Jimmy Wales is an American Internet entrepreneur known for his role in the creation of Wikipedia, a free, open-content encyclopedia launched in 2001. He serves on the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation, holding the board-appointed "community founder" seat. In 2004, he co-founded Wikia, a privately owned, free Web-hosting service, along with Angela Beesley.
Together with Larry Sanger and others, Wales helped lay the foundation for Wikipedia, which subsequently enjoyed rapid growth and popularity. As Wikipedia expanded and its public profile grew, Wales took on the role of the project's spokesman and promoter through speaking engagements and media appearances. Wales has been historically cited as the co-founder of Wikipedia but he disputes the "co-" designation, asserting that he is the sole founder of Wikipedia. Wales' work developing Wikipedia, which has become the world's largest encyclopedia, prompted Time magazine to name him in its 2006 list of the world's most influential people.
Born in Huntsville, Alabama, Wales attended a small private school, then a university preparation school, eventually attaining a bachelor's degree and master's degree in finance. During his graduate studies he taught at two universities.
Question: Collectively what should we be doing?
Jimmy Wales: What do I think we should be doing that we’re not? Gosh. I don’t know. I think a lot of things work themselves out over time through the actions of millions of people in concert in ways that are difficult to influence. You can influence them or you can think about them, but they sort of play out on their own schedule.
To my mind, it’s almost useless to think about things we should be doing but we’re not. I think it’s really hard to think about that. If we’re concerned about, for example, the issue of carbon in the atmosphere, if that’s a big problem, it’s very easy to say, “Well we should be emitting less carbon,” right? Well that’s not a practical thing to even think about.
Instead we have to say, “Gee look. Here’s some trends. Here are some things that are going to happen.” We can start innovating and start thinking about how to deal with that. How do we reduce carbon emissions? Or how do we deal with carbon in a different way in the long run? But there are people working on that, and I feel they’ll come up with something.
I think we should individually be thinking. I think that’s something that I think is really, really important. The more people we have who are living a reflective life where they’re really thinking about their own life, and their own happiness in the context of a global society; in the context of modern technology and things like this, it’s really important. And I think it’s unfortunate sometimes that people seem to not be thinking about things as much as they should.
Recorded On: Aug 10, 2007