Summary:  Pattern languages can be mostly grounded in reality or mostly visionary.  The wise democracy pattern language is both.


Pattern languages by definition help us discern patterns that show up repeatedly in high quality examples of already existing phenomena – e.g., communities, curricula, software programs, conversations, etc.  A pattern language identifies and integrates patterns that contribute to the high quality and desirability of a specific aspect of human life.

Pattern languages are therefore intrinsically both visionary and grounded in reality.  They are visionary because they focus our attention on factors that can contribute to a better life.  They are grounded in reality because they look for those design factors in exemplars that are already wholesome, enlivening, regenerative, sustainable, and so on…. 

Some pattern languages are more essentially visionary than others.  A pattern language is especially visionary to the extent that we find few if any cases where the vast majority of its patterns can be seen present and operating together.  To be a pattern language, it must still be grounded in reality in the sense that there are multiple real examples where each pattern can be seen operating.  But they are visionary because they haven’t been put together before.  The synergies between the patterns have not been fully realized.

This wise democracy pattern language is at this point a visionary pattern language.  Every pattern in it is observable in the real world, but nowhere has a whole collection of patterns on this subject been woven together into a living whole.  In fact, we know of nowhere else where someone has explicitly undertaken a comprehensive inquiry into what would make a democracy truly functionally wise.

Especially for this last reason, this wise democracy pattern language is being launched by a single individual, Tom Atlee, who has been studying collective intelligence and wisdom and developing a vision of wise democracy for three decades.  And, because of its single source, we are assuming that this pattern language is radically incomplete and limited.  And because of that limitation, we are designing the wise democracy pattern language to be a co-evolutionary project so that it will no longer be dependent on or limited to Atlee’s knowledge and perspective but engages hundreds of people inspired by his original vision to take it beyond what he knew.  We are also making the project open source to encourage anyone who finds Atlee’s vision too limiting, to take anything in this original wise democracy pattern language and launch their own inquiry into what would make a wise democracy.

Our goal is, after all, wise democracy.  The more minds, hearts, and spirits engaged in bringing it to fruition, the more likely the possibility of wise democracy will someday be realized in the many forms it can potentially take.


The leading edge in this field is not wise democracy, per se.  We don’t find really developed wise democracy anywhere.  What we do find at the leading edge are initiatives, institutions, methods and ideas – like Civic Councils – that POINT THE WAY towards what would be possible for a truly wise democracy if we put our minds to the task of creating it.

Each leading edge resource has gifts to offer to the project, as well as limitations. Fortunately, for most of the limitations, there are gifts from elsewhere that could fill out what is incomplete or problematic.

I see all such leading edge methods and initiatives as comparable to the Wright Brothers successful 1903 flight down the beach at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, which proved that controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft was possible.  This breakthrough flight went only four miles – not enough to get to New York or Delhi – but it opened the way for decades of further work leading to our capacity to fly around the world and to the moon.

So we are at the Kitty Hawk stage in our development of wise democracy.  We can see what’s possible and the developmental pathways are becoming increasingly clear.

The intention of this site’s wise democracy theories and their associated pattern language – this interwoven collection of resources and contributing factors for a wise democracy – is to speed that development.  It is free for your use.