Politics of Open Source Keynote
by Clay Johnson on May 07, 2010
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My name is Clay Johnson, and I'm the Director of Sunlight Labs at the Sunlight Foundation. We're a non-partisan not-for-profit organization that, through the use of open data and the web, helps people ...
My name is Clay Johnson, and I'm the Director of Sunlight Labs at the Sunlight Foundation. We're a non-partisan not-for-profit organization that, through the use of open data and the web, helps people to better see what's happening in their government.
Since we're just through with a delicious [lunch], I thought I'd start off talking about something I love and adore. And that's food. How many of you have read this [book]?
Right, so in the book, Pollan goes through and talks about where food comes from and how it gets produced. Basically it goes something like [this]:
We consume food in order survive. We're taught that when we're children, we need food, shelter and water as our "basic neccessities." That food, these days, mostly comes from [corn]. Lots of corn. And we take that corn and we make lots of things out of it, and feed it to all kinds of [animals]. My favorite thing to turn corn into is [Cows].
We take corn and feed it to cows so that we can turn the cows into delicious [steaks] which we then place on our lovely dinner tables for the whole family to enjoy. Presto, corn makes it onto our dinner table-- though it doesn't look like or taste anything like corn.
And finally, after eating the steaks, a [zombie outbreak] happens, and humans get fed to our new zombie overlords.
But the basics of this are-- there's a chain of consumption that we call the [food chain]. And the further away from the bottom of that food chain we get, the less energy there is. This is called the "trophic pyramid" and it's estimated that with every step in the trophic pyramid, there's a 90% loss of [energy].
We also produce food. A heck of a lot of it, in order to sustain our civilization's massive population. Thanks to the work of guys like Louis [Pasteur], who made it so milk and wine stopped killing people, as well as some other folks who finally figured out what plants needed in order to grow in a limited amount of real-estate, we were able to [industrialize agriculture].
We were able to make giant factories and leverage massive economies of scale in order to produce tons of food. And now we live in a world where giant [megacorporations] produce a most of the world's food supply. And the geniuses there come up with stuff like [this]-- a new twist on snacking. Note that nowhere in this advertisement does it say what this food is actually made out of. But they are Dippin Twists, good for any time.
[Recently], this situation has gotten a little out of hand. In 1985, here's what Obesity looked like in the United States. In , our country started to expand, in  we continued to grow in diameter, [5 years later] things got more significant, and [just two years ago], it seemed that America's diet habit was giving new meaning to manifest destiny.
All of this is, [Pollan] postulates, because it is so easy to acquire calorie dense junk food that's slowly making us fat.
But I'm not [Michael Pollan], I'm Clay Johnson. My point isn't to come here to talk to you about how we're all getting fat. This is the politics of open source conference, and I want to talk to you about a different but similar epidemic.
See-- [information], like food, is something we consume to stay alive. And while the biologists may disagree with me, I think it is now one of humankind's basic necessities. It's the development of language that allowed us to migrate beyond africa, and the development of the written word that helped us make functional governments, and the destruction of the Library at Alexandria that plunged us into the dark ages.
Like food, information has a consumption chain, too. Let's take [political information as an example.]
Washington does something, and that's picked up by a [newsroom]. The newsroom is filled with reporters and journalists, who take the raw information coming out of washington and process it into something more consumable. That information, these days is often fed to [bloggers] who continue
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