Old Ideas That Just Won’t Die

by Rebecca McCauley Rench

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

-Max Planck

As our decision makers are put into powerful positions and then live longer, how will the younger generations make their voices heard and ensure that new ideas are implemented? Dr. Aubrey De Grey, a British scientist, believes that the first person to live to 150 years old has already been born. While that may or may not be true, human lifespan has been increasing steadily and a great deal of research is being done on ways to increase lifespan and the quality of life in those years. However, our current system of governance and business was established when life expectancy was much lower. In fact, a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that it takes the death of prominent scientists before new directions in a field can take hold. Did our forefathers expect a lifetime position in the Supreme Court to last 40 years? As we continue to expand our lifespans through genetic engineering and new advances in medical treatments, we must consider the impact this will have on continuing to advance forward with new ideas that are put forth by the younger and less jaded members of our society.

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All I Want For Christmas Is The Future

Dear Santa,

This year I want something for the world. I want to bring a bright future to the people of today so that our lives can be better and more fulfilling.  There are technologies and areas of science that just need a little help to flourish into the kinds of things that can revolutionize our daily lives.  I have two things I really want this year Santa.

My first wish is for a tomorrow where the human experience is truly enhanced.  I want a world where my best friend can be a sentient robot, where I can visualize my dreams and memories on my iPhone, where I can surf the web and learn new languages using just my thoughts and where I can enhance things like my ability to think critically or recover from ailments by altering the code of my existence.

We live at a time where if we dedicate the time and resources into areas of science like artificial intelligence, biotechnologies and neurotechnologies we can literally start to make our dreams become a reality. My hope is that these opportunities will free people from the limitations nature puts on us and bring the world together in a new way.

My second wish is that I want to live in a world where the laws and rules are rational and make sense.  I want a life where I can be a citizen of the world, not bound by the borders of nations.  I wish for a world where governance embraces the digital reality of our times and evolves as the technology does.

We are a digital society and we should govern ourselves like one.  We could and should be doing things like creating education policy that leverages customized software interfaces built on fifty thousand years of human evolution where we learned by mentorship and not classrooms.  We can use S&T to create a smarter world, a more rational world and a more stable world, but in order to do that we have to change, we have to embrace a future of digital governance and evolve it.

I know these are big wishes, but that is why I need your help.

If we do it right the world will come together and we will realize our future today.

Charlie

The Choice of the Governed

by Rebecca McCauley Rench

Government by Science propels us into the future. In a system driven by imagination and innovation, you create a society that is enlightened, educated, and full of potential. We can take in the knowledge of our current situation, think about how this can be used to create a better world, and see what happens when we try. This is the fundamental idea of the United States of America.

Government by Religion traps us in the past. Religion holds the thoughts and ideas of the past as truths to never be questioned. In the 7th century, after the Prophet Mohammed passed, a caliphate was established to rule. This is what Daesh is trying to re-create in the Middle East. A society dictated by the past without the ability to evolve and adapt.

Access Granted

Kathy Goodson

If the most diligent and efficient way to provide public information to citizens is through the Internet, then Internet access should be free. Free access to information is not only a right, but it is also an integral component of the government’s responsibility in creating informed citizens. The government provides multiple quality-controlled ways to access public information. This includes, but is not limited to, physical records at city hall, public hearings, and free public records databases. However, as the government continues to digitize public information, a new approach to providing access to this public information will be necessary. An approach that requires all citizens to have access to the Internet will ensure the public retains free access to the information found in places and documents such as libraries, public reports, and phone books.

Phone books and pay phones are examples of free access to public information. It is archaic that we still print in such high volumes. In Chicago alone, 1.2 million phone books were distributed this year. Supporters argue that greater than 50% of all Americans still use phone books, but every unwanted phone book incurs a fine for the phone company. The remaining 50% of Americans have a better resource to find public information in their pocket, their smartphone. Just like traditional public pay phones (when is the last time you saw one of those?), phone books are slowly being phased out for their smartphone counterparts. The smartphone gives us the functionality of the payphone and the information of the phone book all in one small portable device. Yes, there are great arguments for the use of pay phones including ensured access to phone services for those who can’t afford them. However, there is an equally compelling argument to provide public information to everyone in the most responsible, effective, and productive manner possible. Free Internet access as a means for public information would support that goal.

