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Techies Must Educate Governments

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the so-get-to-it-folks dept.

223

Rub3X writes "Those in the know about technology must spend more time reaching out to governments and helping them understand the Internet's role in society, Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said Tuesday. 'The average person in government is not of the age of people who are using all this stuff,' Schmidt said at a public symposium here hosted by the National Academies' Computer Science and Telecommunications Board. 'There is a generational gap, and it's very, very real.'"

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223 comments

Oh, no, that's not the problem. (5, Interesting)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485449)

Techies Must Educate Governments

Techies spend thousands of hours educating government in the US. They do it in hearings, they do it as advisors, they do it as assistants. Even PACs try to teach these people how various elements of technology work, albeit often for the wrong reasons. Lack of teaching is not the problem. Nor is the problem lack of information these representatives can access on their own, so they can learn on their own, as any of American's best and brightest citizens — such as many of those here on slashdot — manage each and every day.

Nor is the problem the age of the representative. I'm closing on 60, and I know a great deal about technology. My mother knew more than any representative I am aware of when she died recently, and she was almost 90. I inherited her dual CPU Dell running Red Hat SMP when she died. She wrote some pretty tricky perl scripts; I wish I could have converted her to Python, but alas. I didn't say she was perfect.

In the US, the problem is that the parties keep putting incompetent (and worse) people up for election. Consequently the American people, having no effective way of dealing with the two-party monopoly upon government seats of power, keeps voting these incompetents into congress and the senate.

So the Internet is a series of tubes, you can't say words on television that are common in every schoolyard, and the human body is a matter for shame. And those are the small problems. Worse, we've invaded a country under false pretenses, with no valid reason beyond those already exposed as nonsense, the bill of rights has been forsaken, and the congress and the senate have seen fit to make the entire judicial process one that the executive can control from start to finish.

The tree of liberty is dead. It has been shat upon by millions and millions of sheep, trampled by elephants and donkeys, and finally the pulp was sold by that lady with the blindfold and one tit hanging out for King George to write out "signing statements" upon.

I'd tell you to vote libertarian, but most of you are just going to put another democrat or republican into office anyway. Literally, a crying shame. We have fallen so far.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (2, Interesting)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485619)

In the US, the problem is that the parties keep putting incompetent (and worse) people up for election. Consequently the American people, having no effective way of dealing with the two-party monopoly upon government seats of power, keeps voting these incompetents into congress and the senate.
So form your own party, see how well you can do it. Remember that democracy is the worst posible political system, except for all the others.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (4, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485693)

So form your own party, see how well you can do it.

My party is already formed. It is the libertarian party. The American people have determined that they are not interested in liberty, nor even particularly in the constitution; they want a mommy government that controls everything they do without thoughtful guiding principle, underlying legitimate constitutional authority, or any semblance of honor. And that is exactly what they have received. Unfortunately, that means I have received it as well. Hence my extreme dismay.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (2, Insightful)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485845)

But, if you want to live in a democracy you have to accept that your minority viewpoint will not win enough votes at the polls to count. I've heard democracy described as the opression of the minority by the majority, and, yes, it does have major failings. However it is better than all the other options. Live with it or move on.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (3, Insightful)

Lord Pillage (815466) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486115)

"Live with it or move on."

I thought America was the place where people believed "live free or die", not "live under oppression or move on". America today sure isn't what it used to be.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (5, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486117)

Problem is, in my HS Government/Civics class, I was taught democracy was "Majority Rule, Minority Rights." I used to be so idealistic and naive...

Anyway, it falls apart where we don't live in a democracy. We live in a democratic republic. Very important distinction. The people do not make the laws in the US (outside of the rare ballot initiative), the people elect representatives to make the laws.

Maybe what we need is to get people to stop throwing around the word "democracy" like a placebo.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (2, Interesting)

inviolet (797804) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486583)

Anyway, it falls apart where we don't live in a democracy. We live in a democratic republic. Very important distinction. The people do not make the laws in the US (outside of the rare ballot initiative), the people elect representatives to make the laws.

How is that a bad thing? At least the elected representatives have at least a basic understanding of lawmaking and its repurcussions. As well, they act as a buffer between the lawbook and this week's media-fed clamor to "think of the children!".

Even more important, representatives serve as a point of accountability. Their name and reputation are associated with their votes and actions, and this must have at least a slight restraining effect. No such restraint would operate in a pure democracy, where every person can anonymously support any fool proposition.

This is all beside the point though. The real value of democracy is that it diffuses political power, making it difficult for any person or small group to acquire very much for very long if they misuse it. The mechanism of election (i.e. republic versus democracy or whatever) isn't important.

Its not a bad thing under the right conditions (1)

TheAxeMaster (762000) | more than 6 years ago | (#16487249)

You mention the "mechanism of election" yet you mention two completely different systems. Democracies don't elect representatives to make the laws, people make them. And yes, it is defensless against the "mob mentality." But a deomcratic republic isn't the same as a democracy.
 
The saddest parts about the system though, is that republics (democratic or not) are just as defensless against it, just in a different way. Now, instead of the "think of the children!" actions that might be taken in a real democracy, we have the "voting for someone other than republicans or democrats is just a waste of a vote" blind sheeple statements. They're both born of the mob mentality and they can be equally destructive to liberties.
 
