Thursday, September 15, 2005

The BBC has a fun "game" where you can choose your dream-team to run the world. They provide an interesting, but obviously limited, selection of people in four categories of "leader", "thinker", "economist" (which includes prominent businessmen (note, no women)) and "other" (including some ludicrus slebs).

You have to choose at least one leader, thinker and economist, but apart from that the choice is yours. Here's my fantasy government. As you can imagine, it tends to be loaded with economists of left-liberal persuasion and women activists.

Mikhail Gorbachev

You have to choose one leader, and for me it was basically a toss-up between Gorbachev, Mandela and Clinton. Mandela is probably the best of the lot, but felt kind of a cliche. Clinton is a great politician, but I didn't want things dominated by the US or by its spin culture. Gorbachev seems to have the right mix of experience, respect and ability to be a fairly passive chairman. I also think that he was more personally commited to the end of the cold-war and nuclear disarmament than some give him credit for.

Shirin Ebadi

Iranian women's rights activist. Don't know about her, but pushes the right buttons.

Wangari Maathai

The first african woman to receive the nobel peace prize, she's an ecological activist from Kenya who's been involved with planting trees to prevent soil erosion.

Anna Politkovskaya

Russian journalist and human rights activist.

George Soros

I've always had a lot of respect for Soros and his attempt to promote Popperian ideals.

Mohammad Yunus

The guy who invented Grameen and micro-credit.

Steven D. Levitt

He's trendy at the moment. But more importantly, he's a contrarian and experimentalist. I'm hoping he'll be the person in the team demanding to see the evidence, if not designing experiments to test it.

Joseph E. Stiglitz

Knows what's wrong with the international financial institutions. And may be able to fix them.

Amartya Sen

Sen's economic focus is the growth of freedoms, both positive and negative.

Hernando de Soto

Coming from a bit further to the right. De Soto is a strong advocate of private property and it's role in economic development.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Another women's rights activist.

OK, that's the team. Some of them maybe wrong. I may have too many economists, though I think smart economists ought to be able to understand the complexity of running the world. What you'd expect from this team is a lot of development projects around the world, mainly based on encouraging small-scale enterprises, and possibly penalizing big finance. That's probably what I'm looking for.

But let's just look at the huge glaring omission.

There are no scientists, inventors, geeks or hackers of any kind.

Why? Because none were available.

The BBC offers novelists, architects, clothes designers, the guy who invented the IKEA flat-pack, models, actors, Brad Pitt and Jenifer Lopez and some Bollywood equivalent.

But not a single scientist. Levitt is the only person with any reputation for empirical research.

We don't have Richard Stallman, the obvious geek who has had the most dramatic impact in recent times. Nor a stand-in like Linus Torvalds or Eric Raymond (though I'm not sure I'd be able to stomach the latter in my world government, even if he'd accept.) Nor a Dave Winer or Clay Shirky or Manuel Castells or other thinker about internet culture.

We do, I suppose, get Bill Gates, Sergey Brin and Steve Jobs, confusingly in the economics section, and while Bill is a bona-fide geek, and Sergey too, they're there because of their business success. Actually, I'm wishing I'd added Brin to the mix. But reading his write up, you can understand why I didn't figure him in this role. He's credited with creating Google which is now worth X amount of billions, and despite being a billionaire lives a modest life-style.

No pop-science writers like Richard Dawkins, Paul Davies, or my current favourite. No wonder Oli is dispairing at the state of popular awareness of science. Bad BBC!

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