Congress must deal with a growing number of issues that are forcing new technological developments for the nation. I deliberately write "Forcing" because the way technology works, no one asks the nation – or its elected representatives – whether we need or want a particular new technology. Any investor or engineer, more often a startup group or technology company these days, can make the nation adapt to whatever it came up with.
For example, a small group of young hotshot engineers perfect deep fake, a technology that allows you to create a video that is known to be very authentic by a well-known politician, only that it is completely fictitious. To consider the impact of this new "gift" to humanity, imagine that one day before the election a candidate states that she has changed her mind and now prefers something that completely questions her base. If the answer is negative and the truth is revealed, the choice is likely to be lost.
All of this does not indicate the need for a licensing authority that technologists must apply to before proceeding – but the nation's growing and pressing need to have the ability to learn about new technology developments as early as possible. and prepare for the consequences. In some rare cases, we may have to put some restrictions on these developments.
Individual Congress members and their staff often do not have the resources, time, or sufficient technical background to conduct such assessments. For this reason, it has recently proven useful to re-establish an Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) that plays an important role in preparing technology assessments for Congress.
Last April Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanKey moments in the Democratic 2020 presidential election so far GM among partners planning .3B battery plant in Ohio San Francisco 49ers suspend announcer after referring to quarterback "dark skin" MORE (D-Ohio) included funding for OTA in a 2020 expense account. However, when the matter was discussed during a December House, Science, Space and Technology committee hearing, few members seemed to be in favor of a full revival of the OTA.
The value of the deceased OTA is recorded in a statement by Celia Wexler, Washington's senior representative at the Center for Science and Democracy. Wexler wrote:
“The information they provided was used to make smart and applicable policy decisions. A 1984 study questioning the reliability of polygraph tests led Congress to restrict employers' use. Another 1994 report helped lawmakers evaluate the Social Security Administration's computer procurement plan and ultimately saved the government $ 368 million. OTA reports from 1987 and 1990, which concluded that Pap smears and mammograms could save thousands of lives for older women, were instrumental in extending Medicare reimbursement for these tests. "
In 1972, the Congress set up the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) to advise senators and members of the House of Representatives on scientific and technological issues. Its ambitious goal was to "provide the executive with the expertise of the Congress through its many departments and agencies that is similar to that of the executive."
Over 750 years, around 750 reports have been created that deal with issues raised by new technologies.
The congress devalued the OTA in 1995 and kept a promise that Rep. Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMore (R-Ga.) During the successful Republican election campaign in 1994. MP Robert S. Walker (R-Pa.), Chairman of the House Science Committee, who opposed the OTA, argued that the legal texts of his reports were meant to Often, information had to continue without them because the OTA took a long time to prepare a report.
The agency's director acknowledged that the reports were not always ready in time to inform the legislation. However, he noted that agency researchers had testified at their hearings about their work in progress and had produced less lengthy interim reports on request.
No single reason for completing the OTA was given. But "some Republican lawmakers considered it duplicative, wasteful, and biased towards their party."
Oddly, another reason for OTA's decline was its neutrality. A former head of the OTA, Dr. John H. Gibbons said: "If you belong to everyone, you don't belong to anyone."
Another complaint concerned the lack of public participation. Jathan Sadowski of the Arizona State University Science, Politics and Results Consortium said:[i]It has not adequately grasped and examined the prospects of broader citizenship, for example by changing its advisory bodies or methods such as opinion polls and consensus conferences. "
A major reason for the revival of the OTA is the accelerated pace of technological innovation, even in countries like China. To illustrate this, we need to assess the impact of AI (whether it's advanced in the U.S., China, Israel, or elsewhere) on job destruction. the safety of driverless cars; the morality of using CRISPR for genetic engineering; Face recognition as an instrument of public security; the impact of social media on democracy and society; and much more.
There seems to be enough work for at least one OTA. However, she may need to get help from other organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, the NSF and DARPA.
Amitai Etzioni is a university professor and professor of international affairs at George Washington University. Click here His last book, "Reclaiming Patriotism", was published by the University of Virginia Press in 2019 and is available for download without costs,