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Jonathan Kelly
Jonathan Kelly

Policy Vs Technology ~REPACK~

Policy is how society mediates how individuals interact with society. Technology has the potential to change how individuals interact with society. The conflict between these two causes considerable friction, as technologists want policy makers to get out of the way and not stifle innovation, and policy makers want technologists to stop moving fast and breaking so many things.

Policy vs Technology

It is no longer the case that government agencies no matter their affiliation, can be counted on to implement policy that is not heavily colored by the mask of national security and narrow self interest. Often one is used in aid of the other. That self interest includes accepting financial support from various and sundry corporate interests who want as little in the way of regulation as possible.

Given this backdrop and the current state of politics, the defining factor in the passing of any legislation will be whether or not it fits a particular ideology or, corporate interest, not good public policy. I no longer believe we can have any degree of trust in our local police, government or federal agencies. I say this having spent 30 years inside the legal system.

Should this be a reason for you not to engage? Certainly not. There is always hope I suppose but the tide I believe has turned and the concentration of power is such that it makes the fight to draft good public policy and then, to have it actually followed or adhered to, at best, an uphill battle. As I have said, I have watched this decline as someone inside of the legal system. What was once unthinkable, is now, unwritten policy.

I actually wrote out a lengthy post with my opinions and thoughts from being a tech and security person relative to policy being drafted or at least debated. It was basically a harsh piece describing in detail why people with no technical background have any business drafting tech policy. However, the last paragraph I wrote made me delete all of it. At the end of the day, Information Security in this country, local, state, federal, municipalities, corporations, hospitals, creditors, and pretty much anything you can think of has been a complete and utter disaster. NSA, FBI, OPM hacked, Trillions of dollars worth of IP stolen by other countries. 4G cellular network knowingly compromised. I could go on but I think we all get the point. Lets be honest here, the best most of us and the industry are capable of, regarding cybersecurity is to mitigate the damage that can happen from an inevitable breach. From where im sitting that is a losing strategy. Lets not bash on Policy makers incompetencies when we dont even have it right ourselves.

I am a public-interest technologist, working at the intersection of security, technology, and people. I've been writing about security issues on my blog since 2004, and in my monthly newsletter since 1998. I'm a fellow and lecturer at Harvard's Kennedy School, a board member of EFF, and the Chief of Security Architecture at Inrupt, Inc. This personal website expresses the opinions of none of those organizations.

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According to the American scientist and policy advisor Lewis M. Branscomb, technology policy concerns the "public means for nurturing those capabilities and optimizing their applications in the service of national goals and interests".[1] Branscomb defines technology in this context as "the aggregation of capabilities, facilities, skills, knowledge, and organization required to successfully create a useful service or product".[1]

Other scholars differentiate between technology policy and science policy, suggesting that the former is about "the support, enhancement and development of technology", while the latter focuses on "the development of science and the training of scientists".[2] Rigas Arvanitis, at the Institut de recherche pour le développement in France, suggests that "science and technology policy covers all the public sector measures designed for the creation, funding, support and mobilisation of scientific and technological resources".[3]

Technology policy is a form of "active industrial policy", and effectively argues, based on the empirical facts of technological development as observed across various societies, industries and time periods, that markets rarely decide industrial fortunes in and of their own and state-intervention or support is required to overcome standard cases of market-failure (which may include, for example, under-funding of Research & Development in highly competitive or complex markets).[4]

Technology management at a policy or organisational level, viewed through the lens of complexity, involves the management of an inherently complex system. Systems that are "complex" have distinct properties that arise from these relationships, such as nonlinearity, emergence, spontaneous order, adaptation, and feedback loops, among others. According to Richard Cook, of the Cognitive technologies Laboratory at the University of Chicago "Complex systems are intrinsically hazardous systems. All of the interesting systems (e.g. transportation, healthcare, power generation) are inherently and unavoidably hazardous by the own nature. The frequency of hazard exposure can sometimes be changed but the processes involved in the system are themselves intrinsically and irreducibly hazardous. It is the presence of these hazards that drives the creation of defenses against hazard that characterize these systems."[6] The success or failure of organisations or firms depends on the effective management of innovation through technology policy programmes [7]

Viewed through the lens of Science policy, public policy can directly affect the funding of capital equipment, intellectual infrastructure for industrial research, by providing tax incentives, direct funding or indirect support to those organizations who fund, and conduct, research. Vannevar Bush, director of the office of scientific research and development for the U.S. government in July 1945, wrote "Science is a proper concern of government"[9] Vannevar Bush directed the forerunner of the National Science Foundation, and his writings directly inspired researchers to invent the hyperlink and the computer mouse. The DARPA initiative to support computing was the impetus for the Internet Protocol stack. In the same way that scientific consortiums like CERN for high-energy physics have a commitment to public knowledge, access to this public knowledge in physics led directly to CERN's sponsorship of development of the World Wide Web and standard Internet access for all.

The first major elaboration of a technological determinist view of socioeconomic development came from the German philosopher and economist Karl Marx, whose theoretical framework was grounded in the perspective that changes in technology, and specifically productive technology, are the primary influence on human social relations and organizational structure, and that social relations and cultural practices ultimately revolve around the technological and economic base of a given society. Marx's position has become embedded in contemporary society, where the idea that fast-changing technologies alter human lives is all-pervasive.[8] Although many authors attribute a technologically determined view of human history to Marx's insights, not all Marxists are technological determinists, and some authors question the extent to which Marx himself was a determinist. Furthermore, there are multiple forms of technological determinism.[10] On the subject of technology as a means to liberation or enslavement, David Cooper wrote, "people myopically impressed by the world as an object of beauty or worship die out. Those who are myopically impressed by it as a source of energy do not: they even prosper".[11]

Although technological determinists believe in the continuous innovation of technology, many scientists believe that this innovation should be slowed down.[12] For example, with artificial intelligence gaining prominence throughout society, scientists fear that its potential of developing the cognitive skills of humans could force many individuals out of jobs and even put the lives of innocent people in danger.[13] Most famously, scientist and entrepreneur Elon Musk has is very public with the current progression of computing and AI; he believes that the fast rate at which artificial intelligence become smarter will place man in a vulnerable position where these newly created AI algorithms will identify humans as being expendable.[14] Although extreme, Musk and many other remain cautious around the progression of artificial intelligence and other technological advances that may render the power of man and do the opposite of technological determinism by destroying societies.[14]


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