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, January 14, 1967, and was one dawning of the psychedelic-cybernetic age for the hippie generation. The term got out via underground presses and progressive radio stations. This Be-In was not organized in a traditional form. The Monterey International Pop Music Festival (June 16-18, 1967) promoted the psychedelic spirit in the form of electronically amplified music - ecstatic people plus electronics. Over 200 000 people attended the festival, and it is generally regarded as the beginning of the Summer of Love. Monterey was the first major rock festival in the world and became a model for future festivals. Hippies have used the media and electrically powered music to broadcast their ideas and images around the world. By 1969 the hippie movement, the counterculture and underground media drew around 500 000 to the Woodstock Festival. It was held at Max Yasgur's farm in Bethel, New York, on 15, 16, and 17 August, 1969.


The expression "Age of Aquarius" usually refers to the hippie and New Age movement of the 1960s and 1970s. For instance, Hair first opened on December 2, 1967, at Shakespeare Public Theatre in downtown New York City. The musical Hair - with its song "Aquarius" and the line "This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius" - brought Aquarian Age associations to the attention of a worldwide audience. This show challenged many norms and values held by the US society. It caused controversy when it was staged - publicity was provoked by male and female nudity, the desecration of the American flag and the use of obscene language.


"Politics of Ecstasy", written for a new wave of young people, who were used to "turning-on-tuning-in" electronic appliances, appeared in 1968 (Leary, 1968, 1998). The book "High Priest" (Leary, 1968a) defined the psychedelic experience as an empowering spiritual development and thereby spawned a New Age movement. Following Leary's view, the reality of the average American is a fabrication of the mass media - TV, newspapers determine what people think, believe, like, dislike, desire, value. He defined the term "hippy" as an establishment label for a profound, invisible, underground, evolutionary process (Leary, 1968). For every visible hippy, barefoot, beflowered, beaded, there would be thousand invisible members of the turned-on underground - persons whose lives are tuned in to their inner vision, who are dropping out of the "TV comedy of American life" (Leary, 1968). In "The Politics of Ecstasy", Leary suggested a new Declaration of Independence based on the idea of personal freedom - the freedom to alter the individual consciousness. To turn on, the individual would need a sacrament. Leary praised LSD as the "sacrament" and the key to altering human consciousness, which could help society to increase creativity, intelligence, sexual pleasures, philosophical insight, to abolish authoritarian social structures, and to speed up humanity's evolution. After this fashion, Theodore Roszak saw "The Politics of Ecstasy" as the wave of the future (Roszak, 1995).


The political and ethical controversies over psychedelics are caused by basic ignorance about what these substances do (Leary, 1968). They alter consciousness. A sacrament which works is dangerous to the establishment which runs the agenda-setting media (Leary, 1968). However, not every person was activated by his messages. Critics accused him of spoiling the young generation and seducing them into taking drugs which would ruin their lives. After LSD became illegal on October 6, 1966, many individuals continued to use it to help transform their lives and achieve balance and sanity rather than the insanity purported by a set of studies. Bills - which made possession of psychedelics a felony - were introduced into the state legislatures throughout the USA. President Nixon declared the (ab-)use of drugs a "national threat", a danger to individual health and the safety of millions of Americans. Given these facts, it is no accident that Nixon called Leary "the most dangerous man on the planet". Leary became a central countercultural figure and politically active as an anti-Vietnam protester, sang "Give peace a chance" with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and announced his candidacy for governor of California. 


The hippie movement transcended national boundaries. Global hippie groups gathered in several countercultural centers - San Francisco, Greenwich Village, London, Amsterdam  - as well as in natural and/or exotic environments. According to Leary, certain drugs and/or other methods and/or technologies would be keys to cosmic consciousness and to societal change. Cross-cultural exchanges gave rise to planetary and to cosmic consciousness long before the start of economic globalization. One movement supported the development of social consciousness, triggered by radical questioning of authority. Other expansions of consciousness went beyond materialism and toward a new spirituality. This involved an expansion of consciousness toward experiences involving non-ordinary modes of awareness, which psychologists began to term "transpersonal". An individual who attained cosmic consciousness was described as "enlightened". It was also the reference to "cosmic consciousness" in the 1962 book, "The Joyous Cosmology" (Watts, 1962), which brought it into the counterculture atmosphere. With the consciousness of eternal life came the belief that such a person would have a sense of immortality.


Hippies have not continuously reached extensive media attention since the Summer of Love and the Woodstock era. On Oct. 6, 1967, the "Death of Hippie" ceremony was held in San Francisco as an act of defiance against the media hyping/commercialization of the hippies. Following the popular assumption concerning the movement's end, hippies would no longer exist. However, hippies have been rendezvousing annually at Rainbow Gatherings since the early 1970s to celebrate peace. Even in this century, they gather at special meetings and festivals (e.g., neo-hippies). Other groups have retained aspects of the old hippie movement, but have integrated new areas, for example punk values of anarchism, feminism, and applications of technology.

From the Hippies to Cybersociety

The vision of an alternative global community, sharing core values of the counterculture and making use of the electronic media in conjunction with radical changes, was one of the legacies of the sixties. In the late 1960s, future visions of a "global unique earth" were proposed - based on McLuhan's "global village" metaphor. According to Leary, the individual-freedom movement (psychedelic-cybernetic age) was also continued by other people using cybernetic technology (computers, Internet, TV, radio, etc.) in attempts to undermine authoritarian social structures and to create their own realities.


Countercultural theorists and writers saw themselves as rejecting mainstream society entirely and setting up a new alternative, independent, egalitarian society. They prepared their own documents. For example, "The Declaration of the Cultural Evolution" was published in 1968 by a committee including Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman. Modelled on the "Declaration of Independence", this document outlined the main grievances against society including political repression, destruction of the environment, the war.      


Sources of change were generally assumed to be within the counterculture. Social evolution, if viewed as evolution of society, is comparable to the biological evolution of a species, developing new forms. Evolution is a process of radical change over time. Leary measured social evolution in terms of increased freedom – external and internal (Leary, 1968). Freedom to

  • move to construct a new social form.

  • move in space.

  • experience.

  • explore.

  • get high.

  • let go.


Leary envisioned a cybernetic society, too. It would use computer networks to transcend geographic boundaries forming a "global village". Psychedelics and computers are important components concerning humanity’s development towards the state of total freedom. Cultural change involves communication and the mode of communication determines not only the speed of change but also the nature of transformation. The medium is the message for cultural evolution. One potential technology's function is to aid human transformation.

Bringing Power to the People

The counterculture, a loose confederation of rebellious ways of life, was united in opposition to the dominant system and many of its agendas. They wrote and spoke passionately about overturning the system and the establishment and bringing "power to the people". One of the hippie radicals was Abbie Hoffman, the author of Woodstock Nation, noted for his outspoken opposition to business-and-politics-as-usual. He was also successful at turning many flower children into political activists. During the goings-on in Chicago outside the Democratic National Convention in 1968, he circulated a pamphlet he wrote. It included demands how the representative government should be transformed radically. One of these ideas was the following: "Be realistic, demand the impossible: A political system which is more streamlined and responsive to the needs of all people regardless of age, sex or race. Perhaps a national referendum system conducted via television or a telephone voting system" (Hoffman/Rubin/Sanders, 1972; Becker/Slaton, 2000, 13-14). The first concept for direct electronic democracy, however, was not invented by Hoffman.


As far as teledemocracy's history  is concerned (Becker/Slaton, 2000, 11), the first person that had a vision about the synergy between direct democracy and 20th century telecommunications was the Canadian scientist, poet, architect, inventor of concepts for geodesic dome, and visionary – R. Buckminster Fuller. The counterculture was inspired by Fuller to a certain extent (Brand, 1995). He was probably most famous for inventing the geodesic dome, which was embraced by both hippies - the concept was relevant for some hippie communes: e.g., Drop City - and the military. He saw electronically facilitated direct democracy in the United States as the last, best hope for the future. Direct democracy is a system wherein all citizens can directly participate in the political decision-making process. He called for daily nationwide voting on issues through the use of television, computers, and other available technology that could record votes instantaneously (Fuller, 1963). Buckminster Fuller propagated a systemic view and explored principles for ecological design (e.g., energy and material efficiency) in architecture, engineering, and design. He believed in the technical capacities - future societies would soon be relying mainly on renewable sources of energy, such as solar- and wind-derived electricity.

Alternative Futures

The counterculture dared to envision postindustrial futures. Alternative hippies promoted a peaceful vision where cars had disappeared from cities, production was ecologically viable, sexual relationships were egalitarian and daily life was lived in community groups. A countercultural group imagined it to be a commonwealth, but with the addition of a "small is beautiful" technological base to relieve the drudgery. The counterculture dreamed of the free "flowering of personality", the ideal of organic community, the adventure of ethnic diversity, the exploration of further reaches of human nature, life lived gently on the planet, and the alternative economy.    


For some hippies, this future could be realised by rejecting the technological progress, building small scale economies using own energy, shifting population to country and town areas, and returning to nature. Their preferred future was a participatory society in which people build communities that are in harmony with nature.


Others, in contrast, assumed that technological progress would turn their principles into social fact. They were influenced by McLuhan's theories. Their preferred future was a participatory society in which independent people are given opportunities to develop themselves without harming the environment. This implied the maximum use of modern, low-energy technology. Computers and telecommunication were seen as important technologies in daily life. The media's convergence, computing and telecommunications would inevitably result in electronic direct democracy (e.g., Barbrook/Cameron, 1995) - this would create a virtual place - the electronic agora - where all participants would be able to express their opinions.


Radical hippies were usually anarchists, Marxists and socialists in the social sense of the word. They were for universalist, rational and progressive ideals, such as participatory democracy, tolerance, self-fulfilment, and social justice. Participatory democracy is a system in which people are able to participate in making the political decisions that affect their lives. For radical hippies, alternative economies were the complete antithesis of capitalism. For example, the gift economy (Barbrook, 1999) is an economic system in which goods and services are given, rather than traded. The gift economy was also proposed as a solution to the poverty cycle, such as in anarcho-communism. There is no money, no market economy, no wage labour. People produce goods for their own consumption or as gifts for other people. Products are given away and freely distributed.


Encouraged by McLuhan's predictions, radicals became involved in developing new information technologies for the alternative press, community radio stations, home-computer clubs and video collectives. These community media activists saw themselves in the forefront to build a new America. Revolutionary change was difficult to realize, but the alternative future seemed almost at hand. An electronic meeting system was assumed to be the first step towards direct democracy's implementation within all social institutions. However, there were strong countercurrents. Powerful members of the establishment and their forces prevented a transformational future.        


According to Leary, the term "cybernetics" [1] comes from the Greek word "kubernetes" which means "pilot" or "steersman". Romans translated the word "kubernetes" to "gubernetes" (with the verb form "gubernare"). The Greek term for pilot became the Latin term for governor, "to steer" became "to control". In Leary’s view, the term "governor" expresses an attitude of "obedience-control in relationship to self and others". Norbert Wiener, in 1948, defined the term "cybernetics" to describe a communication and control theory. But the physicist André-Marie Ampère (1775-1836) had already defined cybernetics as the art of governing or the science of government. Wiener researched the organizational principle underlying a feedback's concept - "circular causality". This cannot only be found in self-regulating systems. An organizational principle is an essential property of living systems (organisms and social systems). The conditions necessary for a living system to exist are created and maintained by the system itself in a self-sustaining process of dynamical feedback.


As far as the term "cybernetics" is concerned, Leary postulated that all hierarchical structures would be dissolved and that the original meaning of "cyber" would become one important premise for the cybersociety. This notion of community usually depends on CMC (computer-mediated communication) and on the ability to share information instantaneously across distances (Jones, 1995). The cybersociety is connected via CMC, typically the Internet. CMC, it is claimed, will establish countercultures on an unprecedented scale (e.g., Jones, 1995). In Leary’s view, creative impulses in software and hardware development would come from counterculture types. The cybersociety would (Ruthofer, 1999) create a new political system. He started explaining ICT as means of culture-crossing communication already in the early 1970s. According to Leary, society has been living in virtual reality (VR) since the proliferation of television sets.


Organizational principles - which produce order - would arise and create a "self-organizing system" without central government: the "cybersociety" (Ruthofer, 1999). Feedback would create a  new system that regulates itself and does not need an outside force to control it. Feedback is information about a process used to change the process. Being a person who opposed central governments, Leary was interested in the decentralizing effect that feedback might have on a new civilization. Feedback created by people communicating via computer networks would change the world. As more and more people become connected, more feedback could occur and create a living system. In a self-regulating system all the components would be active. These cybernetic systems are self-organizing. This implies an active cooperation of the individual components of any population composing a system. "Autopoiesis" comes from the Greek "auto", meaning "self" and "poiesis", meaning "a making". "Autopoiesis" refers to the circular quality. The new cybersociety would be such an autopoietic system (self-making).


Leary postulated relations between cybernetic organization, systems, and chaos theory. Chaos is a system whose long term behaviour is unpredictable. He imagined interpersonal organization of communicating individuals in an information society as a chaotic system. Self-organizing chaotic systems can be governed by rules, yet their behaviour appears to be unpredictable because of their complexity. Certain nonlinear dynamical systems exhibit (under certain conditions) the phenomenon known as chaos, characterised by sensitivity to initial conditions. Small variations in the initial conditions of a dynamical and complex system can produce large variations in its long term behaviour. According to Leary, the new civilization perceives the static and predictable Newtonian universe as an outdated worldview. This new cybersociety would accept the fact that they live in a chaotic world system. Outlining the new worldview, hierarchical social and political structures are outdated, too. During the 1980s, Leary described computers as a “transformational tool” and became one promoter of virtual reality and the Internet. The effects of special VR-applications would be comparable to the LSD usage. 


Many cultural critics and media philosophers writing about countercultures (e.g., Theodore Roszak, Mark Dery, and Douglas Rushkoff) expressed that Leary "exerted a significant influence on the youth culture of the 60s" (Roszak, 1995, 164) and described him as a central figure of the "cyberdelic" (cybernetic-psychedelic) counterculture of the 1990s (Dery, 1996; Rushkoff, 1995).


During the 1970s, Leary’s work helped to expose the possibilities and dangers of control in democratic and industrialized societies. One of the growing malaises of modern times stems from the impotence that people feel when confronted with powerful organizations. As they become larger and more impersonal, individuals feel smaller and less useful. This impotence and worthlessness leads to frustration and alienation. The counterculture of the late 1960s and 1970s involved people who - through their lifestyles - expressed their alienation from the mainstream or what they called "the establishment". The counterculture was a rebellion against the culture of the "powerful". It was a widespread international revolt or what Marcuse called the "great refusal" against the mainstream which was referred to as a technocracy. The social maladies of modern industrialized societies include a sense of helplessness in persons about how to control important events of their lives, including their political and economic welfare. Technology can be used to reduce individual freedom and to enhance the power of elites and their forces controlling people. If societies are to avoid elites, they must strengthen the confidence in the ordinary person to "think for himself/herself" and bring "power to the people". This ideal can be approached by applying information and communication technologies to enhance the power of citizens. In advanced Continued Growth societies, however, the possibility of radical change is approached by a variety of measures to prevent revolutions of substantive power. A large part of this task is assumed by ideological institutions and their actors that channel thought, attitudes, and behaviour within acceptable bounds. Leary, however, proclaimed that the times for elitist or traditional governments would be over. The information society of the future would not operate on the basis of obedience and conformity to dogma. He assumed that computers, a global network, and other interactive media would help people to dissolve hierarchical and powerful structures, create the realities of countercultural visions, make the world a better place to live in. As more and more people are learning to use electronic technology to govern themselves, competitive politics would disappear. 


In the Exo-Psychology ("the psychology of post-terrestrial existence") theory (1977), Leary encouraged the hippies to transcend the flower-power-1960s and to find a way to live with technology (Ruthofer, 1999). It was just not enough to "look within", "return to nature" and to assume "all is one". Leary was the one who made hippies aware that drugs were only a part of the continuing evolution of the human species towards enlightenment, and that the evolutionary purpose of technology was to help us on our "spiritual path" towards freedom, enlightenment, and immortality.


In Neuropolitics (1977), Leary explained political applications of ICT. He saw the future as a democratization of humanity’s way of governing itself. The challenge is to flatten hierarchies as much as possible by engaging ordinary citizens in the polity. He postulated a new model for a political system. If this occurs, the coming age of direct individual citizen power will transform representative government. This participatory direct democracy is based on the premise that every citizen has a personal computer which is connected to a worldwide electronic network. However, he did not explain in detail how this political system without parties and politicians would function. The emergence of global electronic communication would be a period of transition. It would prepare humankind for the next stage in human evolution which, according to Leary’s Exo-Psychology, is space migration.


He expected in the 1960s an antiauthoritarian alternative future course. In the 1970s, Leary was not an unceasing optimist concerning a green future on the planet earth. Like many others today, he foresaw that the present world system is not ecologically sustainable. Humanity has largely squandered the past in futile discussions and well-intentioned, but half-hearted, responses to the ecological challenge. Human activities inflict harsh and irreversible damage on the environment. Many human practices would so alter the living world that it would be unable to sustain life in the natural manner. During the 1980s and beyond, the Green movement became a political actor, and Greens now hold seats in numerous parliaments around the world. They were a political embodiment of the core values of the counterculture. According to Leary, nature's long-term preservation would only be reachable in appropriate space settlements. The sustainable society would be realized in space colonies, above all, a collective transformation permitting the best of humanity and the possibility to connect with nature.


Although contact with extraterrestrial life is not a common topic in sociological analysis, scientists have ventured in this field. Some hippies believed in extraterrestrial intelligence (e.g., space people). Hypothetical actors of this contact type involved the counterculture. They would be selected and contacted by aliens to receive a message to be delivered to humanity. Such messages would be generally about the need for humans to establish world peace and to create a new civilization. This alien type would (1) empower the people, (2) want to see transformations to happen in human societies through ordinary people, (3) help to create utopian societies by means of social, technological, and political changes.  


Bruce Eisner, the founder of a psychedelic-cybernetic organization called "Island Foundation" and the author of "Ecstasy: The MDMA Story", is another important person of the cyberculture who has been influenced by Leary’s Exo-Psychology. According to Eisner, Leary advocated building a starship to carry the hippie masses to a new star (Eisner, 2004).


In Chaos and Cyberculture (1994), the psychologist presented his vision for a new humanism with an emphasis on questioning authority, independent thinking, individual creativity, and empowerment, and on new technologies. This work contained a theory about countercultures from the 1950s to the 1990s (Beat Generation, the hippies, etc.) and defined a new counterculture type - the "cyberpunks".  This society would function according to cybernetic-anarchic principles (e.g., self-organization). "Cyberpunks" are individuals who think for themselves, question authority, and create their own realities with the support of applications of technologies. Cyberpunks were influenced by transcendentalism of the 1960s counterculture. The hippies of the 1960s and this type of cyberpunks of the 1980s and 1990s belong to a comparable society because they share the same aim: Ecstasy (e.g., the experience of individual freedom). As far as the non-violent aspect of the behaviour is concerned, this cyberpunk performs no act of physical violence. The cyberpunk - (a) having personal access to information technology and (b) who lives in a society that is ever more accepting of "deviant" lifestyles and increasingly promotes individuality - would become one central focus for this future society.  Cyberpunks seek independence, and do not want to control others. This new civilization integrates assumptions of anarchy, rebelliousness, and liberation through technology.


In the cyberhippie travelogue, "Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace", Douglas Rushkoff presented a survey of the subcultures discussed in Mondo. Rushkoff (who was influenced by Leary’s theories) termed this counterculture "Cyberia" - the cyberian counterculture. There are at least two assumptions that all cyberian subcultures have in common:

  • Individuals are able to create their own realities - "reality" is a construction of the minds.

  • Technology helps people to create their own realities and to free them from limits.


