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Bill Joy For New National CTO Post? 393

jddeluxe writes "In an article in today's NY Times, John Doerr of Kleiner-Perkins proffered up Bill Joy's name when queried by Barack Obama for a recommendation for the position of Chief Technology Officer of the Unites States which Obama has promised to create and that the country is overdue to have. I think that's a brilliant idea, and while you're at it, have the FCC report to him as well, why don't you?" If Bill is unavailable, I'll throw my hat in the ring, although I'm holding out for Secretary of Tubes.
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Bill Joy For New National CTO Post?

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  • vi (Score:5, Funny)

    by Maximum Prophet ( 716608 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:24AM (#25660559)
    Under Bill, vi will be the national standard. Yeah!!!
  • While Sun has made efforts towards open source, Bill Joy still belongs to a community of developers who believe in hoarding. Would that Stallman would get a role in this administration.
    • by Maximum Prophet ( 716608 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:29AM (#25660627)
      While Stallman would make an excellent adviser to the National CTO, he's too much of a "Throw the baby out with the bathwater" kind of guy. While I agree with RMS most of the time, that kind of personality doesn't last long in US politics.
      • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:45AM (#25660831) Homepage Journal

        I don't think RMS would even take it. Being in government requires adherence to a set of principles that many people end up finding reduces their ability to be principled. As an example, RMS would be required to back, in public, copyright law policies that he in private would vehemently disagree with. I just don't see RMS doing that, he's too much of a man of principle.

        • by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:53AM (#25660949) Homepage

          I just don't see RMS doing that, he's too much of a man of principle.

          It goes beyond that. Certain people define themselves as opposition, as being not-the-man, and as such are uncomfortable in any position of authority, even if their principles were in no way being challenged.

          These people serve a valuable role in society, but it is not within the corridors of power.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by raddan ( 519638 )

            These people serve a valuable role in society, but it is not within the corridors of power.

            I was thinking about this exact subject this morning with regard to Ralph Nader. Smart guy, definitely has the interests of the people at heart, and he's worked in previous administrations under the Secretary of Labor. Unfortunately, he is literally his own undoing. His mere presence would polarize people to the point where nothing could get done, despite the fact that he'd probably have some pretty good ideas.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ignavus ( 213578 )

            These people serve a valuable role in society, but it is not within the corridors of power.

            They are called "prophets".

            They preach absolute righteousness and call for repentance (i.e. changing your ways).

            They also wear odd clothing and have long beards, but that is a secondary qualification.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by CodeBuster ( 516420 )

          I don't think RMS would even take it.

          He would also have to cut his hair, trim his beard, start wearing ties, and taking showers on a regular basis. Can you imagine RMS in a suit and tie? I just cannot picture that.

    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:31AM (#25660653) Journal
      Believe in hoarding? You realise he made massive contributions to BSD, including the TCP/IP stack, which were released under a permissive license allowing anyone to use it?
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:30AM (#25661563)

        Bill Joy is also the guy who keeps warning of the end of the world if we don't stop developing various technologies. He wrote a number of articles and did a bunch of interviews about the world turning to gray goo if we don't kill nanotech research, how computers and weapons will kill us all, etc.

        He started work on a self-sufficient, solar powered sailboat, presumably his form of a bomb shelter for the coming techpocolypse.

        Basically, he has turned in to a crazy old coot.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by BitterOak ( 537666 )
          True, and he's also come out in favor of censorship of science. He has stated, for instance, that the human genome should not be made publicly available as it may be used by terrorists, etc., to manufacture biological weapons. I think he even suggested that perhaps laws be passed to enforce such a doctrine. Do we really want such a person to be in a position of power?
    • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:36AM (#25660719) Journal

      This thread points out the problem of anointing one person as CTO. Hate to say it but this is one of those things that might do better with a board, not a leader. That is to say that while there may be a judge, it's the jury that counts. Using one man is not enough, even the SCOTUS has nine. When it's important enough to do something, it's important enough to do it right. RMS should probably be on the jury, along with other notable technology evangelists.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:52AM (#25660947) Homepage

        Hear Hear...

