Politicians Are Too Out of Touch to Make Laws About Tech
Tech is ahead of the curve. Politics is behind the times. How can we expect the latter to properly regulate the former when politicians are so out of touchRead full story
- Vikrum Aiyer Vice President of Global Public Policy at Postmates (Former Obama White House Senior Advisor)
Technology firms need to build empathy for government, and government needs to build empathy for industry. In the same way that tours of duty in prior generations including investing in the developing world (Peace Corps) or investing in under resources schools (Teach 4 America), our current crop of executives & elected’s must build a pipeline of service that rotates in and out of tech & government so that technically minded folks (ie on AI) can inform regulations, and those who know how government stakeholder processes work can inform how tech engages the Public sector in the first place.
Moreover, as new innovations shift the way we work — tech & worker voice organizations should be willing to work together to guide a future of work shaped by more automation & more disaggregated workers.
Hold on now. We all saw the Facebook hearings and the technical ignorance on display for the world to see, but that’s not a reason for disqualifying politicians from making regulation about technology and certainly, how could we leave technologists to regulate themselves? I’m sure the tobacco industry would love to co-create some regulation as well.
The point being, politicians (broken as the system is) represent their constituents, the citizens of this country. Tech companies represent their shareholders. Politicians need an education in technology, no question—but to a large extent, their views and understanding probably matches with a large portion of the American public.
Once I had the chance to visit with members of the Senate banking Committee. They didn’t understand how people could bank with a smart phone, all had Blackberrys. They were skeptical not just about crypto, but of digital in general. Their young aides, most of them young attorneys, were no better.
The root problem is that we don’t prepare our citizenry well on these topics either. Digital Ec should be the new Home Ec. Americans should leave school understanding how their personal data drives the economy and the wonders and perils that go with that. Then we can have an informed public debate about rules.
Hard to take this seriously when the dude who wrote it puts up a picture of himself grinning wildly with a big thumbs up as his thumbnail photo, but...
Yes, there is a real problem and disconnect between Silicon Valley (i.e., the tech world) and Washington (i.e., the law world). The solution is not to say lawmakers can’t regulate tech. The solution is more education for the lawmakers. So, more hearings where they can ask “dumb” questions. I’d humbly suggest a subscription to The Wall Street Journal, too, or other high-quality media outlet.
ALSO, Silicon Valley has some work to do, too. These guys don’t spend enough time thinking about the ramifications of their “killer apps.” They need to do more than hire lobbyists to live in Washington and try to snow lawmakers. The “move fast and break things” model of development leads to a lot of, you know, broken things. Think a little about the things you’re breaking.
Actually they are perfectly in touch. We college-educated, big city professionals, who take time to post opinions about news items do NOT represent the average Americans... who do not wear AllBirds, sleep on a Casper mattress, take uBer, drive a Tesla, or debate the provenance of their coffee beans. There is a reason Duck Dynasty was of the most watched shows on TV. By choosing to ridicule all the "out of touch" Americans and politicians, we expand the chasm that exists between "the elites" and the average American.
I feel like I've been saying this for ages. We need committees formed for tech, healthcare, environmental science, etc. that are made up of actual experts and professionals in these fields in order to create reasonable and effective regulation, and we need the fossils in congress who are barely able to open a PDF to actually listen to the recommendations made. Even for the most tech savvy politician, most of this technology is like a second language to them, whereas younger professionals grew up fluent in these concepts and are constantly building their knowledge base as tech evolves. Without that, the government will always be about 15 steps behind.
Earlier this year, I spent two days on Capitol Hill meeting with Congresspeople and staffers about key issues on tech. The problem was not they did not understand technology (though let’s acknowledge that many of their constituents that don’t live in major cities or are not highly educated don’t understand it either.)
The problem was they simply had too much in their plates, they could not justify prioritizing technology. One staffer explained he can’t talk advocate for universal broadband access because they were too busy trying to respond to gun violence, school safety, and mass drug overdoses, and families not being able to survive on only one job anymore.
It’s clear the current system for regulating technology isn’t working. It is clearly urgent we try something else. In theory, that’s what independent agencies like the FCC are for. They are specialized, can move more quickly, and can prioritize their respective key issues without dealing with everything Congresspeople do. However, they’re not being properly resourced or empowered to do so. Maybe we should start there.
Agree with Ian Myers (mostly), not sure why they don’t have experts sub in for them as they did at the Kavanaugh hearing —at least then the right questions will be asked. The other problem with trying to regulate, say social media, is that by the time meaningful reg is passed, platforms will have morphed —think Congress is thinking ahead to when Facebook messenger is used as a payment system? They can barely understood what messenger is versus FB.
Ok yes, politicians are clueless about tech. But so are the tech elites. Implying Zuckerberg has a much better grip on how tech should be regulated or even the effects his own company is capable of deploying is hilarious. Not only doesn't he knows what the company is capable of doing, he is clueless of the potential effects of the long term usage of a system like Facebook. The problem is, regulations are designed to protect people on the mid to long term. Hence, regulation can't be done by politicians but it can't be drafted by single experts either.
Well, opinions about this topic looks more like the ones on football or religion, than the fact that is business model used by a few companies back in the late 2000, and now a standard that actually changes industries (Sears is the latest victim).
