Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Everyone in Davos is a CEO or some other fairly senior title. I've found myself introducing myself at sessions as "a blogger" much/most of the time. It still amazing me how few people know what blogging is. Calling myself a "blogger" seems to be the fastest way for me to get the "what is a blog" discussion going. ;-)

Chatting with Ethan of Geekcorps and Gillian of Witness conspiring to blogifying developing nations and organzations doing human rights work.

Ethan and Gillian are educating me on doing human rights and technology work in developing nations and I'm trying to help integrate blogging into their work. The stuff that they're doing is SO important, I think it's a great application for the blog amplifier.

Ethan's convinced me to visit Africa. Geekcorps sends geek volunteers into developing nations to work on technology projects. Ethan was an Internet entrepreneur turned social entrepreneur.

Gillian has been an activist her whole life, first as a high school Amnesty International chapter leader, then as an attorney, then as a investigative documentary producer. Just listening to her talk about all of the things she's done is so inspiring and is making me feel like a couch potato blogger.

This morning, we had a breakfast between the Global Leaders for Tomorrow, Social Entrepreneurs and Religious Leaders. I got a great table with a broad range of people from developing nations, religious leaders, economists, and entrepreneurs.

We started out the discussion talking about the nature of money. We talked about how greed and the idea that more money means more happiness is compulsive behavior and the notion that more money makes you more happy may hold true in developing nations, but is not necessarily true in developed nations. We talked about how this notion of more money means more happiness may be contributing to some of the problems in society. One representative of a global financial organization talked about how similar to the "poverty line", maybe there should be a "greed line". An economist pointed out that there was a book written about economy as a religion where the author asserted that pollution should be moved to developing nations because poor people were worth less in a purely economic model. Obviously, this is not right, and we asked the religious leaders to address some of the issues such as caring, giving and happiness.

Religions are memories of history, rich with ritual and values. They need to create a double language, one for internal dialog and another to share ideas with others. One point I made was that many religions were designed for environments where people were still struggling to survive and the focus was on rituals and believes for such an environment. Many religions focused keeping people alive rather than providing them with a primary religious experience. For environments where the struggle to survive is not as big of an issue, it might be that religions need to help support people more with things such as their obsessions and ethics.

It was noted that people who live in developing nations still needed money and that it was important. However, it was pointed out that many of the economic values have a detrimental effect on developing nations such as promoting crime. It was also noted that many churches in developing nations focus on promotion economic values. (Join the church, get rich.) The notion of sharing and sacrifice which are very important values that religions promote are often subverted to raise money for the churches.

David Green of Project Impact in India talked about how he performs cataract surgery in India. He provides 1/3 of the procedures for free, 1/3 for a low cost and 1/3 for a high price. The rich pay the high price for first class service, but the basic operation is the same. He is able to subsidize the operation for the poor and still make money. He is so successful that instead of paying $300 for the lenses, he was able to create a manufacturing operation and lower the cost to $4 a lens and has become the second largest manufacturer in the world. He provided this as an example of a good economic model can provide a great deal of good.

Scott Mackinney criticizes me in a comment on my blog about the damage I am causing to the environment with all of my air travel. I actually have been feeling a bit guilty about that and have been wondering where aviation is going to go from here.

On the one hand, in some areas, air travel is becoming cheaper and there are even people talking about small, low-cost private planes becoming more common.

A Feb 2000 GAO report warns that the damage to the environment from the emissions from aviation is particularly high because it is emitted into the upper atmosphere and that increased damage due to increases in travel can not be offset by technological advances. A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of experts affiliated with the UN warned that the share of global warming caused by air traffic could increase from 3.5% in 1992 to 17% in 2050.

We clearly have a problem here. In an IHT article that I can not seem to find a link to, I read that one of the possibilities was to fly lower where there would be more turbulence, but less damage. I've also heard about the idea of levying high taxes for air travel. In any event, the air travel utopia story seems a bit flawed and if we would get up off our asses and really do something about global warming (which we must) one of the first hit probably should be our global aviation habits.

I WAS going to write about this before, but hadn't been able to gather enough sources. (Honest! ;-) ) I still don't think I have enough information to have an educated opinion. Any pointers to more resources would be greatly appreciated.

Sun always has a huge presence at Davos. They always rent a special house right across from the Congress Center and are a big sponsor. They add that special irreverence to the meeting and John Gage is always the life of the party. This year, there is no sign of them. I wonder what happened.

And guess who rented the Sun House... Microsoft. I wonder if Bill Gates is trying to make a point. :-p