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.