        A board of 7. must have a mix of OSS and Closed source experts, as well as hardware experts.

        Experts... not some guy that was CTO for some corperation, I want people that are either leaders in IT technology, or people that made a difference.. Being able to Code or design is a requirement for the position. too many time I have seen CTO's that were promoted from the Sales department.

        Oh wait ,that will never happen... because it would be fair and balanced.

        • I like the idea of 1 person better. With that, it's very clear where the accountability lies and you don't get the groupthink that plagues many councils and meetings. Perhaps there should be a board that supports him with recommendations though.
          • He'd likely have a staff... and robes... and commandments.... wait, got derailed there.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            i don't think a "group" of 7 people would be that susceptible to groupthink. generally, when it comes to group behaviors, the larger the group, the more pronounced the effects of group psychology are.

            groupthink/group mentality isn't a blanket argument against synergetic bodies or group collaboration, nor is it a very good argument for autocratic decision-making. deliberative assemblies, or committees, are so popular because when you invite more than one perspective on a particular issue you encourage discus

        • by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @01:12PM (#25663377) Homepage

          But think about it, a really representative panel of that sort would really need someone representing, say, Microsoft, maybe Apple, maybe HP and/or Dell, and then a couple of FOSS guys. Imagine Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, RMS, and ESR on such a committee. Easily imagined. Now imagine anything getting done by this committee, ever... Not so easily imagined. When the closed source guys were not fighting over which of their personal pet technologies was best for a given purpose, they'd be in grid-lock as RMS and the FOSS guys try to block all proprietary anything. I'd be inclined to say that the closed source people should get 4 seats and the FOSS 3 seats: on the theory that it's more likely that at least on closed source advocate would side with FOSS on a given specific question than that the the FOSS guys will ever side with the closed source guys, and if all 4 cosed source guys agree with something it's likely to be a least a slightly open system.

          Still I think one guy, preferably fairly neutral and willing to work with all parties and being advised by a committee like you recommend, would be better. He might not always do what any one of us might want or hope he'd do, but a least something will get done.

        • by An dochasac ( 591582 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @01:34PM (#25663667)
          It's amazing how narrowly focused even the "community" of slashdotters are. Open/Closed source software, indeed software or even computer technology is just a tiny fragment of the areas of science where, as a nation, we've lost the plot. Bill Joy is a computer visionary, but he also sees outside of the box. See some of his insights here [droppingknowledge.org] In my opinion, the individual or committee needs to be broadminded enough to see the interrelationships of technologies and education. Here is my wish list:
          • Restore the technical advisory counsel that Reagan sacked in favor of lobbyists.
          • Balance the Reaganomic "fiscal" value of education with the real societal value of education so basic research on energy, health, economics... and other areas of science unlikely to help G.E.s stock price in the next 91 days, don't forever sit on the back burner while Europe, India, China and Japan leave us in the technological dark ages.
          • Fix the SEC rules so they don't punish companies which throw money into research where they payoff is more than 91 days in the future. It's telling that the current market cap value of the R&D heavy company that Bill Joy cofounded (Sun) is far less than the global value of the technology contributed by that company.
          • Treat universities as a long term societal investment, not a short term fiscal investments. Our great universities are decaying into trade-schools or country clubs... whilst falling behind our foreign counterparts.
          • Use a six-sigma approach to all aspects of government (including voting). If the quality level of our hospitals was as low as that of our election counting, 800 babies would go home to the wrong parents every day.
          • Tag all funded research with the funding organization so we can vet the tobacco, coal and other industry studies telling us that toxic waste is good for us.
          • Focus government funding on areas of science with a longer term societal and fiscal payoff. We shouldn't be spending $1 of our tax money funding something that is only going to make Pfizer stockholders happy next year. Pfizer should be funding that!
          • We have several equivalents to sputnik right now, global climate change, high oil prices,
          • Create a technological WPA/CCC to rebuild our infrastructures in a green, sustainable, efficient and cost effective way. The 800 billion going to banks would be much better used to rebuild our infrastructure.
          • Create an office of public science which explains scientific research and decisions to the public so we can all make more informed decisions about science.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rs79 ( 71822 )

        A board? Oh, dear. No. It'd be a quagmire, a committee designed by a committee. icann did that, whciuh is why it takes $62M to replace what used to be literally a $15K/yr part time contract.

