|David S Taylor
creator of the People’s Petition for Medical Research
In the political arena, web-based communities already provide an open alternative to party politics and mainstream media. But we are only just beginning to grasp the power of the web as a focus for active campaigning.
Specifically, the web provides a space for causes which are ignored by the mainstream. Medical research using animals was one such area. The majority of people support this research. They understand that it’s critical to medical progress – developing treatments that reduce suffering and, increasingly, maintain the dignity and independence of an ageing population (a challenge that will become acute in 2024).
The People’s Petition gave a voice to an unheard majority. It gave people an opportunity to show their support for three clear and simple statements. Within a month, 20,000 people had signed the petition, including Tony Blair.
If party politics continues to revolve around focus groups and fads, rather than principles, the web will become the single most important engine for achieving political change in our society. We don’t need to wring our hands about low levels of interest in party politics – using the web, people will finally take politics into their own hands. Power to the people - that’s got to be good news for the future of democracy.
Web-based communities will also play a larger role in business. Small shareholders will use web campaigns to mobilise wider public opinion and bring pressure to bear on boardrooms that would prefer to ignore them. Large institutional shareholders will find that they no longer call all the shots when it comes to policy and appointments. Who knows… by enabling small shareholders to take action over fat-cat pay settlements and cronyism, we may see the ‘the awkward squad’ saving capitalism from itself!