The launch of Internet.org, "a global partnership with the goal of making internet access available to the next 5 billion people" driven primarily by Facebook, has created a heated conversation about its motivations, goals, and methods. An insightful piece of analysis has come from Alexis Madrigal who compared John F. Kennedy's Commencement Address at American University in 1963 to the condensed ("cherry-picked") version heard as voiceover in Internet.org's new promotional video. Madrigal discusses the context for the original speech, which was given during the Cold War just after the Cuban Missile Crisis when the stakes were high. Madrigal writes:
As he makes clear earlier in the speech, peace had to be maintained because human technologies had, for the first time, made the actual destruction of the world possible. ("[War] makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all the allied air forces in the Second World War.") The humans had to contain the possibilities of technology ("Our problems are manmade--therefore, they can be solved by man.").
In his speech Kennedy makes the important observation (several times) that we need the coevolution of both technologies and rules (laws, norms, conventions) in order to speed up human progress. Unfortunately, Internet.org stripped the references to rules out of its video narrative. So in the spirit of "cherry-picking" and copying Madrigal's clever form of analysis but using the terminology adopted by the Urbanization Project, here are a few examples:
Kennedy suggests that peace is really the result of innovation in rules, that is "human institutions." It is not the result of technologies - how we rearrange physical objects. This was omitted in the recent video.
Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions--on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace--no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process--a way of solving problems.
Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace.
Later Kennedy harps on rules, in this case, "laws." And, he calls for "communication" which requires people interacting with people and cooperating. Technologies can help facilitate this, but they cannot do it on their own. Both of these references were dropped from the video.
This will require a new effort to achieve world law--a new context for world discussions. It will require increased understanding between the Soviets and ourselves. And increased understanding will require increased contact and communication.
This will require a new effort --a new context for world discussions. And increased understanding will require increased contact.
Let's hope Internet.org will partner with organizations focused on innovation in new rules and copying existing good rules.