WaPo – ‘I can understand about 50 percent of the things you say’: How Congress is struggling to get smart on tech



The most obvious recent example of this was Zuckerberg’s testimony before congress when almost all questions to him were from obviously ignorant politicians and their understand of technology

  • tech experts arrived at a little-noticed hearing at the U.S. Capitol in May with a message: Quantum computing is a bleeding-edge technology with the potential to speed up drug research, financial transactions and more (this is pretty ‘duh!’
  • Congress confronting complex policy debates posed by inventions like artificial intelligence, rise of Russian propaganda online, etc
    •  policymakers themselves admit they aren’t fully prepared to deal with the issues
  • Congress looking to revive the Capitol’s old science-and-tech think tank, the Office of Technology Assessment, which lawmakers disbanded amid partisan squabbles in the 1990s (unlikely with Trump as president…knowledge is bad)
    • could aid the U.S. government at a moment when objective advice seems to be in short supply
  • “We’re going to need to figure out autonomous cars, 5G wireless, gene editing, the Internet of things.” (Jessica Rosenworcel, Dem-FCC Commissioner)
  • Lawmakers earned ridicule when interviewing Facebook CEO (Zuckerberg)
    • Democrats and Republicans alike seemed mystified by the inner workings of a multibillion-dollar American corporation that they’re supposed to regulate
    • Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) essentially asked Facebook if it’s funded through advertising (duh!)
  • Congress really should have its own (tech) advisers, (Rep Mark Takano, D-Calif)
  • Congress has its share of tech-literate members
    • can hire their own staff or seek advice from other organizations, like the Government Accountability Office
      • team of about 50 tech experts study issues (are you kidding me…50 people to study all of the various technology coming at us?)
  • “When a new member of Congress is coming in to set up an office – “Nobody says, ‘Oh, I need a science adviser.’
  • In seeking to revive the Office of Technology Assessment
    • OTA performed research on subjects like missile defense and climate change, often trying to anticipate controversies before they became fodder for congressional hearings
    • upcoming budget bill calls for a study to determine if OTA might be useful
    •  dedicate a meager $2.5 million for OTA in seed funding

One thought on “WaPo – ‘I can understand about 50 percent of the things you say’: How Congress is struggling to get smart on tech

  1. Very good comments. Mark Z sure brought Congress members’ lack of knowledge about technology front and center. For each Representative and Senator to hire several people knowledgeable about technology would a giant step for those trying to govern us.


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