Psychedelics use among cyberians has developed out of the counterculture of the sixties. According to Leary's cyberpunks and Rushkoff's cyberians, technologies would be part of the evolution towards higher intelligence, empathy, and higher consciousness. By comparing analyses of the cyberdelic scene, e.g., Douglas Rushkoff's "Cyberia", and Mark Dery’s "Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century", Ruthofer showed that - from a countercultural view - the 1990s were in certain ways a return of the 1960s (Ruthofer, 1999).         


High-Tech is an important factor for the cyberhippie scene. The cyberhippies rely on CMC forms allowed by computer networks structures. For example, information about trance gatherings and about drugs are disseminated via the Internet, screens mediate psychedelic computer-created video sequences at festivals. The electronic and psychedelic music genre - e.g., under which trance music falls - would not even exist without elaborate synthesizers, computers and the high-tech sound equipment. Cyberhippies have taken over values and beliefs of the 1960s counterculture and integrated them into their worldviews. The hippies and the cyberhippies share the same aim - individual freedom and ecstasy.


Leary assumed that there was a trend in biological evolution on this planet from water, to shoreline, to land, to atmospheric flight. One goal of evolution, in his Exo-psychology theory, is immortality or fusion with higher intelligence. Finally, humankind would reach immortality. In "Design for Dying", Leary discusses different techniques/technologies for extending human life spans and achieving immortality. He also predicted that the last stage of human evolution would be life-forms totally determined by "individual choice". This final stage would allow people to transform themselves to any form they like.


A set of Leary’s predictions concerning the impacts of psychedelics and computers on our culture turned out to be wrong. However, extraordinary technological innovations and/or practices of consciousness transformation can have radical impacts on future generations. Leary, however, did not feel embarrassed when his predictions turned out to be wrong (Ruthofer, 1999). He did not want people to uncritically follow his doctrine. His aim was to educate people to "think for themselves and question authority", his own personality included. Furthermore, contradictions can be derived from another set of his assumptions. He did not seem to feel embarrassed about the inconsistencies in his theories. On the contrary, he wanted to appear chaotic (Ruthofer, 1999). Leary taught people to "go with the flow" - to change and to evolve. To go with the flow means that he/she thinks for herself/himself and is not afraid of change - she/he accepts the fact that life happens in a chaotic world that is continually transforming.

The Cultural Creatives and Hippies

Whenever a wave of change predominates in any given society, the pattern for future development is relatively easy to research. Scientists, journalists, writers, artists, and others discover the "wave of the future". When a society is confronted with with more waves of change, and none is dominant, it becomes difficult to sort out the meaning of change and the arising problems. A Transformational Society brings with it new family styles; changed ways of working,  living and loving; a new economic system; new political system; and an altered consciousness. Small transformational groups, no matter how enlightened, cannot by themselves create a new civilization. The actions of large numbers of people are required.       


Social analyst Paul H. Ray revealed through extensive research that there are about 44 million "cultural creatives" in the USA (Ray, 1996) - almost one-fourth of the American population. Hippie values are identifiable in "The Integral Culture Survey: A Study of Transformational Values in America" (Ray, 1996). In Libaw's view, there are still flower children in America (Libaw, 2002).


Cultural creatives are defined by a set of values, a new lifestyle, and worldview. They are concerned about the environment and social economic-justice. They view themselves as members of the human species on one planet (Marx-Hubbard, 1998, 12). Cultural creatives are drivers of the demand that people go beyond environmental regulation to ecological sustainability, to change the entire way of life accordingly. They want less hierarchical relationships. Cultural creatives care deeply about ecology and saving the planet, about relationships, peace, and about self actualization, spirituality and self-expression. Their emphasis is on consciousness-raising in several aspects - personal, social, and planetary. They demand authenticity - at home, at work, and in politics. Cultural creatives are described as social idealists. They originated from the social and counterculture movements of the 1960s. The sociologist Paul H. Ray and the psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson postulated - in "Cultural Creatives: how 50 million people are changing the world" (Ray/Anderson, 2000) - that since the 1960s, 26 percent of the adults in the United States - 50 million people - made a comprehensive shift in their worldview, values, and way of life. Their thesis on cultural creatives is backed up by 13 years of survey research studies on over 100 000 Americans, plus over 100 focus groups and dozens of depth interviews. Cultural creatives are a subculture in the USA. As many as 50 million Americans would be broadly sympathetic to hippie values (Libaw, 2002). Yet most cultural creatives feel they are alone. They have not yet established their connection with one another or with the pattern and momentum of collective transformation. Nonetheless, as Marilyn Ferguson assumed in "The Aquarian Conspiracy" (Ferguson, 1980, 1987), a leaderless but powerful network would be necessary to bring about radical change in the United States. These individuals have broken with elements of Western thought, and they may even have the power to start a Transformational Society movement.   

Transformational Society  

Scientific futures studies do not usually postulate a single prediction, in the sense of presenting precisely what will happen to subjects and objects (e.g., individuals, groups, countries). Most futurists forecast "alternative futures" rather than predicting "the future". Little if anything is certain about the long-term future (Becker/Scarce, 1986). One way to explore alternative futures is to come up with a variety of possibilities. A method in the attempt at such foresight is to present and to classify scenarios. This is just one of many methods and techniques used in futures research. James Dator, Professor of Political Science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Director of the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies, reviewed a vast amount of future studies in the 1970s and synthesized four distinct futures into which all scenarios of that literature fit: (a) Decline and Collapse, (b) Disciplined Society, (c) Continuation (usually "continued economic growth"), (d) Transformational Society (Dator, 1999).


While Dator has his own "vision" of what he termed a "Transformational Society" (Dator, 1973; Dator, 1983), his interest is primarily in helping students (and clients) understand that there are a wide variety of different images of the future in existence. Dator’s study was initially largely inspired by John and Magda McHale, Buckminster Fuller, David Greene and the other Archigram architects, Marshall McLuhan, Theilhard de Chardin, Margaret Mead, the early Robert Theobald, Yoneji Masuda, Eric Jantsch, and many more.


According to Dator, all images in all cultures (he has encountered) are classifiable into one of four major (generic) images or categories of the future. An image of the future is an imaginary description or scenario of a possible future outcome for a given item of interest: a person, a community, an organization, nation, institution, belief, behaviour, etc. In addition, these four generic futures can serve as the basis for a futures technique he called "deductive forecasting". It is possible to forecast the general characteristics, in each of the four alternative futures, of any present role or institution by deducing it from each of these four generic societal images. The theories and the assumptions on the four major (generic) categories expressed in this study engage only the responsibility of the principal investigator and do not necessarily reflect positions and research from James Dator.


A perspective from Continued Growth (progress and developmentalism in the capitalist system) is rooted in the nature of industrial and information societies and has been debated since their origins. Decision-making power over major areas of life is unequally distributed and concentrated in private and political oligarchies, with large-scale effects throughout the social order. One way to develop an alternative future is to transform representative to participatory democracy and to extend the democratic system to the organization of work and to democratic participation in different areas of life.


The Transformational Society sees a civilization on the verge of an incredible transition to an alternative future. The first wave was the agricultural revolution, the second the industrial revolution and the third is the computer/information revolution (Toffler, 1980), and the new wave/fourth wave is the possibility for a new transformational future (Schlifni, 2000). In Toffler's view, we would be in a transformational phase of history (Becker/Scarce, 1986). In his perspective, this "new civilization", this "third wave" will require governments that are more effective, yet more democratic than any we know today. The patterns of social change included the move from hierarchical arrangements to networks, from institutional help to self-help, from industrial society to information society, and from top-down society to a bottom-up society. Similarly, Marilyn Ferguson has written in "The Aquarian Conspiracy" (1980) about decentralizing of social structures into communitarian units.  


By definition, the Transformational Society is dynamic, forever in a state of expected and anticipated change (Becker/Scarce, 1986; Schlifni, 2000). This society depends on participatory and anticipatory democracy (Dator, 1973; Dator 1983; Becker/Scarce, 1986; Schlifni, 2000) and the ability to see the end of current forms and to develop to new forms of (a) beliefs, (b) behaviour, (c) organization, and (d) new life-forms (optional).


Anticipatory democracy is a term (Toffler, 1970; Dator, 1973; Becker/Scarce, 1986) for processes combining citizen participation with future consciousness. As such, it goes far beyond usual notions of participatory democracy (Bezold, 1978, xii; Becker/Scarce, 1986). Bezold, in "Anticipatory Democracy" (1978), defined it as "an approach to problem solving that combines future consciousness with broad-based public participation". Anticipatory democracy is the public's active and conscious engagement in collectively shaping the future. It is usually applied to instances where future-visioning processes are being used.


In a provocative book, "The image of the future" (Polak, 1961), the Dutch sociologist Fred Polak noted that when the dominant images of a culture are anticipatory, they cause social development and provide direction for social change. They have, as it were, a pull toward the future, by their attractiveness they reinforce each movement that takes society toward them, and they influence social decisions that will bring them to realization. As a Transformational Society moves toward the achievement of goals inherent in its dominant images, the implications of the images are explored, progress is made, and needs are satisfied.


The vantage point from which this theory is constructed sees Transformational Society existing within an earth-space (e.g., natural) or universal environment. Instead of masses of people living in conventional or uniform family arrangements, the Transformational Society will see a variety of deviant structures. Transformational Societies prefer to live in (a) communes or (b) in other alternative forms. Communes are an appropriate scale for human living. Infrastructure and political systems will be reorganized. For the community life, for patterns of love, for reconstitution of friendship networks, for the alternative economy, as well as for psyches and personality structure, the rise of new communes is momentous in this future perspective.   


The Continued Growth society undergoes structural change, a revolution from an industrial to an information society. This transformation would overwhelm people, the accelerated rate of technological and social change would leave them disconnected, suffering from "stress and disorientation". "Future shock" is a term for a certain psychological state of individuals and societies, introduced by Alvin Toffler in his work of the same title (Toffler, 1970). Unlike the current Continued Growth society, the Transformational Society does not fill people with dread, uncertainty, and a "future shock".   


The book "Future Shock" contained another identifiable future view. It was a vision of hippie communes, deviant lifestyles, alternative architecture and offbeat technology. By definition, the Transformational Society is a possible solution for future shock problems. Transformational Society is a term which encompasses and requires varieties that advocate the abolition of all forms of imposed authority including social hierarchy and coercive power. This new civilization challenges all assumptions of the Continuation category.


Charles Reich’s "The Greening of America" published in 1970, predicted that American society - young people especially - was headed for a new culture and morality of self-indulgence and hippie views, hardly predictive of today’s youthful preoccupation with future attaining power and vocational success. One possible nature for a revolutionary strategy is reflected in "The Greening of America". This consciousness transformation will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual and the culture, and it will change the political structure as its final act. The revolution will not require violence to succeed, and it cannot be successfully resisted by violence. It is a transition to a New Age. It seems both necessary and inevitable, and in time it may turn out to include not only youth but the entire American people (Reich, 1970).


The New Left demanded participatory direct democracy and interactive media. Once people were no longer represented by politicians, everyone would be able to participate in the political decision-making process. According to Barbrook's review of "Collective Intelligence: Mankind's Emerging World in Cyberspace" (Lévy, 1997), the net has the potential to realize the revolutionary dream of the 1960s (Barbrook, 2000). Cyberspace would be the online version of a hippie commune (Barbrook, 2000). The people would be able to determine their own destiny through a real-time direct democracy: the "virtual agora". Cyberspace could make new hippie communes feasible.


Left-Right politics is a terminology used to describe the two ideological poles of a political spectrum in a society, especially in a political system. Gabriel Almond, former President of the American Political Association, divided all American political science into four political philosophical and methodological fractions. According to his view, they are "hard right", "soft right", "hard left", "soft left". Terms like "Marxist", "liberal", "liberal pluralists", "conservative", "neo-conservative", "humanist moderate left" appear in his analysis, concepts with political ideological loading. It is possible to forecast the general characteristics, in each of the presented four future categories, of left-right politics. The categories for viewing the future of traditional right or traditional left politics are Decline and Collapse, Disciplined Society, Continuation (usually "continued economic growth"). The new Transformational Society is against hierarchy and authority, adherence to tradition, privilege for the wealthy, and against all the values commonly associated with the political right. Right politics do not exist in the Transformational Society.


The pattern of change for the Transformational Society is the quantum or the radical transformation. This means radical discontinuity and newness. Politically, the Transformational Society anticipates non-traditional left-radical change. The "new civilization", the "fourth wave" will require groups and individuals that are more democratic and more left than any political party we know today. Quantum transformation can also be seen in nature. Radical newness is an evolutionary fact. Evolution raises consciousness. Quantum leap in this context means a jump from one state to the next. A quantum jump is usually a sudden transition. However, there are various time periods for studying the future of radical change, which are outlined by the principal investigator. These periods are:

  • Near term future: up to one year

  • Short range future: one to five years

  • Middle range future: five to twenty years

  • Long range future: twenty to fifty years 

  • Far future: fifty plus years 

If the Transformational Society is able to learn to combine the advanced technological capacity with an evolved consciousness and the ability to design synergistic systems, it will be part of an incredible transition to a New Age. Instead of seeing technology as merely useful or possible destructive, this society gives human nature the capacity to alter consciousness. Through the technologies and/or scientific innovations combined with psychology, higher forms of consciousness will emerge.   

High-Tech Varieties

Images of the future are emerging from new premises and technologies, new political relationships, new life-styles and modes of communication. They show wholly new ideas, classifications and concepts. New technologies, especially communications technologies, have the potential to challenge, alter and/or dissolve traditional institutions and values, and support the creation of new ones. Changes in applications of technology fundamentally alter systems. A high-tech variety is a high-tech society that develops new forms of (a) beliefs, (b) behaviour, (c) organization, and (d) new life-forms (optional). According to Dator, technology is a major factor of social change. While it is beyond the scope of this study to fully explicate his research here, the understanding is captured best by the aphorism of Marshall McLuhan: "We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us" (McLuhan, 1967; Dator, 1999).


High-Consciousness Varieties 

Complementing the technological orientation of high-tech varieties are societies which see a transformational future as a time of fundamental personal and psychic change - through the expansion of our minds, global peace will be established. This New Age requires individuals and groups characterized by alternative approaches to traditional culture. The Transformational Society is the societal expression of consciousness evolution.


Attempts to define consciousness can be traced back to the writings of  William James. He saw consciousness as the "function of knowing". Consciousness has also been defined as the totality of the impressions, thoughts, and feelings which make up a person's conscious being. It can be seen as a quality of the mind and the ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and an environment (e.g., nature, earth-space, cosmos). Due to the dynamic nature of consciousness the recent definitions consider it to exist at many levels - defining consciousness as the processing of information at various levels of awareness. Transformational Societies have high-levels of consciousness. They are classified as transformational consciousness. A high-consciousness variety is a society with a high-level of consciousness that develops new forms of (a) beliefs, (b) behaviour, (c) organization, and (d) new life-forms (optional).


Conventional future societies are dependent on divisive boundary systems for group identity and integrating ego interests, while a Transformational Society transcends divisive boundary-based identifications and is beyond anthropocentrism. In the transformational view, we do not stand apart from the universe, but rather we are evolving in it. The term "universe" is defined as the whole space-time continuum in which we exist, together with all the energy and matter within it. From the transformational perspective, Homo sapiens is a transitional species.  


Holism is inherent in this future. This society sees that planet earth is a whole system. Integration exists in the process of evolution. Unity does not mean homogeneity. The union differentiates. Unity increases the diversity. Evolution raises consciousness and freedom. As this society becomes more complex, it changes in the direction of higher consciousness and freedom. The world system is also becoming more complex. Society is connected by the media and the environment. Radical transformation is awakening in people a whole-system consciousness to complement the cosmic consciousness (high-spirit).


Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty. The Transformational Society creates beauty. It favours aesthetic architectures and design. This gives the new civilization motivation to create aesthetic forms as it recognizes the unaesthetic forms of so many modern cities, houses, and machines. The creations will become more beautiful. Evolution has the potential to create beauty, too.  


The Transformational Society can persist over generations. This future will be a time of global peace and love, of meditation and the development of a new consciousness. The new civilization will transcend divisive boundary-based identifications and activate planetary and cosmic identities. The pioneers of this peaceful future want to abolish the army, too. Attempts to resolve military systems will be successful in this future category.


The possibility of transforming the present world to its next stage of evolution is an opportunity. How to seize the opportunity, how to bring into being a world that is not only sustainable, functional, and equitable but also desirable is a question of the societal characteristics, properties not only of computer simulations but of the human heart and soul. In particular, a high-consciousness variety is routed in hippie images of the future. If people want to envision a new counterculture they have the possibility to study the hippie culture. A transformational hippie society will be influenced to an extent by ideas from the 1960s counterculture - for example, the value of individual freedom and the development of a high-consciousness to attain freedom and enlightenment.   

The Evolution of Consciousness

It is possible to view human history as a slowly dawning awareness that we are members of a larger group. Initially our loyalties were to ourselves and to the immediate family, to hunter-gatherers, then to tribes, small settlements, city-states, nations. The Transformational Society promotes the development of collective planetary consciousness, the group identity is broadened further, to include the whole human community, the entire planet earth. The old appeals to racial chauvinism and/or to nationalism do not work in the Transformational Society. It has beyond divisive, boundary-based loyalties.


We change within ourselves toward higher consciousness, greater freedom, and understanding of more complex order to effect change in the world, first and foremost through the individual transformation. Changes in consciousness affect social structures and technology through the way people think and feel about themselves and the world. Transformational consciousness provides a basis for reverence for life, cooperation and synergy, concerns for humanity and the planet as a whole, and deep social and ecological awareness.


Individual global consciousness is defined as the ability of the person to identify with humanity as a whole. Collective global consciousness is dependent to a certain extent on individual global consciousness. The higher the number of individuals who are globally conscious, the better chance we have to reach a collective global consciousness. Societies may enter an accelerated transition phase, leading to a chain reaction, in which the majority starts making the transition to global consciousness.


The prime characteristic of planetary consciousness is, as its term implies, a consciousness of the planet - that is the life and the earth's order. This planetary consciousness is associated with the "whole earth" image taken from space. This image has become a symbol used by the environmental and globalization movements. It reflects the interconnectedness and interdependence of all life on the planet. The Transformational Society sees planet earth as a whole system. We are being integrated into this system. What is needed, deep ecologists suggest, is a collective planetary consciousness. This transformation alters our perception of being separate from and above the rest of nature to the new perspective: We are a part of nature.


Transformational Society integrates not only appropriate environmental/green images of the future, but also the further broadening of the consciousness through identification with all beings, even with the biosphere as a whole. This has to do with widening our identity. Rather than identifying ourselves only with our ego we strive to mature psychologically by expanding our identity to include all species and our whole environment. According to this view, planet earth is a living "organism", made up from all the life-forms and the environment. Transformational Society, like deep ecology, rejects the anthropocentricism that elevates humanity above non-human nature. Planetary consciousness sees the earth as a "single organism" and recognizes that an organism at war with itself faces self-destruction. It is emerging from a concern for the survival. It embodies a heightened awareness of relationships or connections, emphasizing the relationship between human behaviour and its effect on the planet.


Social utopian visions and images are precognitions about coming evolutionary possibilities. Their realization requires humanity's maturation to a high-level of collective social consciousness. This revolutionary society becomes a universal and social humanity.  New social designs can come from the deeper understanding of nature, human nature, and systems theory. Through social consciousness evolution individuals realize that it is their responsibility to design social innovations that support collective social consciousness, greater freedom, and more synergistic systems. People are able to build a new world by identifying and connecting the best innovations that embody a transformational perspective.