        Brian K. Reid. Everybody else is either too corrupt or too bizarre to actually do the job. Brian understands people, unlike most geek geniuses.

        Nobody else can do as good a job in that role. Plus, never forget Sun was founded by the commission of a federal crime.

      • I don't know how to break this to you but the position of National CTO isn't quite as important as the role of SCOTUS. Upholding the laws and constitutional freedoms of the citizenry is much more important than what IM client government employees wil be allowed to use.

    • by cthulu_mt ( 1124113 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:40AM (#25661719)
      We need someone with real vision.

      I nominate Ray Kurzweil.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)


        You gotta be kidding.

        OK, so the man's got vision, but so has any brain-addled acid-crazed schizo hippy you care to mention.

        You need someone with real vision and practical common-sense, like Joy, or maybe Jobs (yes, I know I'll get flamed for that) or even Wozniak.

        You might as well suggest Eric Drexler - another self-publicist with no notable contribution to make.

  • Or... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Stile 65 ( 722451 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:26AM (#25660587) Homepage Journal
  • by suso ( 153703 ) *

    vi wins! Fatality!

    In other news, what happened to Slashdot's RSS feed? I used to be able to get the feed based on my subscription, but that stopped worning yesterday.

  • Isn't having a Chief Technology Officer like having a Chief Refrigeration Officer or a Chief Vending Machine Officer?

  • Thirteen Stripes (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:29AM (#25660633)

    Not eleven, not twelve, but thirteen. If you guys keep putting only 12 stripes on our flag, then the terrorists have won.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's ok, we're just disowning Georgia.

  • by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:30AM (#25660641)

    I seem to recall Bill Joy having some decidedly pessimistic and even luddite attitudes towards future tech, but it's been so long since he's been in the news that I don't remember now what. Paranoid about nanotech, I think, for starters.

    • by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:11AM (#25661227) Homepage

      You're probably thinking about the 2000 article in Wired, 'Why the Future Doesn't Need Us' [wired.com], which he said in a 2003 interview was Wired's title, not his. [wired.com]. It was criticized in quite [slate.com] a [archive.org] few [reason.com] places, but there were plenty of people who gave merit to what he was saying.

      I think it's wise to understand that there are risks inherent to almost any solution, and no just adopt technology for technology's sake -- look at what happened with the election machines, and those damned flash splash pages in the late 90s. I probably need to re-read his article, as I can't remember most of it, but I don't remember it being as pessimistic as people made it out to be.

  • by pHatidic ( 163975 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:32AM (#25660659)

    If the Republicans went crazy over Obama's friendship with Bill Ayers, just wait until they find out what Bill Joy said about Ted Kaczynski (the unibomber) in Wired.

    • by chrb ( 1083577 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:53AM (#25660959)

      You mean this? [wired.com]

      "I am no apologist for Kaczynski. His bombs killed three people during a 17-year terror campaign and wounded many others. One of his bombs gravely injured my friend David Gelernter, one of the most brilliant and visionary computer scientists of our time. Like many of my colleagues, I felt that I could easily have been the Unabomber's next target. Kaczynski's actions were murderous and, in my view, criminally insane. He is clearly a Luddite, but simply saying this does not dismiss his argument; as difficult as it is for me to acknowledge, I saw some merit in the reasoning in this single passage. I felt compelled to confront it."

      Bill Joy doesn't sound that out of line. If you're going to confront terrorists, you need to understand their doctrine and motivation so that you can discredit the entire philosophy, rather than just turn them into martyrs.

      • by Reality Master 201 ( 578873 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:06AM (#25661141) Journal

        You're assuming that the context will be presented, or matter. Clearly, you've not paid attention the last few years.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by greg_barton ( 5551 )

          Clearly, you've not paid attention the last few years.

