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Techies Must Educate Governments 223

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the so-get-to-it-folks dept.
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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Techies Must Educate Governments

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  • by fyngyrz (762201) * on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @11:13AM (#16485449) Homepage Journal
    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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Silver Sloth (770927)
      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.
      • by fyngyrz (762201) * on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @11:27AM (#16485693) Homepage Journal
        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: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Silver Sloth (770927)
          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: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Lord Pillage (815466)
            "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.

            • by fyngyrz (762201) *

              I'm just going to let your reply, be my reply. Thanks.

            • That's the state motto of New Hampshire. Perhaps you are just in the wrong state!
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by ZakuSage (874456)

              MR. PRESIDENT: No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awf

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by nomadic (141991)
              America today sure isn't what it used to be.

              It's generally better. For the first hundred years or so of this country's existence we had slavery, and for the next hundred institutionalized racism, and women didn't get the right to vote until the 20th century. Does anyone think that the period before the modern era was "more free"? If you're a white male with money, maybe, but on the whole it's a hell of a lot better now than it used to be for a majority of this country's population.
          • by Volante3192 (953645) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @11:49AM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by inviolet (797804)

              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

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by fyngyrz (762201) *

                How is that a bad thing?

                You make some excellent points with regard to a properly functioning democratic republic; accountability, the ability to focus upon the job(s) at hand. I would add that another item in favor is that when dealing with foreign countries, it gives them someone with a modicum of authority to talk to for each region, which is useful for trade.

                However, as we have seen, this mechanism can fail to operate properly. Our politicians are not very accountable by virtue of the public's a

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Volante3192 (953645)
                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!".

                Explain the umpteen state laws passed to curb the sales of 'violent video games'...and where they were summarily ruled unconstitutional by the judicial branch.

                Even more important, representatives serve as a point of accountability. Their name and reputation are associated with their votes an
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by nine-times (778537)

              Yes, throwing the word "democracy" around doesn't help things, but the problem isn't that the US is a republic. Republics certainly don't do a worse job at preserving minority rights, since they're in fact less bound to follow "the tyranny of the masses". Not that it provides a lot of extra protection from mob mentality, but it does a little.

              The real problem is that we just don't preserve individual rights anymore. We don't behave like a democratic republic. It's more like we're run by two warring aris

        • by Maximilio (969075)

          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 dadd

        • by TheGreek (2403)

          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 incredi

      • by MobyDisk (75490)
        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.
        • by Original Replica (908688) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @11:51AM (#16486141) Journal
          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.
        • Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos!
      • 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.
      • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @11:44AM (#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.

        • by TheGreek (2403)
          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.
          • by HUADPE (903765)
            I too call bullshit. I am currently in posession of my absentee ballot. It does not say that. It says that if you vote for more than one party's candidate for one office your ballot for that office is invalidated. That's not against ticket splitting, its against voting for multiple people for one office.

            This is a ballot for the third congressional district of New York. If a ballot said what GP described, it would be ludicrously unconstitutional, and would

          • Prove it.

            Follow this Google cache link [72.14.205.104] and read FAQ reply number 8 for the Website for the city of Lansing, MI. It reads, "In primary elections you cannot split your vote for partisan races, that is voting for one party and then voting for another party in another race. Doing so will void your vote for all the partisan races."

            • by TheGreek (2403)
              In primary elections you cannot split your vote for partisan races, that is voting for one party and then voting for another party in another race. Doing so will void your vote for all the partisan races.
              Primary elections are to choose a party's nominee for the general election, you dumb piece of shit. You shouldn't be allowed to select more than one party's nominees.
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                Primary elections are to choose a party's nominee for the general election, you dumb piece of shit. You shouldn't be allowed to select more than one party's nominees.

                Primary elections for congress are combined with local elections. Thus, I'm voting for a party's representative for congress and electing a mayor at the same time. According to the instructions on the ballot, I can't vote for a republican or libertarian mayor while at the same time nominating a democratic candidate for congress. If you don't

          • It sounds like the poster was describing a primary election form. In some "open primary" states, everyone can vote in the primary and can vote in ONLY ONE party's primary, since primary elections are for the purpose of nominating candidates for that party. It sounds like something the states shouldn't be involved in, but it shows how the political machine is wired for the two parties. Third parties, and the two parties in some states, hold nominating conventions to do the same thing.