Consciousness has evolved for billions of years, from single cells to animals, from animals to humans, but transformational consciousness is relatively new. For instance, Reich’s book "The Greening of America" came towards the end of the flowering of the counterculture, and represents one utopian expression of its ideals. Three types of consciousness predominate in America. One was formed in the nineteenth century, the second in the first half of the 20th century; the third emerged with the counterculture. Consciousness I is the traditional outlook of the American farmer, small businessman, and worker who is trying to get ahead. A segment of the American people still has a consciousness which was appropriate to the nineteenth-century society of small towns, face-to-face relationships, and individual economic enterprise. Consciousness II represents the values of an organizational society. This segment of people has a consciousness formed by organized technological and/or corporate society. Consciousness I and II are not transformational consciousness. The psychological evolution, a quantum leap in human consciousness, is what Yale Professor Charles Reich termed "Consciousness III". He interpreted the counterculture as representing the rise of Consciousness III - open, flexible, ecological, planetary, cosmic, transformative, non-hierarchical modes of thinking, believing and living. Consciousness III would replace the rigid, authoritarian belief-systems of corporate capitalist America. Consciousness III spurns materialism, capitalism, and competition. Consciousness III rejects the protestant work ethic (Consciousness I), traditional politics and economics (Consciousness II) in favour of sisterly and brotherly love, communal and deviant lifestyles, and new behaviour and organization. Consciousness III is transformational consciousness. In Reich's view, a more humane America would emerge from the anti-capitalist hippie ethic of Consciousness III. 


The term "cosmic consciousness" was coined by the psychologist Richard M. Bucke. His study "Cosmic Consciousness" (Bucke, 1969) was first published in 1901. He defined three forms of consciousness.  

  1. Simple consciousness, which is possessed by the upper half of the animal class.
  2. Self consciousness, by virtue of which woman/man becomes conscious of  herself/himself as a distinct entity apart from the rest of the universe.
  3. Cosmic consciousness, a third form which is far above self consciousness as is that above of the simple consciousness.

Simple and self consciousness are not transformational consciousness. His study pointed to an optimistic future, in which the psychological cosmic consciousness revolution would fundamentally alter humans, and the economic and social revolution would abolish individual ownership and rid the earth at once of two immense problems – riches and poverty.


The prime characteristic of "cosmic consciousness" is, as its term implies, a consciousness of the cosmos, that is the life and the order of the universe - an intellectual enlightenment or the perception of illumination, which alone would place the individual on a new plane of existence (Bucke, 1969). In reviewing the mental and spiritual activity of the human race, Bucke discovered that certain individuals experienced a state of moral exaltation, an indescribable feeling of elevation, elation, joyousness, and quickening of the moral sense. With cosmic consciousness would come what may be called a sense of immortality, a consciousness of eternal life, not a conviction that individuals shall have this (Bucke, 1969), but the consciousness that they have it already. Although cosmic consciousness was rare, it would arise in many people through the natural tendency of evolution to create higher consciousness (Bucke, 1969). Bucke saw  cosmic consciousness as the next stage in human evolution.


"Cosmos" was the title of a television series produced by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan.  It has been broadcast in 60 countries and seen by more than 500 million people. The series presented a wide range of scientific subjects including the origins of life, origins of the human species, origins of matter and perspectives of our place in the universe. The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be (Sagan, 1980). Thus, humankind is a part of the cosmos. We, who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos, we have begun, at least, to wonder about our origins (Sagan, 1980).


The awareness of the cosmic origins of atoms or matter was made possible by scientific discoveries. Willy Fowler is associated with nuclear astrophysics, a field he and his colleagues created in the 1950s. Because of their investigations, we now know that all the elements in the universe - except for hydrogen and helium - were originally generated in the insides of stars. Fowler’s paper "Synthesis of the Elements in Stars" (Reviews of Modern Physics. vol. 29, Issue 4, 547–650), co-authored with Burbidge, E. M, Burbidge, G. R., and Hoyle, F., was published in 1957.


A human body of 70 kg consists of approximately 7*1027 atoms. Atoms are microscopic structures found in all matter. An atom is the smallest particle differentiable as a certain element. The human species is, as Carl Sagan used to express, "starstuff". About 98.5% of the matter of the human body is made up of just six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Most of a human body's matter is oxygen (65%). Carbon, the basic unit for organic molecules, comes in second (18%). The following table presents the elements sorted by their presence in human body.



Table 0: Chemical Elements sorted by their presence in human body.


Name of Chemical Element

Presence in human Body (%)


 65 %


 18 %
Hydrogen                10%
Nitrogen  3%
Calcium                 1,5%
Phosphorus             1%
Potassium          0,35%
Sulphur                 0,25%
Sodium  0,15%
Magnesium  0,05%
Other Elements [2]  0.7 %


During the countercultural revolt against the establishment, millions could relate to Joni Mitchell’s chorus in her hippie anthem "Woodstock" (1969). She sang: "We are stardust". She was being factual as well as poetic (ScienceDaily, 1999). All elements of the human body, except for hydrogen, all the atoms that make each of us up - e.g., the iron in our blood, the calcium in our bones, the carbon in our brains - were created in massive stars - thousands of light-years away in space and billions of years ago in time. Besides, the chorus had the image of a metaphorical garden, a paradise, a hippie–made utopia.

It was in the mid-1960s. Two scientists, Arno Penzius and Robert Wilson, identified background radiation from the big bang and were able to extrapolate backward in time to the first events. The universe began approximately 13.7 billion years ago with the mightiest explosion of all time (big bang theory). The universe expanded, cooled and darkened. Energy condensed into matter, mostly hydrogen atoms, and these atoms accumulated into vast cosmic clouds; rushing away from each other. The first galaxies formed as early as about 600 million years after the big bang. Within these galaxies the first generation of stars was created, flooding the cosmos with light. Star formation was the process by which gas in cosmic clouds transformed into stars. Hydrogen atoms made suns and starlight. There were in those times no planets and no life-forms. Deep in the stars nuclear fusion was creating the heavier atoms - carbon, oxygen, silicon, iron.  These elements were the raw materials from which planets and life later arrived. Elements were ejected into space by massive star explosion (e.g., supernova), where they mixed with other matter and formed new stars, some with planets such as earth. This was a description of the evolution of the cosmos as revealed by science in our time. Thus, all the atoms of human bodies, the matter that makes each of us up, were not generated in nation states. Our matter origin lies in the cosmos. 


Humankind is a local embodiment of the cosmos developed to self-awareness. We are a way for the universe to know itself (Sagan, 1980). We have begun to contemplate our origins: We are starstuff researching the stars; organised collections of about ten billion billion billion atoms considering the evolution of atoms; tracing the long path by which, here on earth, consciousness arose. According to the definition of cosmos, every generation of the human species was born in the cosmos.


Human evolution is a multidisciplinary scientific field which seeks to research origins and development of the human species. Hominids (Hominidae) are a biological family which includes humans, extinct species of humanlike and other mixed forms (mixture of human and ape features). Biologically, humans are defined as hominids of the species Homo sapiens.   


In 2001, a 6-7 million year old fossil skull named "Toumaï" by its discoverers, and formally classified as Sahelanthropus tchadensis, was discovered in Chad (Africa) and is one of the earliest hominid fossils ever found. Homo erectus first appeared about 1.8 million years ago. A population similar to Homo erectus was directly ancestral to the earliest members of the species Homo sapiens. The exact timing and transformation mode are controversial. A million-year-old Homo erectus skull found in Ethiopia confirms the hypothesis that modern man evolved from a single pre-human species that developed in Africa and migrated throughout the rest of the world. Other 160 000-year-old skulls - discovered in Ethiopia (Herto) - are one of the oldest modern human fossils yet. Their age and anatomy is an evidence for the emergence of humans from Africa, and against the multiregional theory which includes the hypothesis that humans evolved in many places around the world. In any case, there were in those times no nation states.  


The cosmos has been evolving in time toward complex systems with greater consciousness. There has been a phase, from the big-bang to the first cells; a phase, from the first cells to the first humans; a phase from the first humans to the present world population. 


National boundaries are not evidenced when we view the earth from space. We know that the politicians speak for the nations; but who speaks for the human species and for earth?  The Transformational Society claims to speak for the whole humankind. We are members of the human species. According to planetary consciousness, Transformational Societies see themselves not as citizens or inhabitants of one nation or another, but of the "earth". We are one species. They claim to speak for all species and the planetary biosphere. We are one planet. And planetary consciousness is seen as an evolutionary necessity for the Transformational Society - a step closer to a cosmic consciousness.


Cosmic consciousness means that we are members of the human species and parts of the cosmos. Transformational Societies see themselves not as citizens or inhabitants of one nation or another, but of the "cosmos". According to cosmic consciousness, the origins of the human species do not lie in the nation states. All human origins are in the cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring. A Transformational Society with cosmic consciousness claims to speak for all species and the cosmos. We are one cosmos, together with all the energy and matter within it. 

Transformational Psychology

Transformational psychology (ancient Greek: psyche = soul and logos = word) is the study of mind, thought, and behaviour of the Transformational Society. It is interested in psychologically altering individuals, and in changing the various contexts in which people live - the family, the workplace, the community. It is concerned with humans, although the behaviour and thought of animals is also studied. Theorists and/or practitioners of transformational psychology are interested in altering themselves as well as helping individuals in the change process. Transformational psychology is conducted both scientifically and non-scientifically.   


This psychology offers an overview of multi-disciplinary approaches to human transformation. It analyzes and researches psychological methods. This includes psychotherapeutic approaches, other professional approaches, meditation, spiritual, and physical practices. Another long-term and scientific perspective views human transformation in terms of evolution; as well as an examination of the social, historical, and economic factors that have influenced the reshaping of societies. Also examined are discoveries and models of consciousness science, and transformative aspects of different types of psychology.


Transformational psychology examines contemporary environmental challenges, solutions, and what is keeping us from implementing them. How can societies move towards an ethical practice of ecology? Why are promising approaches to solve the problem of limits to growth (environmental crisis) being suppressed? What roles could be played by science, technology and psychology? People are able to examine - in participatory consciousness-expanding  processes - both short-term and long-term solutions for these future problems.


Complementing the members of the Transformational Society is a group of professionals. Transformational psychologists translate their knowledge into applicable processes. Their task is supported by applying ICT to enhance altering of consciousness - the electronic media connects people, and computer networks allow them to communicate individually and collectively. Their psychological applications using ICT contain a potential moment of transformation toward evolution. For examples, members from New Age groups have already asked for activities via ICT and for an "initial collective awakening", an experience of millions of people meditating at the same time.


Transformational psychology is both a rejection of "mainstream" psychology and an attempt to apply psychology in transformational ways and contexts. The new psychology begins from the standpoint that its task is to oppose the values of the Continued Growth society and promotes the values of the Transformational Society 

  • Humanity in the cosmos: Envisioning of humanity's place within nature and the cosmos, together with efforts to design human activity in consonance with eco-systemic principles and environmental limits.

  • Local and global self-organization: Simultaneous proliferation of creative activities at the local and global level, including the revitalization of civic society, the cultivation of new communities, and the emergence of effective global institutions.

  • From militarism to anti-militarism.

  • From outer authority to inner sources of knowing: Shift from reliance on outer sources of authority to a trust in inner sources of knowing. The person uses available data-input to think for him-/herself and to question authority.

  • From separation to wholeness: Recognition of the wholeness and interconnectedness of aspects of reality and experience.

  • New consciousness: Widening search for ways to activate practices of transformational psychology and nurture a sense of community, together with growing exploration of the role of expanded forms of consciousness in such areas as health, economy, and public life.

  • From centralized to decentralized power: A shift from relationships, systems, and institutions based on centralized power to perspectives and approaches that emphasize people’s capacity for creative self-organization, self-governing.

  • From mechanistic to living systems: A related shift from models of the world, organizations, and human experience based on mechanistic systems, to perspectives and approaches based on the principles of transformative living systems.

  • From greed, scarcity, inequality to sufficiency, sharing, equality: A further shift from perspectives and approaches based on greed, inequality and scarcity to those based on a sense of sufficiency, sharing, equality.

  • From competition to reconciliation, collaboration and partnership: A shift from relationships, organizational models, and societal strategies based on competition to those based on principles reconciliation, collaboration, and partnership.

Transformational Wildcards 

Within the limits of space, time, materials, and energy, future scenarios and visionary human intentions and actions can bring forth not only new information, new behaviour, new knowledge, new feedback loops, new technology, new beliefs, but also new institutions, new structures, and new power relations within human societies. An alternative future will never be fully realized until it is widely envisioned. Visioning means excluding constraints of feasibility and imagining, at first generally and then with increasing specificity.     


Dator's Continuation (usually "continued economic growth") category is reformulated as the potential outcomes for any given system: The system is continued. Transformational wildcards are here typically unexpected events (discontinuities) for the mainstream science - e.g., it is possible to estimate them with different kinds of plausibility: (a) low probability, (b) very low probability, (c) implausible, (d) impossible (according to present state of knowledge). Transformational wildcards undermine trends, create alternative futures, lead to the Transformational Society, influence human thinking about the future and the past, and give rise to new concepts and new perceptions. The transformations are caused by activities of (a) human actions, (b) extraterrestrial intelligence, (c) combinations of both. Causes for wildcards are (a) chaotic behaviour of complex/non-linear systems, (b) paradoxes of intervention (e.g., self-fulfilling prophecies, self-defying prophecies). In the long run, these wildcards shape the future.


One special event has the potential to spark a chain of events that magnifies the impact of the initial wildcard. An event that might be manageable in isolation for the present governance system can, in concert with other factors, create a cascading effect. It is chaotic, unpredictable, and intrinsically out of control. A new civilization experiences a series of massively transformative events, or "transformational wildcards" brought on by radical developments. The integration of emerging technologies will create a wave of change - e.g., nanotechnology, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, ICT.  

Transformational Society integrates research on foreseeable factors of transformation. They might significantly affect humanity's future in the "Age of Aquarius" and beyond. When does the Aquarian Age begin? Astrologers and other persons have given their positions for decades and some of the times range from the start of the hippie movement all the way toward the year 2600 and beyond. The Aquarian Age is assumed to start at a certain time, and it will last 2100+ years. In any case, if enough people are able to learn ethical behaviour and achieve a transformational consciousness, the future will be the "Age of Aquarius". It is possible to imagine that in the next 3000+ years humanity will be acting out of the promise, laid down in hippie culture, for paradise.


New major tools for our transformation appeared: The scientific method, participatory electronic democracy, transformational economy. Science involves the mind's understanding of consciousness evolution. The scientific method of investigation reveals how nature actually works. The Transformational Society can enter the process of creation. Out of science developed technology. Nanotechnology allows to build in miniature atom by atom as nature does. It is possible to alter our genetic code and create new life-forms. We are extending our life-spans, seeking for immortality, and even attempting to transfer our consciousness into computers or into other human bodies to recreate ourselves. Throughout history humans have had the vision to live forever. Technological immortality is the term given to the hypothesis for long life spans made possible by scientific advances in a variety of fields: nanotechnology, genetics, human physiology, engineering, cybernetics, regenerative medicine, microbiology, and others. A set of people assume that our technology will carry the human species in a new form to locations outside the earth and to other stars. Space colonization has been analyzed from a wide range of perspectives. Although the colonization process may take several centuries, first steps towards this aim have already been taken. Space colonization, also called space settlement, is the hypothetical permanent human colonization of locations outside the earth. This can lead to a universal humanity - a combination of a high-level of consciousness with capacities to transform human bodies through scientific and technological advances, in an earth-space or cosmic/universal environment.


Through science and participatory and anticipatory democracy we gain the power to affect nature and transform the world. One major tool of transformation is participatory electronic democracy. "True Democracy is the use of modern electronic communications and information technology as instruments to empower the people to help set agendas, establish priorities, make important policies and participate in their implementation. In a word, true teledemocracy is the use of telecommunications to give the public leverage in self-governance" (Becker, 1995). Participatory electronic democracy provides the social architecture for awakening of individual creativity en masse and for social change.  


The Transformational Society uses advanced technology in an ecologically friendly way, and does not see an inherent conflict between human technology and biodiversity. When this society reaches the limits to growth, it does not necessarily adapt and stabilize; it innovates and changes structures. The problem of scarcity and unsustainable development will be solved by efficient technologies and strategies of sustainable development. Problems are here evolutionary drivers vital to change. The Transformational Society sees the end of capitalism and of the market economy, and the emergence of new economic systems. For instance, according to the study "Cyber-communism: how the Americans are superseding capitalism in cyberspace", the cybersociety would increasingly tend to share rather than sell (Barbrook, 1999). The high-tech gift economy of the net emerges from the technological and social advances. Barbrook foresees the transformation of capitalist production and market relations. Gift cultures are usually adaptations not to scarcity but to abundance. They arise in civilizations that do not have significant material-scarcity problems with survival goods. In the book "The Gift: The Erotic Life of Property", Lewis Hyde points to two types of economies. In a commodity (or exchange) economic system, status is usually given to those who have the most resources – the rich. In a gift economy, status is accorded to those who give the most to others. It is not a return to earlier pre-industrial tribal societies. The new organizations will also produce technologically complex goods and services. They are produced as gifts, not with the expectation of financial returns. Media convergence, computing and telecommunications will help to create a new electronic agora - a virtual place where exchange of information occurs and new systems of transformational economy (e.g., high-tech gift economy) are put into practice to alter societies.


For a world confronting potentially profound social, economic, environmental, and technological transitions, analytic methods supported by modern computer science enhance the ability to reason systematically about the long-term future. Concepts for alternative futures can be built up by many scientists and other people before they are complete and compelling. As a way of encouraging others to join in the process to envision a new civilization, the principal investigator lists here some transformational wildcards. This is by no means a definite list. The author includes it here only to invite others to develop and enlarge it.   


Table 1: List of selected transformational wildcards that were presented in literature. 


Transformational  Wildcard  


Participatory electronic democracy

Advances in interactive electronic communication empower Transformational Society, lead to true democracy, to a new political system, and to new political organization.  

Transformational economy

The new civilization applies technology in the context of economic system transformation, and sees advantages in certain technologies and/or practices, allowing the human species to change itself into an ecologically compatible system.

Energy revolution

Science spawns the emergence of new technologies that provide inexhaustible, free and non-polluting sources of energy.

Space colonization

The human race is in transition from an earth-based to a space-based culture. The Transformational Society assumes here a participatory democratic and antiauthoritarian alternative future course   

Technological immortality

Immortality is based on the premise of existing for a potentially infinite or indeterminate length of time.

Global vegetarian revolution

Societies enter a transition phase, leading to a chain reaction, in which the majority starts making the transition to vegetarian lifestyles. This is a practice of excluding the consumption of all animal body parts and products requiring the death of animals.  

Cosmic consciousness revolution

Societies enter a transition phase, leading to a chain reaction, in which the majority starts making the transition to cosmic consciousness. Envisioning of humanity's place within nature and the cosmos, together with efforts to design human activity in consonance with eco-systemic principles.

End of the nation states

Humanity transcends national boundaries by moving towards a new global culture and society. It is the "end of the nation states", with a period representing a new era.

Arrival of extraterrestrial intelligence

Contact with an extraterrestrial civilization leads to an quantum jump toward the next stage of human evolution.

Self aware machine/robot intelligence

Robots approximate human-like intelligence and achieve self aware robot intelligence. They replace humans in many labour-intensive  fields.

The end of military

Military organizations are transformed into termination. They do not have the right to exist in advanced transformational futures.

Life in other dimensions

Life in other dimensions is detected.

Time Travel

Time travellers make alterations in the past/present/future. One motivation behind these changes is the creation of a transformational future. 


Life-forms are determined by "individual choice". Mutation allows people to transform themselves to any form they like.

Mind transfer

This hypothetical technology (also discussed as mind uploading/downloading, depending on the view) refers to the transfer of a human mind either into a computer system or into other appropriate non-human systems, or into a human body.

Faster than light speed travel

This means a practical method of travelling faster than the speed of light.


The teleporter is a hypothetical technology, which would move subjects and/or objects over distances (e.g., in a solar system; interstellar).



