He really does look like Tom Hanks

As a follow on to my post about Steven Johnson’s book, Clay Shirky’s TED talk is well worth a watch. He talks about the clash that’s going on between hierarchy and networks in the world of government and policy and points to the growth of methods of collaboration like Github in open source as ways that politics and law making might develop in the future. It’s a talk full of insight but also full of realism that this isn’t going to happen overnight.

[Strange aside: Git was apparently named by Linus Torvalds after himself (he’d already used his real first name to name Linux so used the other name people called him)].

I also like Clay’s description of what he studies – how technology affects the way people have arguments. New forms of politics probably aren’t going to be high brow, philosophical ones. Just check out the debate in the comment thread on the TED site which isn’t about the content of the talk but about whether Clay looks like Tom Hanks or not (he does). Quite often what happens is that an online debate descends into mudslinging and personal attack and the useful people just go elsewhere. My feeling is that new political models will be innovations in process that help people get over the mudslinging phase and have better (more productive) arguments.