Once Again Congress Votes Proactively To Keep Itself Ignorant On Technology

from the a-series-of-tubes dept

Four years ago, we wrote about the House voting to keep itself ignorant on technology, and unfortunately, I can now basically just rerun that post again, with a few small tweaks, so here we go:

The Office of Technology Assessment existed in Congress from 1972 until 1995, when it was defunded by the Newt Gingrich-led "Contract with America" team. The purpose was to actually spend time to analyze technology issues and to provide Congress with objective analysis of the impact of technology and the policies that Congress was proposing. Remember how back when there was the big SOPA debate and folks in Congress kept talking about how they weren't nerds and needed to hear from the nerds? Right: the OTA was supposed to be those nerds, but it hasn't existed in nearly two decades -- even though it still exists in law. It just isn't funded.

Rep. Mark Takano (in 2014 it was Rush Holt) thought that maybe we should finally give at least a little bit of money to test bringing back OTA and to help better advise Congress. While some would complain about Congress spending any money, this money was to better inform Congress so it stopped making bad regulations related to technology, which costs a hell of a lot more than the $2.5 million Takano's amendment proposed. Also, without OTA, Congress is much more reliant on very biased lobbyists, rather than a truly independent government organization.

The fact that we're seeing this kind of nonsense in Congress should show why we need it:

A quartet of tech experts arrived at a little-noticed hearing at the U.S. Capitol in May with a message: Quantum computing is a bleeding-edge technology with the potential to speed up drug research, financial transactions and more.

To Rep. Adam Kinzinger, though, their highly technical testimony might as well have been delivered in a foreign language. “I can understand about 50 percent of the things you say,” the Illinois Republican confessed.

But, alas, like so many things in Congress these days, the issue of merely informing themselves has become -- you guessed it --partisan. The amendment failed 195 to 217 on mostly partisan lines (15 Republicans voted for it vs. 211 against, and only 6 Democrats voted against it, while 180 voted for it). If there's any silver lining, that's slightly better than in 2014 when a similar vote failed 164 to 248. So... progress?

Either way, when Congress is ignorant, we all suffer. That so many in Congress are voting to keep themselves and their colleagues ignorant should be seen as a problem.


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  • icon
    Gary (profile), 14 Jun 2018 @ 1:20pm

    Conflict of Interest

    Clearly that conflicted with the lobbyists best interests.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 14 Jun 2018 @ 2:47pm

      Re: Conflict of Interest

      I suspect you might be on to something there.

      Having a group that is specifically there to research topics and provide information on them would be really annoying to those pushing falsehoods that could be easily disproved by said research, whether said falsehoods were from a lobbyist or a politician.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jun 2018 @ 1:40pm

    "has become -- you guessed it --partisan"

    Pot meet kettle! TD can always be counted on to be hypocritical while claiming it is not. Tribalism is inherent and destructive as racism and while people have at least discovered that racism should be fought against, they hold no such standards against tribalism.

    The individual is the real minority and no matter what form "group think" takes, be it race, religion, politic, sport team, nation, or geographic location will only result it one attempting to dominate the other in an attempt to reduce them to a non-human label.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Jun 2018 @ 1:58pm

      Re:

      What are you even talking about?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 14 Jun 2018 @ 1:58pm

      Re:

      Pot meet kettle!

      Are you accusing us of being partisan? Really?

      TD can always be counted on to be hypocritical while claiming it is not.

      What was hypocritical in what I wrote?

      Tribalism is inherent and destructive as racism and while people have at least discovered that racism should be fought against, they hold no such standards against tribalism.

      What the fuck does this have to do with anything I wrote?

      The individual is the real minority and no matter what form "group think" takes, be it race, religion, politic, sport team, nation, or geographic location will only result it one attempting to dominate the other in an attempt to reduce them to a non-human label.

      What the fuck does this have to do with Congress voting on funding OTA?

      Look, dude, not everything fits into your silly little view of the world. Stop trying to shove things into your naive and simplistic view of the world. It's embarrassing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Nick-B, 14 Jun 2018 @ 2:06pm

      Partisan?

      It's possible to call out something as partisan (when it doesn't need to be), while not being partisan themselves.

      Sounds like you just wanted to copy/paste your "tribalism = bad!" post to sound smart and superior.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Thad, 14 Jun 2018 @ 2:24pm

        Re: Partisan?