            A problem in some are
        • 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 gro
        • 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.

          Was this a primary or the general election? If it's the former it's bad enough (I'm still pissed they wouldn't let me vote in both the Republican and Democrat primaries), but if it's the latter you

        • by koreth (409849)

          laws have been passed to insure only members of those two parties are likely to be elected

          Please go read up on Duverger's Law [wikipedia.org] before you assume the two-party system is a simple result of legal barriers. It's much more complicated than that. Of course there are legal barriers as well, not denying that, but they're actually much less significant than the underlying structure of the electoral system itself.

          Two registered presidential candidates with thousands of backers were forcibly ejected from the last pr

          • Thousands of backers don't give you a realistic shot at winning a presidential election.

            That is a presupposition and not something that should be allowed by the legal system. Who is to say that a candidate who has a smaller following entering the debates will not expose those he debates as incompetent and thus win the support of the people?

            Hell, Mickey Mouse gets thousands of votes every four years; should Michael Eisner have been invited to the debates too?

            No, but Mickey mouse should be, were he a r

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Salvance (1014001)
      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 releva
      • by fyngyrz (762201) *

        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

    • Demographics (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Tisha_AH (600987)
      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.
    • by Mateo_LeFou (859634) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @11:29AM (#16485743) Homepage

      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        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.
      • I believe that the congress doesn't really respect the techies, hackers, hobbyists. Instead of openly inviting such 'experts' to make technology a helpful tool, they instead listen blindly to their bribing lobby and make boneheaded decisions behind closed doors in dark secret corners. I'm sorry but that is not democracy, that is fascism. Instead of praising people that point out flaws in their systems, like one would praise a helpful neighbor that finds a broken fence and helps you mend it, they instead loc
    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @11:30AM (#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.
      • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
        ``If the general public was actually educated in these matters, politicians would actually listen.''

        "In a democracy, people get the government they deserve."
        • by Tackhead (54550)
          > "In a democracy, people get the government they deserve."

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

      • by jZnat (793348) *
        That's exactly why I'm not a Libertarian. They have good ideas, but they don't feel that corporate regulations are helpful.
    • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @11:32AM (#16485801) Homepage Journal
      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by purpledinoz (573045)
      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hcob$ (766699)
        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 goin
    • by tbone1 (309237)
      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.

    • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by yuna49 (905461)
      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
    • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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, w

      • by fyngyrz (762201) *

        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.

        Surely not. I was simply arguing that age is not a barrier to understanding technology. I will argue it another way if it makes it more clear: There are many aging engineers and scientists like my mother who are not suffering from degradation of brain function. They know how to, and are willing and able to, approach and comprehend technical is

        • There is not even the slightest basis for a "right not to be offended" anywhere in the constitution

          Why can Libertarians quote every part of the constitution except the Ninth Amendment [wikipedia.org]? It's people like you that was exactly the fear of the founders: that the constution would be used as a weapon to argue that the people have no rights except what's granted in the constitution.

          The concept of "community standards" are well-founded in law, and the consitution's preamble specifically speaks of "insuring dom

    • by geekoid (135745)
      You and your mother are exceptions.
      How many other 60 and 90 year olds know technology well?
      Very, very, few.

      "The tree of liberty is dead."

      No it's not. It will go infront of the supreme court and fail.

