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: What should be the big issues in the 2008 US presidential election?
Jimmy Wales: Big issues. Wow. I don’t even know. I think in the short term, I think that both political parties are so problematic in so many ways that it’s really difficult to say what issues they could even possibly address in their current state.
Certainly there are some very practical issues that have to be dealt with obviously. The situation in Iraq is currently quite a mess, and somebody’s got to do something about it. We don’t have a choice of making it go away. And so the question of, “Do we commit more resources there? Do we commit fewer resources there? Do we leave? What do we do? How do we do it?”
That’s obviously very important, and of course has an impact on all the other things that I was talking about – about our image abroad; how do we educate people in the values that are beneficial? And well I wouldn’t envy anybody to try to figure out how to get us to a better place in the Iraq situation. So that’s clearly an issue that I personally will be very interested in hearing from the candidates about.
I think some of the simple answers just don’t make any sense to me. You know, the simple answer of, “Let’s just pull out all our troops tomorrow and go home.” Well that’s just unbelievably immoral to leave the situation there completely wrecked, and clearly to fall under the hands of the worst possible thugs. Very bad idea. Okay what does that mean? Keep doing what we’re doing? That doesn’t seem to be working very well. Send three times as many troops over? That doesn’t seem like a great idea either. I don’t know the answer.
So we’re in this really tough situation, and I’m really looking for somebody to come up with some new, innovative solutions that sound useful. And I don’t think there’s going to be anything that makes everything wonderful there. It’s too late for that. But hopefully we can do the most ethical things possible and try to help to some extent.
Recorded On: Aug 10, 2007