Transformational Politics

"Transformational politics" is based on the hypothesis that traditional political science is failing to support transformational phenomena and proposes an alternative political science that not only studies phenomena, but also presents knowledge to promote participatory democracy, sustainability, and social conscience. This view  includes social theories (e.g., Woolpert/Slaton/Schwerin, 1998) whose proponents share an interest in building a political community. It promotes personal empowerment, cooperation, grassroots democracy, equality, and environmental awareness. Transformational politics entails the study of political and personal change and their mutual relationship (Vogele, 2004). The field encourages methods for altering the study of politics and permitting more insight into power relations at the personal and social level. It promotes the praxis for teaching, scholarship, and political action around democratic participation, social justice, conflict resolution, healing, and expanded stages of human consciousness. Political transformation entails personal change and vice versa. This scholarship deals especially with social movements; environmental politics; ethnicity, and gender in terms of democratic ideals; and new and improved forms of citizen participation in democratic processes.


Some transformational political theorists, however, view quantum theory as one way to help expand our consciousness and as a potential basis for new politics, government, and political science (Becker/Slaton, 2000). This view emphasizes on (1) processes; (2) interaction, not on separation and isolation; (3) aspects of change, not stasis and order; (4) randomness; (5) the interdependence of everything, not the independence of individuals and component parts; (6) complexity; (7) new paradigms, not on inaccurate traditions (dysfunctional and obsolete).


My research contains a theory that presents perspectives from a wide array of theories - democratisation; participatory e-democracy; ecology; feminism; communitarian; anarchism; chaos; cosmology; conflict resolution; transformational psychology. This work also examines how the transformational perspective offers views about how to practice the theory, apply the study with a concern for creating a new civilization and how to create a new political system.


As we take the quantum leap into the Transformational Society, we need to break free from the theoretical bondage that has defined and constrained democracy in the "Continuation" category . The existing and developing technologies in relation to many teledemocracy projects are considered standard personal equipment in the Transformational Society (e.g., Becker/Scarce, 1986). All the members of this society have the possibility to participate in the decision-making process of the political system. Technologies designed to facilitate citizen participation will evolve, as well as the political decision-making process.


The individual - (a) having free personal access to technology, and (b) who lives in a society that is ever more accepting of "deviant" lifestyles and increasingly promotes transformational views - is one focus for society. The new civilization seeks to humanize technologies and make them serve human ends. Activists promote system-opposed activities proclaiming that hierarchies in general and the ecological unbalance, authority-power, economism, international injustice, war, racism and centralism of today are a result of the capitalistic Continued Growth society. They practise underground resistance based on autonomous direct actions, uniting different system-critical groups and individuals such as non-violent action, ecoactivism, animal rights activism, anti-capitalism, and anti-elitism. Transformational Societies introduce popular and democratic control into the economic and the political system. They disable the functions of well-intentioned elites or politicians to plan the future and to control the political process.


Becker and Slaton identified the following as the major distinct components for the "new democratic paradigm", or a teledemocratic future: (1) Global direct democracy movement; (2) democratic communication systems; (3) modern mediation movement; and (4) transformational political organization via the net (Becker/Slaton, 2000). 


The book "The Future of Teledemocracy" is one of the classics of teledemocracy studies. It shows how the developments and experiments around the world provide empirical evidence for participatory democracy. Becker and Slaton defined degrees of political transformation on the net. At the lowest level (first degree), is the pre-organizational type of new public information systems (e.g., web sites with revolutionary information). So, the next stage or level (second degree) is to organize and to unite communities of transformational political interests. The third degree of political transformation is taking direct actions within the political system to bring about new polices or to abort those passed without any or sufficient public input. Transforming the government system at all levels is the fourth degree.


This category of the future includes green/conserver/sustainable images of the future. Transformational Societies can persist over generations, are far-seeing enough, flexible enough, and wise enough not to undermine either the physical or social systems of support. They fulfil Herman Daly’s three conditions of a sustainable society. The rates of use of renewable resources do not exceed their rates of regeneration, the rates of use of non-renewable resources do not exceed the rate at which sustainable renewable substitutes are developed, and the rates of pollution emission do not exceed the assimilative capacity of the environment.


Transformational varieties are not necessarily "zero growth" societies or civilizations that achieve a significant reduction of material consumption and/or population to avoid global collapse. They are also able to discriminate among kinds of growth and purposes for growth. They ask what growth is for, who would benefit, how long it would last, and whether it could be accommodated by the sources and sinks of the earth. Such a new civilization will apply its best knowledge of the earth’s limits to choose only those types of growth that serve important social goals while enhancing sustainability. Once any physical growth had achieved its purpose, the society will stop its pursuit. This new civilization is much less interested in growth than in qualitative development and change.


This future category requires transformational economies. In the political system, each person is equal with one vote. Economic and anticipatory democracy applies this same principle to the economic system. Power and control over the workplace rest with those who are the employees and/or the community. In this alternative, decision-making power is usually shared equally by all who contribute labour to the economic organization. This revolutionary society changes authoritarian organization of work that characterizes capitalist enterprise and implements/proposes the alternative: workplace participatory democracy. Randomly selected groups provide another method to maintain participatory democracy in an economic organization (e.g., Burnheim, 1989). "Demarchy" is a term coined by John Burnheim to describe his theory for a political system without state or bureaucracies. This is a political system in which many randomly selected groups of decision makers (from the set of citizens affected by their work) deliberate and make decisions about public policies. This replaces state and bureaucracy by networks of different functional groups. In each locality, the members are chosen randomly from volunteers. Burnheim's theory includes the extension of the principles of demarchy to economics. Fred and Merrelyn Emery have done pioneering work on random selection and democracy in its application in the economic system, too.  


The political hypothesis for self-management is routed in an understanding of antiauthoritarianism and in transformational psychology. Necessary social expressions of this insight are forms of organization that disable or eschew all forms of domination or manipulation. The ethical hypothesis for self-management is based on the view that human beings are not means to an end, but ends in themselves. Transformational Societies counter the view of Continued Growth societies that managerial expertise and capitalist ideology are the basis for management by postulating that one cannot delegate to a specialized class the determination of what is one’s own vital interest. The psychological hypothesis for self-management, supported by humanistic and development psychology, stresses the importance of participatory democratic control over the immediate conditions of work and life as central in development of competence and identity. Self-actualization can only take place in non-coercive environments where all persons are free to determine the conditions and nature of work.         


Transformational economies attempt to make the outputs of the economic system work for humanity, by placing environmental, human needs and participatory politics at the foundation of economics. This requires the development of new economies. Transformational economies exist with nature and do not exploit the people. Anticipatory democracy in the workplace has the potential to help an economic organization to examine its impact not only upon its members but also upon society at large. One typical transformational economy is decentralized and small scale, based on self-sufficiency and technology. In a cooperative economic structure, there are a range of alternatives. They are seen as progressive such as gradually reduced working days.


Transformational Society sees employment as only an intermediate state of human history; the final goal is full unemployment, the creation of a society where all basic material needs are fulfilled. With the help of technology, the production of basic goods and services would be done by automatons. Advanced Transformational Societies are usually supported by robots. They are systems which perform automated tasks using artificial intelligence techniques. These tasks either replace or enhance human work. Because of new economic systems, the new civilization would be able to do what it desires to do: play, love, and search for new challenges and understandings. An advanced Transformational Society would be characterized by a maximum of cybernetically-automatized systems of production and services, with minimal energy and material input, and minimal waste, and with a universal sense of "enoughness" and sufficiency; by aesthetically-focused lifestyles of voluntary simplicity; by full unemployment, by love and peace, justice, and equity; by humor; by tolerable levels of conflict and levels of uncertainty; and by participatory and anticipatory politics.


The new civilization is an experimental society. It is able to experiment in the context of radical change. Politically, this view is usually committed to local community-level democracy, to negotiation and mediation and participatory direct democracy. The ideal of freedom as self-government can be upheld, even if its institutional implications must be revised. This perspective is also largely concerned with expanding the isolated self/family to include the community. Efforts include plants and animals as well. The new civilization is resistant to consumerism, militarism, and bureaucratization. This society has also a commitment to non-violence in all efforts to attain social or political goals. Military does not have the right to exist in an advanced transformational future.  


Transformational Societies call upon 

  • transformational psychologies to move individuals from the phase of personal growth and self-empowerment to the stages of self-realization and self-transcendence.

  • scientists to help to understand the principles and patterns in the transformational process.

  • artists to reflect, integrate and mediate the concepts of the Transformational Society in a variety of ways.

  • political actors to bring society toward a synergistic participatory and anticipatory democracy that considers individuals as creative members of the whole community.

  • political actors to help to develop a sustainable, regenerative economy supporting the restoration of the natural ecosystems, preservation of species and plants, and the enhancement of the creatives and the community.

  • the military to shift from "weaponry" to "livingry", as Buckminster Fuller explained. The essence of "livingry" is human-life advantaging and environment-protecting. The military needs to reorient the organizational and technical capacities to restore the environment, protect society from natural disasters, and develop the peace-building and conflict resolution skills/methods while developing and executing measures to transform the military organization into termination.

  • spiritual innovators and practitioners to promote and develop new belief systems.

  • educators to design a new educational system to create a new basis for transformative education.


The new society is not a rigid one. It is not a centrally controlled one. It usually develops rules or social agreements. Rules are put into place not to remove freedoms but to create them or to protect them against those who would destroy them. They permit many more freedoms than will ever be possible in a Continued Growth future. Rules would have to exist in a way that they would be effective without the need for any authority. The term "law" refers to concepts about the law to use in anarchies, although some researchers define anarchies as communities without any law. 


This new civilization is technically advanced, challenging, and tries to establish freedom and participatory democracy in all areas. It wants to change the structures of a land and the foundations of human self-definitions, institutions, and cultures. The transformation, if it happens, will be organic and evolutionary. It will arise from the visions, insights, experiments and actions of a number of people.  


Political systems for Transformational Societies are postulated on the assumptions that they do not develop (1) elitist or (2) conventional or traditional forms of democracy. The existence of participatory and anticipatory democracy is a necessary condition for the Transformational Society. The model of participatory electronic democracy (PED) integrates anticipatory democracy and explains the structures and processes required for the development of this alternative future. In systems terms, PED is complex, dynamic, non-linear, and multivariate. The Transformational Society and PED are evolutionary processes, not steady state systems.


The policy-making process follows certain patterns in the operation of political systems. To begin with, there are certain inputs from the participants. These inputs contain the determining factors which influence decisions. On the basis of inputs, the political system arrives at certain policies which reflect the balance of power within this society. Policy-outputs influence society and feedback into the system as inputs for the next round. This political system is a cybernetic mechanism. Since the decision-making power will rest in the will of the public itself, it is required that ordinary people have to determine the operations of the political process. PED comprises a theory wherein all members of the political system have the possibility to participate in all phases of the decision-making process for the issues reaching the public’s agenda. Issues that do not come on the public’s agenda are processed by a new form of representative system.


Professor James Dator, a founder of the World Futures Studies Federation, presented a solution to a major problem of all Western democracies: the unrepresentativeness of legislatures and how they are subject to corrupting influences on electoral processes. His idea was to randomly select legislators (Becker/Slaton, 2000, 41). Dator’s idea was not completely novel. Another system had been tried more than 2400 years before him in Athens. Dator devised a modern variation on the idea of random selection whereby "each eligible citizen would be assigned a different number, and representation (would) be chosen by reference to a table of random numbers". By this method could "true representation" (of all segments of society including those based on gender, age, and so forth) be achieved, and be totally free from effects of electoral campaigning. Schlifni developed new secure protocols for electronic random selection of representatives (Schlifni, 2000). There were other promoters of random legislatures (e.g., parliament via a random sample) who preceded Dator and there have been advocates of the use of lotteries to achieve an equitable distribution of wealth, goods, and services (Goodwin, 1992; Becker/Slaton, 2000).


Implementing randomly selected legislatures, even at all levels, is still a decision for representative democracy. But the goal is broader. The numbers of legislators of the new system will not be lower than in the old lawmaking bodies. Such new institutions emphasize participation by all segments of the society in the lawmaking process, albeit through representative bodies. However, this representation limits the absolute number of people who have legislative power in the policy-making system. A transformational political system maximizes citizen participation. This will usually involve direct participatory democracy.     


Ultimately, within a certain amount of time after the first steps of transformation are taken in government and in the population, elected representatives at all levels of government would be replaced by citizens chosen by random selection. For example, they are selected from the total adult citizenry. Serving for a term, these representatives formulate the laws with experts and have the option to present them to the people by means of referenda (Slaton, 1992; Becker/Slaton, 2000; Schlifni 2000). The Transformational Society continues advances and improvements in technologies, techniques and applications of ICT at all levels of the political system. Citizens have the power to launch new forms of initiatives and formulate laws. In political science, the initiative (also known as popular or citizen's initiative) provides a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters forces a public vote on that subject. The transformational category of the future includes the possibility for a future scenario where only citizens themselves formally vote for all legislation (participatory direct democracy). Citizens have total access to the information to make law, accessing it through home or community computers. Through this information, as well as citizen-controlled programming via ICT and community discussion groups, the people have the power to formulate their options and opinions on laws and policies, and vote on a regular basis.


Another hypothesized function of political applications of ICT (AICT) is that they are capable of helping facilitate a decision on future objectives upon which a polity should set its sights. By launching vast processes of social learning - experiments in anticipatory democracy at all levels - we prepare millions for the changes that lie before us. This can place strategic pressure on political systems to accelerate the transformations. Anticipatory democracy is a theory of participatory decision-making processes about alternative futures, plans, and public predictions of future events. 


Space Age

The Transformational Society develops future plans, visions and scenarios for space settlements. Obviously, not everyone sees the future in this perspective. There are those who have the view that a Transformational Society will never be in space and who expect that the system is moving towards a Space Age system of authoritarianism. Those people belong to the Disciplined Society. On the other hand, another breed of theorists has surfaced. They assume another possibility, a participatory democratic and antiauthoritarian alternative future course. Theories and concepts for space settlements have also influenced the debate whether problems such as overpopulation, pollution, sustainable development, and resource depletion can be partly, or wholly, solved by the colonization of the universe.

Space Settlements

The first fictional description of a space colony appeared in 1869 in Edward Everett Hale’s novel, "The Brick Moon". Several research groups have examined the feasibility of various planes. For people to exist permanently outside the planet, the system must be based on certain assumptions (e.g., homoeostasis). The space settlement should also contain non-human species. Relationships between organisms, their habitat and the space environment were presented in the literature: 

  • Organisms and their habitat completely isolated from the earth environment - e.g., artificial biosphere; closed ecological system.

  • Transforming the environment to become a habitat. This process is termed "terraforming". 

  • Changing life-forms to become more compatible with the environment - e.g., genetic engineering; cyborg; transhumanism - this is a philosophy analysing or promoting the use of science and technology - e.g., neurotechnology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology - to overcome human limitations and improve the human potential.

A combination of the above aspects is also possible.

The proper location is a subject of dispute between the proponents. Several possibilities for locations of space colonization were presented in literature:

  • space habitat 
  • natural satellite (e.g., moon) 
  • mobile spaceship 
  • planet
  • asteroid

Space habitat, also termed as "space colony" or "orbital colony", is defined as a hypothetical space station or object for permanent settlement. Metaphors of cities or communes in space have been presented in literature. No space habitats have been constructed so far.  Moreover, special types of space colonies would serve as a proving ground for the possibilities for a generation ship for interstellar travel. Such a space habitat could be isolated from the rest of humanity for a certain time (e.g., a century), but near enough to obtain support. This would test if a group of humans can survive a longer period of time (e.g., a century) on their own before sending people beyond the reach of any support.


The idea of mobile colonies and generation starships was first envisioned in 1918 by Robert Goddard. Several organizations have been engaging in research into these fields for decades, and have accumulated theoretical approaches. Scientific papers have been published about interstellar travel. There are theories and concepts for starships that would travel across distances between stars. The proposed concepts of ships include:

  • Generation ship is a hypothetical starship that would travel between stars, with the original group causing multiple generations before the journey is complete.

  • Colony ship is a theoretical form. It would be comparable to a space habitat, except with additional components - e.g., major propulsion capabilities for interstellar travel.

  • Other methods.

Gerhard O'Neill, former physicist at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, worked out strategies for the future expansion of the human race into space. He proposed the idea of orbital settlements in several papers and his book "The High Frontier". The L5 Society was formed to advocate and develop his plans. He educated the public about the possibilities of building large scale communities in space - with populations in the thousands. O'Neill won support from a band of vocal ex-hippies led by Steward Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog (Toffler, 1980). It should be remarked here that Leary’s view of space colonies was inspired by O’Neill’s book "The High Frontier" and the L5 Society.  


However, there are critics who object to the idea of colonizing space as being too expensive and a waste of time for individuals and organisations that are responsible for space programs and long-term general aerospace research. In this view, moving beyond the solar system would be impractical in any reasonable time scale. 

Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence

The Transformational Society investigates with futurological and scientific methods the possible consequences of contact with an extraterrestrial civilization for the culture on earth. Extraterrestrial life refers to theoretical life-forms - they would exist outside the planet earth. Hypothetical forms of extraterrestrial life, or life on other planets, or on space settlements, range from the humanoid to other life-forms. There is no published scientific evidence for intelligent extraterrestrial life outside the planet earth, nevertheless, numerous hypotheses have been developed to validate the possibility that it could exist. The Transformational Society integrates contact scenarios. It is able to imagine that coming forth out of these advances is a quantum jump toward the next stage of human evolution.    

Time Travel

In science, the hypothesis of the possibility of time travel has been postulated. However, there is no published experimental evidence for time travel, and it is not even sufficiently understood whether the current theories permit any kind of time travel on the practical level. One purpose of this research was to develop and to explore models, theories, and scenarios on the basis of the possibility of transformational histories/futures. In effect this category of images of the future provides a framework concerning the hypothesis that time travellers could make alterations in the past, present, and future of humankind. As far as an alternative future is concerned, one motivation behind these changes would be the creation of an idealized human history or a transformational future - e.g., in which there would be no war, no military, no genocide, no famine.

Four Distinct Categories for Images of the Future

The four major distinct categories for the intermediate (1-15 years) and distant future (15 years and beyond) offer a progression of the possibilities for PED, ranging from zero in class one (Decline and Collapse) to excellent in class four (Transformational Society). These classes are used as a framework for viewing the futures of PED. A radical democratic transformation of the political system will exclusively happen in the Transformational Society. It will develop PED at all levels.


Unlike Transformational Societies, three other distinct categories for images of the future will be presented in this section: (1) Continuation (usually "continued economic growth"),  (2) Disciplined Society (in which the future is seen as organized around some set of overarching values or another - usually considered to be technological and/or ancient and/or traditional and/or natural and/or ideologically-correct and/or God-given), (3) Decline and Collapse (Collapse (from usually one of a variety of different reasons such as environmental overload and/or resource exhaustion, economic instability, external or internal military attack, etc.).


By typical definition, the Continued Growth society is growth-oriented, opportunity-filled, technologically-progressive, mobile, internationally-dominant, science-guided, leisure-filled. The Continuation category integrates extrapolation of predominant (social) trends. What worked in the past will continue to succeed albeit with adjustments or changes within the capitalist system. Politically, this is usually liberal pluralism, that is, the democratic party system, intermediary organisations and associations of the pluralistic society. Previous communist nations even with their many changes are categorized as "continued growth" given that their assumptions of reality are similar to capitalist states. Democracy in such society will not grow much beyond its present stage. This usually means an unequal distribution of decision-making power in the political and in the economic system. PED projects or experiments will occasionally be created, but their impact will not lead to the new political system PED at all levels.


Traditionally, the size of modern states was seen to make direct democracy impossible in many countries. Switzerland, however, provides a counterexample for the possibilities of modern representative democracy in combination with plebiscitary democracy. In the past 120 years more than 240 initiatives have been put to referendum. Plebiscitary democracy is based on notions of direct democracy (initiative, referendum, recall (procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office)) as a decision-making system. Following the plebiscitarian model the primary dimensions of public participation are information and voting. For the most part, plebiscitary democracy can be integrated in a representative democracy and serves as something like measuring tools of the strength of public sentiments or as a relatively innocuous policy-making system.


