Welcome back to our regular Friday feature: The future in five questions. Today we have Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who serves on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee as well as its subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security. Read on to hear his thoughts on the dangers of unchecked digital surveillance, clean energy innovations and the dangers of social media.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
What is an underrated great idea?
Geothermal energy. America’s clean energy future requires us to harness the power that is the heat beneath our feet, just as it requires us to harness the powers of the sun, the wind, and the flow of water. We have so much potential to produce clean, abundant energy right here at home.
What is one technology that you think is overrated?
Internet-connected doorbell cameras continuously record audio and video from our neighborhoods, capturing huge amounts of data and recording what the public says and does. We shouldn’t have to pit privacy against security.
Which book shaped your conception of the future the most?
“The Mystery of the Flickering Torch.” The Hardy Boys find a radioactive engine in a broken plane and an atomic mystery unfolds. I remember reading the story when I was a child and thinking to myself: man shouldn’t have the divine power of the atom.
What could government do about technology that it is not?
Congress should take more seriously the potential harm that social media has on our nation’s children. The least we can do is fund research into this harm and ensure that parents, teachers and doctors understand how platforms and their black box algorithms can impact the mental health of young people.
What surprised you the most this year?
Well – to be honest – I think a lot about how much our future looks like our past. Access to abortion was first recognized as a fundamental and constitutional right nearly half a century ago. The far-right majority on the Supreme Court took it on board. Justice Thomas went so far as to suggest his majority should overturn rulings that upheld the constitutional right to marry whoever you love, use birth control and more. It’s ridiculous, and it sets us back decades.
There is clear conventional wisdom about how nascent politics around crypto works: Aggressive, pro-regulation Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) opposes a freedom-loving GOP, God-guns-and-Bitcoin.
It is not that simple. Two major bills, one proposed just this week of Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) And John Boozman (R-Ark.) That Would Give The CFTC More Power Over Crypto Regulation, And The Broader Bill Introduced increase regulatory clarity around the Sens industry. Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) Earlier this year were solidly bipartisan.
This week’s bill coincided with a particularly notable dust that POLITICO’s Sam Sutton reported yesterday for Pro subscribers, about the growing anger of Congressional Republicans for crypto-skeptical SEC Chairman Gary Gensler. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) took particular umbrage at the remaining lack of clarity around which cryptocurrencies are, or should be, classified as securities, telling Sam that Gensler is “acting, but he’s doing it selectively” . Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) went even further, accusing the president of “clamping down on well-meaning businesses,” and said that if Republicans take control of Congress in November, he hopes to “start subjecting it to scrutiny if it sticks around because I think it’s broken.
Ouch. There are plenty of crypto-friendly Democrats on the Hill, but high-profile tiffs like this can make even a brand new tech policy issue look like another red-and-blue feud.
Video games as a medium are now over half a century old at least, and a massively lucrative global industry to boot.
So it makes sense for state powers to incorporate them into America’s global media footprint – including an official game development team within the State Department’s Technology Engagement Team, which publishes a browser-based game called “Cat Park” aimed at inoculating users against online misinformation.
Patricia Watts, director of the technology engagement team, described to me how the principles of the game are based on “inoculation theory” – the idea that by educating people about common disinformation techniques, they will be better equipped to spot them and release them into the wild. .
Paul Fischer, the team’s senior technical advisor, explained the premise of the game: the player assumes the role of a “disinformation agent recruited into a shadowy social media pressure campaign” intended to stir up opposition to a public park for cats. (How wrong, isn’t it?)
“There is a market for misinformation on both the supply side and the demand side,” Fischer said, saying his team “designs[s] games like tackling on demand. The team’s previous match, the “Harmony Square“, has been played more than 150,000 times according to the State Department and bears the seal of effectiveness of Harvard researchers. (“Cat Park” does not yet have a release date.)
Fischer described how the team also has its sights set on the next frontier of gaming: “Virtual reality will be another place of misinformation, so it will be up to industry leaders to determine what content moderation looks like in the metaverse,” he said. .
Keep in touch with the whole team: Ben Schreckinger ([email protected]); Derek Robertson ([email protected]); Constantin Kakaes ([email protected]); and Heidi Vogt ([email protected]). Follow us on twitter @DigitalFuture.