At least two of the 241 nominees for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, which will be announced in October, are related to technology. The candidates include the Internet, which also was nominated last year, and the controversial anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks. One reason the Internet might have been nominated this year, many speculate, is the role that Facebook, Twitter, and other social media Web sites played in helping to organize dissent against governments in North Africa and the Middle East. It is unknown who would receive the prize if the Internet is chosen; the award must go to a person or an organization.
What inventor or technical organization do you think is deserving of this year's Nobel Peace Prize and why?
Responses to April’s question
Technologies for the Nobel Peace Prize
At least two of the 241 nominees for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, which will be announced in October, are related to technology. The candidates include the Internet, which also was nominated last year, and the controversial anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. One reason the Internet might have been nominated this year, many observers speculate, is the role that Facebook, Twitter, and other social media websites played in helping organize dissent against repressive governments in North Africa and the Middle East. It is unknown who would receive the prize if the Internet is chosen; the award must go to a person or an organization.
What inventor or technical organization do you think is deserving of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize?
Honor the Founders
If the Internet were to win the prize, three of its founders should be the recipients. Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau should be honored for developing the World Wide Web and helping create the communication between the HTTP client and server via the Internet. Vint Cerf also should be recognized for developing interconnectivity between computers worldwide.
And those three should give credit in their acceptance speeches to all the people who have helped improve the Internet.
Knowledge Is Power
Definitely, the Nobel Peace Prize should go to the Internet. The information available on the Internet has helped people overthrow dictators and other leaders whose deceitfulness led to poverty, crime, and war.
The prize money should be given to the Internet Engineering Task Force, an international standards organization, so it can sponsor those who work to improve the Internet for everyone.
Give Credit Where Credit is Due
Twitter and Facebook do not fall into the “inventor” category. Creating a social website is interesting, but it is purely commercial and does not merit an award. The aim of the nomination should be to reward the inventor of the tool and not the individual person who creates an application for how it can be used.
Some Call It Treason
I think WikiLeaks’ release of classified documents constitutes treasonable activity, and it should not be a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. It also might have caused an untold number of deaths. I am upset that someone would so blatantly reveal secrets that he may not have even understood. There are proper ways to handle problems with classified information—leaking them to the world is not one of them.
On the other hand, the Internet is very deserving. It has done more for democracy than anything else.
Wayne E. Amacher
Responses to January's Question
The Future of Wireless Internet
More cellphone carriers are selling Mi-Fi devices—portable wireless routers that run off a battery. The devices can be used to connect several nearby gadgets to the Internet, with most carriers charging between US $30 and $60 per month for the service. AT&T introduced its first Mi-Fi device in November, and Sprint Nextel began selling its second that same month. Verizon, which launched its version in 2009, is now selling iPads with Mi-Fi.
Analysts are mixed about the future of the portable Wi-Fi devices. Some say they'll replace plug-in wireless routers as a way for cellphone carriers to charge one monthly fee to connect a customer's computers and other gadgets. Others say the Mi-Fi devices will become unnecessary as more and more devices come installed with 3G or 4G chips that connect to cellular networks.
Do you think Mi-Fi will replace wireless routers or chips? What do you see as the future of wireless Internet?
Ask the Companies
Wireless home routers that allow the use of SIM cards to connect to cellular Internet service are very attractive; they can save me $30 a month on high-speed Internet. The current speed of cell phone Internet is already more than adequate, though I'd rather not use it to download gigabyte-size files.
Ultimately the adoption of Mi-Fi will depend on how friendly carriers are to data usage. Though the speed is acceptable, Verizon's 5GB monthly limit is not. Charging different rates for cell phone data versus computer data only adds to the confusion. A company that offered unlimited Internet access for cellphones and other devices for a flat monthly fee would have tremendous success.
What About Electric Utilities?
Wireless routers will remain successful as long as cell phone providers charge exorbitant fees for 3G and Mi-Fi. I predict that electric utilities will provide wired services that include a packaged bundle via fiber optics. To reduce their manual-labor costs and better respond to outages, the utilities will run fiber optics to residences and businesses and provide wireless Internet, phone, and cable service. The wireless connectivity will work in a mesh network to provide redundancy and automate network management.
Good For Some
Mi-Fi is not useful for most people. It would be important for traveling salesmen, those working at construction sites, and people in remote locations. I am very skeptical that wireless companies can provide the kind of bandwidth and reliable connection that people have come to expect at home or in the office, where cheap wireless routers are connected to the Internet via Ethernet.
The Android 2.2 operating system and its ability to act as a 3G and Wi-Fi hotspot can also act as a wireless router for other devices. There is no need for extra devices. I have this setup with my mobile phone, and I think it's the best solution.
Too Much Stuff
Mi-Fi will be used where broadband Internet is unavailable via cable or fiber optics. It won't threaten most wired connections, because applications like streaming high-definition video will motivate consumers to pay for cable or fiber optics to get the extra bandwidth. While 3G and 4G networks can stream video to screens the size of a smartphone, they're not ideal for streaming full HD, which a laptop or HDTV typically demands.
Wi-Fi has become a victim of its own success. Wi-Fi networks, both public and private, have been added at an alarming rate, leading to congestion of the unregulated bands where it generally operates.
To make matters worse, these bands have been flooded with devices better served by wired connections, such as printers, doorbells, and set-top TV boxes. It's important that we recognize the RF spectrum is not an unlimited resource. Thus, the trend of cutting the cord may actually be reversed with devices that are neither mobile nor remote. This is similar to what happened a few decades ago when consumers tossed out their TV antennas and switched to cable TV.