The Disciplined Society usually anticipates elitist government systems. Once the population and economy have overshot the physical limits of the planet, there are only two ways back: collapse caused by escalating shortages and crises, or controlled reduction of humanity's total environmental impact on the planet by deliberate social choice. Becker and Scarce assumed in their article that the Disciplined Society would anticipate a government created during time of extreme crisis (Becker/Scarce, 1986). Diverse pressures, along with related problems, will combine to have the government invested with increased powers of surveillance. Legislative officials and experts will be most concerned with solving a myriad of ecological and social problems. Various elitist forms of government, defined as decision-making of the policy elite, have been proposed to solve the problems of complexity and the crisis of the political system. Growing resource shortages combined with different pressures are likely to result in authoritarian political systems. A potential future problem scientists referred to in their publications is that of increasing scarcity, which places strains on the economic system. The reduction of throughputs (flows of material and energy from the supporting environment, through the economy, and back to the environment) and the transition to a Disciplined Society means, at best, establishing a representative government that would continue in the mode it exists today, and, at worst, taking the tour to totalitarianism - e.g., with a government akin to the Big Brotherism. Politics in general and democracy in particular, cannot guarantee the superiority of its policies over those of other systems. Movements intent on increasing citizens’ influence in governmental policy making by participatory democracy are usually considered dangerous in this future view, if not subversive, to the interests of the elites and of the state. Legislative officials will not support anticipatory and participatory efforts, PED will not be implemented.


In the Decline and Collapse category, the collapse triggers a halt in society-as-we-know-it, due to some catastrophe or a series of devastating events. The potential end, to a civilization, might take the form of global war, the decay of the economic system (with no sustainable replacement), uncontrolled decline of population. The world economic system's inability to deal with increasing levels of inequity (within nations and between nations), the international debt load, and the rising speculation in the global stock markets bring society into the direction of global collapse. Other images of the future are constituted in green publications: Human use of many essential resources and generation of many kinds of pollutants have already surpassed rates that are physically sustainable. Without significant reductions in material and energy flows, there will be an uncontrolled decline in both population and industrial capacity. There are further factors of environmental catastrophes such as the Greenhouse effect and earthquakes. Scientific evidence indicates that significant global warming will occur during the 21st century. With inadequate intervention, the result will be a decline in the human carrying capacity of the earth’s environment - the climate collapse. Massive tampering with the world's interdependent web of life - coupled with environmental damage inflicted by deforestation, species loss, and climate change - could trigger widespread effects, including unpredictable collapses of critical biological systems. This category  includes scenarios of the breakdown of the government system, too. There will be no development of participatory democracy in the Decline and Collapse future.


Beyond the Limits: Confronting Global Collapse - Envisioning a Transformational Future  

The idea for this Transformational Society arose from a concern for the deteriorating environmental conditions of the global system. Growth of population, capital, resource use, and pollution proceeds on this planet. This is propelled by attempts of governments to solve human future problems, from unemployment and poverty to the need for status and power.


The first book on the "limits to growth" appeared in 1972, became a bestseller, and was translated into more than 30 languages. "Beyond the Limits" (1992) is based on an updated model, with more extensive data, and after twenty years of growth and change in the world, the research team postulated that their original conclusions were still valid, but they needed to be strengthened. The global system had already overshot the limits of the earth's support capacity, most notably the sink function of various ecological systems. While some progress has been made (1972-2004), including new technologies, new institutions, and a new awareness for environmental problems, Dennis Meadows and Jorgen Randers are far more pessimistic than they were in 1972. The human species has squandered the opportunity to correct the course, the research group concludes, and fundamental change must happen if the world is to avoid the serious consequences of overshoot in the 21st century (Meadows/Meadows/Randers, 2004). The authors of the third book "Limits to Growth: The 30-year update" refer to parts of the original analysis, but also extend the analytical model (World3) with new variables, updates, new data, and include new assumptions and arguments acquired (Meadows/Meadows/Randers, 2004). Jay W. Forrester, professor emeritus of the Sloan School of Management at MIT, designed the prototype of the computer model the research team has used, and his profound systems insights have helped them understand the behaviours of economic and environmental systems.


Necessary transformations would constitute a revolution, not in the sense of American or French political revolutions, but in the much more profound sense of Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. The authors of "Limits to Growth" (1972) could not trigger this environmental revolution and stop further degradation and deterioration of the natural environment. They are aware of this failure, and in the introduction to the new volume they express their views.


"But our work fell short in many ways… we worry that current policies will produce global overshoot and collapse through ineffective efforts to anticipate and cope with ecological limits… We failed in our earlier books… We failed totally to get the concept of "overshoot" accepted as a legitimate concern for public debate." (Meadows/Meadows/Randers, 2004, XX).


One focus of the new book is ecological overshoot, and systems collapse, but also the possibilities for transition towards a sustainable development path on planet earth. "Our main goal is to restate our 1972 argument in a way that is more understandable and better supported by the data and examples that have emerged during the past decades" (Meadows/Meadows/Randers, 2004, XVIII).


The authors express the global challenge in a simple way: To reach sustainability, we must increase the consumption levels of the world's poor, whilst at the same time reducing humanity's total ecological footprint. To do so, not only are technological advances needed, but also personal change, and longer planning horizons. There must be greater respect, caring and sharing across political boundaries. But so far, the authors explain, no political party really has mobilized broad support for such a program, certainly not among the rich and powerful. Meanwhile, the total human ecological footprint gets larger day by day (Meadows/Meadows/Randers, 2004, p. XV).


One innovation of the new study is the modification of the computer model "World3" from 1991. An indicator of the well-being of the average world citizen is integrated, called the human welfare index (HWI), and an indicator of humanity's environmental impact on the planet is added, the human ecological footprint (HEF). The HEF in World3 is the sum of three components: (1) The arable land used for crop production in agriculture; (2) the urban land used for urban-industrial-transportation infrastructure; (3) and the amount of absorption land required to neutralize the emission of pollutants. While the first indicator approximates the UNDP Human Development Index, the second is an adaptation of Mathis Wackernagel's ecological footprint concept. The resulting new model, called World3-03, is available on CD-ROM.


There are certain characteristics of a global system that has grown beyond its limits. Overshoot means to exceed limits. This Continued Growth society is drawing upon the world's resources faster than they can be restored, and is releasing wastes and pollutants faster than the earth is able to absorb them or render them harmless. Global overshoot like the thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer, climate change, species loss, receding forests, population expansion, the persistence of hunger, growing water shortage, diffusion of toxic wastes, have made the authors more pessimistic than they were in their earlier works. Three causes are necessary and sufficient to produce overshoot: (1) Growth, acceleration, rapid change; (2) form of limit or barrier, beyond which the system may not safely go; (3) delay or mistake in the perception and responses that strive to keep the system within its limits. In other words, the problem comes from the combination of (1) rapid change, (2) limits to that change, and (3) errors or delays in perceiving the limits and controlling the change. The ecological footprint of the global society has overshot the earth's capacity to provide. If humanity does not correct this condition, related problems will worsen, until human productive capacity, ingenuity, and attention are overwhelmed. The consequence will be global collapse. "Once the limits to growth were far in the future. Now they are widely in evidence. Once the concept of collapse was unthinkable. Now it has begun to enter into the public discourse - though still as a remote, and academic concept" (Meadows/Meadows/Randers, 2004, p. XXII).


The scientists plan to update this report in 2012. By then they expect there will be sufficient data to test the reality of overshoot. They would be able to cite proof that their old conclusions concerning collapse and decline were correct. But in the two chapters on the transformations to a sustainable system (Meadows/Meadows/Randers, 2004, 235-264), and on the tools for this transition (Meadows/Meadows/Randers, 2004, 265-284), the authors present a sustainable future.


In a set of 10 scenarios up to the year 2100, the authors present possible futures. They do not predict the future; they just demonstrate how the twenty-first century may evolve (Meadows/Meadows/Randers, 2004, 169-249). The main system parameters of the first 8 scenarios – population, resources, food, industrial output, consumer goods, food and services per person, life expectancy, HWI and HEF – are far from a sustainable path, including overshoot and collapse. Scenario 9, however, illustrates sustainability; the global system has come into equilibrium. Finally, Scenario 10 includes all the changes that were incorporated in Scenario 9, but with the policies being implemented 20 years earlier, in 1982 instead of 2002. What if the model "World3" had undertaken the sustainability policies demonstrated in the Scenario 9 after a hypothetical revolution rooted in the counterculture not in 2002 but in 1972? Moving towards sustainability years sooner would have meant a lower final population, less pollution, more use of renewable resources, a higher average welfare for all, and a smaller ecological footprint. The continuing delay in moving toward sustainability reduces the options for the simulated world, and brings society on an unsuccessful path. The research group illustrated the consequences of implementing the policies of Scenario 9 not in 2002 but 20 years later. By then it is too late to avoid decline.     


The study suggests some general conclusions:

  • A global transition to a sustainable society is probably possible without reductions in either population or industrial output.

  • A transition to sustainability will require an active decision to reduce the human ecological footprint.

  • There are many choices concerning the numbers of people, living standards, technological investment, and allocations among industrial goods, services, food, and other material needs.

  • There are many trade‑offs between the number of people the earth is able to sustain and the material level at which each person can be supported.

  • The longer it takes to reduce its ecological footprint and move toward sustainability, the lower the population and material standard that will be ultimately supportable.

  • The higher the targets for population and material standard of living are set, the greater the risk of exceeding and eroding the limits. 

In the world of dramatic events and rapid change in which society exits, the concerned observer is struck by magnitude of problems which human communities are facing. What is significant about most of these problems is that they are of our own making and therefore may be solved by human intervention. For such solutions to come about, however, it would take great collective efforts which the present governments seem unable to muster. In particular, the human socioeconomic system as currently structured has overshot its limits, and is headed for collapse. This situation of institutional inadequacy to solve future problems may be termed "underdevelopment". Transformational Societies are suspicious of  politicians par excellence and parties, and assume that decisions crucial to our long-term survival cannot be made within the present political framework. 


All political systems above a primitive level have an identifiable government structure. Government provides the cybernetic mechanism of the system by preparing, ratifying and implementing public policies. Government institutions are, therefore, specialized parts of present political systems which try to regulate the dynamics, not only of the political system, but also of its large social environment. Government is made up of people that act in the name of other people. Government officials act as agents of society at large, but they acquire interests of their own and interpret the interests of others. Legislative officials are usually elected representatives of geopolitical groups and form the highest authorities of the political systems that belong to Continued Growth societies. These legislators are politicians par excellence because they occupy central positions in the political system. All authoritative policies or laws must be approved by proper legislative bodies (e.g., parliaments, senates).


In a transformational system, such representation will be as accurately reflective of the interests of as many people as possible. History has shown that conventional governments of Continued Growth societies are unable to promote and undertake policies proposed by Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows and Jorgen Randers - e.g., desired family size of two children, moderate material standard of living, advanced technologies of resource efficiency and pollution control. In contrast to the present society, the new civilization is one that balances the environment, other life-forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.


One first step in this task is to make explicit what the principal investigator means by development of the Transformational Society, which is defined as: the process of improving the capacity of a society to attain its goals by applying collective participatory and anticipatory decision-making. The term "changing structure" was used by revolutionaries (1) to mean throwing people out of power or (2) changing the power structure, the hierarchy, the chain of command. Given those interpretations, transforming structure appears difficult and threatening to those with political and economic power. In system terms, changing structure means changing the input/feedback structure and the links in a system. In time, a system with new structure is able to develop new organizations, new technologies, new behaviour, new kinds of machines, and new architectures. As far as the Transformational Society is concerned, the transformation will not be directed by elites; it will be evolutionary, anticipatory, participatory, exciting.


As a way of encouraging others to join in the process, the author lists here requirements/tools for the transition to a New Age (Meadows/Meadows/Randers, 2004). This is by now means a definite list.

  1. Information: When its information and data flows are changed, any system will behave differently. This is a key to transformation. It means accurate, timely, relevant, complete, revolutionary information flowing in new ways to new recipients, carrying new content, suggesting new goals.

  2. Visioning: A new civilization has to be widely envisioned.

  3. Networking: Networks at the local and the global levels are needed to create this new society. It harmonizes with ecosystems while keeping itself within global limits.

  4. Truth-Telling: This means that people tell the truth. One important requirement of system theory is that information should not be distorted, delayed, blocked, or sequestered.

  5. Learning: Visioning, networking and truth-telling are useless if they do not trigger activities. Learning means to collect information about the effects of actions, exploring a new path, being open to other people’s experiments of other paths, and being willing and able to change the path if one is found that leads more directly to the goal.

  6. Loving: The revolution will have to be a collective transformation that permits the best of human nature. People learn to view themselves and others as part of one integrated global society. It enables transformational consciousness, which activates the capacity of people to practice sisterly and brotherly love, love of the global human community, and love of nature and of our earth.

Supporting the efforts from Dennis Meadows, Donella Meadows and Jorgen Randers for a revolution, PED is a conceptualization of a political system utilizing modern information-communication technologies. As such, it has the potential to demonstrate the contributions that high technology, participatory and anticipatory processes make in promoting a public discourse on the limits to growth at all levels and a democratic decision for a New Age. 


The Transformational Society is postulated on the assumption that it is both possible and desirable to apply modern technology to change society and structures, and to improve political systems. If this is not done, technological advances and the dynamics to growth in our finite world will have the potential to increase government technocracy and citizens’ alienation. Continued Growth societies are in danger to undergo Collapse and Decline or Disciplined Society. The disengagement of the individual from public affairs together with interference of elites in social life creates a Disciplined Society, in which a small minority of people will try to govern important aspects of society. Such possibility is supported by science and technology which make it easier to control people. Sometime in the future, the degree of alienation may be so large, the amount of social turbulence so distressing that a drastic political realignment will be the only open path (Becker, 1981). We could take the detour to a Disciplined Society. But it may be preferable to promote participatory democracy, to let people into the political arena, to decentralize and to redistribute power as never before. At that moment, PED will be ready for its challenge.    


If we are to avoid further deterioration of the environment and reverse life-threatening trends, we must strengthen the confidence in the individual and promote citizen responsibility in politics. The Transformational Society supports and implements sustainability. It is a model way for creating this alternative future. It is the premise of this work that increased politicization of people using PED decreases alienation and creates a far more responsible participatory society. This democratic ideal is realizable by applying ICT to enhance people's power in public affairs. The application of appropriate technology will modernize the political system. The process of "development" leads to PED in the Transformational Society, which is a subject of this study. It is the thesis here that a Transformational Society using PED is the alternative to technocracy of Disciplined Society and the alternative to a future of Decline and Collapse and the antidote for alienation of concerned people in the Continued Growth future.        


Transition to this alternative future requires balance between long-term and short-term aims and emphasis on technology, equity, wisdom, sufficiency, compassion, and quality of life rather than on quantity of output. A few general characteristics of a Transformational Society are presented here, and what steps the individuals of the present society should take to get there (Meadows/Meadows/Randers, 2004):

  • Extend the planning phase. Base the choice among current alternatives much more on their long‑term costs and benefits. Include the long term perspective.

  • Improve the signals. Learn more about the welfare of human population and the impact on the world ecosystem of human activity. Provide data on trends in global bio-diversity and the ecological footprint.

  • Speed up response time. Look actively for signals that indicate when the environment or the society is stressed. Decide in advance what to do if problems appear. If possible, forecast them before they happen.

  • Minimize the use of non-renewable resources.

  • Prevent erosion of renewable resources.

  • Use all resources with maximum feasible efficiency.

  • Slow and eventually stop the exponential growth of the population and physical capital.

  • Sharing, sufficiency, and solidarity are concepts that promote new approaches to ending poverty.

  • A new transformational economic system is needed. It uses and supports the contributions that all people are able and willing to make. It does not abandon people who - for reasons temporary or permanent - are unable to work.

  • Develop societies that admit and articulate nonmaterial needs and find nonmaterial ways to satisfy them. This will require much lower material and energy throughputs and will provide much higher levels of fulfilment.

Hazel Henderson wrote in "The Politics of the Solar Age" about the need to redesign our systems for a possible future of enlightenment (Henderson, 1988). The Solar Age is based on light-wave and solar-technologies. In this Solar Age, humans would engage in a bottom-to-top revolution. The centralization would give way to a new decentralization. We would reshape production, agriculture, architecture, companies, governments, and academic disciplines, to align them with nature’s processes in a new search for humane and ecologically sustainable societies. If we begin now, we and future generations can take part in the constitution not merely of political and economical structures, but of civilization itself. Like the love and peace generation, the Transformational Society has a destiny to create alternative futures.


Overview: A Political System for the Transformational Society 

This research project was undertaken in order to investigate the desirability and possibility of utilizing modern ICT in the promotion of a Transformational Society. The study included the hypothesis that recent progress in AICT might be of help in the democratization of societies. It was assumed that a number of people or a future society would welcome such knowledge. The methodology applied here uses a conceptual framework to construct the model. It is grounded on systems theory. This means reality is looked upon as a complex of systems. The chosen theoretical political system is the PED. This study is primary theoretical, normative, and documentary.


The principal investigator presents and explains the political system for the Transformational Society in the chapters which follow. To do so in systematic way, this work has been divided in three parts. Part I conceptualizes PED and sets up elements of the system. Part II treats the structure and function of PED in the context of a political system, which is made up of certain political AICT and actors (representatives, administration, citizens, groups, and mediators). This part animates the constructed system by outlining its operation in a sequential manner. Finally, part III examines references to more than 50 case studies relative to PED and the political process.


One first step of this research was to collect all data available on the use of ICT in political actions around the world. On the basis of an analysis of this data, PED was built to integrate existing and potential political AICT. By using analytic methodology of a systems theory upon a background of case-study experiences, the author assumes having combined normative and empirical research and gotten to the essence of the subject matter.


This study presents the proposal for the new political system. It was prepared in the Ph.D. of the principal investigator (Schlifni, 2000). It is an empirical-normative and descriptive-prescriptive model. This means that PED is partly a description of reality as demonstrated by projects of electronic democracy and partly a proposal of how political reality could be improved by new institutions and technologies. The model provides a logical and conceptual framework concerning the assumption that PED is a system of the Transformational Society where AICT will allow public involvement in all phases of the political process.

Part I: A Conceptual Model of Participatory E-Democracy

One principle of justification for PED is the assumption that an equal right to liberty and self-development is achievable in a participatory society which fosters a sense of political efficacy, promotes a concern for collective problems and contributes to the formation of a knowledgeable citizenry capable of participating in the political process.


To the ancient Greeks, democracy meant rule by the common people exercised directly in open assemblies. Direct participatory democracy, requires, however, that citizens are able to meet together regularly to debate and decide important issues. Such political actions were possible in fifth century B.C. Athens, which was small enough to allow citizens to gather in one place. Citizens had time to meet and deliberate because much of the productive work of society was done by slaves. In Athens, moreover, a lottery system existed for almost 200 years. Some 500 randomly selected legislators served one year terms in an institution called "boule".


Participatory democracy is possible in small communities where citizens with abundant leisure time meet often face-to-face. It seems an unworkable arrangement for most modern societies, which are sizeable and populous, and where most people do not have time for continuous involvement in public meetings.


Important factors that limited direct democracy throughout history have been too much work, poverty, low education, isolation, and the problem of group size. The advent of new interactive media, however, stimulated participatory democracy from the 1960s onwards. Many local experiments and projects have been waged. Well-known experimenters and/or theoreticians were Becker, Slaton, Etzioni, and Barber.


Political participation is a process in which informed participants formulate, discuss, and decide public issues that are important to them and affect their lives. It is a process in which the political actors have the opportunity to participate in all stages, from need-determination and demand-determination to planning, from formulation of issues to the determination of policies, from implementation to evaluation of policies.   


