Sunday, September 03, 2006

Congress desperate for technological expertise

Recently, the House Committee on Science heard a panel of experts who urged them to create a new in-house, non-partisan support organization to keep them abreast of sci/tech issues and the policy questions they raise. This is great news because, since the Office of Technology Assessment was unfunded in 1995, the committee has relied on a patchwork of industry, universities, scientific societies and the AAAS for expertise on sci/tech issues. (This might explain that "series of tubes" comment by Senator Ted Stevens -- poor guy.) So basically since the Internet first sparked in the public consciousness, Congress hasn't had anyone on the inside dedicated to explaining to them what the Internet actually is and what all these pesky public issues that emanate from it like the green glow of kryptonite really mean. From among those informing Congress, I'm just going to go out on a limb and guess that highly paid tech-industry lobbyists are the ones most consistently knocking down doors when necessary to to get their messages heard.

Unless addressed with wisdom and foresight, these issues (e.g., DRM, P2P, identity theft, estalking and all the rest) are to the Internet as kryptonite is to Superman. This technology has already transformed the way people think about the world, communicate with others, learn, keep abreast of current affairs, entertain themselves, commit crime, find sex (even love) and so much more -- and that's just during its first dozen years in existence. The Internet, coupled with cell and satellite technology, is beginning to look like the collective unconscious of mankind. Tap into it anywhere and explore the dark recesses of your psyche, or your neighbor's. Or embody the Trickster archetype and release a worm, just to see. The Internet will keep evolving, and our lawmakers have the opportunity to guide it toward a productive future by protecting freedom of speech and supporting creativity and innovation, or they can take the blue pill and make it all about the revenue streams flowing to the right coffers. As a strategy, this will ultimately fail, but it'll be painful for everybody. That they understand they need help is the first step toward recovery. Contact the House Committee on Science and/or the Senate Committee to make sure they understand the stakes. I'm sure corporate lobbyists have done all they can to obfuscate the truth.

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