Jimmy Wales on Jonathan Zittrain: The Future of the Internet
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: Do you agree with Jonathan Zittrain that the current incarnation of the Web is unsustainable?
Jimmy Wales: Not completely. But he makes an argument that I think everybody should take very, very seriously. And just to summarize it in my own words as best that I can, what he talks about is how fabulous and amazing and wonderful the radical openness of the internet platform is. But also all of the amazing problems that we have to put up with because of it. Problems from spam-- is one of the most notorious-- but viruses, people hi-jacking computers. You know, there’re thought to be right now hundreds of thousands of computers that have been hi-jacked secretly to send out spam and do other nefarious things. These giant bot-nets of Window’s computers that’ve been hacked. That’s troubling. And what he suggests is that people are gonna get fed up with it, and they’re gonna actually start demanding devices that’re more locked down. And so things like your iPhone. It’s a pretty locked down platform, and there’s not a whole lot you can do with it. And that raises a lot of concern for a lot of people. I’m a little more optimistic, because I think it’s really hard to replace the open nature of the internet and the values that it generates. And any kind of closed network system is going to be that it can’t fully compete. But I do think it’s something that we need to be pretty vigilant about. And in part, I think we need to be not too-- we should not be excessively concerned. We need to be concerned, but not excessively concerned about initiatives to change certain internet protocols in a way that might help. I mean, one of the things right now is that we’ve struggled for many, many years with the spam problem. And it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. It gets-- for me, personally-- it seems to go in waves. It gets better for a while when I upgrade my filtering software; and then it gets bad again. And we can contrast this to something like Facebook. I use Facebook for a lot of messages nowadays, because I just never get spam there. But I hope we don’t see all email traffic moving onto a single proprietary platform like Facebook. And so part of the answer there is to say, “Look, maybe what we need is an email 2.0 protocol that allows for certain kinds of controls, that allows for ways for the community to exclude people.” Of course, I’m not the first person who’s said this, and I absolutely have no clever ideas about how to do it, unfortunately. But if somebody had such and initiative, I think it’d be wise to look at it and support it, and say, “Look, actually what we need is a neutral platform, lots of different people can participate in. It’s just as open as email. And it’s not bound to one vendor. And yet, it actually works for a change, instead of being a complete disaster, like email is.”
Question: What is the biggest Web security threat on the horizon?
Jimmy Wales: I think just more of the same. I don’t think-- a lot of people worry about some kind of sort of apocalyptic virus that sort of brings most of the internet down for a month or something. I don’t think that’s too likely. Mostly because the kinds of people who have resources to put into doing something like that, don’t have any interest in bringing down the whole internet. Spammers, for example, spend a lot of time and effort. These sort of criminal bot-nets that spend time trying to steal people’s credit card information and things like that. Well, they have no interest in shutting down the internet, you know? They need it to buy stolen goods with the stolen credit card numbers. So those’re the kinds of things that I don’t worry about too much. I guess the main thing is just more of the same. More viruses and sort of nonsense and spam and junk on your computer. But I’m more of an optimist than JZ is, so.
Recorded on: 04/30/2008
Jonathan Zittrain says the Internet in its current incarnation is unsustainable. Wales doesn’t totally agree.
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.
- Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
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