Technology policy

There are several approaches to defining the substance and scope of technology policy.

According to the American scientist and policy advisor Lewis M. Branscomb, technology policy concerns the "public means for nurturing those capabilities and optimizing their applications in the service of national goals and interests".[1] Branscomb defines technology in this context as "the aggregation of capabilities, facilities, skills, knowledge, and organization required to successfully create a useful service or product".[1]

Other scholars differentiate between technology policy and science policy, suggesting that the former is about "the support, enhancement and development of technology", while the latter focuses on "the development of science and the training of scientists".[2] Rigas Arvanitis, at the Institut de Recherche pour le développement (IRD) in France, suggests that "science and technology policy covers all the public sector measures designed for the creation, funding, support and mobilisation of scientific and technological resources".[3]

Technology policy is a form of 'active industrial policy', and effectively argues, based on the empirical facts of technological development as observed across various societies, industries and time periods, that markets rarely decide industrial fortunes in and of their own and state-intervention or support is required to overcome standard cases of market-failure (which may include, for example, under-funding of Research & Development in highly competitive markets).[4]

Technology policy may be more broadly defined. Michael G. Pollitt offers a multidisciplinary approach with social science and humanities perspective on "Good" policy.[5]

Technological determinism[edit]

Technological determinism presumes that a society's technology drives the development of its social structure and cultural values.[6] The term is believed to have been coined by Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929), an American sociologist and economist. The most radical technological determinist in the United States in the 20th century was most likely Clarence Ayres who was a follower of Thorstein Veblen and John Dewey. William Ogburn was also known for his radical technological determinism.

Viewed through the lens of Science policy, public policy can directly affect the funding of capital equipment, intellectual infrastructure for industrial research, by providing tax incentives, direct funding or indirect support to those organizations who fund, and conduct, research. Vannevar Bush, director of the office of scientific research and development for the U.S. government in July 1945, wrote "Science is a proper concern of government"[7] Vannevar Bush directed the forerunner of the National Science Foundation, and his writings directly inspired researchers to invent the hyperlink and the computer mouse. The DARPA initiative to support computing was the impetus for the Internet Protocol stack. In the same way that scientific consortiums like CERN for high-energy physics have a commitment to public knowledge, access to this public knowledge in physics led directly to CERN's sponsorship of development of the World Wide Web and standard Internet access for all.

The first major elaboration of a technological determinist view of socioeconomic development came from the German philosopher and economist Karl Marx, whose theoretical framework was grounded in the perspective that changes in technology, and specifically productive technology, are the primary influence on human social relations and organizational structure, and that social relations and cultural practices ultimately revolve around the technological and economic base of a given society. Marx's position has become embedded in contemporary society, where the idea that fast-changing technologies alter human lives is all-pervasive.[8] Although many authors attribute a technologically determined view of human history to Marx's insights, not all Marxists are technological determinists, and some authors question the extent to which Marx himself was a determinist. Furthermore, there are multiple forms of technological determinism.[9] On the subject of technology as a means to liberation or enslavement, a question arising from a technological determinist perspective, David E. Cooper wrote in the Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 38:7-18 (1995), "people myopically impressed by the world as an object of beauty or worship die out. Those who are myopically impressed by it as a source of energy do not: they even prosper." [10]

Technology policy and economics[edit]

Technology policy takes an 'evolutionary approach' to technical change, and hereby relates to evolutionary growth theory, developed by Luigi Pasinetti, J.S. Metcalfe, Pier Paolo Saviotti, and Koen Frenken and others, building on the early work of David Ricardo.[11][12] J.S. Metcalfe noted in 1995 that "much of the traditional economic theory of technology policy is concerned with so-called 'market failures' which prevent the attainment of Pareto equilibria by violating one or other of die conditions for perfect competition".[13]

In contrast to the evolutionary paradigm, classic political science teaches technology as a static 'black box'. Similarly Neoclassical economics treats technology as a residual, or exogenous factor, to explain otherwise inexplicable growth (for example, shocks in supply that boost production, affecting the equilibrium price level in an economy). In the United States, the creation of the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy responded to the need policy approaches wherein not all technologies were treated as identical based on their social or economic variables. Technology policy is distinct from science studies but both have been influenced by Thomas Samuel Kuhn. Research in the technology policy domain recognizes the importance of, amongst others, Vannevar Bush, Moses Abramovitz, William J. Abernathy and James M. Utterback.

