Hail to the Geek

Lawrence Lessig’s brief take on the buggy system Obama’ chief technology officer will inherit.

Photo: Fotosearch

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one of obama’s key tech proposals has been to appoint a chief technology officer. The position, one aide says, would have a mandate comparable in breadth to the national security adviser, ensuring that tech is part of the policy calculus whether the topic is agriculture or Afghanistan. According to campaign documents, the cto would work with top techies at all executive branch agencies, and through them cajole the hidebound bureaucracy to “use best-in-class technologies and share best practices.” But Obama’s geeks may be in for a rude awakening in Washington: This is, after all, the city where the White House email archiving system until recently relied on print-and-file, er, technology­, while the fbi spent five years and $105 million on a case management system it ultimately threw out. “If anybody expects they can walk into the executive branch and reorganize it from a technological perspective without the strongest authorization under the law or from the executive, they’re fooling themselves,” says Stanford professor Lawrence Lessig, who consulted with the Obama campaign. Will the cto be a Cabinet-level post? Will he or she have budgetary control? A direct line to the president? “I don’t think there is strong consensus yet inside the campaign about what the cto is supposed to be,” says Lessig. But at least, he notes, “Obama is of a generation that understands technology has to be integrated into everything you do. It’s the first time we have anything close to that.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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