        It's possible to call out something as partisan (when it doesn't need to be), while not being partisan themselves.

        Yeah, I love how some people will screech about how merely stating accurate figures breaking down how each party voted on a funding bill indicates some kind of nefarious bias.

        Sounds like you just wanted to [...] sound smart and superior.

        Why start now?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Thad, 15 Jun 2018 @ 7:41am

          Re: Re: Partisan?

          Adding: It occurs to me that the people saying "How dare you be partisan by acknowledging that partisanship exists?" are probably often the same people saying "How dare you report on racism? That makes you the real racist."

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Jun 2018 @ 2:44pm

        Re: Partisan?

        ... not partisan in the strict Republican/Democrat sense, but positioning on the broad spectrum political ideology sense.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Jun 2018 @ 2:36pm

      Re: partisan foolishness

      well the entire concept of the Congressional OTA is highly flawed -- and its supporters predictably partisan and biased.

      The nonsense OTA concept is that we simply get a bunch of absolutely brilliant, objective, selfless and unbiased tech guys to analyze "technology issues" (undefined & open ended)... to educate dumb Congressmen and provide them with wise, objective "policy" options. Congressmen, of course, will be eternally grateful to these OTA sages ... and diligently implement their unique advice in "regulating" U.S. technology.

      The OTA sages naturally are immune to partisan thinking and lobbyists. And such technology expertise can not possibly be found in the vast Federal; Execitive Branch or private sector.

      This OTA nonsense is classic leftist thinking -- a society just needs "experts" in the central government to run everything. Congress itself has proved way too dumb, incompetent, partisan and dysfunctional to qualify as the desired "experts" -- so the fallback position was to create yet another unaccountable sub-bureaucracy (OTA).

      Really foolish idea.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 14 Jun 2018 @ 1:45pm

    We make regular people retire when they get to old to keep up...
    *looks at Congress*
    They still think 8-tracks are a thing...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jun 2018 @ 3:17pm

    ".... a truly independent government organization"

    If only that were the case. The lobbyist will just shift to a different group of people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 14 Jun 2018 @ 3:20pm

    You could have

    left "On Technology" out of the title ... it would still be accurate!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Jun 2018 @ 5:20pm

    It's not surprising...

    Given how the clime of the current era is still anti-intellectualist and anti-academic.

    It's already a good era for black hats and gray hats. It'll become an even better era for them, and that's before every government laptop ends up with a goatse desktop wallpaper that cannot be removed.

    Maybe the thing to do is make sure the public is as informed as possible, and has access to as many privacy protections as possible. At that point the internet will circumvent around the government's impositions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2018 @ 3:52am

      Re: It's not surprising...

      At which point, the government will simply pull the plug on the untrackable communications with Driver's License 2.0. You forget that although the Internet routes around damage, it does so on links that are easily tapped and controlled by governing bodies.

      If they can't bypass the latest evasive manuvers, they'll just make them illegal, or mandate that you out yourself for them one way or another. Although perferably with you doing all the work to make it as easy and cheap as possible for them to track you.

      Make no mistake about it either. Many in the US and elsewhere would gladly support such measures under the guise of anti-bullying, anti-CP, anti-terrorism, etc. So don't assume it won't happen.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 14 Jun 2018 @ 6:24pm

    We are proving it..

    Beyond belief..
    Why are we shoosing "ignorance is bliss" in this country..

    Cops stupid.
    Politicians Stupid
    Gov. Stupid

    Corps taking advantage of all of it..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    UniKyrn (profile), 14 Jun 2018 @ 6:55pm

    Those who can't do, teach.

    Those who shouldn't, govern.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 15 Jun 2018 @ 5:47am

    We need to take a Logan's Run approach to those in government. Pew pew.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 15 Jun 2018 @ 7:39am

      Re:

      Again, the congressman mentioned in the article, Adam Kinzinger, is 40 years old.

      Meanwhile, Ron Wyden, at 69, is consistently one of the best people in our government on tech issues.

      I wouldn't trade Wyden for more Kinzingers or Cottons.

      While it's certainly true that some older members of our government are out of touch, it's not as simple as "we should get rid of the old people." There are older people in government who are extremely sharp and knowledgeable, and there are younger ones who aren't.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 15 Jun 2018 @ 1:14pm

      Approaches to waking the legislature

      I thought a good Anonymous-style mischief campaign to attack the electronics of representatives and staffers with creative project mayhem sabotage.