As you can see, its not the elected officials that are the problem, its the people that are the problem. Will that change? As long as they have their bread and circuses, probably not.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (1)

Maximilio (969075) | more than 6 years ago | (#16487049)

My party is already formed. It is the libertarian party. The American people have determined that they are not interested in liberty, nor even particularly in the constitution; they want a mommy government that controls everything they do without thoughtful guiding principle, underlying legitimate constitutional authority, or any semblance of honor
Unfortunately, most libertarians appear to have followed the Republican Party's lead over the last six years and they've gotten exactly what they deserved: a daddy government that tramples all over their rights and liberties under the guise of protecting them from terrists. I can't say I'm feeling particularly warm towards the libertarian movement for that.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (1)

TheGreek (2403) | more than 6 years ago | (#16487241)

The American people have determined that they are not interested in liberty, nor even particularly in the constitution; they want a mommy government that controls everything they do without thoughtful guiding principle, underlying legitimate constitutional authority, or any semblance of honor. And that is exactly what they have received. Unfortunately, that means I have received it as well.
What's your solution?

Plato's philosopher-kings?

Libertarians do an awful good job explicating the problem but an incredibly piss-poor job coming up with any viable solutions that don't involve stripping away anybody else's right to have a say in government.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485745)

People have already done that, but the US uses a plurality system where only two parties can really compete. So the people just say "oh, well, unless you vote for one of the top two parties you are throwing away your vote." This is, of course, a feedback loop which means that the only viable parties are the ones that are perceived as viable parties. I suppose this means, in the end, it is the people's fault once again.

Throwing away your vote. (3, Interesting)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486141)

Given the notorious unreliablity of our voting process (broken voting machines, lost ballots boxes, etc) coupled with complete unaccountability (no proof of how my vote was registered, no recipt) why would I think my vote was ever counted in the first place? We refused UN oversight of our elections and you still expect me to believe in the voting process as a way to fix our broken system?
From: http://www.commondreams.org/news2004/0706-09.htm [commondreams.org] "We the undersigned Members of Congress hereby request the Electoral Assistance Division of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs to send election observers to monitor the presidential election in the United States scheduled for November 2, 2004. We are deeply concerned that the right of U.S. citizens to vote in free and fair elections is again in jeopardy"
Sorry, We haven't been a Democracy for quite some time.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485797)

Why should he form his own party? He's already said he favors the Libertarian party, he can just join them.

The problem is that in the USA, anyone who is not a Democrat or a Rebulican is considered a joke candidate, regardless of the issues, or their qualifications, or anything else. It doesn't matter if he forms his own or joins another: If he's not a member of the 'approved' parties, he won't get more than a handful of votes.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (4, Insightful)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486047)

So form your own party, see how well you can do it.

I don't think you understand the issue. When he said it is a two-party system, he meant laws have been passed to insure only members of those two parties are likely to be elected. Two registered presidential candidates with thousands of backers were forcibly ejected from the last presidential debates and not allowed to participate. The last time I voted it said right at the top of the ballot that if I voted for candidates from multiple parties, my ballot would be invalid and discarded. That means I could vote for the the better of two candidates for congress (democrat), or I could vote for the libertarian candidate for mayor, but not both.

The laws have been written to prevent the people from electing anyone not republican or democrat and they have been written by the incumbent social groups to maintain their dominance. We will never have electoral reform because no one in favor of it can get elected.

Remember that democracy is the worst posible political system, except for all the others.

Ahh, but we don't quite have a democracy anymore, since the laws are written to make sure the will of the people is not enacted, but rather the will of those who are supposedly representative of the people.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (1)

TheGreek (2403) | more than 6 years ago | (#16487301)

The last time I voted it said right at the top of the ballot that if I voted for candidates from multiple parties, my ballot would be invalid and discarded. That means I could vote for the the better of two candidates for congress (democrat), or I could vote for the libertarian candidate for mayor, but not both.
Bullshit.

Prove it.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 6 years ago | (#16487421)

Yeah, so really it's worse than a two-party system, because the "two parties" are actually in collusion to keep the current power-structure. The "two" parties are actually one system, superficially divided in two in order to keep the American people fighting amongst themselves. If they can keep one each half of the country at the other half's throat relatively trivial issues like abortion and gay marriage, no one will notice that they're selling our country out for bribes from various special-interest groups.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (2, Insightful)

Salvance (1014001) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485721)

So what you're basically saying is: let's just give up on trying to make our existing politicians understand us and the things that are important to us, and stop trying to voice our opinion. I (possibly naively) believe that if there are enough people demanding technically smarter politicians then the politicians will be forced to take us seriously, and to make smarter decisions in the process. The 'education process' is critical for ensuring that America's technical know-how and innovation remain relevant and accessible going forward.

'Net neutrality' is a great example. It looks like politicians may let the anti-net neutrality bill die a slow death because of a combination of popular upswelling of resistance and convincing from the type of technical superstars Eric Schmidt is referring to. Without this resistance, telecom companies would already hold a greater power over your access to the web and your freedom to information.

