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“Tuesdays with T4A”: UW CSE’s Ed Lazowska

ed-lazowskaT4A (Tech for America) is a non-partisan organization that is creating a network of entrepreneurs committed to redefining the public/private sector relationship. At T4A’s TechTables, current and former elected officials and tech industry thought leaders engage in substantive dialogue in safe, off-the-record, non-partisan settings.

UW CSE’s Ed Lazowska, a member of the Seattle Convening Board of T4A, is profiled in an interview this week:

“T4A: Just about everyone (regardless of political affiliation) sees a large gap between our politics (Washington DC as well as state capitals) and the reality on the issues we face as a country. Why do you think that is? I know it’s a tough question, but what do you think can be done to close that gap?

“EL: The word ‘reality’ is critically important. Partisanship has caused us to lose our grip on reality. Not long ago, residents of the 34 OECD nations were surveyed to learn their response to the statement, ‘Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals.’ Rounding to the nearest 5%, the statement was believed to be true by three quarters of those surveyed in Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, France, Japan, the UK, Norway, Belgium, Spain, and Germany. Among respondents in the US, only 40% believed the statement to be true! 40% believed it to be flat-out false, and 20% were not sure. The US was next to last among the 34 OECD nations in the proportion who believed the statement to be true – ahead of only Turkey. This sort of skepticism/ignorance is not restricted to evolution, of course – another example is global warming and climate change. I’m going to say something that sounds really partisan: the aspect of the Bush presidency that will have the longest-lasting negative impact is the manipulation of science and the exploitation of science skepticism/ignorance for political ends. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan had been fond of saying, ‘Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts.’

“T4A: Are political parties becoming less relevant today, particularly for young adults? Whatever your answer, why do you think that is?

“EL: Of course. Political redistricting has led to extremism. (I happen not to believe that this extremism is equally distributed across the political spectrum, but let’s not get into that.) That’s why – off-the-record conversations about issues that really should not be partisan – is so important. At one of our TechTables, the guest said that there are easily 70 Senators who could agree on sane immigration revisions and sane tax/budget revisions if they could do so behind closed doors. Somehow we need to create ‘safe places for people to stand’ if we’re to make progress. At the same time, we need to put a stop to the sort of ‘fair and balanced’ approach that gives equal weight to conflicting positions even when one of them is clearly based on a distortion of the evidence.”

Read more here.