Technology policy approaches Science as the pursuit of verifiable or falsifiable hypotheses, while science studies has a post-modern view whereby science is not thought to get at an objective reality. Technology policy is rarely post-modern. Its goal is the improvement of policy and organizations based on an evolutionary view, and understanding, of the underlying scientific and technological constraints involved in economic development, but also their potential. For example, some clean coal technologies via carbon sequestration and the allocation of electromagnetic spectrum by auction are ideas that emerged from technology policy schools. The Dominant design paradigm, developed by William J. Abernathy and James M. Utterback, is an idea with significant implications for innovation, market structure and competitive dynamics both within and between nations that emerged from empirical research in Technology management, a domain of Technology Policy.

Regulating the Internet[edit]

In the United States, net neutrality has been greatly discussed in politics; the idea of it is that corporations, governments, and internet providers should not discriminate against content on the internet.[14] This came about in the early 2000's when some internet providers (Comcast, AT&T, etc.) were restricting its customers from doing this like accessing VPNs and using Wi-Fi routers. The term "net neutrality" was created by Tim Wu, a Columbia University law professor, who called for net neutrality laws due to his concern that restricting certain internet access would greatly inhibit long-term innovation.[15] Shortly after in 2005, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), under the Bush administration, issued a policy statement restricted providers from disallowing users to access legal content on the internet while allowing American citizens to freely connect their devices to whichever internet connections they desire.[15] Shortly after its creation, the FCC began enforcing these new rules when in 2005 it found a North Carolina internet provider, Madison River, guilty of interrupting internet phone calls: the FCC dealt the company fines and demanded Madison River to halt its unlawful actions.[16]

It wasn't long until this policy statement's authority came into question when in 2008 Comcast sued the FCC. In a court hearing, a federal court found that the FCC did not have the legal power to enforce the 2005 policy statement when they attempted to restrict Comcast from slowing their customers' connection to BitTorrent due to it greatly contributing to piracy.[17] This did not greatly impact the FCC's power, however, because in 2009 it forced Apple and AT&T to discontinue restricting its customers from making Skype calls.[18] With the Comcast case looming over the FCC, it desired to restructure its rules to make them stronger in court and in 2010, under the Obama administration, it did just that.   

However, under this new legislation, the telecommunications company Verizon filed another lawsuit against the agency. Once again, the federal court found that, under Title II of the Communications Act, that the FCC did not have the jurisdiction to regulate corporations who are not "common carriers."[19] To address this issue, the former FCC-chair Tom Wheeler decided to deem broadband carriers, like Verizon, to be "Title II carriers" enabling the agency to regulate them which then sparked the passing of a new net neutrality order in 2015.[19] Still receiving lawsuits from many corporations, the new order finally held strong in federal court when the court declared that the agency's new rules were in fact under the authority of the FCC.[19]

Under the Trump administration, President Donald Trump appointed Ajit Pai as the new FCC chairman in January 2017 which lead to the voting out of the 2015 policy order in December 2017; under the new regulation, the rules of the 2015 order were dropped entirely and the regulation stated that broadband carriers were only required to publicly reveal how they were managing their networks.[20] Supporters of this new regulation claim that in reversing the former net neutrality policy, networks and internet providers will have more incentive to innovate and improve their networks by charging large companies for internet usage and introducing competition.[21] In October 2019, a federal appeals court ruled that the FCC's reversal of the 2015 policy order that imposed regulations was in fact lawful.[22]

The Call for Technology Policy[edit]

In Politics[edit]

With the prevalence of technology throughout the 2000's, its power in politics have some people concerned about the speed at which it is advancing and the lack of sufficient regulation for it.[23] In the 2016 Presidential election, Neil Jenkins, the director in the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications at the Department of Homeland Security, revealed that Russian government actors had hacked into the Democratic National Committee's servers to steal some of their information against the Republican candidate Donald Trump[24].