An educated public is vital to the existence of our democracy. Accordingly, the government has historically advocated literacy through institutions like the public library. However, traditional forms of free access to public information are no longer the most convenient or productive. Court records, marriage licenses, and phone books are all better utilized in electronic formats. The shift toward electronic repositories is becoming the norm. Legal electronic documents with electronic signatures are considered just as valid a their handwritten counterparts. Security clearances are digital from the initial application to the fingerprinting process. Shouldn’t we extrapolate these digitized models, such as the security clearance process, into all forms of public information? However, in order to do this successfully, Internet access has to be free everywhere, all the time. To achieve free Internet access in a quality-controlled manner, management by the government, as with other forms of outsourced dissemination of public information, will be required.

Hence, the government should supply reliable free Internet access to the masses everywhere. The hope is that public access to government information increases or at minimum maintains public literacy. Lack of access to government information debilitates people from interacting with the local, state, and federal government. The government is well aware of and has even made preparation for America’s Digital Age. Last year, a panel from the National Academy of Public Administration put out a report with 15 recommendations regarding ways to better position the federal government in our digital society for the Government Printing Office. While the recommendations prompt the retention and safeguard of digital documents, and the continued mandate of free public access, it does not focus on how this access will be given to the masses. If there is a shifting tide in how the masses obtain their access to government information, the government should be able to accommodate the need. The requirement to meet this need is competent and successful access. Thus, Internet access should be free. This ensures that the free government repositories of public information remain totally free and available.

 

The Internet House of Representatives

Brian Barnett

We should create an Internet House of Representatives, where your representative is chosen based on your political beliefs rather than based on where you live. A representative democracy is a good system because of the sheer size and complexity of our federal government. The men and women in Congress dedicate their time to synthesizing the advice of experts, the desires of constituents, and the influence of interest groups to make informed decisions and choices for our government. The average citizen does not have time to learn or deal with the intricacies of our bureaucratic systems. Yes, their voices should be as well represented as possible, especially in situations where a vote can easily determine a policy outcome, but they do not necessarily have the time and resources to make every political decision.

A representative democracy therefore makes sense when the general population is not interested in writing the content of laws for issues in which they have no education. The Internet provides us all with the opportunity to become educated across many fields, but we do not (yet) have the technology that minimizes the inordinate amount of time that this requires. When we think about the ways in which the Internet affects the government, a logical application would be the creation of a direct democracy. Everyone with an Internet connection could vote on all of our laws and the simple majority would win. This scenario raises the above issue of whether people have the time and knowledge to accomplish this feat effectively. I would argue that a representative democracy still makes sense in the Digital Age, but we can leverage the benefits of the Internet within this framework when it comes to how well the people we elect to Congress represent our interests.

Why are our representatives divided based on state lines and districts? If I am a conservative voter living in San Francisco or I am a liberal voter living in Oklahoma, my voice will be washed out by the opposite majorities in my district. Does this mean I am really being represented if my representative votes in diametric opposition to my political beliefs? What about in a moderate district where the voters are split 50/50 but my candidate just barely lost? Is my voice again stifled if the winner of the election is not in line with my political beliefs? Should I have to move to a district that is more in line with my beliefs? The average margin of victory for a representative across the US is 33%. This shows that 66% of the population has a representative that they voted for (regardless of how well this person will actually represent them), but 33% of the nation does not have a representative who even comes close to matching their political beliefs. The Internet allows me to communicate and become very close to other people around the country. Why can’t I form a voting bloc with similarly minded men and women in Seattle, Reno, Nashville, and Cleveland to have an impact on the federal legislative branch?

This Internet House of Representatives could be made up of 300 women and men (one representative per roughly one million people), elected every 2 years, who each represent a constituency made up of a population spread out among the US. Their offices, lines of communication, reports, and bills could all be located on the Internet so everyone can evaluate candidates and vote for the person who best represents their interests. The details of how you vote for these representatives and the reassignment of federal-state interactions in the Senate or elsewhere are important as well, but do not need to be hashed out here to make the point. In today’s world, where the Internet is the nervous system that connects us all together, our national policies and laws should be written by representatives whose path to Congress is based on the usage of this nation-bridging technology.