Remixing Robespierre

Now comes the fine print of an Obama Presidency. Apparently, he is thinking of appointing a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in his administration, somebody who, according to BusinessWeek magazine, would be "one of Obama's most important advisors." The piece quotes a DC lawyer and telecommunications apartchik, Andrew Lipman, who sees this new CTO as the executor of Obama's Four Year Digital Plan:

"Obama sees greater broadband penetration as an enormous economicengine, much like the railroads were a century ago. That is why the CTO will play such a critical role in any recovery plan."

Universal broadband as the American railroads 2.0? I'm far from convinced. The railroads provided transportation to settle the West and to both build and link up new communities. In contrast, broadband provides a very different kind of transportation -- one that allows individuals to escape their physical communities, to create virtual loyalties, to lose their identities in the narcissistic chaos of cyberspace. Broadband penetration throughout America will actually kill most local retail stores, it will fatally undermine local newspapers, it will destroy local television and radio stations. No, rather than the railroads, broadband is more akin to the triumph of automotive culture in the first half of the 20th century, a development which destroyed the railroads and undermined the economic and cultural viability of small town America.

So who should be America's new czar of technology? BusinessWeek suggests Google evangelist Vint Cerf, the mad father of the Internet. While one of Silicon Valley's most viral thinkers, ex Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble, suggests my old friend Dr Larry Lessig:

Overall, though, I still like the idea of Lessig in the White House....Oh, and wait until you hear what he says about how he’d retard corruption in the Capitol."

Retarding corruption in the Capitol....Talk about history repeating itself. As American CTO, the all-too-virtuous Dr Lessig, the author of a new anti Hollywood rant called Remix, is actually a personal remix of Maximilien Roberspierre, another skilled practitioner in the art of retarding corruption. And with universal broadband penetration and thus two way live video connectivity in every American home, the eagle-eyed Dr Lessig might even get to retard corruption in all of our living rooms too.