A conversation with Professor Ian Angell on GM food and participatory governance

Yesterday, or the day before, I met by chance Prof Angell in the copy room of the department where I work and study. For the few people who don't know him, Prof. Angell is a leading academic in the Department of Information Systems at the London School of Economics. He is famous for his radical views about technology, corporate Information Technology strategy and global consequences of Information Technology, views that he has widely expressed in his last book 'The New Barbarian Manifesto'.

It might seem strange to deviate from the main theme of the current discussion of this Blog, but this encounter as enlightening as unexpected, deserves to be mentioned for the interesting reflections it got me into after what was said.

I recall that the conversation started with a click of the kettle to boil the coffee. After all, I thought, the Italians are not the only coffee freaks in Europe. However, such idyllic coffee break type of atmosphere was broken soon as I mentioned my interest in e-governance projects.

Frankly and directly as it is in his style he told me: 'I see no future in that'!

'Why?' I asked 'There is great potential for finding and experimenting with innovative methods of participation to decision making in all fields: politics, science. there is a big debate going on now at the OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] and also the Bassetti Foundation has opened a CALL FOR COMMENTS on participatory governance and GM food in his web-site.'

As response I got compact, dynamitic sentence:

'There is no innovation at all in that! Participatory governance represents the last vestiges of scientific engineering, i.e. when you thought that you could be in control. nowadays it is all up to the manipulative capacity of politicians. Look at the position of Tony Blair or any other about GM food'.

I was struck at first by the adamant and un-attackable lucidity of his argument. However, afterwards I thought that maybe participatory governance in scientific research is but one of the issues en-globed in the broader e-governanance dimension. Experiments such as the one carried out in this web-site are a honest example of the will to involve and discuss such issues with the broader community. It also seems that we are not too in control either since the Blog where the discussion is hosted has also been victim of a hacker's attack.

I am sure we can go on and on about these issues, but it is important that all sides are listened to and indeed that the discussion goes on. That is the only way to improve and advance in my opinion.

Finally, when I asked Prof. Angell if I could quote him he said hilariously: 'You can quote me, mis-quote me, do anything you want!' Well, I hope I didn't overdo it.

(Posted by Daniele Navarra at 16 October, 2003) --- Permalink ---