The Russian infiltrators did not stop there, when new information showed that someone attempted to breach the election system by viewing the state's voter-registration database and stealing information on the registered voters[25]. Additionally, Arizona received cyber-attacks from the same I.P. addresses that had been used in the previous Illinois attacks to install malware[25]. Not long after, Jenkins found that many other states had received attacks from this same I.P. address [25] and reports from the Senate Intelligence Committee that concluded Russia targeted every U.S. state[26].

Given the breaches in the many different election systems in throughout the 2016 election, political figures nationwide have taken a firm stance against using electronic voting machines to avoid any future interference. One organization that leads the push toward U.S. paper voting is the Verified Voting Foundation; the foundation and its members believe that in order to protect the safety of U.S. elections in the future, government officials must be connected with experts in the field of technology to ensure unsecure and unreliable voting machines are not being used in the electoral process[27]. One of the board of directors, Barbra Simons, has gone as far to proclaiming that voting machines should be forbidden from U.S. elections as she, and many of her colleagues agree, that any data available online is subject to attack.[28]

Also in the 2016 election, the data firm Cambridge Analytica, became heavily involved with the enacting of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States when his Trump campaign hired the firm to guide his the data collecting process of it. In their work, Cambridge Analytica managed to scrape data on over 50 million users that detailed the users' personal information[29]. The data originated from Aleksandr Kogan, a former psychology professor at the University of Cambridge, who gave Cambridge Analytica by using a data extracting technique utilized at the University in which users filled out a personality survey and download an app[29].  

With this data, the company created personality profiles for the users and mapped their trends in likes and friends to direct certain ads toward the user[30]. Considering that 62% of adults receive their news on social media sites like Facebook[31], Cambridge Analytica influenced the result of the election which leaves many wondering what role big data should have in the electoral process. Due to the influence that big data had in this election, the call to limit access to it and its usage has sparked a movement toward creating policy to restrict companies access to data called the "Great Privacy Awakening".[32] The state of California has begun exploring this regulation by enacting the California Consumer Privacy Act in late June, 2018; the act states that companies must declassify what sort of data they collect and grant users the option to delete data.[33] This leaves the rest of the U.S. watching to see the effectiveness of the California law in hopes to further protect U.S. citizens from becoming a victim to more unethical data practices.   

In Everyday Life[edit]

Along with the call for regulation in the political sector, many technological interventions in the everyday lives of citizens are raising concern for the future of regulation. For example, the concept of self-driving cars has grabbed the attention of many, including the popular rideshare company Uber; in March 2018, the company tested an AI-driven vehicle in Tempe, Arizona and during this test the vehicle struck and killed a 49 year old woman [34]

A prototype of an autonomous Uber vehicle.

In this test, the self-driving vehicle was monitored by an Uber employee who they deemed a "watchdog."[35] It was later revealed that the reasoning for the accident had been due to an issue with the programming of the vehicle's AI; the company failed to create code capable of detecting jaywalkers [35]. Rather than classifying the jaywalking pedestrian as a human, the code defined the woman as "other" which the code did not have a protocol to perform under; it wasn't until 1.2 seconds before impact that the code detected a bicycle and alerted the vehicle to brake that the car began to slow down which was too late to avoid the accident.[35]

It was later determined by an investigation conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that the Uber "watchdog" had been distracted by their mobile device[36]; this news called for the US government to create policy to protect citizens from further incidents. In result, the NTSB released new regulation that required companies testing autonomous vehicles on public roads to have their safety procedures throughly inspected and hand-recorded which would be subject to regulatory confirmation.[36]

A civil drone flying over a U.S. beach.

