The Central Mission
These days, it seems like everything is moving faster and faster. New technologies are being developed at an incredible pace, and our lives are changing more quickly than ever. It’s sometimes hard to keep up with all the changes, and it can be even harder to understand them. But it’s not just technology that’s moving faster these days. It seems like everything is. The world is getting more and more connected, and we’re all moving at a quicker pace. It can be hard to keep up, and it can be even harder to find time to contextualize the era we are living through. In 1898 the British statesman Joseph Chamberlain remarked on his age:
I think that you will all agree that we are living in most interesting times. I never remember myself a time in which our history was so full, in which day by day brought us new objects of interest, and, let me say also, new objects for anxiety.
If one thing defines an era of rapid progress, it is the equivalent rise of new hopes and new anxieties. But despite the challenges, it is essential to remember that we’re lucky to live in such interesting times. The rapid rise of today’s internet technology1 has few analogs in human history; the only comparable era is 1400s Europe, where the rise of the printing press would soon upend the social order in ways no one had anticipated. The printing press transformed religion, science, and politics and enabled2 the spread of information, misinformation, and dissenting thought that shifted the balance of power in Europe in profound and unexpected ways for centuries thereafter3.
The internet revolution has led to a need for new public institutions to interact with technologists and policymakers to do sense-making. The internet has enabled a new level of communication and collaboration, leading to a more open and interconnected world. However, these rapid advances have created a need for new public sense-making institutions that can help to make sense of the new landscape. One of the most critical roles of these new institutions is to help bridge the gap between technologists and policymakers. There is a need for better communication and collaboration between these two groups to make effective decisions about the future of the internet. The new public institutions can help to facilitate this by providing a space for dialogue and debate. The crucial role of these new institutions4 is to provide a forum for discussion and debate about the future of the internet. With the rapid pace of change, it is vital to have a space where people can come together to discuss the implications of new technologies and policy decisions. New internet-native public institutions such as think tanks can help to provide this forum and to facilitate a constructive dialogue about the future of technology and society. In addition, new public institutions can help to raise awareness of the issues and challenges associated with technology and to educate the public about the potential risks and rewards of new technologies5.
As technologists, we have a responsibility to work with democratic institutions to ensure that the public interest is always kept above one’s own concerns. This commitment means being transparent about our work, being accountable for our actions, and working to ensure that everyone has access to the same information and resources. Engineering is about solving problems and designing solutions that meet the needs of the public. Technologists must always consider the impact of their work on society as a whole and the profound implications of disruption and externalities. We must be aware of technology’s potential risks and benefits and ensure that they always act in the public’s best interests. And most importantly, effective technologists need to communicate effectively with the lay public and decision-makers; we need to be able to explain the details of technological advancements in a way that is understandable and accessible, and we need to be able to listen to the concerns of others.
To address these issues, the Center for Emerging Technology Policy is a new non-partisan think tank that will act as an international hub connecting technologists and policymakers and help them work together on public problems. Rapid technological advances are now shaping many policy issues, yet there is often a disconnect between those who develop and use technology and those who make policy decisions about it. This center would provide a space for dialogue and collaboration between these two groups and help to ensure that policy decision are based on a deep understanding of the technology and its potential implications.
Such a center will be critical in helping to tackle significant public problems that require a multi-disciplinary and international approach. For example, issues around data privacy and security6, crypto assets7, antitrust and competition8, and the development of emerging technologies such as machine learning will require input from technologists, ethicists, lawyers, and policymakers working in tandem to understand the future we are building together. And by working together, these groups can help ensure that new technologies are developed and used in a way that advances the interests of our democratic ideals.
The Center for Emerging Technology believes in a future where technology is a crucial catalyst to improving the reach and efficiency of democratic institutions, making them more responsive to the needs of citizens, and reaffirming our ideals of inclusion, equity, and access. Technology must also be used to engage citizens and augment the policymaking process itself, making it more transparent and inclusive. By working together, technologists and policymakers can develop platforms and policies that make the most of technology’s potential to improve the quality of life for all global citizens of the bright future we are building together.
Perez, Carlota. “Technological revolutions and techno-economic paradigms.” Cambridge journal of economics 34.1 (2010): 185-202. ↩
Haidt, Jonathan. “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid.” The Atlantic 11 (2022). ↩
Eisenstein, Elizabeth L. The printing press as an agent of change. Vol. 1. Cambridge University Press, 1980. ↩
Postman, Neil. Amusing ourselves to death: Public discourse in the age of show business. Penguin, 2005. ↩
Ferguson, James. “The anti-politics machine.” The anthropology of the state: a reader (2006): 270-286. ↩
Zuboff, Shoshana. “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.” (2018). ↩
Marx, Paris. (2022, February 24). Crypto evangelists promise Web3 will be a truly free and democratic internet — but it’s failing to live up to that hype. Business Insider. ↩
Khan, Lina. “Amazon’s antitrust paradox.” Yale law journal 126 (2017). ↩