          Clearly you have no hope for the next few.

  • About time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drakkenmensch ( 1255800 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:34AM (#25660683)
    Isn't it time we had someone in charge of evaluating new technologies who actually KNOWS how computers work, rather than having to refer to the opinions of out of touch people who still struggle with their VCR flashing 12:00 over and over since 1986?
    • Re:About time (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:47AM (#25660867)

      Actually, a lot of the younger politicos would probably struggle with VCRs, since all they ever knew was iPod or TIVO. Makes them smart rather than dumb, in my opinion, (VCRs used to be a bitch to program).

      Do we really need people who know how things work 'under the hood' to make smart tech decisions? Or do we need smart people with vision, who then consult with or employ the right people? Not sure that Kennedy knew how the rockets worked, but he got people to the moon just the same.

      Now get off my lawn.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mysticgoat ( 582871 )

      This is a CTO, not a CIO.

      The scope of the position needs to go well beyond information technology; it needs to span all the technology that NASA is developing, all the spyware and remote killing machines the NSA is constructing, the research and findings of the NIH, etc. A strong technology background is not particularly necessary. Skills in matrix management, in extracting comprehensible models of complex technologies from experts, and in providing leadership in situations where goals and visions are clo

  • No need (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:35AM (#25660699)

    We don't need a national CTO. We can make our own technology decisions without the government telling us what to do.

    • Re:No need (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Deton8 ( 522248 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:39AM (#25660753)
      Amen, brother. How about a national "Chief Keep the Fucking Government the Hell Out of our Way Officer"?
      • Re:No need (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:51AM (#25660927)

        Yes, because that approach has worked so well with the financial industry.

        • Re:No need (Score:4, Informative)

          by gregoryb ( 306233 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:17AM (#25661327) Homepage

          If you think the government has been staying out of the financial industry for the past 70+ years, you haven't been paying attention.

          • Re:No need (Score:4, Insightful)

            by visualight ( 468005 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:47AM (#25661819) Homepage

            Paying attention? The unregulated market brought us the Great Depression 70 years ago and until Bush the markets stayed regulated. The _recent_ deregulation is why we're in the mess we're in now.

            There's no way you don't already realize this, I'm not sure why you posted what you did.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by gtall ( 79522 )

              The division between commercial and investment banking broke down under Clinton, with bi-partisan support. And Congress-critters, democrat and republican, both made certain Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac remained unregulated or loosely regulated.

              That said, Bush did push deregulation or simply lack of it via the SEC.


            • Re:No need (Score:4, Interesting)

              by viridari ( 1138635 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @12:50PM (#25662969)

              This is a common misconception.

              Bush did nothing to deregulate the financial industry.

              He is a flaming chowderhead and guilty of high crimes against the people of the United States and the Constitution. But to be fair, this particular accusation doesn't stick.

      • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

        Please tell that to all the Comcast users.

    • Re:No need (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:39AM (#25660755) Homepage

      We don't need a national CTO. We can make our own technology decisions without the government telling us what to do.

      I think such things as the prevalence of spyware on PCs and the reluctance of many people to offer music or movie shares stands as proof that most people actually can't make their own technology decisions.

    • by fishdan ( 569872 )
      I hear you brother in small government, but to have someone with that much common sense and technology experience in cabinet meetings makes every decision that much better. I guarantee you there are plenty of areas of government that can be optimized with better tech. I go to 10 meetings a week (because my life sucks) where I don't think I need to be there, but I end up making suggestions about ways to use technology that make this project or that project MUCH better. Bill Joy will do the same. He won't
    • But the government itself uses a lot of technology. A technical seeing-eye dog is useful for any politician to have.
    • Insightful? Think about it, the comment isn't even on topic. Why would anyone think that the government having a CTO (even companies with less than 100 employees have one) translates into "government telling us what to do"?

      I think having some standardization and efficiency across agencies would save some money, and, the parent poster probably agrees with that. Maybe he's still on that first cup of coffee.

    • Re:No need (Score:5, Insightful)

      by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:27AM (#25661515)

      You dolt.

