I’m in Beijing, presenting at the WWW2008 conference. Last night, we attended a banquet at the Great Hall of the People, which (ironically) is hard for most Chinese people to get into. On the long bus ride there, I was rather surprised to see a young man driving a trailer-bike with an anarchy flag flying from a pole.
I’d have loved to grab a picture of this, but we were warned that the security wouldn’t let us in with any camera bigger than a mobile phone. Foolishly, I took them at their word; others brought in SLRs, so it’s clear it wasn’t that serious a matter. One of my colleagues refused to attend, even though he had a ticket, because he didn’t approve of the security screening; I admire his principles.
The banquet was great, with good food and several performances by singers, dancers, musicians, and even a truncated opera. Tim Berners-Lee gave the keynote, and he spoke about the size and rate of growth of the Internet, comparing it in size to the number of neurons and connections in the human brain. He also opined about social networks, urging them to adopt privacy policies that respect the users, with the expectation that that would lead to open systems with open data. He discussed challenges and opportunities in the standards process, pointing out that the very factors that build cohesion and camaraderie in groups serve as bricks in the wall that divides that group from the larger community. Finally, when asked to speculate about how the world would change because of the Web, he was quick to point out that the Web was built by people, by the larger community, and that this distributed effort will allow humanity to experiment with new models of economy, of cooperation, of government, and with science itself; that we could “let a thousand flowers bloom”, and pick the best path forward in all our endeavors.