It is one major thesis in this work that ICT in conjunction with proper changes in socio-economic conditions (e.g., more equitable distribution of wealth and resources) remove to substantial extent constraints of time and space, energy, and information. The following arguments are drawn from elements of models from Pateman, Becker, Slaton, Barber, Etzioni, and Schlifni (Pateman, 1970; Barber, 1984; Slaton, 1992; Becker/Slaton, 2000; Etzioni, 1992; Schlifni, 2000):

  • Group size: Political AICT enable possibilities for direct democracy previously thought not to be practical because of the problem of size.

  • Integration: People, who previously could not participate, especially individuals having a low socio-economic status, could be integrated in the political process.

  • Civic education: Communication and information technologies have created the possibility for educating individual citizens as active members of the community.

  • Information: The presence of informed citizens is a necessary condition for PED. Sophisticated decision-making is impossible without information and interpersonal influence is equally impossible without communication.

  • Childcare provision: Re-examination of childcare provision so that women as well as men take up the opportunity to participate in public life.

  • Open system: Maintenance of an open decision-making system to ensure the possibility of experimentation with political forms.

  • Automation: Continued automation of the production of basic goods and services and the modification of general conditions - e.g., reduction in working hours - help to create freedom for citizens from wage labour for participation in politics.

  • Access: Decision-making processes as well as political AICT have to become accessible to the citizens.

  • Future-planning: Through a process for combining citizen involvement with future consciousness, the democracy becomes anticipatory. Instead of asking the citizenry to react to a crisis (or a near crisis), AICT are used to find out the public's preferences and viewpoints about what direction the society should take in the long run.

  • Agreement-building: Simple majority, win-lose systems will give way to consensus building as the optimal way for political actors of policy-making systems to plan and to decide. The technological means exists through which the people can enter into dialogue with each other and form the consensus essential for PED.

  • Democratization: Taking advantage of ICT, policy-making systems become more "democratic" by applying these technologies to empower the people to determine needs and demands, to help set agendas, establish priorities, enable collective discussion, make important policies and participate in their implementation and evaluation (Schlifni, 2000). Democratization of a political system is defined as evenly distributing decision-making power widely throughout its members.

Dimensions of Participation 

Dimensions of participation are abstracted from a set of political actions (interactions). They are related to citizen participation in politics. The first dimension is information-seeking and communication of political information. The active involvement in political discussion and deliberation with friends, family, and other citizens in meetings determines the second dimension. Random selection of representatives or voting for representatives is the third dimension of political participation. The forth dimension is voting on issues - e.g., voting for or against the laws. The fifth dimension, defined as political activity, goes beyond the actions of previous dimensions - e.g., the active people attend electronic town meetings, organize political events or citizens’ initiatives, manage political organizations/circles, work on campaigns.


PED requires radical changes in the liberal democratic system. In such a political system, the overriding emphasis will be citizen participation. As a matter of fact, PED requires substantial direct legislative power for the entire citizenry at all levels. Representation will still exist in certain PED forms, but it will be largely determined by random selection. Randomly selected citizens are the legislators of the representative system. Another aspect of PED would require forms of voting for representatives in special cases (e.g., groups in electronic town meetings vote for representatives in the consensus-building process). There is also the possibility for a complete direct PED - with no representatives. This means that the PED model does not have the third dimension of political participation. No type of complex political system such as a complete direct PED - at all levels - has ever existed on our planet.  


From the arguments presented above the conclusion is to be drawn that PED maximally contains all the dimensions of political participation.


Part II: The Political System

PED is composed of various actors, political AICT and their relations in regard to the decision-making process.

Main Actors

For purposes of politics, the actors operate in groups of various types which are classified in five categories: Mediators, citizens, groups, representatives, and administrators. 


Mediation has not only proved successful as an element for participatory democracy when used in face-to-face deliberation. There have been successful experiments applying it during electronic conflict resolution and deliberations as well. Mediators are individuals or groups that facilitate communication relations between different political actors. How to best use appropriate distributed computer applications and/or robots to facilitate the mediation processes, replacing human operators, is a research topic for the Transformational Society. We define mediation as a system of conflict resolution where participants come together to confront the problem and to negotiate an agreement - e.g., peace plan. The mediating sector may be divided in three types depending on their primary function. 

  • Information communicators deal with communication of information and knowledge - e.g., publishers; broadcasters; journalists; teachers.

  • Information experts produce, transform and distribute information and knowledge - e.g., computer scientists; social scientists; inventors; political advisers; systems analysts; statisticians. However, it is also possible that ordinary citizens are able to produce, transform and distribute information and knowledge.

  • Trained mediators move conversation forward, piece together elements of consensus and promote optimal solutions. Of course, it can happen that ordinary citizens develop and present the best solution, too.


The second and third type of mediators are democratically chosen either by (a) voting or by (b) random selection from a set of qualified people.


Actors of this group are determined as the representatives of the people - possible democratic methods: election or random selection.


Administrations interpret and execute policies. They also prepare, initiate, plan and recommend alternatives to various individuals and groups in the political system.


This group of people comprises nominally all the citizenry of a community. In reality, however, only those people who participate in the political process count as political actors.


Groups bring together citizens who share interests, which they promote in the political system.


Applications of ICT (AICT)                                                                                                      

With the advent of radio, telephones, television, space satellites, and computer networks, technology as it presently exists permits us to communicate instantly around the world. PED includes space age information and communication systems (ICT), participatory and anticipatory democracy and the political AICT - displayed in table 2. They were tested in practical projects of electronic democracy (Schlifni, 2000).


It is safe to assume that there are relationships between participatory democracies, political AICT and dimensions of participation. Typical views of PED are connected to particular practices of ICT in politics (Schlifni, 2000). The first logical consequence of PED is the option of AICT which are able to inform the citizenry - public information systems (e.g., TV), new public information systems (e.g., Internet), electronic information campaigns, group decision support systems. Bulletin-board-systems, discussion lists, computer conferences, teleconferences, videoconferences, chat, community networks, electronic meetings, electronic town halls, electronic town meetings, electronic neighbourhood assemblies, electronic communications tree, electronic parliament, electronic discussion fora are useable to enhance discussions. Supplementing the communication structures, there is the option for electronic voting and electronic random selection. A central PED premise is the requirement of direct legislative power for the entire citizenry - that is, a system of initiative and referendum. According to the third, fourth, and fifth dimension of participation, referenda, election, polls, surveys, citizen enquiries, initiatives, and petitions by means of telephone, computer networks or other media are AICT. 


Electronic town meetings (ETMs) and electronic town halls (ETHs) intend to empower the citizens participating in them. In major experiences of the last decades, several ICT applications were employed either simultaneously or one after the other to convey data, promote deliberation, discussion, and voting. Citizens have access to data bases, and can, in turn, communicate information, and utilize consensus-building techniques. Becker and Slaton (Becker/Slaton, 2000) assumed that there had already been sufficient ETM experimentation at the state and local level to provide the foundation to build an electronic town meeting process at the national level that would include interfaces with regional and local electronic town meetings. They presented a design for a complex model for such electronic town meeting for the national level. It adapts the components at micro-levels to the macro-level (Becker/Slaton, 2000). The terminal phase of this ETM model aims at a consensus or an agreement how to best resolve the issue.  


The following list contains features of electronic meetings (Becker/Slaton, 2000; Schlifni, 2000). 

  • Random sample surveys for participants to frame issues, determine the agendas and develop questions

  • Providing feedback loops that involve continuous input by participants

  • Attractive presentations, visuals and graphics

  • Maximize variety in media - e.g., combining newspapers, TV, radio, telephones, computer networks in the ETM

  • Maximizing channels of communication for participants

  • Allowing a wide variety of times and places for input

  • Inclusion of simulations, "what if" games, acting groups, computer simulations and models

  • Role-playing - presenting "step into others’ shoes scenarios"

  • Including counterculture flavour

  • Consciousness-expanding processes

  • Facilitators who are sensitive to inputs

  • Mediators who move conversation forward and identify elements of consensus

  • Anonymous input on selecting options, particularly on sensitive issues

  • Video presentations of various important inputs

  • Diversity in programming - e.g., documentaries, expert panels, debates, animations, call-in shows

  • Real life stories - e.g., person-on-the-street interviews; at-home interviews 

Another important component is a set of "neighbourhood assemblies" (Barber, 1984) at all levels, facilitated town meetings (e.g., N < 5000 citizens in each) that are connected via network(s). Each of these serves many purposes of self-governance - e.g., developing agendas, priorities, policies; determining representatives and/or mediators; evaluating quality of civic participation, discourse, and awareness.


Table 2: Political applications of ICT



  1.      Public information systems (TV, Civic Communication Cooperatives, etc.)

  2.      New public information systems (Internet, etc.)

  3.      Electronic information campaigns 

  4.      Group decision support systems (AI (artificial intelligence), etc.)

  5.      Bulletin-Board-Systems (BBS)

  6.      Discussion lists

  7.      Computer conferences

  8.      Teleconferences and videoconferences

  9.      Chat 

  10.      Community Networks

  11.      Electronic Meetings

  12.      Electronic Town Halls (ETHs)

  13.      Electronic Town Meetings (ETMs)

  14.      Electronic Neighbourhood Assemblies (ENAs)

  15.      Electronic Communications Tree (ECT) 

  16.      Electronic Parliament

  17.      Electronic Discussion Fora (EDF)

  18.      Electronic voting/election

  19.      Electronic random selection  

  20.      Electronic referendum

  21.      Electronic polls 

  22.      Electronic surveys/citizen enquiries

  23.      Direct electronic initiative 

  24.      Indirect electronic initiative

  25.      Electronic petition





The Minerva Communications Tree (MCT) (Multiple Input Network for Evaluating Reactions, Votes and Attitudes) is built on a sociological proposition about the efficacy of multilevel differentiation of consensus-building (Etzioni, 1992; Etzioni/Laudon/Lipson, 1975). In this system, voters grant their representatives "mandates" (a kind of generalized guidance that reflects what the voter seeks). According to the Etzioni-hypothesis, which has empirical evidence, it is feasible to create a consensus by breaking up a number of participants into small groups (e.g., N=10) to realize effective dialogue in ETMs. Each of these groups sends a representative to a second level of discussion and deliberation. From there, representatives are chosen to participate in a third level of group discussion, and so on. At the last level, one group is left (discussing and voting on the problem with public input [3]). MCT supports lateral as well as top-down and bottom-up communication to develop consensus. For MCT to work, participants must allow their representatives to participate in give and take negotiations, within the frame of their mandates. The consensus arising from MCT is put, for final ratification, to a vote of all participants - first, to ensure that the process of scaling did not distort the views of the political actors of the lower levels, and second, to act as a restraint on the higher level representatives (Etzioni/Laudon/Lipson, 1975). Furthermore, the communications tree is applicable in conjunction with a suitable consensus forcing strategy (Koen, 1997) such as Nominal Group Technique (NGT) to develop a priority ordered list of what should be done in the political process (e.g., the public’s agenda). A characteristic of the Koen approach is that about 90 percent of the participants do not have to own a computer if a least a single computer is available for each group of people (e.g., N=18). As far as the Transformational Society is concerned, the decisions are done here in absence of a ruler, ruling class, ruling political party or parties, or power elite. This means anarchy.

Anarchism usually relies on direct democracy to make decisions. Collective decisions are typically made by consensus. These forms of direct democracy allow individuals to have input regarding decisions that affect their lives. A consensus process is here a form of decision making which optimizes anarchy and the solutions. The term grassroots PED is used here to imply a broad range of consensus-promoting measures and methods. The specification for a participatory system without multilevel differentiation for consensus-building - that allows masses (e.g., N>10^6 people) to have discussions with each other and enables them to reach group consensus - has to deal with the problem of how to make very large groups able to agree on consensus by means of AICT.  


As the Space Age approaches, the benefits of the aerospace research and development are beginning to be used to foster communications without the need to travel. Another relevant electronic technique is computer conferencing. It is particular useful where the participants are unwilling or unable to interact under other circumstances.


In all phases of the policy-making process, the role of ICT is crucial. The function of AICT that are used for information and discussion must be without repression, unfiltered and unbiased, so that neutral information is presented. This condition is necessary to the greatest extent possible in order to provide the actors with reliable and useful information. Civic Communication Cooperatives (CCC) (Barber, 1984) are trusted citizen-controlled public information systems and independent bodies to promote and guarantee democratic uses of ICT. Bias and/or manipulation are revealed through information programs.


In a world of intensifying local and global relations, with overlapping communities, the principle of autonomy requires the integration of networks as well as polities at different levels. The structural model has introduced the major actors of PED and their relationships, without regard to the geopolitical level of their position. It is now time to take this factor into account by presenting various arenas of political actions. In the following sections of this chapter, the study will deal with each of the main levels of public policy-making.

Level 1

The local level is the primary arena of politics. It is here were the citizen has chance for direct influence on the political process. Local politics becomes one foundation of PED. A political system is transformable with a basis of local democratic institutions. It is, therefore, necessary to build grassroots organisations and institutions to ensure popular participation in public affairs.


One activity in the political process is to form transformational circles. This usually requires community and communion with like minded people. The Transformational Society is also activated when people join together to support one another in self-evolution and in making the contribution to improve the world. These circles present programs showing how people are able to overlay the transformational perspective into daily lives. Their purpose is to establish a matching environment in which to develop the Transformational Society. Circles are composed of a set of people who agree to meet regularly. They are self-organizing, a "seedbed" for the emergence of a New Age, and a way to ground ideas into daily lives. It is possible to form a larger community of consciousness evolution through AICT and gatherings.


If a community is a circle of people who are in direct and continuous communication, then this group is the base for exchange and influence. By the use of ICT, every citizen will be able to expand the range of this influence in many directions. From this increased communication will follow higher capacity for organization and improved coordination for political action. Widespread use of AICT has the potential to increase the number of members of the Transformational Society and therefore politicise more people than ever before.    


The arena of local politics is a community defined in geographical terms, such as neighbourhood, ecovillage, communes, municipality, constituency.  Spatial delimitation of a community was based on the constraints of communication beyond a certain distance. With new AICT, however, this area can be enlarged considerably.    


A commune is a kind of community where most resources are shared and there is usually (1) little or (2) no personal property. New forms of ecovillages or communes are relevant collectives for the local level. They are socially, economically and ecologically sustainable systems (e.g., with 50 to 150 people). The Transformational Society views the breakdown of traditional forms of community, destruction of the environment, wasteful consumerist lifestyles, unsustainable farming, urban sprawl, and over-reliance on fossil fuels, as trends that must be changed to avert ecological collapse.


The Transformational Society sees small-scale communities with minimal ecological impact as an alternative. However, they are able to cooperate with other communes in a network. This new civilization seeks infrastructural independence. Communes optionally include organic farming, permaculture and other approaches which promote ecosystem function and biodiversity. Its organization is typically characterized as anarchism. A commune of the Transformational Society usually relies on:

  • technologies - e.g., renewable energy, ICT, CMC 
  • autonomous systems
  • anticipatory and participatory decision-making
  • forms of supportive community

Strengthening the Transformational Society and its institutions of community politics is one task of PED. This task will necessitate the decentralization of power. The local arena becomes the place where important decisions are taken. Since people will participate if they feel that their time and energy is not wasted, local autonomy is one principle upon which PED operates.

Level 2

The next significant level on which politics is conducted is the region, depending on its definition. Typically they are, but are not necessarily, smaller than a country. A region may be divided into subregions. A subregion is a unit which derives from a region. It is usually based on location. Transformational Societies need communication structures to close the possible gap between local communities. These structures include AICT which associate different groups. The structure of the political system - which is outlined in this study - is such as to enable interactions. In this way, various facets of multiple interests found in Transformational Societies would be adequately reflected in the political system. The Transformational Society utilizes a variety of multi-directional interactive communication networks to ensure that people are given every opportunity to participate and to influence the decisions taken.

Level 3

ICT have the potential to support participatory politics, because at this level we deal with greater numbers of people over greater distances. Decisions that cannot be made on lower levels, because they need a solution at the higher level, are done there as participatory democratic as possible. 

Level 4

Humanity will eventually transcend national boundaries by moving towards a new global culture and society. A combination of all the electronic media can sustain a community of a large number of people. This is a distinct advantage over the numbers of people come together in physical proximity in order to communicate, as it was the case in the ancient Greek polis or in the modern town meeting. But one main advantage of AICT is that they allow community to exist without any regard to the limitations of space. Marshall McLuhan presented the metaphor of the "global village". This is a vision of the integration of all humankind, made possible by the electronic media and consciousness evolution. Globalization is postulated as a process that erodes national boundaries. Theorists of the Transformational Society present transformational scenarios of the "end of the nation state", with a period representing a new historical era. ICT are used to displace politics on to civil society by means of pluralism, participation and direct citizen power, abandoning the attempts to save the political systems attached to the nation states. The Transformational Society promotes politics that aim to resolve nation states and refer to individuals that transcend divisive boundary-based identifications.


One basic assumption in a global model of PED with regard to the meaning of ICT for the political system is that there exists a global communications system through which information flows in quantities. Because of the importance of information, discussion, voting, political activity for collective decision-making, the participatory democratic control of these communication channels becomes a political issue. The area of level 3 is too big for certain functions and too small for others. For this reason, it is possible and necessary for the Transformational Society to decentralize functions to allow more local autonomy; at the same time as the new civilization increases global cooperation and coordination where necessary.


The exposition of the structures in the major arenas of this political system seems to be sketchy, but it should give a view of the form and content of the model for the Transformational Society. Moreover, it shows the requirements of PED and - therefore - hints at the gap between it and the realities. Obviously, this gap is significant, but by no means impossible to bridge; given the continuation of technological advances and the political will to apply them in the context of transformational politics. Although working out the strategies to attain that goal is not part of this study, we shall touch upon some of its aspects in the second half of this work which deals with the dynamics of PED.    



This chapter complements the structural components presentation of previous sections by focusing on the operational aspects of PED (in the context of an ideal type of political process). The information and communication flow is via ICT and via conventional practices. The political process is composed of nine phases (steps). They are abstracted from the totality of actions (political behaviour) in projects and experiments of PED.

  • Need-determination

  • Demand-determination

  • Planning

  • Confrontation

  • Negotiation

  • Agreement-building

  • Decision-taking

  • Implementation

  • Evaluation

Every single phase of the political process maximally includes all the dimensions of public participation of the PED model. Although none of the practical projects of PED illustrated all phases and all possible dimensions of public participation, they collectively came close enough to provide empirical evidence for the political process. This means that the phases of the political process are a description of reality as demonstrated by projects of electronic democracy. Since other experimenters and/or theoreticians of participatory and/or anticipatory democracy had also developed and tested systems without electronic AICT, the principal investigator assumes that it would be useful to integrate these projects to back up the phases of this political process.


The purpose of the political process is to convert various inputs (needs, demands, and plans) into decisions. Since one goal of PED is to develop consensus, the main emphasis of the process lies on confrontation, negotiation, and agreement-building. It will be shown how citizens can collectively and individually take part in the policy-making.


A set of other models of electronic democracy - they are theoretical constructions designed to reveal and explain chief elements of democratic form and its underlying structure and relations - are applicable to conceptualize the political system in a different way. I have developed a view (Schlifni, 2000) of what a classification of electronic democracy would include, each category or model allowing for different dimensions and forms of citizen participation in government: (1) competitive electronic democracy, (2) pluralistic electronic democracy, (3) plebiscitary electronic democracy, (4) communitarian electronic democracy, (5) participatory electronic democracy. As one moves in the continuum from minimum to maximum participation, each model increases the roles for and the number of dimensions of citizen participation in the political process. Also there may be an overlap between the models which means that hybrid forms of electronic democracy can emerge. It is, however, beyond the scope of this study to display the policy-making process from the perspective of each of these models (see Schlifni, 2001). Since we are dealing with the political system of the Transformational Society, only models that include and require participatory and anticipatory democracy are relevant for this study.


