Welcome to our usual Friday column: The future in five questions. Today we have Sept. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and its Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security. Read on to hear his thoughts on the dangers of uncontrolled digital surveillance, clean energy innovation, and the dangers of social media.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
What’s one underrated big idea?
geothermal energy. America’s clean energy future requires us to use the energy that is the heat under our feet, just as it requires us to use the energy of the sun, wind, and flowing water. We have so many opportunities to generate clean and abundant energy here at home.
What technology do you think is overhyped?
Internet-connected doorbell cameras are constantly recording audio and video footage of our neighborhoods, collecting vast amounts of data and recording what people say and do. We should not pit privacy against security.
What book has most influenced your vision of the future?
“The Mystery of the Flickering Torch”. The Hardy brothers find a radioactive engine in an airplane junkyard, and the atomic mystery is revealed. I remember reading this story as a child and thinking to myself: a person should not have the god-like power of an atom.
What can government do about technologies that they are not?
Congress should take more seriously the potential harm social media is doing to our nation’s children. The least we could do is fund research into these harms and make sure parents, teachers, and clinicians understand how platforms and their “black box” algorithms can impact youth mental health.
What surprised you the most this year?
Well, to be honest, I think a lot about how our future is similar to our past. Access to abortion was first recognized as a fundamental and constitutional right almost half a century ago. The far-right majority in the Supreme Court took it in stride. Judge Thomas has gone so far as to propose to his majority that they overturn rulings that uphold the constitutional right to marry those you love, use contraceptives, and more. It’s ridiculous, and it takes us decades back.
There is a clear consensus on how the emerging politics around crypto works.: Aggressive, regulation-friendly Democrats like the Senator. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) takes on the free-spirited Republican Party with guns and bitcoin.
It is not so easy. Two main pieces of legislation, one of which is proposed only this week from Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and John Boozeman (D-Arkansas), who will give the CFTC more power to regulate cryptocurrencies, as well as a broader bill introduced. increased clarity of regulation around the industry from Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) were fully bipartisan earlier this year.
This week’s bill coincided with a particularly notable scandal that POLITICO’s Sam Sutton reported yesterday for Pro subscribers, about the growing anger of Republicans in Congress at crypto-skeptic SEC Chairman Gary Gensler. Sen. Pat Toomey (Republican, Pennsylvania) was particularly offended by the lack of clarity surrounding which cryptocurrencies are or should be classified as securities, telling Sam that Gensler is “acting, but doing it selectively.” Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minnesota) went even further, accusing the chairman of “cracking down on well-intentioned companies” and said that if the Republicans take control of Congress in November, he hopes to “begin to scrutinize it if it sticks around because I think he’s broken.”
Ouch. The hill is full of crypto-democrat sympathizers, but high-profile spats like this can make even a brand new tech policy issue seem like just another red-and-blue brawl.
Video games as a medium are more than half a century old. at the very least, and an extremely lucrative global industry to boot.
So it only makes sense that the government would include them in America’s global media footprint, including the official game development team within the State Department’s Technology Engagement Group, which is releasing a browser game called “Cat Park” designed to inoculate users . against online disinformation.
Patricia Watts, director of the Technology Engagement Group, told me how the principles of the game are based on “grafting theory” – the idea that by teaching people common methods of disinformation, they will be better prepared to detect and reject it in the wild. . .
Paul Fisher, the team’s senior technical advisor, explained the game’s premise: The player takes on the role of “a disinformation agent recruited into a shady social media pressure campaign” designed to stoke opposition to a public cat park. (How evil, right?)
“There is a market for misinformation on both the supply side and the demand side,” Fisher said, saying his team is “thinking[s] or games as a solution to the problem of demand.” The team’s previous game, similarly oriented “Harmony Square”, according to the State Department, has been played more than 150,000 times and bears the stamp of effectiveness from Harvard researchers. (“Cat Park” does not yet have a release date.)
Fisher described how the team is also eyeing the next frontier of gaming: “Virtual reality will be another place for disinformation, so it’s up to industry leaders to figure out what content moderation looks like in the metaverse,” he said. .
Stay in touch with the entire team: Ben Schrekinger ([email protected]); Derek Robertson[email protected]); Konstantin Kakaes (ur.[email protected]); and Heidi Vogt ([email protected]). Follow us on Twitter @DigitalFuture.