A new initiative launched from Tony Blair’s Institute for Global Change aims to bridge the technology agenda and the thinking of the political class. It’s remarkable that in the closing weeks of 2017 this doesn’t sound ridiculous, since digital tech has long been driving our lives in just about all their aspects. I mean, we are about to have voters born after the dotcom bust!
But the core issue identified in “Technology for the Many: A Public Policy Platform for a Better, Fairer Future” is spot-on: politicians have little feel for or interest in the impact of these new technologies. The core thinking is still taking place in Silicon Valley not Westminster or Washington. Full disclosure: Ten years ago I set up a DC think tank with precisely these objectives. But things are no better today.
Shady dictators the world over, meanwhile, are exploiting the new surveillance possibilities in their own nations, and disruptive capacities among their enemies.
Don’t be put off by the cliches and generalizations, the report is worth a read despite clunkers like “the future is arriving now, and together we can change it for the better.”
And there are some useful discussions of how policymakers should engage with the growth of the tech mega-corporations. For example, on how monopoly regulation rather than dismemberment seems to be preferred and how said corporations need to take on board the fact they have more than shareholder-value responsibilities. There’s also an interesting discussion of some of the problems that arise when governments start digitizing everything – with examples from witness-protection programmes to everlasting stigma attaching to social-welfare beneficiaries. There’s a case for keeping some info in actual ledgers!
The project does not lack ambition (or, presumably, resources):
“In the months ahead we will be developing an ambitious programme of work to produce the strategies that global leaders will need to navigate this new environment, backed by robust evidence and analysis, and situated in a broader vision of optimism about the future.”
We’ll be watching!