Skip to content

From Waterloo to Seattle

by Michael Nielsen on February 14, 2010

I’m deeply engrossed in finishing my book at the moment, but wanted to mention two events which readers of this blog might enjoy hearing about, and perhaps attending.

The first event is a panel on open source democracy that’s being run at the University of Waterloo (just outside Toronto) on February 22. It’s about how and whether ideas like collective intelligence and mass collaboration will have any impact on governance in the 21st century. The panel is being run by Tad Homer-Dixon, and the panelists are Mark Tovey, Hassan Masum, and myself. After some short initial presentations it’s going to be (we hope) very interactive, with people there from a wide variety of backgrounds. I’m looking forward to it!

If you’re interested in open science, Science Commons is organizing a Science Commons Symposium on February 20, in Seattle, at the Microsoft Campus. They’ve organized a great group of speakers, and if I wasn’t chained to my desk writing I’d be on a plane to Seattle!

Update: The open source democracy panel is on Feb 22, not Feb 20, as I originally wrote.

From → Uncategorized

  1. Following the link to the official page on the panel, it says that the event is on the 22nd. Is that correct?

  2. Chris – Yes, it’s Feb 22. I’ve now updated the post. Thanks!

  3. No problem. I’ll see if I can attend! It sounds a really interesting topic.

  4. Hi, Michael. Thanks for the note about Science Commons Symposium – Pacific Northwest. As one of the organizers, I tried and tried to lure you from your desk to come as one of the speakers. But you were working so hard at your desk, that all of my entreaties were in vain. What a bummer for the attendees not to be able to meet you! Ah, me! But we are all looking forward to your book and there is that consolation!

  5. Many of the themes that your Open-Source Democracy panel will discuss are literally boots-on-the-ground realities in some areas of the world: Half-Hearted: Trying to Win Afghanistan without Afghan Women.

    The world is full of isolated communities that are utterly lacking in physicians, justice systems, infrastructure, and a monetary economy; my experience has been that what these communities uniformly want above *all* else … is a fast internet connection to the outside world, and unrestricted access to it.

  6. George Morrison permalink

    Hi Michael,

    Is there a transcript/synopsis/video/anything of the panel discussion at UWaterloo available anywhere? Some bullett points of key takeaways? Papers or articles referenced? Thanks in advance if you can provide anything or point me somewhere…

  7. Dear Michael

    IMHO the science-and-engineering community is eagerly anticipating your book, The Future of Science!

    I have a modest collection of books about the future of science and technology that are 25 years old or more. These past works are admirable, but there is one respect in which they characteristically fall short: they envision a radical future for science without envisioning a radical future for politics.

    Surprisingly, there’s not that much recent writing on the relation between the future of science and the future of politics (aside from the usual bromides and moderate platitudes), however Jonathan Israel’s recent works have been developing a thought-provoking historical analysis that is reasonably comprehensive and thoroughly documented. The following quote is from A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy (p. 206):

    “Radical thinkers understood that the inherent links between freedom of the press, freedom of expression, individual liberty, and the advancement of knowledge universally were too close and direct to be qualified in any way. Freedom of expression and publication, ‘la liberté dans les écrits,’ was rightly recognized by them to be an essential precondition for advancing their social, moral, and political revolution.”

    Michael, in the above passage I have emphasized the phrase “advancement of knowledge universally” is emphasized because—to the extent that our science-and-engineering community envisions a future of science that is both optimistic and realistic—aren’t we necessarily envisioning (as previous generations of scientists did) a “social, moral, and political revolution” that is both optimistic and realistic?

    That is why I hope that your book includes at least one chapter on the future of science in relation to radical politics. Any such discussion would (of course) be solidly in the centuries-old tradition of radical thinker-scientists like Liebniz, Franklin, Priestly, Hooke, Bacon, Boyle, and (most recently?) Wiener.

    The point is simply that visions of the future of science that are technically radical must be politically radical too … in order to be relevant to the real future of science. And that is why (hopefully) your coming book will put forth some radical ideas!


    @book{*, Author = {Jonathan Israel}, Publisher = {Princeton University Press}, Title = {A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy}, Year = {2009}}

    @book{*, Title = {The Fabulous Future: America in 1980}, Publisher = {E. P. Dutton {\&} Company}, Year = 1955}

  8. George – I believe transcripts of our talks and a video of the whole session are to be uploaded on the linked page. It’s not there yet. Note that our talks were only a small part of it, followed by a panel discussion and then questions from the audience.

  9. John – the book has been re-titled “Reinventing Discovery”. It’s about how new tools for collective intelligence are (and will) change science. Your suggestions are interesting, as always, but they don’t connect in an interesting way with the story I have to tell. (Of course, they do connect – broad concepts like politics, science, and collective intelligence can always be connected – but so far as I can see, only in ways that aren’t relevant to my story.)

  10. Converter permalink

    Hey Michael ! is there any website where we can read about the panel…

  11. So where’s the mp3 file of the panel?

  12. Texts for the (brief) opening statements are now available at:

    So far as I’m aware, no other media are available.

Comments are closed.