August 1, 2008

Lawrence Lessig, Commonwealth Club

Posted in silicon valley tagged , , , , , at 1:04 am by siliconmom

On July 29th, a good friend dragged me along to the Commonwealth Club and introduced me to Stanford Prof, author and political activist, Lawrence Lessig.

lawrence lessig

lawrence lessig

Finding fame in the realm of open source and Creative Commons, this young 40-something from South Dakota recently changed his focus to political corruption and has mounted a fierce campaign to end such corruption in congress with his launch of a web-based movement: Change Congress.  He considered running for congress himself, but instead has decided to put his profound skills to back a SV type strategy for change.

He describes it as “a google mashup for politics,” that will build a movement outside Congress.

The evening, hosted at the HQ of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation in Mountain View, was compelling, but left me feeling a little cynical. Lessig’s aims are not novel: end corruption in Congress. Wouldn’t we all like to take big money out of the political process? No brainer! Isn’t he a crazy idealist fighting a losing battle?

Maybe. But his powerful connections in SV and unique technical vision for change makes his story a compelling one.

Using maplight.org he plans to shine a spotlight on the funding behind bills in congress. He’s planning to use social networking and wiki approaches to uncover all the sly deals going on, and make public the money influencing those with the political clout. Ultimately, he envisions a map showing those congressmen and women who have signed on to beat corruption and distortion of public policy. For those who don’t, questions will be asked

Not surprised to finid out he’s an Obama supporter. Real change is what we’re all after right now.  And ending corrupion is certainly a key part of that. Though I confess to still feeling rather unconvinced of Lessig’s ability to deliver a totally transparent, corruption-free Congress, I applaud his efforts. Moving in the direction of a transparent congress will certainly help our country.

One final note that cheered me…Lessig was originally a young Republican stalwart, but spending time in my alma mater, Cambridge, England disabused him of such right wing notions.  Welcome to the club, Lawrence!

Advertisements