Monday, June 27, 2011

Google Ideas launches Summit Against Violent Extremism

(Cross-posted from the European Public Policy Blog.)

When Google decided to set up a think/do tank, we vowed to avoid the safe route.

Google Ideas seeks to bring the ideas of a wide range of thinkers to bear on the most vexing and intractable challenges of the 21st century. Some of these challenges are aligned with our core business and others with our philanthropic mission. Some are hugely important but few have been willing to tackle them because they are controversial. Given that technology has demonstrated it can be part of every problem, we want to make sure it is part of every solution. We hope to tackle the thorniest of issues.

Challenges such as violent extremism.

Why does a 13-year old boy in a tough neighborhood in South Central LA join a gang? Why does a high school student in a quiet, Midwestern American town sign on neo-Nazis who preach white supremacy? Why does a young woman in the Middle East abandon her family and future and become a suicide bomber?

In order to advance our understanding, Google Ideas is today convening the Summit Against Violent Extremism, bringing together former gang members, right-wing extremists, jihadists and militants in Dublin for three days of debates and workshops. All these "formers" have rejected violence and are working for groups recognized by governments and law enforcement that fight extremism. Extremists have taken advantage of new Internet technologies to spread their message. We believe technology also can become part of the solution, helping to engineer a turn away from violence.

We're also inviting survivors of violent extremism who are engaged in some of the most important activism around this issue. They will remind us of the horrors and loss associated with the challenge of violent extremism. Representatives from civil society, along with a stellar group of academics, will participate and provide additional texture.

Our partners in this venture are the Council on Foreign Relations, which will look at the policy implications, and the Tribeca Film Festival, which emerged out of the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the the World Trade Center and which will explore the role of film and music on and in fighting extremism.

Together, we aim to initiate a global conversation on how best to prevent young people from becoming radicalised and how to de-radicalise others. The ideas generated at the Dublin summit will be included in a study to be published later in the year. We are undertaking this project without preconceptions. We aren't expecting quick answers or "silver bullets." Instead, we're looking to increase understanding of a critical problem and find some new approaches to combat it. Stay tuned as we attempt to marry ideas and action.


Benjamin McLean said...

I think C. S. Lewis described in detail why this summit won't work in "The Abolition of Man." If we want to do anything serious to get rid of evil in the world we have to completely get rid of our society's notions of cultural relativism and I doubt Google is prepared for that.

Michebox said...

There is a difference between evil and extremism. "Evil" implies profound immorality--perhaps amorality. Extremism, while its tactics often read as immoral (to relativists or non-relativists alike), may be born out of circumstance and not a lack of moral guidance or fundamental inability to act morally. Combatting extremism, therefore, requires not the abolishment of cultural relativism, but rather the willingness to truly understand how and why extant systems of power and influence encourage some people toward violent extremism. Starting from the position that extremists are not fundamentally evil, but rather rational actors with compelling stories and motivating factors that are important to understand, we can begin to craft policy solutions to problems too often ignored or treated reductively by the policy community.
Wish I could attend the summit! Go Google Ideas!

cdj said...

Lewis had little use for extremism. He denounced it in The Screwtape Letters, by having one of his devils praise it:

All extremes except extreme devotion to the Enemy [of evil, meaning God] are to be encouraged. Not always, of course, but at this period. Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and then it is our business to soothe them yet faster asleep. Other ages, of which the present is one, are unbalanced and prone to faction, and it is our business to inflame them.

Ben Simpson said...

I'm very interested to see what comes out of this. Please post some interactions and talks on your youtube!

rioplatense said...

There are others looking into these same issues. Check out the HCI for Peace blog for more ideas, interviews and links at

Roman Pryjomko said...

Dear Jared and Google Ideas - Thank you for supporting this timely and important Summit. For 5 years, I worked as a technical advisor on an initiative to fight violent extremism in Karachi, Pakistan. This involved a multi-sector partnership between business, government and civil society although business was the main driving force. The CPLC approach has been in existence now for two decades and has spread across Pakistan and even into India. We are trying to replicate the model in Egypt which is wrestling with related challenges right now. I have a concept paper on the CPLC approach which I'd like to share with you and any other interested parties. How do I go about this most effectively? Thanks and again, wishing you continued success in this vital initiative.

groblin said...

Alice Miller made a great work against violence and she explain how stop terrorism and others violence, but nobody can do it only with "ideas":