The Hands-Off Tech Era Is Over

It is more clear than ever that governments will not leave technology alone.

Europe made standard phone chargers mandatory for portable electronics while Texas passed a rival law to regulate the online speech of social media companies. Tech companies can rely on more changes such as government minders on how they do business and how we use their products.

This largely means that it will take longer than they have to spread new technologies around the world, such as driverless cars and facial recognition systems. For many tech proponents, more deliberation and oversight will slow the search. For others, that’s exactly the point.

I wanted to hash this out in today’s newsletter because it’s easy to get overwhelmed (or tune out) with all the tried and tested government regulations. Over the past few weeks, reporters have written about the remaining congressional bills involving data privacy and tech distrust; Employment classification of drivers for companies such as Uber; Multiple countries around the world setting standards on how data can and cannot be moved; The Netherlands is forcing Apple to improve payment options for dating apps; And two state laws on social media speech.

All of this is the result of a still-evolving rethinking of what was a relatively lace-fair approach to tech since the 1990s. With exceptions, the prevailing trend was that new Internet technologies, including digital advertising, e-commerce, social media and “gig” employment through apps, were very innovative, fringe and useful for governments to limit them by many rules.

As television and radio did when those mediums were new, many tech companies encouraged light regulation by saying they were bringing about change for the better, elected officials were too stubborn and ignorant to monitor them effectively, and Government intervention will block progress.

Just one example: A decade ago, Facebook said that US rules requiring TV and radio to disclose who was paying for election-related advertising should not apply to that company. Facebook’s lawyer said at the time that the US election agency “should not stand in the way of innovation.”

Those ads aren’t always effective, but after Russia-backed campaigners spread social media ads and free posts to provoke American political circles in 2016, Facebook voluntarily began offering more transparency about political ads.

Better laws or advertising may not prevent hostile foreign artists from abusing Facebook to wage an information war in the US or other countries. But it also contributed to the fact that those in charge of tech should be left alone to do what they want to do.

Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a non-profit consumer advocacy group, said: “We could only say at the outset that every technology needs to be regulated in a common sense.”

Now regulators are feeling the pinch. Lawmakers have enacted rules for the use of facial recognition technology. There will be more laws like the one in Texas to strip power from the handful of tech executives who set the rules for free expression for billions. More countries will force Apple and Google to remake the app economy. More regulation is already changing the way children use technology.

Again, this would not be all good government intervention. But there are further indications that those who make the technology also want more government oversight – or at least pay lip service to it. Any discussion about emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence illustration software DAL-E and cryptocurrency, regularly includes discussions about how potential losses and regulation can reduce them.

That doesn’t mean people agree on how the government should be overseen. But the answer is almost never any government intervention. And that’s different.

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  • In 10 months, nearly 400 car crashes in the U.S. involved advanced driver-assist technology., According to federal data reported by my colleagues Neil Baudet and Cad Metz. As I wrote above, federal regulators are trying to better understand the real-world safety of technologies like Tesla’s autopilot as it becomes more common.

  • What is lost in the discussion on AI and human intelligence: A Google employee’s fear that a piece of artificial intelligence software had regained consciousness – it didn’t – was distracted by technology biases and concerns about AI, including all humans needed for supposedly automated systems, Bloomberg News wrote. (Subscription may be required.)

  • Sports Streaming Scramble: Apple paid $ 2.5 billion for the rights to broadcast matches from Major League Soccer in a TV app for Apple devices, Athletic reported. In India, the two companies will pay $ 3 billion to stream cricket matches. These deals are another indication that companies are betting on sports to persuade people to pay for video streaming services.

I would watch every video of a cat playing poker like this.

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