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Bridge the Gap Between Technology and Public Policy

More than ever, we live in a world that technologists make.

At this point, it is almost impossible to imagine life without modern technology. Imagine the year 2020 without streaming services, gig economy apps, or workplace apps like Slack or Zoom. People launch entire careers and build fortunes online.

On the other hand, is technology always beneficial to life? Now, in 2021, Facebook and Instagram are at the center of profound controversy. Is Instagram harmful for teenagers? Are social media apps such as Facebook spreading misinformation? If so, what should government do to respond to those problems? Should technologists consider ethical and social implications when they develop the novel applications?

It is insightful to read Bruce Schneier’s “We Must Bridge the Gap Between Technology and Policymaking. Our Future Depends on it.” As Bruce Schneier points out, most policymakers lack even a basic understanding of the technology that makes up the fabric of modern life. The disjuncture between technology and policy was always a problem but has now become untenable. By highlighting the ethical complexities raised by topics such as social media, bioengineering, and robotics, he convincingly argues for the importance of what he calls public-policy technologists: people who have been trained to bridge that gap between policy and technology.

On Schneier’s account, bridging the gap between policy and technology will require give and take by both politicians and technologists. Technologists ought to be encouraged to get involved with policy in a way that has not been typical in that community up to this point. At the same time, policymakers need to be trained to be both more conversant in technological matters and more amenable to hiring technologists as advisors.

Of particular interest is Schneier’s focus on STEM education. He is careful to emphasize that for us to bridge the policy-technology gap, we will need to revise our educational system so that from a young age students will be equipped to think about the ethical, social, and political implications of technological advancement—without sacrificing rigor in the study of physics or engineering, for instance.

As the title of his article suggests, Schneier’s tone can be dire, but it is not exaggerated. For our society to remain healthy and well-functioning, we will need to put measures in place to make sure that we are managing the rapid pace of technological growth of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that over and again changes how we live our lives.

Any citizen could benefit from reading Schneier’s article.

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