Open Source Programs Manager, Google Inc.; Editor, Open Sources: Voices From the Open Source Software Revolution and Open Sources 2.0

Widely Available, Constantly Renewing, High Resolution Images of the Earth Will End Conflict and Ecological Devastation As We Know It

I am not so much of a fool to think that war will end, no matter how much I wish that our shared future could include such a thing. Nor do I think that people will stop the careless destruction of flora and fauna for personal, corporate, national or international gain. I do believe that the advent of rapidly updating, citizenry-available high resolution imagery will remove the protection of the veil of ignorance and secrecy from the powerful and exploitative among us.

One cannot tell us that a clear cutting a forest isn't so bad if you can see past the half acre of preserved trees into the desert like atmosphere of the former rain forest. One cannot tell you that they are not destroying villages in Sudan if you can view the burned out carcasses of the homes of the slaughtered. One cannot intimate that the impact of a dam is minimal as humanity watches countless villages being submerged in real time. One cannot paint a war as a simple police action when the results of the carpet bombing will be available in near real time on the internet.

We have already started down this path, with journalists, bloggers and photographers taking pictures and in near real time uploading them to any of a variety of websites for people to see. Secrecy of this kind is dying, but it needs one last nudge to push our national and international leadership into a realm of truth unheard of to date.

With sufficient resolution, many things will be as clear to all: Troop movements, power plant placement, ill-conceived dumping, or just your neighbor building a pool. I am optimistic enough to think that the long term reaction to this kind of knowledge will be the recognition of the necessity, or the proper management and monitored phase out of the unwanted. I am not as optimistic about the short term, with those in power opting to suppress this kind of information access, or worse, acting on the new knowledge by launching into a boil the conflicts that have been simmering for uncountable years.

Can our leaders stand before us and say a thing is not occurring if we can see via our low earth orbiting eyes that it is in fact occurring? Only the truly deluded will be unable to see and then perhaps we can remove them and their psychopaths from power. A more honest existence, with humankind understanding the full, global, impact of its decisions, is in our future if we can reach it. It is likely to be a rough ride.