Semantic Web + Access to Govt = Change

March 01 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Government   Year: 2008   Rating: 11

It’s no secret that we have a problem. The American political system is a bit secretive, quite inefficient and wastes a good amount of our resources. Such is the nature of gigantic bureaucracies.

Like any problem, to solve it we must first quantify or count it. With large groups of people involved, any such quantification must be very accurate and very easy to understand at a glance.

This notion is nearly synonymous with a concept that David Stephenson refers to as transparent government, or “using Web 2.0 apps … to allow informed debate on policy alternatives, to find convergences (possible synergies—and wasteful overlaps), and to allow people with particular interests and/or expertise to contribute to issues.”

Thanks to the evolution of the web and internet applications, we’ll soon take a big leap in our ability to simulate super-complex political systems (especially if they are computer-dependent). Two fundamental, yet eminently do-able, steps remain to be taken:

1) make the majority of government information machine-readable

2) put emerging semantic web applications to work crunching this data

Change will swiftly follow if we can accurately and neatly organize political relationship trees, decision patterns and funding flows into a digestible “graph” that anyone can easily re-sort and view a million different ways from a billion different directions.

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How Many Pardons Will George W. Bush Award in the Coming Months?

November 06 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Government   Year: 2009   Rating: 7 Hot

Now that the 2008 U.S. presidential election has been settled it’s time to turn our attention to not just the next four years, but also the next 2 months. During this span the White House and Vice President’s Mansion will be non-stop flurry of activity. Documents will be stored, or shredded. New executive orders and signing statements will be generated. And presidential pardons and commutations will be awarded.

To date, George W. Bush has issued 157 pardons and commuted 6 people, including the infamous Scooter Libby. This already places him ahead of nine U.S. Presidents, mostly single-termers, on the list, but well behind Ulysses S. Grant (1332) and war-time leaders such as Harry Truman (2044), Woodrow Wilson (2480), and the all-time leader FDR (3687).

So how many pardons will W. award when all is said and done? It seems very likely that he will exceed his predecessor, Bill Clinton’s 456. But is it possible that he will eclipse FDR’s mammoth total? Judging by the way this administration has danced with the law (for good or for ill), is such a final flourish all that unthinkable?

Edit: Thanks to Will for pointing out that Grant was not in fact a war-time President, though he did serve as general during the Civil War.

Accelerating Change Meme Hits the National Stage

August 27 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Government   Year: 2008   Rating: 5 Hot

If you think there’ve been dramatic changes in the world and in technology over the last ten years, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The race is on, and if you watched the Olympics, you know China’s going for the gold. – Mark Warner, last night at the DNC

The accelerating change meme finally hit the national stage last night at the Democratic National Convention when former Virginia Governor Mark Warner, who earned his fortune in the cell phone industry, framed the current Presidential contest as a “race for the future” that “won’t be won with yesterday’s ideas”.

This marks the first time in recent memory that any candidate for national office, barring of course Future Blogger favorite Jack Uldrich , who incidentally has been calling for high profile politicians to start debating the future , has directly appealed to voters on a national level by articulating the fundamental concept of accelerating change that most everyone on this site takes for granted.

I had been biting my nails during and after the primaries, hoping that the future, science and punctuated change would at last become election issues. And now I am relieved that this meme has finally infected enough minds to enter the popular debate. Whether you’re a transhumanist, singularitarian, trans-systemist, neo-luddite, or anything else inbetween, it’s essential that we as a society begin to tackle the reality of runaway techno-info-social change, first by acknowledging its existence, if we are to control our collective destiny in any meaningful way.

Now, I’m not sure that Warner or Obama will be able to deliver on promises to begin building “100 mile-per-gallon plug-in hybrid vehicles right here – with American technology and with American workers” in two years time, but it’s certainly not impossible. Such future-forward initiatives must be spearheaded by the likes of Presidential candidates like Obama and McCain lest another 4 years of opportunities pass us by as we journey deeper into the acceleration era.

Carpe Postremo.

Photo credit Mark Warner, CC 2.0 license.