While it is commendable that both you and your mother are/were so technically competent, I don't think the answer is to teach all of our Senators Perl scripting. The key is to educate politicians on the big issues, and let the experts worry about the details.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486237)

So what you're basically saying is: let's just give up on trying to make our existing politicians understand us and the things that are important to us, and stop trying to voice our opinion.

No. I didn't say, or imply, anything of the kind.

I simply observed that we are trying to educate these people with regard to technology, contrary to the claim that we need to do so, and the not too subtle implication that we aren't even trying. This does not appear to me to be the root of the problem. My feeling is that the root of the problem is the rampant mediocrity of the individuals the two party system produces for election, and subsequently elects. These people are hard at work destroying what I, at least, consider to be the most important things the government was supposed to be based upon; the constitution and bill of rights (first ten amendments, plus amendment 14, IMHO), and a powerful sense that personal liberty was one of, perhaps the, most important principles a government could be constituted to guard.

The courts are out of control, the government has abandoned the constitution wholesale, and the executive is having a veritable party based on the resulting situation. I don't think this republic can fix itself; it appears to me that we are in a very similar position to that in which Rome found itself in its last decade or two. Corrupt, lost in terms of guiding principles, weighed down by a complacent, ignorant population that just wants to be left alone to pursue their daily tasks without regard for the bigger picture, and all hope lost due to a ruling elite that has the pursuit of ruling as its priority instead of the good of the republic.

Demographics (2, Insightful)

Tisha_AH (600987) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485741)

That's sort of funny, that the average age of internet users is poorly represented in government. If you did an 80/20 rule on the internet most of the active users would be in their teens to their mid 30's. Most people in government are in their 30's to 50's. In fact, for many elected offices there is a minimum age requirement.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (4, Informative)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485743)

Parent rules. I've said it before: the most disturbing thing about Ted "Series of Tubes to Nowhere" Stevens is not that he spouted a bunch of dumb nonsense, but that he spouted it after having sat through hours of hearings during which Vincent Cerf, Larry Lessig, and others explained the tech in pretty good detail.

Video here: http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cf m?id=1705 [senate.gov]

We do not need to educate our reps. They know pretty-much exactly what they're doing. We need to toss them out and get new ones.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (2, Insightful)

triskaidekaphile (252815) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486869)

You seem to be under the impression that an elected representative could be swayed by knowledgeable authorities more than well-funded like-minded lobbyists and cronies.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (3, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485771)

Except that liberatrians are against net neutrality, see nothing wrong with Microsoft's conduct, and generally seem to think that if left alone, corporations will benefit everybody else by profiting off of them. What we really need to do is educate the general public more -- for instance, explaining to people what DRM actually is, rather than just waiting for them to come crying when they discover that they cannot play iTunes music on their MP3 player. Again and again, people give me a funny look when I say that software and medicine should not be patentable, or that the RIAA has not been hurt by file sharing (which can be backed up by real statistics). If the general public was actually educated in these matters, politicians would actually listen.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486147)

``If the general public was actually educated in these matters, politicians would actually listen.''

"In a democracy, people get the government they deserve."

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (1)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 6 years ago | (#16487389)

> "In a democracy, people get the government they deserve."

"...and they get it good and hard."

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16485793)

Techies spend thousands of hours educating government in the US.

Only to find that someone spending thousands of Dollars has the congresspersons' ear.

Nerdy 29-year-old seeks non-clueless family (3, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485801)

Nor is the problem the age of the representative. I'm closing on 60, and I know a great deal about technology. My mother knew more than any representative I am aware of when she died recently, and she was almost 90.
O_O
I inherited her dual CPU Dell running Red Hat SMP when she died. She wrote some pretty tricky perl scripts; I wish I could have converted her to Python, but alas. I didn't say she was perfect.
.....will you adopt me, sir?

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (2, Insightful)

purpledinoz (573045) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485807)

The problem is the average American doesn't care about what's going on in government, until it directly affects them. People don't attempt to understand the issues and how the party proposes to solve them. The government can only improve if the majority demands that they improve.

Unfortunately, both the democrats and republicans tend to shift their focus from the real issues (massive public deficit and the economy, the environment), to relatively trivial issues like violence in video games.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (2, Insightful)

hcob$ (766699) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486579)

People don't attempt to understand the issues and how the party proposes to solve them. This is doubly difficult since trying to get the party's/incumbent's ACTUAL position and ACTUAL plan are damn near impossible since they won't specify it and reporters try not to ask it.

This also leads to another reason no on KNOWS what goes on in government is becuase we don't have a truly effective reporting apparatus. I'm sure you can watch C-Span if you'd like, but all you ever see there is more people just going on and on about how someone else did it wrong; how they are better; and never a plan on what they are going to do. Reporters, especially the political ones, need to get some back bone and ditch their bias. By that I mean:

Backbone: When a politician dodges your question... hound him for the answer...

Ditch the Bias: This goes for both left and right. Reports now editorialize more than they report on what is going on. Basically, when a reporter disagrees with the politician, they say how they dodged questions, and we couldn't pin him down to an aswer. When a reporter agrees with the politician, they laud him as a visionary, a man of the people, someone you can trust, etc. etc. etc.... And you still wind up with no real answer to the Question that should be asked of all politicians:

"What, in detail, is your plan to solve/fix/create X?"

