Sean Parker and Al Gore took the stage at the SXSWi keynote speech to express one main point: "Democracy no longer works to serves the best interests of the people in this country," Gore said. The two believe that the people have the power to create a sea change in the United States through technology and that in fact our Democracy as we know it is dependent upon it.
At the core of their speech was the notion of "Occupy Democracy," playing on last year's populist and tech-savvy Occupy Wall Street movement. The two said the power and reach of media is clear, but less clear is the power of social media and its ability to create movements at local, national and international levels. They encouraged people to move beyond clicks, likes and "armchair activism" and called upon the tech community to create utilitarian technologies for the greater good.
"Our democracy has been hacked," Gore said.
The address began by laying out the continued power of television as the predominant political medium. Television, they said, is a one-way communication system controlled by gatekeepers and money. They cited statistics showing TV viewership on the rise with half the people on the web simultaneously watching television. Politicians, supporters and the interests that fund them, according to Parker and Gore, understand this dynamic.
Parker and Gore encouraged people to fight for what they believe in both on and offline. The inordinate power of money in the U.S. economy and political system, the two said, can be stemmed by mobilizing on the web and on the ground through the joint power of technology and people.
"One out of every six people will hold a political office in the United States at some point in their life," Parker claimed. This, he believes, will enable people to create change in the U.S. through not just technology, but through democracy, too.
In the long-term Parker suggested the solution is to change the way political leaders are elected. In the short-term the barrier to entry, he said, is simply information inefficiencies. He called upon the SXSWi community to educate the population, enable them with the power and tools technology can provide to get them off the couch, beyond the click, and into action.