Book summary: The Politics of Information by Frank Baumgartner and Bryan Jones (2015)

Drawn from a court case I wrote supporting affirmative action at UT Austin as an assignment in my Business Law class. Find the Amazon link here.

From a learning perspective, there are two prevailing organizational theories on the distribution of information: entropic search, and expert search. The former embraces a rich tapestry of perspectives and viewpoints to better define the problem, and features an even-handed forum where vibrant discourse can be held. Expert search emphasizes a single qualified viewpoint to drive “clarity,” control, and hierarchy in decision making. For situations where the problem is well-defined and the solution is clear, expert search is a superior structure, and can allow for smooth long-term decision making.

However, even in scenarios where a well-established and respected solution appears to be the best course of action, continual scrutiny may very well show that there are unexpected challenges in implementation or unintended consequences that necessitate additional information (from all stakeholders involved) to resolve.

However, a lot of challenges we face in the real world are extremely complex and feature an incredible amount of nuance. These issues are often highly interdependent: a change in one part of the system will inevitably produce side effects and even unintended consequences in a different part of the system. It is in this context of problem definition where a refined form of entropic information, “organized anarchy,” thrives.

We want to maximize the diversity of perspectives available to us when defining the scope of the problem and how different pieces of the puzzle interact. This entails bouncing ideas off each other in a vibrant discourse, undergoing root cause analysis to unpack ideas and glean underlying assumptions, and then verifying whether or not these underlying assumptions are reasonable.

At some point, to minimize the risk of informational overload and cognitive capacity, entire viewpoints should be crystallized in a presentable form whilst ensuring that this summarization is consistent with the views of the groups who originally expressed these views.

An organized anarchy is an optimal environment for innovation: where multiple ideas have an opportunity to flourish, and where there is fierce equality of opportunity among different ideas, there is rapid diffusion of knowledge; the best ideas would be further considered, and, with proper execution, they may eventually become mainstream features of society. Organized anarchy also presents a fantastic check against groupthink, because dissent and clarification of unclear aspects are key features of the system.

In my opinion, organized anarchy is the optimal environment to restore the integrity of our problem-solving mechanisms and to tackle all of the important and urgent issues we face today.

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