      "I'd tell you to vote libertarian, "
      this would be a huge mistake at this time. Most people who vote 3rd party would otherwise vote democrat. Right now, to fix the immediate issues, there must be a sweep of the current administration and republicans must be removed. Based on what I have found out about the last
  • 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?
  • hold on... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by revery (456516) <charles.cac2@net> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @11:14AM (#16485465) Homepage
    Techies Must Educate Governments

    Sorry, we don't have time. We're too busy destroying our lives [slashdot.org] playing WOW.
  • ...if a top tech could take tech?
  • by creimer (824291) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @11:16AM (#16485497) Homepage
    Voting! Or, as V put it, "People should not be afraid of the government. The government should be afraid of the people."
    • Seriously, When was the last time you saw a Candidate that you were actually excited to have as a leader?
      • by inKubus (199753)
        When was the last time you thought your vote would be actually COUNTED CORRECTLY [blackboxvoting.com]?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by smooth wombat (796938)
        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.
        • I live in the wrong state from Mr. Ventura. As for Ross Perot, I personally knew five people who voted for him, and that they were all voting at the nearby elementary school. The next day the newspaper published the election results with a breakdown of how many votes in what areas of town. The official record showed Mr. Perot as receiving 3 votes. So yes you are correct that occassionally someone from outside the professional politicians club steps up to the plate, but somehow inspite of a healthy amount of
          • by creimer (824291)
            ... I personally knew five people who voted for him... The official record showed Mr. Perot as receiving 3 votes.

            I wouldn't be surprised if the other two votes went to a Democrat and a Republican. Just because people say they voted for a popular politician doesn't mean that they did.
      • 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.
  • 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 pol
    • by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @11:26AM (#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.
  • by Spinlock_1977 (777598) <Spinlock_1977@nosPam.yahoo.com> on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @11:25AM (#16485665) Journal
    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.

    • by planetmn (724378)
      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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``Back in the day, senior management was listening to deep techies who knew their stuff''

      Back in what day?
    • You may also want to consider that your skillsets are in less of a demmand (with a higher level of people with technical companicy) and many people in managment are less likely to deal with many common Techies Quarks, where they can find others who look just as good on paper, to charge less, and are less well... Excentric.

      Mistakes a lot of Techs make is after they advise their boss on what they think they should do and the boss decides against it, the techies make sure it doesn't work, except for trying to
  • ``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 (Dut [keesvendrik.nl]
  • Good Luck! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Noryungi (70322) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @11:28AM (#16485709) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • these are the only things politicians care about these days: money, media and votes

      Based on my reading of history, that statement has been true for all time -- not just in "these days." For example, run this search [google.com] or this search [google.com] over at the Google New archive and notice how many results come back, and the dates that appear on the articles.

      (I ran the second of these searches and came across these great quotes from 1864 and 340 BC):

      Politicians are like the bones of a horse's foreshoulder--not a straight o

  • 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 r

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Spinlock_1977 (777598)
      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
  • Can we get them to stop treating Video Games the way they did TV, Comic Books and D&D?

    That might help...
  • 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.

    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``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.
    • 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?
  • by Woldry (928749) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @11:34AM (#16485837) Journal
    ... 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 (Score:3, Interesting)

      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
  • Just keep explaining that it's not a truck, and eventually they'll understand.
  • 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.
    • 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

  • "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 ti

  • You cant educate people that think the erth is 6,000 years old. All you can do is yell at them.
  • A: Politicians don't bother to comb their hair over their horns.
  • by kogus (855114)
    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.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      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?
  • by tygerstripes (832644) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @11:52AM (#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?

  • 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.
  • 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!?!

  • 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.

  • I've developed an executive level coaching package that addresses that precise issue.

    It's quite fun and relaxing to run a business that makes money by being honest :-).

  • I was asking several school teachers about recent education bills (state & federal). It sounds like the politicians enacted legislation without talking to the educators. This sounds exactly like what is going on with network neutrality, etc. Our elected leaders just don't understand business. If you want to get from point A to point B, you find the appropriate subject matter experts, pay them to research the problem, get proposals for solutions, and implement the solutions. But they don't seem to d
  • Politicians aside, I see the problem as being entrenched within government. As someone who works in IT in the state government, I have been baffled by the decisions of IT management. Many of my colleagues are highly competent and motivated IT professionals, (note I said many, not all), but the structure of government impedes our ability to implement better IT solutions and policy. When we try to discuss it with management, they just ignore us and only listen to the consultants they've hired. My colleagu

Administration: An ingenious abstraction in politics, designed to receive the kicks and cuffs due to the premier or president. -- Ambrose Bierce

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