Bill Thompson

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Bill Thompson at BBC Television Centre 2012

William George Thompson (born 6 October 1960) is an English technology writer, best known for his weekly column in the technology section of BBC News Online and a radio show on the BBC World Service.


  • ...there is a strong case to be made for getting someone senior, with a title to match, who can knock heads together about e-government and how it is done properly...
  • As economic libertarians, these people believe that markets should be free, formed by the rational actions of rational agents - who need only to be provided with perfect information about goods and services in order to build a stable economy. As technological utopians, they believe that everything will be for the best in the best of all possible worlds, if technology is modelled on the American dream and the American way. And as opinion formers, they claim no formal power base, operating instead by linking exhaustively to one another.
  • Fortunately for them, in the hyperlinked world it is not necessary to airbrush dissenters out of the group photograph. You can simply wait for Google's PageRank to promote the ideas the A-list find acceptable and linkworthy to the top of the page, while the websites of apostates disappear below the fold and out of history. Who needs a memory hole when the world's favourite search engine does the job so effectively?
  • These people are not quite an aristocracy. Perhaps they are simply the blogeoisie (pronounced bloj-wah-zee), a dominant class in network society. Or it may be simpler to think of blogs as a feudal system, with respect and links acting as the chief currency. The peasants toil in the low-rank blogs, paying their tithe in LazyWeb projects to the lords of the link in return for an occasional mention from Hammersley or Searls.
  • Whatever analogy we choose, one thing is clear - any group with influence needs people outside that group who will criticise it. In the real world of politics and society, journalists do that - proper journalists who know what having principles means, who aim for objectivity while accepting that it is unattainable, and who are open about who pays them and who they work with.
  • The enlightenment idea of privacy is breaking apart under the strain of new technologies, social tools and the emergence of the database state. We cannot hold back the tide, but we can use it as an opportunity to rethink what we understand by 'personality', how we engage and interact with others and where the boundaries can be put between the public and private. Those of us who are ahead of the curve when it comes to the adoption and use of technologies that undermine the old model of privacy have much to teach those who will come after us, and can offer advice and support to those who might be unhappy to have their movements, eating habits, friendships and patterns of media consumption made available to all. But every Twitterer, Tumblr, Dopplr or Brightkite user at Lift is sharing more data with more people than even the FBI under Hoover or the Stasi at the height of its powers could have dreamed of. And we do so willingly, hoping to benefit in unquantifiable ways from this unwarranted - in all senses - disclosure. I'll argue that we are in the vanguard of creating not just new forms of social organisation but new ways of being human.