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Brief #41 – Technology

By Charles A. Rubin

March 22, 2021

Summary

As the Biden Administration fills out its policy teams, we at US Renew News would like to suggest an urgent technology agenda for consideration. The geometric improvements in computer processor speeds and the dramatic breakthroughs in new technologies have made the need for leadership and open discussion imperative. We call on the Biden Administration to get out in front of these issues to make these technologies available to all Americans and ensure that these technologies work in the service of all Americans.

Analysis

1. Cybersecurity – State actors are increasingly involved in attacks on elections, on critical infrastructure and business systems. In recent weeks attacks against Microsoft Exchange based email systems have been uncovered affecting government agencies and businesses large and small. These intrusions have primarily been detected by private sector security firms but the onus should be on our Federal government in cooperation with open societies throughout the world to coordinate intelligence and devise mechanisms to thwart these attacks.

2. Free Speech – The Biden Administration should lead the debate on what constitutes journalism and free speech in the internet age. We need to have a frank and open discussion on how to combat misinformation and the responsibilities of social media platforms in moderating their content. This is, again, a problem that open societies need to confront together to devise common definitions and solutions.

3. Worker Displacement – The pandemic has accelerated a trend to automate repetitive tasks and employ artificial intelligence (AI) to augment or replace workers. By one estimate, 45 million American workers will be displaced by technology over the next 15 years. While the technology often promises better services and lower prices, we can not let it create poverty in the process. We need opportunities for workers to retrain and a solid understanding of what the workforce of the future will look like.

4. Artificial Intelligence – We are increasingly relying on sophisticated algorithms to make complex decisions. There are indeed exciting opportunities for better medical diagnoses, more efficient and safer transportation systems and technologies that will remove the human factor from dangerous work. There is, however, a dark side. Facial recognition technologies have been shown to be inaccurate when attempting to identify women and people of color leading to false arrests and further distrust of our police. Fully autonomous weapons systems presage a frightening battlefield where humans are targeted by machines.  The Biden Administration must be clear as to their goals and stake out a leadership position on the world stage.

5. Technology Accessibility – The COVID19 pandemic has also brought into sharp relief the widening digital divide in the United States. Our nation’s school children in particular suffered disproportionately as classes moved on-line and, in many places, continue on-line. In many parts of the country, where broadband was spotty or unavailable, this meant little or no learning at all. The US must embark on a program similar to the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 to close these gaps and provide reliable internet service to all Americans.

While this list is not exhaustive, we believe that it provides a good starting point for the Administration to set a tone and make real progress.

Renewal Resources

  1. The Federation of American Scientists provides science-based analysis of and solutions to protect against catastrophic threats to national and international security.
  2. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation is a think tank whose Its mission is to formulate, evaluate, and promote policy solutions that accelerate innovation and boost productivity to spur growth, opportunity, and progress.
  3. Electronic Frontier Foundation  Founded in 1990, EFF champions user privacy, free expression, and innovation.
  4. The Technology Policy Institute focuses on the economics of innovation, technological change in the United States and around the world
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