If the politician won't answer that question in a direct and truthful, (And yes, "I don't know, I need to think about that." or "I'm not sure, I'll need to conferr with some experts before forming a plan" are answers) they don't deserver to be in that seat.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (1)

tbone1 (309237) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485871)

In the US, the problem is that the parties keep putting incompetent (and worse) people up for election.

Hm. I'd say instead that the competent and honest don't need to go into politics to make a decent living.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (1)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485961)

I recently offered to help a federal Canadian party as their copyright/technology critic. I've yet to hear back by email a couple weeks later if they even got my application.

I've also offered to help my Yorkton-Melville Conservative MP understand the dangers of Bill C-60 [Canada's DMCA] tabled by the competeing Liberal party, last year. He never replied even when I asked for a response.

Politicians had better start listening to techies who know how laws are going to screw the masses.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (3, Insightful)

yuna49 (905461) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485965)

As someone pushing 60 myself, I generally agree with your remarks, but I don't think it's all about the politicians. (If anything, we need older people to work in these areas because they're likely to have more influence with the political elites.)

From where I sit, most "techies," especially the younger generation, have aligned themselves of late with political forces that are opposed to policies advocated by extremely powerful and wealthy organizations. Educating government officials about the virtues of open source, the application of fair-use principles to digital copyright issues, the value of open file formats, and the like, won't matter if their supporters can't wield any political muscle. As someone whose career has spanned academia, consulting and nonprofits, I'd love to spend the next decade working on moving these issues up the political agenda. That won't happen without organization, and while volunteerism can play a role here, money does matter.

If Schmidt thinks this is so important, maybe he should set up a foundation.

Excellent Piece (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486067)

Thanks for writing such an excellent piece. Great points about your mother and the problems of the US political system, the small and large absurdities it has caused, and the current state of liberty. I can't comment on the voting advice, because I don't know the libertarian party or what they stand for, but for the rest, you just said everything I would have wanted to, and did it better than I ever could. Hats off.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16486325)

I'd tell you to vote libertarian, but most of you are just going to put another democrat or republican into office anyway. Literally, a crying shame. We have fallen so far.

I'd rather have predictable crooks in office than unwitting fools. Crooks at least have some incentive to keep things running smoothly.

Re:Oh, no, that's not the problem. (2, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#16487323)

My mother knew more than any representative I am aware of when she died recently, and she was almost 90.

Surely you're not arguing that, based on your single sample, all 90 year olds are writing Perl scripts and are totally up-to-date on technology. I mean, come on.

So the Internet is a series of tubes, you can't say words on television that are common in every schoolyard, and the human body is a matter for shame. And those are the small problems. Worse, we've invaded a country under false pretenses, with no valid reason beyond those already exposed as nonsense, the bill of rights has been forsaken, and the congress and the senate have seen fit to make the entire judicial process one that the executive can control from start to finish.

Most of those aren't problems. One senator was wrong. You can't say words on PUBLIC television where public standards apply. The human body is a matter for PRIVACY, where public standards apply. We invaded a country based on a poor (but totally believable) information. Yes, the bill of rights has been forsaken to a great extent, and the Judicial process is corrupt to an extent. You're right about those, but apparently for the wrong reasons.

In the US, the problem is that the parties keep putting incompetent (and worse) people up for election. Consequently the American people, having no effective way of dealing with the two-party monopoly upon government seats of power, keeps voting these incompetents into congress and the senate.

Again, you're right but for the wrong reasons. We keep putting incomptents into congress because the alternate parties are such extreme idiots that we have no alternative. Say what you like about the Democrats and Republicans, but at least they're not worse than the alternative parties.

I'd tell you to vote libertarian, but most of you are just going to put another democrat or republican into office anyway. Literally, a crying shame.

There's an extremely high probability that you know nothing about the Libertarian party, except that they're for "less government and more rights.". I'm sympathetic with certain Libertarian views, but they're ideas are extreme and simplistic. They will never achieve power -- and *shouldn't*. Sorry, but I don't support a party that wants to sell off all national parks and all local parks. I don't support private ownership of nuclear bombs. I don't support totally private fire departments. Those are just STUPID ideas, but the Libertarians have a crazy obsession with everything being private.

What we need is a combination party that takes the best elements of both parties (privacy, non-religiousness, small government, low taxes, low spending, pro-commerce, welfare at the local level, not federal level, etc). Like the Libertarians, except with common sense.

If they are anything like my parents... (1)

PreacherTom (1000306) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485453)

If the politicians are anything like my parents, then they are afraid to use the fax machine. Still, you know younger candidates (like Obama) have an edge on this issue...but does it make a difference?

Leagal system too... (1)

Zarniwoop_Editor (791568) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485467)

This is also very true for the leagal system. We need to educate the Judges and the Politicians I think.

Re:Leagal system too... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16487093)

Well it's a two-way road, judges and politicians need to help educate techies. It's astounding the level of ignorance I've seen on Slashdot regarding legal issues especially.

yeah right (1)

pianowow (960330) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485495)

Like I want to spend any free time explaining how some technology works to yet another stupid user. Who would go for this?