The phases of the process appear in the presented order. In general, a political process is a naturally occurring or designed sequence of operations or events,
possibly taking up time, space, expertise and other resources, which produces outcomes. In reality, however, the activities are not necessarily in that theoretical order. Reality is much more disorganized than its ideal representation. In any case, every practical project of PED is based on a set of components of this ideal political process. Greater in depth analyses can be done by focusing on a component or phase of the political process and magnifying it to explore smaller elements (Schlifni, 2000). Further magnification could be the sequel to this study.


The inquiry begins at the need-determination stage because it is a logical point to enter the cycle of political actions. Human needs are necessities for the existence and development of citizens, their fulfilment is a basic drive for maintenance and enhancement of life. Social institutions try to help people identify their individual and collective needs, and then provide them with the means or with the goods and services for fulfilling them. Needs are also an essential political issue, because they serve for interpretation and for establishing priorities. The subjective translation from needs - e.g., preferences, ideas, interests, opinions, ideologies, motivations, expectations -  into demands is a subject of public discussion because they are related to different perceptions of interests.


In order to improve the performance of political systems in the need-determination stage, PED relies on ICT. Such technologies carry out this function in four main areas: (1) information, (2) education, (3) public input, (4) representative institutions. As far as the first area is concerned, AICT increase the access to and storage of information for the average individual. The risk of information overload suggests that improvements in collaboration and information-retrieval technologies are needed to help the citizens to make best use of the emerging information infrastructure (Bonchek, 1995). Increased information is an ingredient to consciousness-raising and supports the citizens to identify their needs. In order to improve the performance of the actors, the political process integrates civic education. This process enables individuals and/or groups to obtain political knowledge and information and enables them to analyze political events, promotes insight into functions of the political system, stimulates democratic attitudes, and trains skills that give individuals and/or groups the necessary abilities. Maximizing the variety of media as well as the number of channels of communication for participants increases the diversity of access paths. Publicity, consciousness-expanding processes, entertainment, discussion, mobilization, and politicization attract the people. Highly developed survey and polling systems are used to accumulate differentiated needs. In particular, scientific deliberative opinion polls provide informed and representative input from the public after a discussion phase. Using these and other methods increases the knowledge of political actors as to what people want. Representative institutions can make use of that wide spectrum of needs to improve their capacity.


Once needs have been determined, the next step is demand-articulation. Arenas for such articulation are provided by various transformational groups which aggregate individual interests into common positions, they ask for social dimensions of interests and problems. Individuals join or form these groups - e.g., in ETMs - to improve their chances of being heard by strengthening their collective voice. In order to organize and propagate such groups, people must be in interaction with each other. What is necessary to move the system in one direction or another is the concerted collective effort of different forceful groups.


Political AICT have the potential in keeping people in touch with each other and thus allow them to find out their common interests. The global network is a component of PED, because it not only makes it possible for people to communicate with each other over distances, but it also interconnects computers and other information facilities. Information and opinions are exchanged and actions coordinated, components which are indispensable in participatory politics. Providing the channels for the flow of information, however, is not the only service that AICT can supply to the political system. Important is their contribution to the content as well as the form that the information takes.  


Relevant from the perspective of the participatory democrat is the development of political communities. Through increased interaction and recognition of interdependency, citizens develop a new behaviour toward society and other individuals. Sharing in problem solving for society at large transforms isolated citizens simply pursuing self-interests to more cooperative, socially minded citizens. Various techniques have been explored to bring people from various segments of society together in an effort to reach a consensus. A definite group result requires one or more meetings. Political AICT for information, discussion, voting, and political activity are useable by transformational groups to develop agreement and random selection systems to determine their representatives. Further application areas of voting include agenda-setting of the group, determination of rules, and measuring support for positions.


Demands are directed towards the political actors aiming that some kind of decision for society should be taken and executed. Due to non-hierarchical, polydirectional communication, the representatives get more inputs from different groups. The transmission of the extent and direction of these demands determines the pressure put upon the policy-making system at any give time. Attention is given to the sources which are able exert the greatest pressures through the media.


Truly democratically and randomly selected legislatures/groups of decision makers are complemented by new forms of initiatives. To define terms, the "initiative" is a participatory process by which groups can place a new law before the political actors by collecting a given number of signatures from fellow citizens. In effect, the initiative allows citizens to make and to pass specific laws without involving their representatives. The "referendum" is also a participatory process whereby an existing law is approved or rejected by vote of the political actors. To fend off the argument that new forms of direct democracy - e.g., legislative initiative and referendum process - would lead to "emotional" results, it is recommended "a cooling off" period of information and discussion, perhaps making the same special initiative pass public muster twice. This process insists on the assumption that the public has enough time and information upon which to make optimal judgements.


Political actions are influenced by the way needs and demands are analysed and responses to them are prepared. Inputs trigger certain political activities. One aim is to understand the meaning of demands and plan the appropriate reaction to it. Explaining political events and their impact upon the political system is a complex and difficult task, which requires experience and expertise. The developed systems educate specialists - e.g., socio-political analysts; technology assessors; scientists; policy consultants - for this purpose. Scientists and other persons backed by advanced AICT are able to process large amounts of data and design sophisticated models simulating the operation of complex systems. The hardware and software utilized in these activities help individuals and groups clarify their concepts and formulate their problems. Moreover, there are techniques to systematize the diagnosis and prognosis of social dysfunctions (undesirable consequences of social patterns). It is possible and necessary to prevent social dysfunctions or to react to them. As societies become more complex, intuitive responses are no longer adequate to solve their problems. More scientific handling of such problems has, therefore, become necessary in a large scale.   


The Transformational Society has a number of experts to analyse social demands and recommend appropriate strategies to satisfy them. Planning experts are democratically chosen. They study relevant factors and develop alternative concepts of handling problems. These studies form part of the inputs, along with information about needs and demands. The role of the media is to publicize and to popularize plans and studies, so that people understand their implications. There are citizens that are interested to participate in the planning process - problem search; wording; initiation; information; discussion and analysis of problems; formulation of programs and projects; selection and coordination of projects; agreement on the content as well as temporal frame; evaluation. An educated public is taking part in all phases of planning. Moreover, ordinary people have the possibility to determine the agenda, the priorities, values, aims and points of view for research tasks. In this way, they influence the choice of studies undertaken and their results.


Anticipatory Future Planning
One purpose of anticipatory future planning is to involve as many citizens as possible in conceiving future problems and choosing amongst a number of potential  futures. Citizens define alternative futures and select preferred policies within those futures. The political actors decide various issues of future development. For instance, the participants are given "games" to play. Game one is entitled "images of the future" which consists of the likely status of important items of interest - e.g., employment, environment, world scene, economic development, and political system. These futures include themes of the Transformational Society. For each image of the future (item of interest) participants  have the opportunity to indicate whether they like, dislike, or are neutral about the status of that image in each of the future categories. In game two the political actors make predictions. They are given a set of possible events of the future and are asked to indicate under which future category, supported by different scientific views, the event would most likely occur. Finally, in game three, the actors are asked to choose their preferred future. If they do not find one of the future categories outlined as incorporating their range of values, they have the option to create their own future with their own unique mixture of assumptions, beliefs by choosing statements, or "building blocks" which are closest to their own viewpoints, from various future categories.     


There is a wide range of citizen involvement techniques; each varies in its approach to the future. Anticipatory future planning is intended to examine a set of issues. The process effectively addresses long-term considerations. Those who are organizing the process maintain a level of commitment by involving futurists, and by encouraging a long time frame (25+ years) as the context for political actions. In particular, "synergistic convergence" projects (Glenn, 1978) facilitate discussion and consensus forming on global policies for the future (e.g., 25 to 100 years ahead). Citizens explore functional areas of a culture as well as areas of new potential (in other words, a merging of functional areas in new patterns). This produces future oriented policy recommendations, multifaceted images of the future, positive motivation, and comprehensive civic education. 


So far, the study has identified major inputs. They are presented in the form of societal criticism, positions, concepts, and models by different political actors. 


Stage 1

A major goal of PED, in this respect, is to break down as much as possible the separation between political performers and their audiences. By the use of interactive technology, experts and citizens are supposed to exchange information and opinions, thus participating in the debate. PED puts emphasis on active involvement as a major responsibility of its actors. The condition in the Transformational Society will make this participation not only possible but necessary.


Different opinions of what should be the means and aims of social activities create public discussions in virtual and real political arenas. As a first step, then, discussions usually begin with the existence of divergence of positions among different political actors who confront each other. They display their view of social problems to be faced. The public discussion of diverse views is the preliminary condition for political activities. Disagreement is the basis on which politics flourishes, since one aim of the model is to transform disagreement into agreement.


Public issues are entered in the public’s agenda. The general public is involved in setting the agenda - determining the problems or issues to be discussed and the order of priority. Political AICT for discussion and information are used as an educational tool to increase knowledge on selected issues before asking for prioritization. As the process moves from discussion stage 1, which uses a variety of media formats to present information and a wide spectrum of expert advice on the issue(s) selected from the public's agenda, to the next stages, the emphasis is increasingly focused on understanding the complexity of issues and questions.


Stage 2

It is at this stage where various input factors are treated. Citizens, representatives, and experts search for alternatives. The discussion via AICT encompasses all adults who wish to participate. Political actors suggest alternatives. They are recorded in public databases. Mediators and ordinary citizens have a role for the preparations and presentations of alternatives on the problem under consideration. Information experts are democratically determined. They work out and point out advantages and disadvantages, pro and con arguments of every single option to help the citizens to make qualitative and informed decisions. Communication experts and interested citizens publish contents of debates and stimulate public interest.


Stage 3

After the conclusion of stage 2, information and knowledge about possible consequences of alternatives are gathered. The process is supported by analyses, assessments and evaluations of inputs. The discussion of alternatives is enriched and supplemented by computer simulations and role-playing of various groups ("what if" games) to inform the citizenry about the likely consequences of the selection of options. Role-playing, mediated via media, help to feel empathy for contrary points of view, since different scenarios ("step into others' shoes scenarios") are presented (Becker/Slaton, 2000). To help minimizing any bias in the process, the actors are able to give their inputs for correction, when they detect any factual, value, or structural bias in the formulation of alternatives and/or evaluation of consequences. Manipulation is reduced by free speech - e.g., information on manipulation via CCC - and careful consideration of issues. Stages 2-3 can be repeated at different levels using AICT for information and discussion to obtain new alternatives.   


Communication plays a central role in the negotiation theory. It is through the exchange of information that negotiators strive to achieve their goals. Traditionally, the type of democracy in this phase of politics has not been participatory because of the secrecy surrounding these proceedings. The public is unable to observe these internal interactions in present representative democracies. With the Transformational Society, however, come openings for PED and direct individual citizen power. Secret political negotiations contradict PED assumptions (e.g., open system). Therefore, all political actions of this phase are made transparent by using political AICT. There are techniques designed to inform the citizens, encourage interaction, and promote participation in the process of negotiation. In examining the impact of large openings, however, it is insightful to view them as a part of a continuing process of public education and increasing awareness that has effect over time.


The negotiation theory includes processes of giving and taking. The manifestations of bargaining are reflected in the political process. Thereby, the political actors take into account this communicative process with the exchanges that it produces and the directions it takes. In addition, political advisers and mediators are able to help groups to maximize their gains, to represent their positions more accurate, and to minimize their losses by applying game strategies. On the basis of this accounting, the political actors have the possibility to choose the optimal combination/solution in any particular case. The Transformational Society achieves win-win solutions - where all involved participants are able to win - in the best-case. In this process it can happen that more than one alternative can be chosen.


The negotiation phase includes the following components in the PED model: Openness to all adult citizens in the area, methods to educate the political actors, procedures to obtain citizen input, encouragement and provision of ways to interact among citizens, and means to link the citizen participation to mediators, and so forth. According to PED, it is possible and necessary to control negotiations by public involvement (information, discussion, voting). If the population does not support the final agreement (public output control) then the negotiations start again. Citizens not only become better informed through the possibilities to involve them in public discussions and interaction on how to proceed in the negotiations, but begin to understand the complexities and approach the issues more analytically.    


As it is evident by now, participatory politics is not simply counting votes to determine a majority for or against a certain position. Rather it is a communicative activity in which different interests converge in the direction of a common area of agreement. The goal of agreement-building through confrontation and negotiation points to the final stages of the political process. After need-determination, demand-determination, planning have been completed, political interactions start with discussion of problems that reach the public’s agenda and end with their solution (or a set of problems remains unresolved). During controversies an escalation might happen that achieves its climax and that is changeable with the help of mediators and/or other people (e.g., psychologists) into de-escalation. Thus, mediation is a democratic conflict-resolution process and is a method of conflict resolution consistent with PED. This phase aims at a  consensus or shared agreement how to optimally resolve the problem and how to choose the most appropriate implementation. As in any consensus-building process of PED, agreements in the negotiation phase or "final agreements" can be renegotiated and remediated. The agreement-building process includes procedures to protect minorities. In case of a draft violating minority rights or fundamental human rights, the process is blocked for this draft until the participants correct it according to minority or human rights protection standards - the political actors start negotiations with concerned groups to integrate their interests and to transform conflict into cooperation. Minority protection contains measures to prevent potential negative effects of direct democracy.


The function of political actors is to find the common denominator of different positions. Such common denominator usually exists even underneath contradictory interests; otherwise there will be a degree of conflict of interests in the society. The accommodation of diverse and opposing interests is a crucial task. It is necessary to find enough willing and able participants to perform this collective search for consensus to its successful conclusion. Integration of mediators helps the actors along this process to reach an agreement. In addition to recording the subjective impressions of greater agreement, the actors have the option to measure the degree of consensus by applying selected AICT. They support the search for collective agreement by continuously processing inputs from citizens (information, discussion, voting). By extending and perfecting these applications, individuals and groups improve their capacity for reaching a consensus. Research to develop improved political AICT as well as tools and means for consensus-building is continued. Experts in this field are involved in designing and applying new techniques of conflict resolution. Innovative methods are tested and evaluated. Exploration and development of new AICT and methodology is a necessary condition to the existence of PED and the political process.


The study now presents the final stages of the political process where decisions are taken and executed. This part of the research will display the decision-taking, implementation and evaluation process from the perspective of PED. The following three phases will outline the final steps of this sequence.


So far, the study has demonstrated how the citizens, both individually and collectively, are able to participate in the shaping of public policy at all the stages of its making. This continuous involvement by individuals in their homes and groups in the communities is necessary for public input into the policy-making of the Transformational Society. 


By the time, draft legislation has arrived at this advanced stage, it is almost impossible to modify without causing a political crisis. Because of that, a legislative process needs a certain period of time to go through its phases. As such, PED works anticipatory in the ideal case rather than reactive; so that there is enough time to identify social problems and to prepare the solution. After public information and discussion have been made, political actors register the final public input on the matter. In the best-case, a win-win agreement is ratified by the citizens. At least, a small majority of the population votes for or against the agreement/law. After decision-taking has been executed, it is possible that further political activities happen - e.g., celebration; happening. If, on the other hand, the outcome of the political process is inconclusive and significant divisions still remain, the output needs to be rethought and the political actors go back to an earlier phase. The Transformational Society does not always succeed in reaching a collective agreement, which means that a particular set of issues is not ready for a decision and should not be forced through in normal circumstances. In any case, AICT for information will make it easier to determine the state of any proposal as it goes through the system and thus avoid surprising effects at the end.


What is produced is a binding decision or a series of decisions by political actors after phases of information and discussion. At one extreme, there is a participatory democracy where only citizens themselves formally vote for legislation, whereas at the other extreme is a system where the formal ratification is exclusively done by representatives. The presented form of PED is a combination of representative and direct democracy that involves the citizens in the legislative process: They are able to make critical and important legislation that deals with society wide problems. If the political process operates as specified, the outcome of policy proposals will be a forgone conclusion before they are voted upon by the decision-makers.  


Decisions are implemented by involvement of different organizations, groups and individuals with possibly diverging aims. Post-decision stages involve activities which carry out approved policies. After public information and discussion, the population is involved in the selection of actors that execute the implementation of decisions.


Once the decision has been taken, even these people who opposed it are supposed to accept and comply with it. However, it is possible that controversies are continued by actors who are still opposed to the policy and/or against the implementation method. Political programs and their intentions can be delayed, changed, or even foiled. Actors may try to undermine the type of policy by sabotage, sanction, or boycott. In this case, it is necessary to enable adequate public monitoring to overcome obstacles and to give the population a detailed report about such operations. The media and the experts have a role to play during this state by informing the public of the progress or lack of it in policy-implementation. 


Another concern is the public rejection of the implementation-method. In the case of methodological disagreements, public scrutiny seems to be a difficult task because it would involve qualification and expertise. Apart from continuous supervision by independent agencies and periodic verifications or progress reports, the political system keeps executive individuals and organizations accountable to it. Special AICT for information improve public scrutiny of implementation activities. Experts are democratically chosen to check implementation methods after a phase of information and discussion. The verification process of the implementation method is enhanced by assessments, analyses, and evaluations of public inputs. In the case of public rejection of the implementation method, the process leads to a public decision on the withdrawal or modification of the implementation method in a new policy cycle.


The final steps of the political process are evaluation and feedback. Political actors that aim to reach certain goals must be able to determine if and when they have been attained. The implementation process, therefore, must be evaluated both as to the policy it executed and the strategy it applied to do so. For that reason, the political actors can pursue a means-ends methodology to judge its achievements.


Experts in the field of policy-evaluation develop methods for evaluations of policies as well of their implementation. They are able to audit program performance by using state of the art techniques. Policy-evaluation has made progress in becoming more systematic. Experts and/or counter-experts are democratically determined to undertake independent studies. Evaluations are made public as soon as they are completed. Discussions on them are carried out in the community as well as in the legislature/representative institutions/functional bodies and subsequent political actions taken. The role of the information and communication sector, which communicates constructive criticism and impact-assessment, is crucial.


This phase brings the investigation to the importance of feedback in correcting the faults of the system. Public feedback serves for identification of errors. One practical purpose of evaluation is to start a learning process to avoid faults in the future. Public discussions about evaluations on the political process as well as on program performance include an educational function. In order to improve the system and to avoid repetitions of errors, past faults then must be identified and corrected.


Since one central purpose of the PED model is agreement-building through dissolving the areas of disagreement, its evaluation measures the extent to which consensus has been reached and conflict has been solved. PED maximizes its chances of performing these activities by utilizing ICT. Such technology makes it possible to realize PED’s central assumption of citizen participation. Finally, the entire citizenry represents the supreme evaluator and particularly those persons who have been affected by the decision-making processes. A law/social agreement/decree/measure can be problem for concerned persons - in this case, the process leads to a new problem articulation in a new policy cycle.


Since one primary objective of participatory politics is to help to fulfil human needs, its success must be analysed to the degree that it has done so. If certain needs have been satisfied, then political actors articulate further demands. The cycle of the political process starts again. Feedback from experts and citizens has the potential to improve/transform the next round of the policy-making process. According to the theory of participatory democracy, political activity can change with the transformation of values, needs, and preferences of the citizenry. The output of a policy cycle becomes an input of a new cycle. In this way, the process is continuously repeated.


Part III: Case Studies

On the basis of an analysis of data available on the use of ICT in projects of electronic democracy around the world (e.g., Schlifni, 2000; Becker/Slaton, 2000), the political process was developed to integrate all existing and potential political AICT. Supporting the analysis of the model is a compilation of references to more than fifty participatory and anticipatory democracy projects in which components of the process were tested for some socio-political purpose.


Polls and surveys are ways to include greater numbers of people in decision making. Modern deliberative polling systems are structured to present a range of information and knowledge, in an objective format, to scientifically, randomly selected samples of the public. Each citizen is given abundant time to think about all this data and is provided opportunities to deliberate either privately and/or publicly. Some of the models use a face-to-face "jury" process pioneered by the Jefferson Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Another group of projects use the telephone and/or computer voting systems and have citizen deliberating in their homes and/or in ETMs. There has been series of experiments in California, Hawaii, and New Zealand that Becker and Slaton termed the "Televote experiments" (Becker/Slaton, 2000). Televote, as a general term, simply means voting by telecommunications.  The Televote system from Becker and Slaton differs from conventional polling in that it provides scientifically and randomly selected samples of the public (e.g., 400 respondents). Participants receive undisputed information about an issue, several arguments for and against various aspects of proposed solutions, and a wide range of options. Other models use face-to-face groups (e.g., N=300-400) - like Jim Fishkin’s "deliberative poll" model.