      It would be, at least, entertaining.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Hero, 15 Jun 2018 @ 7:33am

    > Congress is much more reliant on very biased lobbyists, rather than a truly independent government organization.

    Cynicism first. Is there such a thing as a truly independent (of bias) government organization?

    > That so many in Congress are voting to keep themselves and their colleagues ignorant should be seen as a problem.

    Seriousness second. This isn't a matter of voting. Even with an independent organization of experts, members of congress will remain ignorant and will just do what the experts tell them. They need to be educated themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2018 @ 10:22am

      Re:

      Except they won't educated themselves. And in quite a few issues congressmen have disregarded experts... That's the problem.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 15 Jun 2018 @ 1:19pm

      Government organizations aren't biased.

      Individual officers are biased as Hell, and someone with the power to appoint officers can staff an organization based on their biases (which Trump is doing). But the organization itself is neutral.

      Except that any institution will be interested in its own continued survival, which can often run contradictory to its mission statement.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      R.H. (profile), 15 Jun 2018 @ 8:04pm

      How Realistic Is It For All Congresspeople to be Fully Informed?

      While I would love for my elected officials to be completely knowledgeable about everything they vote on, that's unreasonable. The reasonable thing is for elected officials to have, at a minimum, a well-rounded general education, a good knowledge of what their position does (and doesn't) allow them to do, an open mind to allow expert opinions to inform their decisions, and most importantly excellent critical thinking skills.

      Given the number of issues that our politicians face annually, it's simply not possible for them to be fully informed about all of them. The best they can do is hire people who do know what they're talking about and themselves be intelligent enough to separate the data from the opinions to make informed decisions.

      Remember, the fact that everyone can't be fully informed is one of the reasons that pure capitalism doesn't actually work in the real world.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 16 Jun 2018 @ 2:11am

        Informed elected officials.

        No, I think we expect in the current clime for our elected officials to not bother knowing what they're signing. And yes, that does have the added benefit of allowing them to pass 1000+ page bills...that we all later regret.

        I think the culture on capital hill should be such that no representative would sign a bill they didn't fully understand and vet through a team of experts to assure it cannot be abused. And if that means we can only pass bills five pages at a time, so be it.

        To quote Alexander Hamilton, It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.

        At the point that we decided it was acceptable to pass laws that could neither be read or remembered or understood, the American system of government became obsolete, and it is no wonder the rights of the public are so commonly ignored.

        The US Supreme Court decided police should not need to know the laws they enforce, but citizens are responsible for knowing what laws they break. That is absolutely a symptom of government failure. We are once again peons who live at the behest and mercy of the aristocracy.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 15 Jun 2018 @ 8:40am

    (15 Republicans voted for it vs. 211 against, and only 6 Democrats voted against it, while 180 voted for it).

    Profound, all-encompassing ignorance is this administration's stock-in-trade. They don't want to threaten the model that's worked for them so far.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zephir_AWT, 17 Jun 2018 @ 2:30am

    Quantum computing is postmodern hype

    The fundamental point about quantum computers is that they can represent superpositions of many binary states and perform operation on those superpositions states at once. The often missed consequence of this, however, is that you cannot then access specific states in the result with single operation. While it's true, that quantum bit (qubit) is formed by superposition of multiple measurements and as such it contains potentially more information than the classical bit, the truth remains, for decomposition of this information back again you'll need multiple measurements again, which would wipe out the "advantage" of packed information. Every other outcome would violate the very basis of uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics

    For to understand the role of uncertainty principle for this limit we should realize, that the computational power of classical computers and their miniaturization is already limited by quantum principles, which introduce errors and fuziness into electronic phenomena at small scales. Therefore the computational power of classical computers is limited by the very same principle of quantum mechanics, like this one of quantum ones. The uncertainty principle represents the uncrossable barrier for computational power of both quantum, both classical computers and it was already proven by experiments.

    So we may also think about quantum computer like about extremely overclocked and miniaturized classical one, which is very sensitive to noise, so it must run at low temperature only being cooled with liquid helium. The problem with quantum computing is, it can be very fast, as it intrinsically runs at the speed of light. But it also tends to be very fuzzy and prone to environmental noise - so for to get the results with the same reliability, like from classical computers we should run the quantum algorithm in parallel or to repeat it multiple times and average the results - which would wipe out their advantage in speed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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