Educate the government by... (3, Insightful)

creimer (824291) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485497)

Voting! Or, as V put it, "People should not be afraid of the government. The government should be afraid of the people."

Voting?!?!?! (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485747)

Seriously, When was the last time you saw a Candidate that you were actually excited to have as a leader?

Re:Voting?!?!?! (2, Interesting)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486035)

Jesse Ventura and Ross Perot? In both cases they were so far out of the norm that it would have been fun to see what they could do.

Unfortunately, only one got in and I couldn't vote or benefit from his election.

Re:Voting?!?!?! (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 6 years ago | (#16487439)

Seriously, When was the last time you saw a Candidate that you were actually excited to have as a leader?
I've seen plenty of candidates that I'd be excited to have as a leader. Did they win? No.

It's a series of tubes! (1)

bl00d6789 (714958) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485513)

Obviously, this does not apply to Senator Ted Stevens. He clearly has a grasp on modern technology.

The internet is not a big truck!

Re:It's a series of tubes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16485573)

With all the talk about "fat pipes" and "bus speed," it's an easy enough mistake to make.

For a moron.

Obligatory "Tubes" joke omitted (1)

MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485569)

Look. It's not like we're not trying. The thing is, politicians are obviously too dense to educate themselves about the core functions of their jobs today - economics, international relations, comparative religions, and ethics. I personally couldn't care less about whether a politician can even push the little button to the right of the green light, as long as he knows what he's doing when it comes to making an economic decision.

The problem is that a large percentage of them don't. I want smarter politicians, but anyone with half a brain knows it's just a mudfest, and doesn't really want to be dragged into it. The problem is more deep seated and insidious than just a lack of tech knowledge; if other industries and communities were more aware of their situations they would be (and often are) just as pissed about the lack of competence on the side of their elected officials.

The only exception, of course, is probably the stock market. I'm pretty sure your average politician could tell you quite a bit about how a 401(k) works, even if they can't tell you the difference between Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

Re:Obligatory "Tubes" joke omitted (4, Insightful)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485685)

They are not dense. They are very intelegent, and work hard at doing their jobs.

Which is getting elected. That is what they are paid for, that is what counts.

The important part of a politician's job is gathering votes. Not ruling a country. We are supposed to only give votes to those who we think will do a good job of ruling, but the measured quantity in a politician's life is the number of votes they get.

It is not that they are not smart. It is that they have learned that applying smarts to ruling a country does not get them as many votes as applying smarts to getting votes does. I'm not sure how to change that, but that is the root problem.

Re:Obligatory "Tubes" joke omitted (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485751)

A wise sage once quipped, and I'm sure I'll mangle the quote horribly, "Anyone capable of getting themselves elected president should on no account be allowed to do the job."

I'd expand that to 'elected to public office' myself...

Was Educating, but the PHB fired me! (4, Informative)

Spinlock_1977 (777598) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485665)

Those who have worked in government and industry for 20+ years like me will probably agree that the influx of greedy PHB's into the upper ranks of IT/Engineering has laid waste to the talent that was once there.

Back in the day, senior management was listening to deep techies who knew their stuff - they relied on our training and experience to lay down systems that did the job well.

Times are different now. Most management I've seen is populated by greedy, power-hungy know-nothings who think outsourcing a core competency is a good idea. Mortagaging the future of the company they work for is, in fact, *their* core competency. And in the process, they rid the company of those who hold the institutional knowledge and have the technical depth to create great products/services for the company.

These management types will not (as opposed to "can not") be educated - it interferes with their world-domination plan. Nothing short of a sustained "flight to integrity" will turn this tide.

Re:Was Educating, but the PHB fired me! (1)

planetmn (724378) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485925)

I agree with you 100%. In fact, it's my feeling that Engineers just aren't respected anymore. Politicians don't respect engineers, management doesn't respect engineers, consumers don't respect engineers. No wonder nobody wants to go into engineering anymore.

-dave

Re:Was Educating, but the PHB fired me! (2, Informative)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486101)

``Back in the day, senior management was listening to deep techies who knew their stuff''

Back in what day?

That, and more (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485683)

``Techies Must Educate Governments''

While "must" is a bit strong, I agree it's a good idea. And so is voting for politicians who have a clue about the things you care about. In the upcoming elections (in the Netherlands - yes, that's what the stories about the voting machines were about), I'm probably going to be voting for some tech-savvy politician, rather than just for whatever party seems the best choice.

I've not decided which politician is getting my vote yet, but I know that at least Kees Vendrik (Dutch) [keesvendrik.nl] (of GroenLinks) has done good things when it comes to computer-related issues, including filing the Motie Vendrik [wikisource.org], which ``requests that the government ensure that by, 2006, all software used by the public sector supports open standards'' and ``requests the government to actively promote the use and development of open source software by the public sector''.

Tech Natives Vs. Tech Immigrants (1)

TheGrit (1015125) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485923)

The baby boomers are in their last season of power. This generation matured without the wired world that has become an essential part of our entire lives. Consequently, they are slower to adopt technologies that come natural to gen-x tech natives. As the older generation passes the torch; politicians, corporate leaders, etc. will instinctively become more tech savvy.