A set of participatory democracy systems were small-scale experiments. For example, Net Crosby in Minnesota and Peter Dienel in Wuppertal (Germany) selected citizens in such a way as to constitute a demographic approximation of the population in terms of age, ethnicity, sex, educational level, and income. Dienel, who operated out of Wuppertal University, termed his system "Plannungszelle" and has done more than 155 experiments. Crosby set up an independent nonprofit organization in Minneapolis called the Jefferson Center. Since 1973 Crosby has conducted more than 20 projects under the names "Citizen Juries", "Policy Juries" and "Citizen Planels". 


Although the research being conducted on a small-scale is important and essential to an understanding of the factors leading to increased citizen participation, the emphasis of another group of experiments was on relatively large-scale projects that were efforts to involve citizens in agenda-setting, planning, and/or policy-making.


Participatory and anticipatory models are useable to measure attitudes about the future and to determine preferred futures and specific policies. They are useful for exploring attitudes about the future and for registering preferences and priorities about specific set of choices. Experiments in anticipatory democracy have been documented by David Loye in "The Healing of a Nation" (1971), Hazel Henderson in "Creating Alternative Futures" (1978), Clement Bezold in "Anticipatory Democracy" (1978), Alvin Toffler in "The Third Wave" (1980), Thomas E. Cronin in "Direct Democracy" (1989), Christa Daryl Slaton in "Televote" (1992).   


A set of scientists - concerned with more participatory democracy - want to create a more conscious awareness of the range of alternative futures and their implications. Glenn, whose work (Glenn, 1978) focused on involving citizens in policy planning for the future, on group decision support systems and on town meetings, has studied a number of techniques designed to inform citizens, encourage interaction, and to promote participation.


  • Information Dissemination
    • Public Information Programs
    • Drop-In Centers
    • Hotlines
    • Meetings with open information
  • Information Collection
    • Ombudsman
    • Surveys
    • Focused Group Discussion
    • Delphi
    • Public Hearings
    • Community Meetings
  • Planning 
    • Advocacy Planning
    • Charrette
    • Community Planning Centers
    • Computer-Based Techniques
    • Design-In and Color Mapping
    • Plural Planning
    • Task Force
    • Workshops
    • Citizens Advisory Committees
    • Citizen Representatives
    • Fishbowl Planning
    • Interactive Participation
    • Neighborhood Meetings
    • Delphi
    • Syncon
    • Problem/Possibility Focuser
    • Neighborhood Planning Councils
    • Policy Capturing
    • Value Analysis
  • Decision Making
    • Arbitrative Planning
    • Meditative Planning
    • Citizen Review Board
    • Media-Based Balloting         



One such technique is Delphi, a series of questionnaires sent to individuals in an effort to develop consensus. After each round of questioning, each participant in Delphi is provided the results and is allowed the opportunity to change her/his opinion. Delphi has a set of rounds (e.g., 3-5 rounds). Olaf Helmer and Norman Dalkey at the Rand Corporation invented the technique in the 1960s. It tends to force consensus by returning information from the previous round that shows the views of the majority. Delphis have been used in different situations. The questionnaire can ask respondents to forecast future events considering future social impacts. They are also useful in allowing citizens to adjust their priorities based on those of a larger community, as well as exploring trends or events in the community. This technique is able to show areas in which a community is informed and those in which it is uninformed. It helps planners to identify community values and priorities.


Another technique, Charrette, was created in the mid-1960s by the Facilities Planning Division of the "U.S. Office of Education" to bring people from various segments of society together in a series of discussions in an effort to reach consensus. These planning sessions have been held from one day to two weeks. Small groups focusing on aspects of the problem under discussion report periodically to the whole group which responds to their efforts. The process move back and forth from small group discussions and deliberations to meetings of the whole group until a deadline is reached.


Created in 1971 by John Whiteside and Barbara Marx Hubbard of the Committee for the Future, the Syncon technique was intended to bring together people from all walks of life and backgrounds to develop consensus for the next step of human evolution. What images of the future could most people work for? What are the problems and misunderstandings that need resolution? If a diverse group could come together, share their visions for an alternative future, and find a common ground, a new psychological awareness might be generated that would accelerate progress toward a transformational future. Unlike Charrette which tends to take a local perspective within a relatively short time frame (5-10 years), Syncon takes a global perspective for the future - 25 to 100 years ahead. Syncon begins with small groups which then merge first to groups of intermediate size and finally to one large group. Selected AICT and participatory processes create a unique psychological and sociological experience, "synergistic convergence" - hence the term "Syncon".


Consensus conferences were developed by "The Danish Board of Technology" (DBT), which is an institution established by the Danish Parliament. A consensus conference is a public meeting, which allows citizens to be integrated in the assessment of technology. The conference is based on a dialogue between experts and citizens. It is open to the public. The citizen panel plays the important role in the system. It consists of participants who are introduced to the topic by professional mediators. This citizen panel formulates the questions to be taken up at the conference, and participates in the selection of experts to research and to answer them. The panel is composed of participants with varied backgrounds regarding age, gender, education, occupation and geographical location. Consensus on attitudes and recommendations is achieved through open discussion. The final document is an expression of the extent to which the citizen panel is able to reach consensus.


Unlike Delphis, Charrettes, Consensus conferences, and Syncons, the Problem/Possibility Focuser is a technique more concerned with clarifying the agreements and disagreements that surround a specific issue than with reaching consensus. The process, created by Robert Theobald, starts with a group exploring all the areas of agreement and then all areas of disagreement on the issue. One step is to develop ideas to settle the disagreements. The last step before preparing a report on the process is to list resources that may help to clarify the nature of the disagreements presented. The object of this method is to increase agreements and to limit the disagreements.


Another form of anticipatory democracy (large group planning meeting) is the "futures search" conference, pioneered by Eric Trist and Fred Emery and documented by practitioners Marvin R. Weisbord and Sandra Janoff in "Future Search" (1995). Search conferences were originally used by organizations, but their applications to cities and states was fostered by the Washington-based Institute for Alternative Futures, and many efforts have been analyzed by its founder Clement Bezold. 

In futures research, there are similar methods, for example "Futures Workshop", created by Robert Jungk, where the idea of finding alternative ways and methods of setting disputes and forming new solutions is pursued by interactive groups. The main aim is to create new future images in connection with a win-win strategy to ensure that different views could be taken into account when future actions are planned.


A scenario workshop is another method. It was developed by The Danish Board of Technology (DBT). It can take the form of a local meeting that includes dialogue among local groups of political actors. The participants carry out assessments of technological and non-technological solutions to the problems, and develop visions for future solutions and proposals for realizing them. Before the workshop takes place, a set of scenarios is generated, describing alternative ways of solving the problem. They have to be different with respect to both the technical and organizational solutions described and social and political assumptions integrated in them. In the scenario workshop, the topic is formulated as a problem, for instance, a local issue, which can be solved with the participation of the people. This workshop is designed to find solutions - technical or not - to the problem.


Nominal Group Technique (NGT), or multi-voting technique, is a methodology for achieving group consensus when the group is ranking several options or alternatives or selecting the best choice among them. The method basically consists of having each group member come up with his/her personal ranking of the options or choices, and the transformation of everyone's rankings into group consensus. NGT has been successfully used in the conduct of group meetings via the communications tree and via ETMs.


Although political AICT for electronic agreement building are still in the phase of research, there are areas where much promise is shown of breakthroughs. In this area, applications of electronic consensus-building are systems which help to search for collective agreement by processing feedbacks.


ETM projects, including New York Regional Plan (1973), Berks County Community Television (1976), Alternatives for Washington (1974-76), Alaska Television Town Meeting (1980), Hawaii Televote and Honolulu Electronic Town Meeting (1978-85), Bay Voice (1984-88), Conversation with Oregon (1991), Community Design Exchange ETMs in Roanoke, Savannah, Houston, and Racine, Wisconsin (1988-99), and American Discuss Social Security (1998-99) - to name some experiments - have demonstrated  how ICT and alternative political processes can entice citizen participation.


All the experiments were chosen from literature among examples of a similar nature on the basis of their relevance to PED. Although none of the practical projects of electronic democracy completely illustrated the political process, they collectively came close enough to demonstrate certain aspects of it. Taken as a whole, they contained most dimensions of participation of all the phases of the process and thus showed the feasibility of its application. The majority of projects were successful, in that they reached their stated goals. A number of them, however, either went beyond the goals and had unexpected effects or did not make it up to the expectations because of various reasons, some of them political. The selected projects tested a set of components of the process.  Most of the experiments were of limited duration: 1-2 years or shorter, although a few lasted five years and a couple spanned a decade (or more).


The PED model might be considered as a pure construction of the author. But the premise is that the relationship between PED and practical projects is grounded. One way of proving the existence of the model in reality is to present practical projects that contain these dimensions of participation for the citizens (labelled as "P" in table 3). Even though another set of examples from the following list are rather divorced from PED, they are useful for comparative reasons and show the range and possibilities of ICT applications. Since other experimenters and/or theoreticians of participatory and/or anticipatory democracy had developed and tested systems without electronic AICT, the principal investigator integrates a set of these projects in the following list, too. At this point, the author presents a brief overview of some of the many experiments.  



Table 3: List of selected projects


Project Name / Description



The Metroplex Assembly



Americans Discuss Social Security                                    



Alternatives for Washington                                              



e-referendum in Anières (Swiss) 



e-referendum in Cologny



e-referendum in Carouge



e-referendum in Meyrin



e-referendum in El Hoyo de Pinares (Spain)



American Talk Issues (Consensus location)



Alaska Television Town Meeting



Berks Community Television



Big Sky Telegraph



Honolulu Interactive CATV City Council Project



Citizen Enquires of Hoogvliet, Rotterdam



Consensus Conferences                                                     



Citizens Juries and Policy Juries; more than 20 projects      



Charrette, more than 50 projects                                        



Choosing our Future         



Consensor Experiment in Alaska



Charlotte’s Web



Conversation with Oregon                                                 



Domestic Policy Association: National Issues Forums



Deliberative Polling Experiments; more than 12 experiments            



Houston Electronic Town Meeting                                    



Front Range Project



Future Spokane



Hawaii Televotes and Honolulu ETMs                             



Health Vote



ICANN i-vote



Iowa Municipal Election Ohio



i-vote projects



Kids Voting Ohio Election



Liberty Net



Legislative Teleconferencing Network



Non-governmental group actions against MAI



Minerva Communications Tree



Minnesota E-Democracy



Municipality of Kalix Deliberation                                    



Nova Scotia Liberal Party E-Vote



New Zealand Televote                                                      






Planning Cells; more than 155 experiments                   



Professionals for Social Responsibility E-Petition Drive



Party of Arizona, Presidential Primary E-Voting



Qube, Columbus



San Antonio Interactive TV Experiment



The Northern Ireland Experiment in Mediation and Direct Democracy



Scenario Workshops



Synergistic Convergence; more than 24 experiments



Sheffield City Council E-Voting



Seattle Community Network



Sustainable Racine                                                            



Teledemocracy in North-Brabant (Holland)                  



The Electronic Referendum (of Ted White)



United We Stand America ETH, 12 experiments         



Savannah/Chatham County ETM                                 









Further PED projects of the past and the future





Form and function of the political system for the Transformational Society has been explained, so as not to require repetitive summarization. As an effort in this direction, the project undertook to make a feasibility study of the potential that ICT could have on the Transformational Society. More specifically, this study conceptualized PED and proposed experiments to tests its validity. In concrete terms, the output of this work is a thesis made up of a principal study, references to a number of background documents and a proposal for action.


A follow up of this study could be a detailed experimental design for a pilot project. Although the theoretical ramifications of PED are far from fully explicated, the most useful insights into the process are likely to come from empirical field studies. More detailed and explicit theoretical scientific papers on the political process may be submitted but the general conclusion is that only (a) well-designed and (b) transformational pilot-projects using (c) the latest available ICT will bring the discussion into the field of empirically-testable experiments to assess the political process. This design may include a strategic plan, an operational program and a budget for testing the political process in an actual local community.


The Transformational Society - which the author has advanced in this work - is an alternative to the future of Continued Growth. This new civilization is both possible and desirable. PED and the political process that are presented in this study are not as utopian as they may appear at first sight. Visions, images of the future, the theories, networking, experiments, new political communication systems, truth-telling, learning, loving, and new organizations seem feasible strategies and/or tools for the development of a Transformational Society movement globally. To that effect, strategies can be planned at all levels and action taken by many people.


Humankind faces not a preordained future, but a choice. The choice is between four generic futures - (1) Continuation (usually "continued economic growth"), (2) Decline and Collapse, (3) Disciplined Society,  (4) Transformational Society. They lead logically to different future scenarios. They offer a living choice, not a death sentence. The choice is not necessarily a gloomy one.


Transformational Societies do not mean that the poor must be frozen in their poverty. It means a solution of problems such as poverty that humanity has been working at inefficiently by trying to maintain physical growth. An alternative future is possible and the acceptance of physical limits is one step getting there. The new civilization is not a sacrifice, but an opportunity to stop growing against the earth’s limits and to start transcending self-imposed and unnecessary limits within institutions and minds. All hypotheses and evidence the author has seen, from models to future studies, suggest that it will be a desirable future.


The people have the power to make the choice for a Transformational Society. In particular, a new hippie society is not infeasible or certain – but it is possible. They can, as a step, launch a widest possible public debate over the need for a new political system attuned to the needs of a new civilization, and should be prepared to use the most advanced tools available, from computers and satellites to artificial intelligence and interactive television.  


Now that these principles have been established, the next step is to research their implications and work out their implementation. We must have no delusion that this is an easy task. The inertia of social systems and the interests of powerful groups will resist any attempts to do so. Yet the forces of history and the will of people can combine to overcome such resistance. If this occurs, it will be a reconstruction of a transformational future that was largely prevented by the establishment. This study has been only the beginning.


Epilogue: From PED to the Strongest Forms of E-Democracy

Benjamin Barber examined the relationship between democracy and technology, too (Barber, 1998). Whether new technology supports or corrupts freedom will depend on the character of our political and social institutions. Barber postulates three future scenarios that include the relationship of ICT with democracy, he calls them: (1) the Pangloss scenario, (2) the Pandora scenario, the (3) Jeffersonian scenario.


The invisible hand of the "free" market dominates the Pangloss scenario. Rooted in compliancy, the danger of the Pangloss scenario lays in technology’s ability to serve the corporate agendas. Barber assumes that at best, the market will do nothing for uses of new technology that do not have obvious commercial, entertainment or corporate payoffs and at worse will enhance uses that undermine equality and freedom.


Under the Pandora scenario Barber presents what would happen if government utilized new technologies for the purposes of control and repression. These new technologies have the potential to facilitate the development of "invisible and benign tyranny" with its ability to encroach on privacy, restrict freedoms and information flows. Under this scenario political and social equalities are threatened.


Barber assumes "a free society is free only to the degree that its citizens are informed and that communication among them is open and informed". The Jeffersonian scenario is a future in which governments and citizens utilize and adapt new technologies to promote and facilitate participation in democratic society. This scenario has the least potential of developing, yet is technologically feasible and an aid for participatory democracy.


A strong democracy rests on the idea of a self-governing community of citizens who are united less by homogeneous interests than by civic education and who are made capable of common purpose and mutual action by virtue of their civic attitudes and participatory institutions rather than their altruistic good nature (Barber, 1984). His system of strong democracy is grounded in hundreds of face-to-face, facilitated town meetings (5000 citizens in each) throughout a nation. Each of these "neighbourhood assemblies" serves many purposes of self-governance, including that of developing agendas, priorities, and policies on local, state, regional, and national issues - but most of all, evaluating the quality of civic participation. 


To deal with issues involving larger communities, the concept of strong democracy does not include the assumption of random selection of legislators at the national level to solve political problems - even if they were selected by a comparable way to the Athenian lottery systems. Barber advocates random selection of a set of office holders only for the local level.  


Barber presents a system of "Television Town Meetings" and a "Civic Communications Cooperative". In his view, "strong democracy" requires a form of town meeting in which participation is direct and communication can happen at all levels. Thus, available ICT would link these neighbourhood assemblies. The CCC would be a publicly controlled but independent body whose mandates would be to promote and guarantee civic and democratic uses of telecommunications, which remain a public resource.


A strong democracy requires direct citizen-powered decision-making, like a national initiative and referendum process. Barber states a proposal for a multistage process. This new system would include (a) a legislative initiative and referendum process; (b) a mandatory tie-in with neighbourhood assemblies and interactive town-meetings for the purpose of civic-education; (c) multi-choice voting format; (d) a two-stage voting process providing for two readings (deliberation and discussion). He adds also a further innovation: "electronic balloting". Besides, economic democracy at the workplace is  a component of his program of strong democracy (Barber, 1984). Barber has combined his theory with many of actual experiments and added some important elements of citizen-empowerment to produce possible images of the 21st century democracy. His system emphasizes citizen interactivity, people power, and, of course, modern ICT.


Stronger e-democracy (Schlifni, 2001) is politics on the basis of maximum feasible public participation in the political system and all subsystems. This includes all applications of the presented table 2 where conflict is resolved in the PED mode through the participatory process of ongoing self-legislation and the creation of a society capable of transforming individuals into members of the Transformational Society. The strongest forms of e-democracy are types of egalitarian stronger e-democracies with no state and no social classes. In the strongest forms of e-democracy all property is owned by the community as a whole, and all people have equal social, political and economic status. This theory is dedicated to opposing coercive forms of authority and hierarchy, in particular the institutions and organisations of capitalism and the state. Transformational Societies that postulate the strongest forms of PED can promote the abolition of privately held means of production and abolition of the state as an unnecessary institution.



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 © 2005 by Manhard Schlifni


The principal investigator of this study would like to thank Arno Ruthofer for the valuable information in his thesis "Think for yourself; question authority: the development of Timothy Leary's theories and his impact on the psychedelic-cybernetic counterculture". 


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[1] Cybernetics is the study of control and communication processes in living (organisms) and artificial systems (machines). Its emphasis is on the functional relations that hold between the different parts of a system. These include in particular the transfer of information, and the circular relations that define cybernetic principles of feedback, self-organization, and autopoiesis. Cybernetics is sometimes used as a term for a variety of related fields: general systems theory, information theory, system dynamics, dynamic systems theory, including chaos theory, etc. The academic staff of the Department of Cybernetics, Internet and Virtual Systems (University of Bradford) defined Cybernetics as a coverall word to describe the study of systems - of robots, computers, machines, and the people who use them ( Cybernetics seeks to develop general theories of communication within complex systems. The prefix "cyber" was also used in the context of human interaction in connection with AICT (e.g., cybersex, cyberfeminism, cyberhippies).

[2] other elements: e.g.,  Copper, Zinc, Selenium, Molybdenum, Fluorine, Chlorine, Iodine, Manganese, Cobalt, Iron,  Lithium, Strontium, Aluminium, Silicon, Lead, Vanadium, Arsenic, Bromine.  

[3] Example from Etzioni, Laudon, and Lipson with group size N=18: If a motion were presented to the political actors on network television between 10:30 and 11:00 a.m., in a single day the motion could be discussed and voted on by about 110 million people. At level 1 would be 110 million persons in groups of 18; after a discussion of 60 minutes, each of these would send a representative to the level 2, in which about 6 million would participate. At the level 3 would be 18,000 groups, comprising 340,000 people, and at the fourth level 1,000 groups, comprising 18,000 people, and the last level of one group of 18 people discussion and voting on a motion with input from 110 million people (Etzioni/Laudon/Lipson, 1975, p. 65-66).