Nobel Peace Prize Should Go to Berners-Lee or Robert Taylor

by on February 6, 2010 · 12 comments

Mashable has reported that “The Internet” has made the list of Nobel Peace Prize nominees this year.  This prize has already had its fair share of controversial and sometimes even comical nominees and recipients, but this sort of nomination is disappointing in a whole different way—it ignores the fact that individual human beings actually invented the technology that created the Internet.

The sentiment behind this nomination, popularized by Italy’s version of Wired, is understandable.  The Internet has had such an effect on the world in such a short amount of time its impossible to calculate the enormity of its effects on science, the arts, or politics.  It has generated a mountainous amount of wealth, exposed the barbarism of tyrannical regimes worldwide, and has made more knowledge accessible to more people than ever before.

But people like Tim Berners-Lee or Roberty Taylor should be considered for the prize given their tremendous contributions to Internet technology.  Both Berners-Lee or Taylor have already been recognized for their contributions to technological progress—Berners-Lee has an alphabet soup of honor-related suffixes after his name—but awarding the Nobel Prize isn’t just about accolades, it’s also about money.  The 2009 prizes were roughly $1.4 million each, which would be a nice sum for a foundation dedicated to the advancement of Internet technologies, like Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web Foundation.  When considering this, its clear that awarding the prize to an individual would do a lot more good than if the concept or idea of the Internet received the prize.

Even so, Web 2.0 evangelists, prominent intellectuals, and even 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi have backed the notion of the prize being awarded to the Internet itself—a new campaign is calling this “A Nobel for Each and Every One of Us.”  While the power of the Internet does indeed flow from its uniting “each and every one of us,” the technology that allowed this miracle to exist was invented by people like Berners-Lee and Taylor who dedicated years of their lives to the advancement of human understanding.  Even in this era of wise crowds, social networks, and “collective intelligence,” this sort of individual accomplishment should be recognized.

If you’d like to nominate any other person involved in the advancement of Internet technology for the Peace Prize, please drop a name in the comments.

  • etm

    Leonard Kleinrock?

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    Why not give the prize to the Blessed Obama again? After all, He has given us Hope that we can Change the Internet into something much better (a tool for universal peace and harmony!) through careful regulation by technocractic Philosopher Kings at the FCC, FTC and NTIA.

    Just kidding…. Obviously, the prize should go to the Father of the Internet, Al Gore.

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    One advantage of giving the Prize to “The Internet” rather than an individual is that this ideological pinnacle of “celebration of the hive-mind” might actually make Jason Lanier's head explode.

  • http://www.cordblomquist.com cordblomquist

    Kleinrock is another very good choice. His work established the basis for packet switched computer networks, which is a good example of individual theoretical work crucial for creating the Internet.

  • http://www.digitallunch.blogspot.com/ Digital Lunch

    My dilemma here is the candidate ITself: although the world communication has improved considerably, the Nobel Peace Prize would relate to “Peace” rather than “Communication” and if so – than the nomination should rather be “The People of the Internet” and not the medium itself. As mentioned,the italian version of the Wired proposed Internet as a candidature, hear more on their arguments on http://www.digitallunch.blogspot.com. Finally, do you think their arguments are supportive enough?

  • http://www.cordblomquist.com cordblomquist

    Digital Lunch, while the Peace Prize has traditionally been awarded to people who negotiate treaties, campaign for human rights, or provide humanitarian aid, there are historic examples of scientific endeavor being awarded with the peace price. The most recent example is the controversial choice of Al Gore and IPCC in 2007 for “their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.” This isn't direct work on peace-related issues.

    Norman Borlaug, an agronomist, won in 1970 for his part in the “Green Revolution” which revolutionized agriculture. Borlaug reflected on his winning the prize by saying that “When the Nobel Peace Prize Committee designated me the recipient of the 1970 award for my contribution to the 'green revolution', they were in effect, I believe, selecting an individual to symbolize the vital role of agriculture and food production in a world that is hungry, both for bread and for peace.”

    A prize for Tim Berners-Lee or Robert Taylor would be in keeping with this tradition of selecting an individual as a symbol for a larger set of technological and scientific discoveries. The 1970 prize would have probably done less good had it been awarded to “rice” or “wheat.”

  • chrisgrundemann

    Jon Postel. Although sadly posthumous the award would be well deserved. Of course that would still leave the issue of where to use the award money. Perhaps the Internet Society should be given the award? The ISOC (http://www.isoc.org) was founded by Postel and continues to serve the Internet in many ways today. Most notably as home to the IETF and as a beacon of Internet stewardship around the world.

    “The Internet is for Everyone.”

  • chrisgrundemann

    Jon Postel. Although sadly posthumous the award would be well deserved. Of course that would still leave the issue of where to use the award money. Perhaps the Internet Society should be given the award? The ISOC (http://www.isoc.org) was founded by Postel and continues to serve the Internet in many ways today. Most notably as home to the IETF and as a beacon of Internet stewardship around the world.

    “The Internet is for Everyone.”

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