So, maybe it would be wise to hold back the spitfire against governments and congressional dinosaurs, and enlighten them with examples of how personal data used by many sites is even more important than intellectual property. Napster is the perfect example of how aggressiveness and efficiency can work for those in the mixture: lawmakers and musical moguls in that particular case.
It’s not just technology. I doubt most politicians know all that much about economics, infrastructure or agriculture for that matter. Makes you wonder if there should be a civil service exam...
They are also clearly too out of touch to make laws about civil rights, but that doesn't stop them from doing so.
Perhaps education is the answer, and since they are so fond of the 100+ year old class-in-a-box system with standardized tests, how about we come up with a test for lawmakers.
It could include questions on topics such as:
• How does the internet make money?
• Do women have the right to report cases of assault?
• What does 'www' stand for?
• Are corporations actually people?
• What is the difference between 'dial up' and DSL?
• Does requiring an ID with a physical address largely disenfranchise poor and rural voters?
Really, the list could go on and on…
I don’t think politicians are too out of town. I simply think that they need further education and access to education on new technology topics.
As Ian said, allowing the technologists to police themselves has led to Uber's malfeasance, Facebook and Google's duplicity and too many tweets from Elon Musk. Yes, the Senate, moreso than Congress, is aging out, but that doesn't mean they should not be able to regulate the industries. It's the results and impact of the technologies they're governing against, not the actual code and underlying technology.
Congress members aren't experts and in touch with the latest developments in many industries, not just tech. The hearings they hold are meant to inform them about what they need to know to make good decisions. Simply replacing Congressmen with lawmakers who are a decade or two younger (on average) doesn't guarantee more knowledgeable people or that better laws or regulations will be made either.
A simple solution is..... do you want to opt- in or opt-out? Give us a choice. Assuming preferences create problems.
Some people want to keep a semblance of privacy and may request to opt out of customized services provided in our digital age. Others don’t care about keeping their lives private. Having customized information for my personal use is worth it.
Lawmakers don’t need to know more than that. Keep it simple!
Tech calling Politicians out of touch... well join the crowd! If you think this is going to stop them, well, you are out of touch. My suggestion for Tech, better get to the educating, before the legislation. Tech, also, needs to clean up their own back yard and operate for all customers, not just one political persuasion. They are their own enemy, when it comes to potentially crippling legislation.
It has been my experience that technology moves at such a fast pace that to this day we still are trying to keep up. I’d like to just add that some politicians are out of touch. Senator McCain had a good handle on this. Each time he visited facility I worked at he knew exactly what direction to go and what priorities need to be looked at. Then after listening to us he was able to find the funding to get it done. We need to increase the number of cyber lawyers. These folks are trained. I enjoyed listening to the lawyer we had. He opened my eyes and kept me out of trouble. I was under the impression the United States had a cyber czar. This would be something he/she would tackle with Capitol Hill. Most politicians may not understand the importance of law as it relates to technology. We also have to understand that tech law would only apply within the boundaries of the United States. I firmly believe this should be one of the priorities POTUS has on his to-do list. Why? (Social Engineering)
Who said we want or need all these elected officials anyway? 100 Senate and 435 Congress, all “earning” six figure salaries and pensions for life. And elections are nothing more than a Popularity Contest. Meanwhile the Country is $21,630,500,000,000 in debt. It’s ridiculous that we all just accept this as necessary.
This is clearly a complicated issue given tech companies abilities to regulate what have become major forums for speech. Yes, many politicians are uninformed on high tech matters but it is still there job to create regulations, protect copyrights, and most importantly protect the free flow of speech in this country. If people believe that some of these companies are stymieing speech, it falls to the politicians to investigate and quite possibly take action, because in our system there is no one else. The only real choice to change things in the foreseeable future is to elect more tech literate politicians. Nonetheless, many of the problems we are facing over speech can be understood without tech intricacies. The best bet it to be heard - call or write to Congress.
It also doesn’t help that the techno-illiterate-Twitter-dunce in the White House is waging a one sided, ignoramus war with Silicon Valley. Typically uninformed and uninformable Trump has called for an investigation into anti-conservative bias of social media platforms. Not that he cares about the issue, or comprehends the issue enough to care. Nonetheless, when he requires a meaningless Russia investigation distraction, and has exhausted the current supply, he often turns to this line of nonsensical, communal, self victimization. Unfortunately, his technically dimwitted enablers in Congress will be tasked to draft distorted regulation focused on this nonsense rather then real world tech issues.
I am afraid there are few who can anticipate the issues new technology will bring to our society. Our laws will respond to problems as they arise (as they always have). Which is the only way laws should be born. That being said, never in humanity’s history has technology been such a fast changing and driving force. Whatever we can do to expedite the legal process to accommodate societies needs, should be done.
If things keeps on going like this, we might never be able to catch up with the movies like blade runner.. I want to live that life in my life time.. lol
Good points here
Tech is hard to grasp at times, especially from a generation that did not have access to what we do today. However, I could not help but notice that the article was trying to take a swipe at repealing net neutrality. I find this interesting. It seems that the same “out of touch” group of politicians who pushed net neutrality are in the same age range as the other “out of touch” group of politicians who removed net neutrality. That little piece of information they put in there puts a small wrinkle on the report I think. I am still waiting for the tech mafia to force me to pay more for the same speed I am getting...
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