Why technologists need to get involved in public policy? – Bruce Schneier

Bruce makes some interesting points in this presentation, it’s certainly something to think about. First, watch:

I’ll be honest, I’ve been on the side of leaving technology alone for the most part, but his point about the legal industry, and how public policy law is a huge area of focus, and how even law schools like Harvard are upset that “only” 20% of their grads go into public policy while virtually no one graduates in the tech field and goes into public policy is eye-opening. In the legal world we have pro-bono work, and are currently struggling with an Access to Justice problem across much of the US in an effort to help get legal advice, and legal aid, to people who can’t afford a lawyer. It’s still far from perfect but there’s a lot of attention being paid to it, and changes being made to laws and bar association ethics rules to try and fix some of these problems instead of simply leaving lawyers alone to figure it all out.

We’ve moved beyond the argument that tech should be free to innovate and invent new tools without any oversight. Those tools are now an intricate part of every American life, so much that we suspect they are now being used to manipulate elections, track and identify people, and being hacked to make victims of all of us by losing control of our own personal information. There’s some call for there to be some kind of oversight, or at least some rules about what they can, and cannot, do. Especially as we move into an age where we are dealing with encryption, AI, facial recognition, deep fakes, etc. Simply put, the tools are dangerous now, but they are still out there and they exist.

Naturally, the governments, state and federal, are looking into what they can do to get their arms around this, but I think it’s also correct to assume that there is almost no one sitting in those elected positions who knows much at all about the technology they want to pass laws about. That’s a scary thing. That leaves these folks open to being manipulated by lobbyists, especially the ones with the deepest pockets, or just simply getting it all wrong.

How different could this look if we had a strong public policy technology program much like we do with the law? If there were people in elected positions, or even just working for those elected officials, and within governmental areas, who specialized in technology, and public policy? What kind of impact would that have on what laws are being drafted, what questions are being asked at hearings, and how much more informed our officials could be?

But, that doesn’t really exist as a career path today. It should. It should have years ago. I think Bruce is on to something, but how many bad rules are going to be passed in the mean time?

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