~e; public technology policies (OTA)

From brian carroll <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Sat, 29 May 2004 10:19:32 -0500

  One thing dawned on me recently which was
  a repeat of a previous feeling, yet this time with
  more evidence as to why the Office of Technology
  Assessment, part of the .US government review
  process (in a sense, checks and balances of the
  facts used by politicians to review issues) that was
  disbanded to great ill effect in that, many issues
  seem to have their own facts, driven by groups in
  which lobbying may be hard to differentiate from
  review of technologies and their cultural impact
  or even effectiveness. In the .US where 'technology
  and science' are almost state-religion, and a set of
  belief's in their infallibility (say, by default superiority
  in warfighting) -- that the detached review of science
  and technology in relation to state issues may be an
  area where the OTA should be reinstated to bring a
  non-politicized review of programs without agendas,
  to judge their ability to successfully meet the tasks at
  hand, that is, can they do what they are said to do,
  or does one need to trust technological benevolence
  and a political omniscience, that all things just work.

  By having ridded a review process for technological
  assessment of claims, for which it is supposed that
  politicians can then use these shared facts upon
  which to reason a case, instead it is the politicians
  who come up with the facts, and persuade based on
  issues other than science and technological review.
  At this level, it would be a matter of belief, even faith
  in technology to be without question 'good' in itself.
  To the contrary it has been shown that electronic
  and other types of voting are at issue, programs for
  the Osprey hybrid aircraft, genetic engineering, the
  development of missile defense without successful
  testing, the unfettered access to database records,
  the surveillance state being assembled without any
  government review into its ability to address what is
  said to be the need and the success rate for such an
  approach and investment, the further development
  of energy task force approaches to pre-9/11 energy
  planning (actually, 20th century agenda, in terms
  of global warming, energy efficiency, economics).
  Any number of these things could have been part
  of a review of the success of certain approaches or
  ideas yet by disbanding the OTA (which I think Newt
  Gingrich (GOP) was somehow involved in) made it
  no longer possible to have checks and balances of
  these proposals, and oversight of claims made.

  Thus, electronic voting issues are left to politicized
  groups who, for however far away from the actual
  political sphere, are critiqued in their views as being
  partisan in nature, when it may be a scientific and
  technological and cultural question under review.
  Even such things as nuclear security, war gaming
  models, wireless development versus the patterns
  of global trends, broadband and the economy (and
  pollution, say). The facts are always different given
  who is talking, unless an organization like the OTA
  could be reinstalled to bring an impartial review of
  these most critical issues, and accountability back
  into legislating advancement of technology and
  science as a silver-bullet solution to societal ills.
  This would include 'the digital divide' and other
  types of issues. Education, training, the media.

  The facts regarding the OTA are limited by the
  brief encounter with its role in .US government
  policy and yet if there is an overriding theme in
  today's mix of events it is that there is a faith in
  science and technology that, at a certain point,
  if uncritical, can backfire, as with 'digital politics'
  when things are only considered black and white.
  Otherwise, what exists is a shell game in which
  any facts can be adapted to suit an agenda, if an
  organization outside of this, serving the public, is
  disbanded as it was and has been, to great harm
  for all because it relies on faith and rhetoric to do
  what only reason and public review can deliver.

  That is one view at least. And, again, the facts
  are likely more complex in details, though in a
  general sense it is proposed a large part of the
  problem today relates to the disbanding of the
  Office of Technology Assessment in the .US as
  it regulated optimism and idealism with reality.

The OTA Legacy

  Brian Carroll

  the electromagnetic internetwork-list
  electromagnetism / infrastructure / civilization