Good Luck! (2, Insightful)

Noryungi (70322) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485709)

I don't know about the USA, but in my (European) country, trying to approach the "government" goes like this:

  • Are you someone famous? If not, government officials don't want to hear from you. [and by famous, I mean: "tabloid famous", the kind of pretty face politicians want to be seen with]
  • Are you rich? If you are rich, have you given money to such-and-such politician campaign? If not, government officials don't want to hear from you.
  • Are you supported by thousands of angry voters? If not, government officials don't want to hear from you.
  • Are you supported by a massive media campaign? Or: is your media communication successful? If not, government officials don't want to hear from you.


In other words, unless you can mobilize media, public opinion or vast sums of money, government officials don't want to hear from you. And most geeks are not very good at presenting their ideas to the public, or being media darlings. Which explains why important legal battles have been lost [eucd.info] in the recent past... Most people/voters simply did not care enough to mobilize and most politicians are ready to sell their souls to The Almighty Buck (or Euro).

And, frankly, these are the only things politicians care about these days: money, media and votes. Rather than approaching governements that don't give a hoot about you , I believe it is much more important to crack these three things. And all of them go hand-in-hand: get enough money, and you can get media exposure, and you'll mobilize normally apathetic voters (for instance). It's a sad state of affairs, but it's true: politicians are not here to serve their fellow citizens, they are in this line of work to further their own private ambitions . And as long as we have a professional political class, this can only get worse. But I digress.

Of course, I am not Eric Schmidt, who, as the CEO of Google is able to mobilize enormous amount of money and media attention. YMMV.

Talk to the Government? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16485711)

When the right has suspended Habeas Corpus? Yeah, right.

The best way to educate governments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16485729)

Vote out the idiots!

Age isn't really the problem (1)

richg74 (650636) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485769)

The average person in government is not of the age of people who are using all this stuff ...

While I mostly agree with Mr. Schmidt's basic point, the fundamental problem is, I think, quite a bit more complicated than just the age of the participants. I'm 54, and I've been working with computers since 1970, and I think I'd qualify as fairly sophisticated about technology (heaven knows my friends and family members with computer problems seem to think so).

Look at the backgrounds of most of our elected representatives: they are predominantly people from the law, graduates of local politics, and a scattering of other fields; people trained in science or engineering are not exactly thick upon the ground. They are often very good at constructing arguments, but that's not the same thing as discovering what's true. There's also, historically, been a strong anti-intellectual undercurrent in US culture.

Re:Age isn't really the problem (1)

hughbar (579555) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486107)

I'm 55 and spend some time teaching people from 50 and upwards to use computers. I agree wholeheartedly with this comment. The problem with law and politics is that it often depends on clever/slick arguments (sophistry, although that isn't the original meaning of sophistry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophism [wikipedia.org] )whereas science and technology are (somewhat) 'truth' based.

It's hard for us (technologists/scientists) to tell someone something works when it doesn't but a politician can make some kind of capital or evasion out of its malfunction (Our NHS computer system is a great example http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3613220.stm [bbc.co.uk]).

I feel that we need more technical people within mainstream politics. The trouble is that most of them are repelled by it.

Re:Age isn't really the problem (2, Interesting)

Spinlock_1977 (777598) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486641)

There's also, historically, been a strong anti-intellectual undercurrent in US culture.

Is that why every time I work for a large North American company, each new wave of management that gets installed holds big "rah rah" sessions and rewards those who kiss ass and follow dumb orders the best?

Management desperately needs to figure out that it's not a football game, where team-play and short-term gains trump all. Instead, let's think chess, where wise, well-reasoned moves, made at the appropriate time, produce superior results over the longer term. An intelligent, longer-term strategy, executed consistenty quarter after quarter, accumulates compound results over time like the proverbial downhill-rolling snowball.

During Microsoft's rise, they bought up every brianiac willing to sell his soul. Google's rise shows similar properties - they're now the mecca for boffins of these arts. Brianiacs can win big, if you put enough of them in a room and relegate the football coaches to delivering soda and wiping up the twinkie stains.

While we're at it... (1)

Rachel Lucid (964267) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485791)

Can we get them to stop treating Video Games the way they did TV, Comic Books and D&D?

That might help...

Re:While we're at it... (1)

anti-human 1 (911677) | more than 6 years ago | (#16487039)

Sure, once game publishers hire enough lobbyists and start making campaign donations. Until then, we've got to create something else to fearmonger over (besides the trump card, 'terrorism').

Maybe it'll be kids on social networking sites, although I doubt that will happen with them being bought out by the media outlets.

Educating Politicians (1)

Phu5ion (838043) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485799)

Remember, our elected officials are only as smart as the people who elected them.

Re:Educating Politicians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16486555)

So, what you're saying is that that the average American is no smarter than Bush.

No wonder our nation's going to hell.

Re:Educating Politicians (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486861)

``our elected officials are only as smart as the people who elected them.''

That would be true if you had a real choice. As it stands, the system limits your choices: even if a good candidate is running, voting for that candidate is only a good idea if he stands a chance of winning. With limited choices, you can be as smart as you like, but that won't change your chances of putting a good candidate in office.

take away their power (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485809)

If you don't allow your government to have power over youe everyday life, then their "education" level is a non-factor.

