It's widely realized that technology has drastically reshaped the human experience. In the last ten years, the Internet alone has dramatically disrupted umbrella industries as renowned as journalism and commerce. The World Wide Web made such an impact on humankind that an entire epoch, the Information Age, was named after its profound effects. In fact, it's nearly impossible to name a societal sector that hasn't been profoundly reshaped by technology in the last decade alone.
Politics, when compared to technology, has achieved next to nothing in the last decade. There's a very visible gap between what gets done on Capitol Hill and what gets done in Silicon Valley.
It occurs to me that there's a very simple reason for this: politicians aren't problem solvers. Rather, they're problem avoiders. While the ultimate goal of technology is to solve problems through science and ingenuity, the ultimate goal of politics is to solve problems through legislation. A popular example of this is how we handle intoxicated driving. When politicians are presented with this problem their reaction is to write legislation that makes the problem illegal. But see, this hasn't truly solved anything. Our entire criminal justice system operates on pre-conventional moral development -- the same theory we use to instruct toddlers with blind obedience and punishment.
Jacque Fresco, famous industrial designer, author, and futurist says "Law is when you don't have a method of solving a problem... It's just nailing a proclamation on a wall saying 'Don't do this.'"
Now, when engineers are presented with the same problem -- driving under the influence -- they react with actual solutions like the breath alcohol ignition interlock, a breathalyzer that prevents a car from being started by anyone over the legal blood alcohol limit. We can also point to the increasingly popular technology of self driving cars, which will make driving, and therefore the problem of drunk driving, entirely obsolete. These technologies aim to solve the problem, not avoid it. Anyone can punish criminals, but we need problem-solvers to stop crime.
Engineers, psychologists, scientists, and even authors are problem solvers. Politicians and lawyers are not. Perhaps Buckminster Fuller said it best when he declared, "Politicians are always realistically maneuvering for the next election. They are obsolete as fundamental problem-solvers." So, what would happen if we elected technologists and scientists to public office? What would happen if we approached society as an engineering problem with innovative solutions, instead of merely legislating our problems away?
Let's take a look at another example, this time a hot button issue -- gun violence. Politicians seem to have convinced us that there are only two possible "solutions," either everyone gets guns or nobody does. Today's debate surrounding gun violence revolves around dualistic party politics, and forgets that practical solutions might exist in technology and psychology. Could we use technology to prevent gun violence? On-weapon biometric systems that ensure that the weapon user is the registered owner and has completed gun safety courses have been proposed in science fiction for years. Furthermore, gun cases already exist with fingerprint readers, but what if we were to equip the actual trigger of a gun with a biometric fingerprint reader? Critics will say that the technology is either too expensive or too easily circumvented, and certainly this isn't the end-all solution. Nevertheless, it serves as a good example of how technology might be used to solve what seems like a political problem.
This belief, that technology can solve political problems and that we should approach society as an engineering problem, is called Technocracy.
It isn't hard to identify problems in government, and sometimes it seems even easier to identify problems created by government. The problem doesn't lie exclusively with Democrats or Republicans anymore, it's about politicians in general. It's time we elect problem solvers.
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