Lawrence Lessig on Forbin Problems
by Charles Lemos, Thu Jul 09, 2009 at 08:47:37 PM EDT
One of the highlights at the recent Aspen Ideas Festival was this presentation by Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig. The title of his talk was Will Technology Change Our Life? but that's a bit of a misnomer. His talk really centers on Forbin Problems, a type of problem we face increasingly as we become more dependent on technology and the "experts" who devise complex and often esoteric solutions.
Take financial derivatives for example. David Smick, a global economic policy strategist and financial adviser to the high and mighty, argued in his book, The World Is Curved that the Obama Administration shouldn't attempt to regulate derivatives nor the shadow bank system (i.e. hedge funds) because these instruments were too complex and these institutions too critical to the world economy. His argument was that legislators shouldn't try to regulate what they can't understand. This is a Forbin Problem.
In his talk, Professor Lessig provides examples on how Forbin Problems affect public policy making and takes a critical stance on the pernicious role of lobbying in politics.