You only need to educate your government if you want it to rule people on your behalf. People who want that are called "tyrants". They're bad.

Re:take away their power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16486521)

If you don't allow your government to have power over youe everyday life, then their "education" level is a non-factor.

Uh huh. So next time the government wants to go to war it can hold a bake sale. And everyone who supports the war has to get a tattoo on their forehead so that when people want revenge for having their families killed by the US military then they will know who to target.

Like it or not, we're all in this together. The government's decisions have a very real impact on everyone in the country.

You only need to educate your government if you want it to rule people on your behalf.

Unless you have complete anarchy that's kind of unavoidable. Either the country goes to war or it does but either way everyone gets carried along for the ride.

I agree that there are a lot of situations where the government neither needs to be involved nor should be involeved.

On the other hand, if the government had known something about science (or at least made use of it), it wouldn't have been claiming WMD as a justification for invading Iraq. It was claiming Iraq had a bunch of WMD left over from decades ago but scientifically the shelf life would have rendered them useless.

But that gets to my real point. It's not that the government doesn't know about science and technology. It's that they just don't care.

Re:take away their power (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486929)

``If you don't allow your government to have power over youe everyday life, then their "education" level is a non-factor.''

True, but will that make the situation any better? I think human advancement has been boosted enormously by getting organized into societies, and dividing tasks. I'm not convinced that would work without a government.

Re:take away their power (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#16487027)

They took away my ablity to take away their power. The Second Amendment was not about defending my house from a burgular but defending my freedoms from my government. That has been taken away in the name of "safety". Protest marches allowed the grievences of the people to be heard without the need for bloodshed, now they are denied permits and instructed to protest "over there out of the way". Ask yourself, if Dubya declared himself King what could you really do about it?

More than just a generational gap ... (2, Insightful)

Woldry (928749) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485837)

... there's a philosophical gap. In my experience, people who show a deep interest in techie things and people who show a deep interest in being politicians tend to have a fundamental difference in the way they approach the world.

For the politician: nothing exists, or has a particular quality, except as decided by popular belief; people are more real than things; opinions count for more than data; agreement matters more than knowledge; emotional perception is all-important; the many matter more than the one.

For the techie: things exist, and have immutable qualities; things are more real than people; data counts for more than opinions; knowledge matters more than agreement; emotional perception is irrelevant; the one matters more than the many.

These differences make meaningful "education" a very difficult task, because the techie's impulse is to say "Here is Tab A. Here is Slot B. See how they work?" The politician's reply is either "Not everyone agrees that that's how they work" or else "That's disgusting! Inserting tabs into slots. The very idea!"

So the techie tends to think that the politician's reactions are irrelevant, and gives up on further teaching; and the politician tends to think that the techie's facts are irrelevant, and gives up on further learning.

(As with all generalizations, of course, anyone -- myself included -- could point out glaring counter-examples, so maybe I should just be modded "Full of $#!+".)

Mod parent up (2, Interesting)

cdn-programmer (468978) | more than 6 years ago | (#16487083)

The parent post is overgeneralized of course... to paraphrase is to overgeneralize.

This is a very insightful post. I agree almost 100%... however there are people who are adept at both politics and technology. Someone with both talents may seem scary to either group.

The way I see it - humanity stretches out between two extreems. On the one hand we have emotion and on the other we have logic. There is a knot of people at each end. The population in the middle may be rather sparse. As the author of the parent post correctly points out, for people at either end of the spectrum it can be very difficult to try to understand the other camp.

I would suggest that the political (emotional) side is substantially more heavily weighted than the technical (logical) side of this teeter totter. If we go back through history what we find is a slow progression of technology and science. It was only a few hundred years ago that observers of nature were routinely condeemed. Indeed many were imprisoned. If we consider primative people, what we find typically is a well developed emotional complex. It seems the hallmark of civilization is the development of logic. This is the essence of law for instance... that issues should be decided on fact and logic. Yet in spite of this, we find emotion running the show far too often.

Simply put, the logical individual is still in the minority. As I see it, the world is run primarily by emotion. Even very logical people often misunderstand how much decision making is governed by emotion. Emotional people of course don't consider the question.

Terabytes for under $500 (1)

Vskye (9079) | more than 6 years ago | (#16485855)

Earlier in the afternoon, Microsoft Senior Vice President for Research Rick Rashid spoke of a future fueled by the rise of "human-scale storage." Translation: Since nearly anyone should be able to afford terabytes of disk space by 2016--even today, one can purchase that capacity for less than $500--new possibilities arise for documenting the world around you.
 
Wow, someone gets a deep discount on drive space! ;)

Our government does not need internet education (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16485903)

It needs education on constitutional republics, enumerated powers, and federalism. If they are taught these forgotten truths, our internet will be just fine.

Techies must BECOME the government..... (1)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486069)

No, we cannot educate the government. At least in the US, we can RUN to BECOME the government. That's the solution. However, with politics being a dirty dirty game, most techies won't drop to a politicians level.

+5 Funny! (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486199)

At least in the US, we can RUN to BECOME the government. ...most techies won't drop to a politicians level.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha! That's a good one. :-)

Oh, wait, you were serious.

