Peter Rojas is the cofounder and editor-in-chief of Engadget, which is a daily weblog covering gadgets, consumer electronics and personal technology. He is also the cofounder of Joystiq, a weblog which covers video games. Rojas has worked as a contributing editor at Cargo, an editor-at-large at Sync, a technology editor of VMan, and a columnist for The Guardian, writing on emerging technology. He is a frequent contributor to a variety of publications both on- and off-line and appears on radio and television regularly as a technology commenter. Rojas was educated at Harvard University and the University of Sussex. He lives in New York City.
Question: How is technology changing politics?
Peter Rojas: You know the Internet as a whole and . . . as a whole and in specific instances is good at aggregating, you know, information. It’s actually somewhat good at automatically aggregating, you know, information. And if you look at, like, capitalism as a system and the reason why it’s so good at allocating resources is because even with no one in charge, it’s very good at aggregating the sum of, you know, what’s available and what’s wanted, right? And pairing everything up in ways that tend to work more or less, you know? And the Internet as well. That’s why people like Niche Media, and about like, you know, having . . . like people are able to get more or less what they want. And if there’s not . . . if they don’t they can start a site themselves, right? And if anything there’s too much choice online. And with politics it’s almost the opposite, right? With politics there’s not enough choice. There’s not enough . . . There aren’t enough ways to . . . for people to express thems . . . to . . . to find a way to express themselves politically through voting that matches up with what it is they really want. And you know I think it would be interesting, and I have no idea how this would work. But to be honest I haven’t . . . I would . . . I would love to . . . to start to really think . . . to focus on a problem like this, you know, at some future point. It’s to think, you know, how can we, you know, start to . . . to aggregate what people would really want in terms . . . really want politically? It’s not because, you know . . . short of voting for a candidate who, you know, approximates your political views in some way. It’s . . . it’s . . . it’s very . . . It’s funny. It’s like it’s very old school compared to like the long-tailed world that we live in now. And so you know, do we need to move to some sort of proportional representation . . . system of proportional representation? Or do we need to, you know, move to some sort of way that we’re aggregating . . . you know some sort of way to aggregate what people want, and then try to . . . try to find the best solutions based on that? And how do you prevent people from gaming a system? Or how do you get people to pay attention enough to issues to make good decisions in the first place? It’s like . . . It’s a challenge, and I have no idea what the answer would be.
Recorded on: 10/2/07