If you don't already know it, Presentation Zen is an astonishingly high-quality blog with consistently excellent posts. Today's post on Bill Clinton's gift for communicating includes a wonderful quote from a recent speech he delivered at Georgetown University:
“The problem with ideology is if you got an ideology, you already got your mind made up, you know all the answers, and that makes evidence irrelevant and argument a waste of time, so you tend to govern by assertion and attack. The problem with that is that discourages thinking and gives you bad results.” (see clip on YouTube)
This gem from Clinton beautifully sums up how I feel about much of the debate surrounding e-voting. The evidence keeps pouring in from all over the world that the risks and problems with e-voting are far greater than any potential benefits, yet governments keep pushing on with 'convenient' electronic voting systems.
In his speech Clinton actually presented the alternative prior to the quote I've used above:
“We believe in a politics…dominated by evidence and argument. There is a big difference between a philosophy and an ideology on the right or the left. If you have a philosophy, it generally pushes you in a certain direction or another. But like all philosophers, you want to engage in discussion and argument. You are open to evidence, to new learning. And you are certainly open to debate the practical applications of your philosophy.”
My basic philosophy is that information and communications technologies are powerful tools for making the world a better place for all. Projects like MySociety, WorldChanging, MoveOn and Viridian Design all show some of the possibilities for doing good with ICTs. It was with this philosophy that I first began developing the GNU.FREE open source e-voting system. But the evidence came in, I learnt from the development process and I debated with others. I came to understand that the challenges e-voting presents our democracies are in no way justified by the minimal claimed benefits for the technologies. I changed my mind.
But with appalling news that Prime Minister Tony Blair wants the national DNA database to include every citizen, what hope is there for changing minds in government?