In a special report by The Economist, Luc Delany talks about how the governments’ relationship with technology is complicated.
If there is an industry that exemplifies the virtues of the private sector, it is technology. In the past 30 years a wave of innovations has transformed the lives of consumers in the developed world, allowing people to engage in a huge range of activities by using devices they can hold in their hand.
Governments’ role in pushing forward technological progress has been widely underestimated, as Mariana Mazzucato shows in her book, “The Entrepreneurial State”. The first computers were developed by governments, as were jet engines, nuclear power and lasers. The internet grew out of ARPANET, a project nurtured by America’s Defence Department. It took government-launched satellites to enable global positioning systems to work. Touchscreen technology was invented by academics with the help of government funding. Even the algorithm that made Google so successful was created with the aid of a grant from America’s National Science Foundation.
If the state has proved less than trustworthy, private companies are not perfect either. Some have lost large amounts of customers’ data, either by accident or because they have been hacked. The records of more than 100m customers each were stolen from Sony and Target. But Luc Delany, a former Facebook employee who now works as a consultant, points out that companies have a strong incentive to get it right. If people lose trust in a business, the brand will suffer. Companies are walking a fine line, trying to meet the authorities’ requests for information but being open about it (see chart 4). Apple, for one, revealed last year that it had received requests for information from 31 governments. The vast majority came from America’s.
The rest of the article can be found here: Technology: Looking both ways, The Economist
Photo Credit: The Economist