Linus Torvalds – Time for a Nobel Peace Prize?

I was reading through my morning Google alerts when this story caught my attention. It is an article in which the writer is of the view that it’s high time the father of Linux, Linus Torvalds is awarded with the Nobel Prize for Peace. Below is the story from Ridenbaugh Press/Northwest.  Read it and tell me what you think.
“Former Vice President Al Gore’s visit to Portland today and tomorrow has prompted some Nobel Peace Prize thoughts, and in Oregon the idea of nominating a Northwesterner. The prospect shot around the Portland-area Linux circles (drawing some debate as well as approval as it did), starting with this email from Keith Lofstrom:
“Since the Nobel Peace Prize is often given to politicians, some disagree with the choices. But it is often given to non-politicians who create international efforts to change the world for the better.

    Look at the massive international efforts represented by SC09, and realize that much of it started from the work of a 21[-year-old] Finnish college student named after 1962 Nobel Peace Prize winner Linus Pauling. It would be fitting to honor that international effort by giving a Peace Prize to Linus Torvalds, perhaps in 2011 on the 20th anniversary of the August 1991 Linux announcement, or in 2012 on the 50th anniversary of Pauling’s award.

    Linux is one of the largest cooperative international efforts ever undertaken. It inspired Ubuntu, One Laptop Per Child, and many other global projects. Linux conquered the supercomputer space, the server space, the embedded computer space – by peaceful means! Linux helped sequence the human genome, helps protect the world computer infrastructure from viral attack, and is now the pathway for millions to learn computer programming and participate in new international efforts.

    The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize recipient (a politician some disagree with, please disagree in a different thread, thanks) is giving the keynote to SC09 as I write this. Meaning that we are all three handshakes away from the people that decide on future Peace Prizes. Perhaps it is time to launch some messages through our connections and see what makes it to the committee meetings in Oslo.

    According to the list on Wikipedia, the five people to convince are Thorbjørn Jagland (chair), Kaci Kullmann Five (deputy chair), Sissel Rønbeck, Inger-Marie Ytterhorn, and Ågot Valle. We can start by sending them Norsk language Ubuntu disks.

    While I imagine Linus Torvalds would be embarrassed by the attention, it would sure make his parents happy. And it would mean one less Peace Prize for a politician.”

That list of Linux-related or -inspired developments is only partial. Here in the Northwest, for example, we could add the Free Geek operations in Portland, which do a lot of good for not only the low-income people and non-profit groups they are specifically aimed to help, but also almost everyone who comes into contact with them. The effects though have been world-wide, and are accelerating. And could grow faster with a little more attention.

Probably not a lot of Northwest people outside the Linux community know about Torvalds, or that he lives in the Portland area, or that this is one of the true open-source centers around the globe. This would be a dramatic way to find out. “

My views.

In as much as I would love to see someone  the stature of Linus Torvalds claim that prestigious prize, I think it is too early to call it for him. Though Linux has played an important role in the advancement of computing, I still think it’s achievements have been overshadowed by its sometimes extreme dogmatism. For instance, there are those to date who detest the mere mention of the words Linux and profitability in the same sentence.
Also, there are those who do not hesitate to brand as traitors anyone that dares to include some element of proprietary software in a Linux distro, irrespective of the benefit such an inclusion sometimes brings. Though Linux has made great strides in the server market, it is yet to show similar advances in the desktop market. I must however admit, that some distros like Ubuntu and Fedora are really putting Linux onto the desktop of the masses albeit at a slow pace.
I think 20 years is enough time for Linux to have made more gains on the desktop than it currently enjoys. For me, though the server market is very important given today’s highly connected way of living, I still think the success of an OS should be measured by its market share on the desktop. And in this regard, our venerable Linux still has a long way to go.
So if  the call is being made because of Linux, then IMHO I think it’s not yet time. Maybe after the much hyped Google ChromeOS makes it debut and helps move Linux some more into the mainstream, then we can talk again about this call. But for now, I think it’s just not time. What do you think?

4 Replies to “Linus Torvalds – Time for a Nobel Peace Prize?”

  1. Linus made a kernel; it was Richard Stallman who designed the Gnu philosophy, the GPL and related licenses, started the free software movement and build the Gnu operating system for which Linus made the kernel.

  2. And yet the kernel is the heart and life of almost all the alternatives to Windows. Without the kernel, what do we have? And BTW Google did not pick any of the Stallman handiwork, they picked the kernel. That alone is enough to call this issue up for discussion 🙂

  3. The peace prize is not awarded for excellence in programming. It is awarded for a notable contribution to changing the world and making it better.

    By those criteria Richard Stallman qualifies and one day, I'm sure he will get it.

    Richard Stallman also qualifies for the Nobel in Economics. Copyleft as a means of producing goods is the most interesting innovation in economics in a long time.

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