HARNESS THE POWER OF TECHNOLOGY
One doesn’t have to agree with Andrew Yang’s policy positions to recognize that developments in science and technology are speeding up the pace of change. Accelerating advances in the fields of cyber, robotics, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and biology:
- are revolutionizing the development of sustainable energy production and storage methods that can supplant climate altering fossil fuels.
- have created new forms of aggression, in the form of cyberattacks that can paralyze governments, economies, and societies, and that enable dictators to attack democracies in ways more threatening than acts of violence.
- have introduced powerful new means for despotic governments to surveil and control citizens, and makes fake news ever harder to control. “Deep fake” videos already leave viewers unable to distinguish whether on-screen statements by officials are real.
- have enabled an explosion of information and entertainment that impedes education, diminishes citizens’ abilities to identify trustworthy sources, and isolates more and more people from meaningful social interaction.
- are ushering in the era of autonomous vehicles, which will replace the jobs of millions of professional drivers.
- are supplanting workers in factories, warehouses, department stores, and the service industry, transforming the world of work at a pace that can lay off whole sectors of our workforce, destabilize our economy, and erode faith in democratic governance.
- are producing new forms of military attack, from hypersonic planes that elude all existing defenses, to weapons that can blind or take over satellites, to inescapable sensing technologies—all of which may make violent aggression more tempting, including temptations to use weapons of mass destruction. “Arms races” in fields like artificial intelligence can change the balance of interstate power far faster than the military buildups of the past.
- are producing amazing new cures, but can also change human characteristics through gene editing, or create super-lethal biological weapons. Biological advances combined with developments in technology move humanity toward a marriage of man and machine, which Google engineering director Ray Kurzweil has termed “singularity.”
What Can Be Done?
- Reenter and forcefully lead The Paris Agreement, toward creating a global regime for combatting climate change and adapting to its effects.
- Launch comprehensive arms control negotiations. The complexity of the challenge is outpacing the capacity of sovereign nation states to protect themselves, making arms control agreements the only safe path to national security.
- Establish a “World Technology Organization” to develop a global dialogue and an agenda for guiding technological innovation based on shared human values.
- Establish a U.S. Department of Technology (as Andrew Yang proposed), which would lead the national effort to think through technology’s impacts—on society, on the economy, on our privacy, and on our safety—while developing strategies and policies to cope with transformative technological developments.
- Create a national dialogue on how to manage accelerating change based on shared human values. Government, universities, think tanks, the media, and the private sector share a role in raising far greater awareness. All of these issues need to be brought under the umbrella of democratic decisions by an informed public.
- Make Colorado a thought-leader on the relationship between science and society. Colorado, as a leading center combining high-tech industry, strong academic institutions, and progressive governance, should seize the opportunity to assume a leading role in addressing those dangers, while maximizing the opportunities of technological change.
- Defeat the war on science. The Trump administration has disparaged scientific expertise, appealing to the least educated segments of society who are most vulnerable to fake news and conspiracy theories. Restoring respect for expertise is a precondition for enabling meaningful national discussion leading to sound policies.
As the physicist Freeman Dyson points out: “Technology is a good servant but a bad master.”