Gary Chapman

Post image for Gary Chapman

by jonl

Hearing via Twitter that my friend Gary Chapman of the LBJ School has died. News of his death was posted by Isadora Vail of the Austin American Statesman. No details yet. I had just emailed Gary today asking for his support in putting together an Austin Wikileaks Summit. [Update: Statesman article by Vail reporting that Gary died of an apparent heart attack.]

Gary was a visionary thinker, always exploring the edge of emerging technologies… and he was a fine guy and a good friend. I interviewed him for the Austin Chronicle in 1999. [Link]

I think that a lot of people in the technology policy community feel there’s a kind of vacuum with respect to crafting a vision for why the United States should invest in science and technology in the future. That’s seen as a liability in forming consensus about what we should be investing in, but also an opportunity for helping craft a new vision.

The last organizing principle of technology policy was the Cold War, and that lasted for 50 years. But that’s pretty much over, and now we need a new organizing principle. It’s not clear what that’s going to be. There’s been a de facto consensus around global economic competitiveness, but that doesn’t really seem to have the same kind of glue that the Cold War rationale had. So I think there’s still work to be done on crafting the vision, and I think there’s certain pieces that have to go into it:

(1) Sustainability, that is, its relationship to the natural environment and our ability to build an economic system that doesn’t deplete the earth’s resources.

(2) Global commerce that is not solely competitive, but cooperative in nature as well.

(3) Social justice and equity issues, so that we don’t end up with technology policy that just favors the wealthy. That would have to take into account vast disparities in education and literacy and access to economic resources.

(4) A technology policy that’s democratic, and that offers the opportunity for people who are not scientific and technological experts to help craft it.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Prentiss Riddle December 15, 2010 at 9:28 am

This is terrible news. I knew Gary from his work with Computer Scientists for Social Responsibility in the mid-80’s, perhaps the first activist organization at the intersection of computing and public policy. More recently he was a colleague with the UT Austin|Portugal program, through which he organized a beloved international summer school on how new technologies are changing governance. In everything he did he was a pioneer. There will be no replacing Gary.

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James C. Roberts III December 19, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Gary and I became inseparable on the second day of high school and remained as such until the normal tides of life separated us some three decades later (though we were still friends). What many should remember of Gary was not only his incisive analytic skills and vision but also his exceptional ability to balance many aspects of life. Many knew him as a teacher but did they also know him as an excellent marksman in skeet? Or that, well into his 50’s, he took up–and excelled at–whitewater kayaking? And, of course, his goofy sense of humor. There are few storytellers with his talents (or stories).

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Nordsmetal October 6, 2011 at 5:34 am

R.I.P.

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