December 9, 2022

The Professional Times

Excellence in Every Word

There’s No Such Thing As a Tech Expert Anymore

Members of Congress clearly don’t understand the tech companies they’re supposed to regulate. But neither does anyone else.

EVERY TIME CONGRESS holds a hearing about Silicon Valley companies, people mock the legislators for being out of their depth.
Last week’s effort by the antitrust subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee was no exception. “The technological ignorance demonstrated by our elected officials … was truly stunning,” Shelly Palmer, CEO at the Palmer Group, a tech strategy advisory group, told USA Today. “People who are this clueless about the economic forces shaping our world should not be tasked with leading us into the age of AI,” he said. “The data elite are playing a different game with a different set of rules. Apparently, Congress can’t even find the ballpark.”
You can find similarly snide comments after every such hearing over the past four years. All these complaints are unfair and unfounded.

In 1787 we decided that we would be ruled by citizens, not by priests, professors, or professionals. We don’t insist that everyone in Congress understand how the B2 Spirit “stealth” bomber works, or how serotonin reuptake inhibitors help manage depression, or even how the internal combustion engine works. Yet we justifiably expect our government to regulate them. People who complain about the ignorance of congressional representatives betray their own ignorance of how democracy works.
Still, we do demand expertise and depend on expertise to make policy decisions. Such expertise comes from training, experience, or both. As the importance of companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook has grown in our lives, politics, and economics, being a technology expert has been a growth industry.
I should know. I play a tech expert on TV every once in a while. But am I worthy of being called an expert? Why should anyone listen to me?

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