I was lucky enough to see Al Gore at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco this week. Lucky because after all he is the Goreacle, but if you could invite anyone to your post-election victory party, wouldn’t Al be at the top of your list? This year’s “Web Meets World” theme brought together Internet-industry leaders to explore “how might the Web be used to address the world’s most pressing limits.” The Goreacle concluded the summit as the last speaker on the last day, but enthusiasm was still high as he was greeted with loud applause and a standing ovation by the digerati in attendance.
He spoke with great emotion about the recent election day results, enabled in part by the enhanced collaboration and communication capabilities offered by Web 2.0. “What happened in the election opens up a full new range of possibilities, and now is the time to really move swiftly to use these new possibilities,” he said. Moving beyond politics, he discussed how Web 2.0 should be used to address the enormous challenge of climate change. “I believe Web 2.0 has to have a purpose,” Gore said, and that purpose is to create “a higher level of consciousness” about the climate crisis and how we can address it.
But because this was a Web 2.0 conference, Gore was also there to talk about his “new media” venture, Current TV, which he co-founded with Joel Hyatt in 2005. The format combines content from traditional journalists as well as “crowd-sourced media” and is a response to the “feudalism” of mainstream media controlled by a few large corporations. “One of the main reasons why our political system has not been operating very well until this election is the deadening influence of the television medium as it has been operated,” he said. The goal of Current TV is to “re-democratize” the medium.
During the Q&A period, Gore reiterated the popular theme that by solving the climate crisis we can also solve the economic crisis through large infrastructure projects. Top of his list is an overhaul of our current electric grid. This new “smart grid” would offer much greater efficiencies and could extend the current grid in order to connect large solar and wind projects.
To conclude, Gore encouraged the audience to keep pushing forward to use new Web technologies to address our most pressing social challenges, especially climate change. Even with the new administration and the new leadership it will bring, “this is no time to rest easy.”