(blank stare)

HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAA! :-D

(rolls eyes) (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486119)

"The average person in government is not of the age of people who are using all this stuff,"

Wow. Stereotype much?

The problem isn't that gummint folks don't know about these things, the problem is that they DON'T CARE.

It's all about power and control and PRETENDING to care.

It's like the old Jay Leno routine about soft cookies sold in bags.

CEO: Everyone has the soft cookies. We need one, too. Any ideas?

Underling: Well, boss, why don't we bake the cookies fresh every day and deliver them just in time to be soft and fresh.

CEO:Are you out of your mind?! Get out of here! Bob, call Dow Chemical. See if they have a softening agent we can use. Bill, call the Metamucil people and find out what they use.

So what I guess I'm saying is that while the Internet may be the best thing since soft, warm cookies, all the politicians care about is feeding us chemicals. I think. Or something.

Re:(rolls eyes) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16487107)

if they dont figure out a way to feed it to the sheeple then they will have to bury it as a hazardous waste

Cant be done. (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486169)

You cant educate people that think the erth is 6,000 years old. All you can do is yell at them.

Missing the real problem (2, Insightful)

kogus (855114) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486183)

Focusing on the politicians' ignorance of technology misses the point. The real problem is that those politicians feel such a need to regulate something they don't understand.

Re:Missing the real problem (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#16487385)

They are responded to public demand.
If the only people they talk to are people that want to see it regulated, what else are they supposed to do?

Generational gap, generational CHANGE (2, Insightful)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486189)

This problem applies across the board - not just government.

Basically, it's not a problem of "not understanding technology" - though that's a basic issue that needs adressing. The trouble is, trying to educate people who aren't interested. Politicians rarely need to know how it works, and almost never need to know why it works (and why it matters), because they don't get voted in for understanding issues, but for being popular.

You can educate someone who doesn't care about how to use a mouse, a PC, how to browse the internets, how to make a web-page, how the interets tubes work, what hacking is, how encryption works, what the hell DRM is about, etc etc etc, but you can't make him care. "You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think". Until it makes a difference to their chances of staying in power, technological understanding will not penetrate the body politick. Not directly, anyway.

I've had this conversation with other people. Things will change, but not by changing those who are in power - it comes from changing who is in power. In big corporations and such, this has happened much more quickly. If your board doesn't understand the implications of technology, the company goes under - the board gets replaced with people who do understand. Not so in government. All you need to be successful in government is... to be popular. And you can set your own agenda, if you publicise enough. So technology doesn't get a look in.

Maybe, over time, we'll see the "generational shift" where everyone's grown up with technology and understand its implications, to the point where they can make (more) informed decisions, so even politicians have a clue what the debate is about. Trouble is, that always leaves politicians ten steps behind the times.

Solutions, anyone?

Re:Generational gap, generational CHANGE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16486769)

Here's an idea. Lets get a few of us to run. Thousands of people read slashdot, I'll bet we can muster up one that's presentable and well spoken, and put together a platform to go on. There's gotta be millions of americans that are just as apathetic about the government as those of us here on slashdot, look at the ratings for The Daily Show. If we could give them a fresh outlook on politics, with real issues and real opinions, and a real person, we just might get the 5% of the popular vote needed to get government funding for campaigns.

Don't forget Ted Stevens (1)

not already in use (972294) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486215)

I think Ted Stevens has done a fine job educating the government and the people about the internet, how it works, and it's importance. Of course, if you think that techies still need more influence on the government, you could always write an internets to your senator. Allow 2-3 days for arrival though, the tubes are pretty clogged.

Scientists and Engineers too (1)

Tancred (3904) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486229)

There's a new group [sefora.org] founded last month, with 14 Nobel Laureates on its board, that is advocating for "evidence-based debate and decision-making in politics". Sounds like a good goal.

Tut, tut... (2, Funny)

SilentOneNCW (943611) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486549)

Silly Slashdot editors...

What happened to your strategy? This is a story based on something a Google executive said... yet, Google isn't in the title! Not only will you lose ad revenue, but just think of all the Google fanbois that will have skimmed right over this story without even *realizing* that an essential bit of Googley goodness lies within!

Won't someone think of the Google Fanbois!?!

They don't care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#16486771)

This article and most of the posts presuppose that those people in government care. They don't. *You* think tech should be important, not them. It is stupidly naive to assume those in positions of power are stupid because you don't like what they do. As soon as somebody starts telling you that Clinton or Bush are stupid, you should walk away, because that person is an idiot. Yes, this means you. Even though you don't think it applies, it does. Really. If you don't believe me, come back in 20 years and you'll be agreeing with me, that you were an idiot for thinking in such a manner.

Systems class (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 6 years ago | (#16486871)

Acutally politicians should also learn logic and systems theory from us, as they don't currently seem to think or plan in very logical or structured ways.
The first thing that needs refactoring and clearer requirements definition is the law.

look im techie (1)

arkaino (972287) | more than 6 years ago | (#16487087)

me : - You should obey me,
McFly: - oh yes,
me: - bring me more coffee Mc Fly.....

Google has all your data , now it wants your Government.... oh sure. here you have.
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