‘New Voices’ Necessary to Drive Fresh Thinking on Tech PolicyJustin Hendrix, Betsy Cooper / Sep 8, 2021
Look at any tech story in a major news outlet and you will see a trend: a predictable contingent of experts dominates the discussion. Usually white and male, these experts often have entrenched positions after commenting on tech and tech policy issues for years, if not decades. The state of the discourse on tech policy can be hard to square with the profound problems we face in reconciling today’s technology landscape with democracy, and with building a more just and equitable society. We need fresh thinking to move forward.
Our organizations seek to bring new voices into the dialogue on technology policy. The Aspen Tech Policy Hub trains technologists how to create and champion policy ideas, including by writing clearly about often complicated issues. And Tech Policy Press is a new nonprofit media and community venture that seeks to cultivate new voices on issues at the intersection of technology and democracy.
We share a commitment to diversifying the voices that rise to the fore in the tech policy space. We want a new generation to determine how we manage cybersecurity, how we manage the scourge of disinformation, or how we finally address meaningful privacy regulation.
So today, we are launching ‘New Voices’: a platform for Aspen Tech Policy Hub fellows to share original content with the Tech Policy Press audience. New Voices is a unique opportunity for technology experts -- while still yet policy novices -- to share their ideas on how our world needs to change.
There are so many issues that require creative solutions:
- Priority problems that seem to dominate today’s news revolve around social media, speech, and content moderation. Here technology will drive change and create new complexity—from computational methods to generate content to new platforms such as virtual and augmented reality. How can we create policy that will address tomorrow’s information and media environment, not just today’s?
- We are also due for a reckoning on issues of safety. From bullying and doxing of children online to the seemingly unstoppable growth of ransomware, the internet feels like an increasingly unsafe place to spend time. We need creative thinkers to dedicate more time to these problems.
- The new infrastructure bill points to how crucial tech issues are to the country, from broadband access to self-driving cars to climate and clean tech. But it also shows where there are fault lines, such as the controversy over a pilot program to track mileage in order to raise tax revenue— prompting privacy concerns from some.
- And look no further than the COVID-19 pandemic to see that we still have not figured out how to utilize technology appropriately to solve imminent crises. Think of the privacy and utility shortcomings of contact tracing apps and vaccine passports, not to mention the massive debacle of the patchwork federal and state disease surveillance and data reporting systems that left the nation flying blind.
None of this even begins to scratch the surface of tomorrow’s challenges and technological developments, which will add more complexity—from artificial intelligence and biotech to autonomous weapons and more. Squaring the challenge of coming up with good policy ideas to govern increasingly complicated technologies and problems is further complicated by our fractious politics, which means getting things accomplished is exceedingly difficult.
We believe that’s all the more reason to double our efforts to synthesize and push forward the best ideas, and to displace some of the entrenched experts. The only way to build a robust and resilient policy ecosystem that advances democracy, builds a more just and equitable society, and helps confront our most pressing challenges is to introduce new people into the dialogue. That’s what we hope New Voices will do.