A sketched picture of James' head

James Smith

Building a better future out of code

Open is a political statement

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Also published on Medium and Something New.

Today is a strange day in the UK. We’re divided, confused, and have taken what I think is a self-defeating decision about our place in the world. Our political institutions are in turmoil, and there’s change in the air, though of what sort nobody knows.

In this atmosphere, it’s increasingly obvious that the old politics is broken, and that we need something better for the future. Somewhere where we could have explored the EU question sanely, without the lies, deceit and hate building up and polluting our society.

I think there’s a better way, and it lies in a movement that’s been building with the rise of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Since the dawn of the network revolution, the world is increasingly about sharing, collaboration, and working together. We’re connected peer-to-peer as a species, in a way we haven’t been since we were a single tribe thousands and thousands of years ago. We are building a global mind, and we need to learn how to use it.

This new age for society is about working together and sharing, about being open. We can do amazing things with openness; it gives us the scientific method, open source software that runs the modern world, open exchange of ideas. Openness helps us get better quicker.

I believe that the old political axis of left/right is outdated and irrelevant in the 21st century. Instead we have new axes; open/closed, together/alone, optimistic/fearful, innovative/static.

I think the future is about openness, working together, and being optimistic and innovative. I know there are a great many people I know who feel the same way.

My message to them is this: the things we believe, the future we want, is a political statement.

It is not enough for us to tinker around the edges of an industrial-era system and make a system that is more transparent and accountable, but just as dysfunctional. We need to present our vision of a better open future clearly and loudly, in the arena of public discourse.

This isn’t about Internet freedom, or digital rights, or any of that. It’s about the network-era transformation of society, for a better world for everyone.

I’m working on this by building a startup network-era political party, Something New, here in the UK. There are similar efforts cropping up across the world as well, we’re not alone. If you want to help, please do, we need you. If you want to do it better, please do that too, and we’ll join in. I don’t care who wins, whose name is on the thing; all I know is that it needs to happen, and if we don’t do it ourselves, nobody will.

We all know old institutions have trouble innovating and adapting, and are often outclassed by smaller disruptive companies who can adapt to the new environment they find themselves in. What’s true in startup 101 is also true of our political system. The status quo is ripe for disruption; let’s start working together, in the open, and innovate our country a better future.


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