      The government has millions of computers, and you don't want someone to set policy? Look at what the mindless, out of control, dead in a ditch projects have cost us.

      They're not setting policy FOR YOU, nitwit-- for the government. DO what you want. Let someone put reason into executive branch decision making in government IT!!

  • BusinessWeek article (Score:4, Informative)

    by dnwq ( 910646 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @10:37AM (#25660723)
    Apparently, Ed Felten is interested, while Lessig isn't [businessweek.com].
  • by Haig ( 113291 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:00AM (#25661037)

    The Obama administration may be the place where the driving of the golden spike uniting open source development with open source government takes place. Using Federal IT standards to drive proprietary formats out of the government departments will create a cascade of rationalization and standardization throughout the US economy. Our creaky and costly medical care system desperately needs this kind of rationalization.

    Accordingly, a prominent and effective member of the Open Source community should occupy this position, not a big-time software corporatist.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jcnnghm ( 538570 )

      Open source software didn't drive the economy of the 90's, or the economy of the last few years. Forcing your ideological views on others through government is both stupid, and dangerous.

      • by isaac ( 2852 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:44AM (#25661787)

        Open source software didn't drive the economy of the 90's, or the economy of the last few years.

        Says you. In my professional experience over the last 10 years, Linux and Apache on commodity hardware have been integral in lowering barriers to entry for small companies and the cost of scaling for large ones.


  • IMHO (Score:3, Interesting)

    by multimediavt ( 965608 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:04AM (#25661113)

    I'd feel more comfortable with someone from the research or academic circles than I would with someone from industry for a position like that. Might just be my bias, but I feel that someone from industry might be a little more biased toward a particular set of interests. Although marginalized to some degree, I think someone like current science advisor John Marburger would be a much better choice. Just my $0.02.

  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:04AM (#25661121)

    Is some authority to set the standards as a mandate for **all** federal agencies. All of them, no exceptions. One of the first things that should be done is to mandate equal consideration for .NET and LAMP because Java has way too much of a fanboi following in the federal government.

    In reality, though, the position of CTO is likely to be more of a figurehead than a useful position. Obama is not likely to hand down an executive order authorizing the CTO to impose open standards and a "use the best tool for the job" method of selecting the tools that will be used for building new federal web sites and web applications.

    • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:56AM (#25662001) Homepage

      One of the first things that should be done is to mandate equal consideration for .NET and LAMP because Java has way too much of a fanboi following in the federal government.

      Of course the fact that the federal government has done research that finds that reducing the number of languages reduces costs has nothing to do with them preferring to pick a single standards based, multi-vendor approach. Nope its because they are "Fanboys" and that stuff in the military drones would be better done in LAMP than in Java...

      Federal Government uses LOADS of different technologies most of them are in the heavy lifting space rather than being about LAMP type areas (LAMP for Air Traffic Control?).

      Ah but you are just talking about websites, which is a single part of the estate and are of course not thinking at all about support and maintenance across thousands of sites and the advantage of having a limited set of technologies would bring in enabling more cross government sharing.

      Nope you just want to see your favourite technology being used.

      Personally I'd like to see the CTO take a machete to the costs of IT in federal government, OSS would be part of that but consistency would be the major element.

  • Bruce Perens (Score:3, Interesting)

    by loftwyr ( 36717 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:23AM (#25661433)

    Bruce is my vote for CTO. I'd rather have someone outspoken in the role that's only partially crazy.

  • by gyrogeerloose ( 849181 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @11:37AM (#25661677) Journal
    That no one has recommended Ted Stevens for the post. I think he'll be looking for work soon.
  • by meburke ( 736645 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @01:07PM (#25663265)

    This is a solution to an un-defined problem. We should only implement solutions AFTER we have defined a problem. "Jumping to Solutions" is why so many decision-making processes go wrong.

    Expanding the Presidential Empire is not necessarily the answer to our current problems. Government interference in the distribution of goods and services normally reduces the effectiveness and efficient workings of the marketplace, thus depriving the potential customers.

I use technology in order to hate it more properly. -- Nam June Paik