I have had my fingers crossed for a while now. There seems to be a complete disconnect between policy, governance and the speed of change.
Tools and weapons
“Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age” needs a high abstraction level. Brad Smith was Microsoft’s general counsel, and he shares some of his experience in that role, but the book remains at a very high level for most of the time. A book about surveillance, privacy, diplomacy, (self) regulation, democracy, work, China and AI. Big topics and important.
From Gutenberg to Zuckerburg to data
The book starts with a historical overview. From speech to languages to the printing press (read “From Gutenburg to Zuckerberg”) to data. Today, every aspect of human life is fueled by data. When it comes to modern civilisation, data is more like the air we breathe than the oil we burn.
A concentration of power
Most of that data is concentrated within a limited number of companies. Read “The four“. Just as public officials concluded in the 1930s that banks had become too important to the economy to be left unregulated, tech companies have become too important to be left to a laissez-faire policy approach today.
The topics covered in the book
The book covers topics such as privacy as a fundamental right, Ireland (woohoo!), NSA, tech intensity (a term that describes the infusion of technology into the world around us), economic impact, law, Obama, principles, self-restraint, disinformation, open data and many other topics that need a government policy approach. I found myself skipping (got bored).
A more active regulatory approach will require that government officials develop an even greater understanding of technology trends. And that is where I become pessimistic. You should read “This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends” and “Exponential: How Accelerating Technology Is Leaving Us Behind and What to Do About It” and you realise that policymakers are woefully behind the curve. Governance is too slow. And not only in the area of technology but also in climate change, health, housing, energy, food, etc. (it is a depressingly long list).
Let’s hope that “Technosocialism” is right.