Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

John Brockman's EDGE asks a tough question every year. For 2007 the question was "What are you optimistic about?" My answer was:

Emergent Democracy and Global Voices

I am optimistic that open networks will continue to grow and become available to more and more people. I am optimistic that computers will continue to become cheaper and more available. I am optimistic that the hardware and software will become more open, transparent and free. I am optimistic that the ability to for people to create, share and remix their works will provide a voice to the vast majority of people.

I believe that the Internet, open source and a global culture of discourse and sharing will become the pillar of democracy for the 21st Century. Whereas those in power as well as terrorists who are not have used broadcast technology and the mass media of the 20th century against the free world, I am optimistic that Internet will enable the collective voice of the people and that voice will be a voice of reason and good will.

There are other answers from other people on the website.

Happy New Year.


Personally, I am less impressed by the power of disintermediated "emergent democracy" than I am by quite examples of Government 1.0 being used to bring those results about.

The most striking example, I think: Brazilian consumers are now able to buy Lintel and AMDux machines for about 3-6 months of a minimum salary.

And one reads that the Brazilian government will soon pass a law providing incentives for consumer technology developed in Brazil, by Brazilian firms, researchers and labor, using NEITHER AMD OR INTEL MICROPROCESSORS.

It seeks to acquire in the bargain the intellectual property that will allow it to develop its own processor industry.

Brazil, as you may know, is the world's biggest bathtub full of rare earths -- gallium arsenide, I think -- used in fast processors, but has had its own technological capacity held back by the beasts of no nation for decades.

And you know what? It was a democratically elected goverment -- armies of lawyers and policy wonks -- that managed to change that. Not a Smart Mob. An old fashioned "power of the purse" government. And not a Bolivarian revolution, either. A determined, dead serious monopoly-busting democratically-elected government counterweight to the predatory business practices of some of the same folks who sponsor the Creative Commons.

History tends to tell us that all the rest -- smart mobs, emergent democracy, disintermediation of markets, corporate social responsibility, business "ecosystems" -- is simply magical thinking -- or worse, if you will pardon me for stating the opinion in such strong terms. It is an opinion deeply held.

Colin : I don't think governments doing smart things and emergent democracy are mutually exclusive. In fact, they should support and enable each other. I think Brazil is doing some great things and some of the greatest things involve enabling more and more people to have voice and share. I've talked to Brazilian government officials, activists and business people and I a very encouraged by their understanding of open networks.