Another emerging technology that has captivated individuals worldwide are the civil use of drones. These drones are aerial vehicles controlled from a secondary device like a remote control, cell phone, etc. that are commonly equipped with a real-time camera uploading images to the user's device. Concerns around these unmanned vehicles have many concerned with the safety and privacy of them; many believe that these flying drones intrude on an individuals 4th amendment right that protects an individuals privacy while others believe that the drones pose a threat of collisions with other aircraft.[37] In response to such concerns, in December 2015 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) created rules that stated owners of these civil drones must register them with the FAA while individual states have enforced stricter laws that restrict them from certain public areas.[37]

This innovation has also attracted the attention of corporations, like Amazon, wishing to perfect their operations; in a proposed plan to commercialize drone delivery, the company has created prototypes of Amazon Prime Air drones built to deliver packages to customers' doorsteps via aerial travel in 30 minutes or less.[38] With a vision of hundreds of AI-driven drones flying freely to households nationwide, many opponents of such innovations have privacy concerns, including the president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Marc Rotenberg.[39] With these concerns in mind, in June 2016 the FAA released federal policy that made using drones much easier; companies would be able to fly drones under 55 pounds if they were operated by a person over 16 years old, flown below 400 feet, and were 5 miles away from an airport.[39] Although companies could use these drowns, the FAA failed to allow drones to be used for commercial package delivery due to the restriction that the drone must stay in-sight of the operator.[39]


Information and communication technology (ICT)[edit]

Transportation technology[edit]


Policy schools[edit]

The study of technology policy, Technology management or engineering and policy is taught at multiple universities.


Information technology[edit]

Science and technology[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Branscomb, L. M. (1995). Confessions of a Technophile. Springer Science & Business Media.
  2. ^ Dodgson, M., & Bessant, J. (1997). Effective innovation policy: A new approach. Long Range Planning, 30(1), 143.
  3. ^ Arvanitis, Rigas. Science and technology policy. Eolss Publishers Company Limited, 2009.
  4. ^ Borris, M. & Stowsky, J. (1997). Technology Policy and Economic Growth. Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy. UC Berkeley: Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy.
  5. ^ G., Pollitt, M. (2015-12-02). "In Search of 'Good' Energy Policy: The Social Limits to Technological Solutions to Energy and Climate Problems". Apollo. doi:10.17863/cam.5797. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ Smith, M.R. and Marx, L., 1994. Does technology drive history?: The dilemma of technological determinism. Mit Press.
  7. ^ Vannevar Bush (July 1945), "Science, the Endless Frontier"
  8. ^ Smith & Marx, Merrit Roe & Leo (June 1994). Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism. The MIT Press. ISBN 978-0262691673.
  9. ^ Bimber, Bruce (May 1990). "Karl Marx and the Three Faces of Technological Determinism". Social Studies of Science. 20 (2): 333–351. doi:10.1177/030631290020002006.
  10. ^ Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, 38, 7-18. doi:10.1017/S1358246100007256
  11. ^ Pasinetti, Luisi 1981 Structural change and economic growth, Cambridge University Press. J.S. Metcalfe and P.P. Saviotti (eds.), 1991, Evolutionary Theories of Economic and Technological Change, Harwood, 275 pages. J.S. Metcalfe 1998, Evolutionary Economics and Creative Destruction, Routledge, London. Frenken, K., Van Oort, F.G., Verburg, T., Boschma, R.A. (2004). Variety and Regional Economic Growth in the Netherlands – Final Report (The Hague: Ministry of Economic Affairs), 58 p. (pdf)
  12. ^ Saviotti, Pier Paolo; Frenken, Koen (2008), "Export variety and the economic performance of countries", Journal of Evolutionary Economics, 18 (2): 201–218, doi:10.1007/s00191-007-0081-5
  13. ^ Metcalfe, J.S., 1995. Technology systems and technology policy in an evolutionary framework. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 19(1), pp.25-46.
  14. ^ Kenton, Will. "Net Neutrality". Investopedia. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  15. ^ a b "Net Neutrality: Here's Everything You Need To Know". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  16. ^ "A Brief History of Net Neutrality". WIRED. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  17. ^ "Net Neutrality: Here's Everything You Need To Know". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  18. ^ "A Brief History of Net Neutrality". WIRED. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  19. ^ a b c "Net Neutrality: Here's Everything You Need To Know". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  20. ^ "Net Neutrality: Here's Everything You Need To Know". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  21. ^ Hellard, Bobby; Curtis, Joe. "The pros and cons of net neutrality". IT PRO. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  22. ^ McCabe, David (2019-10-01). "Court Upholds Net Neutrality Repeal, With Some Caveats". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  23. ^ Cassidy, Christina; Hartounian, Alaina (2018-11-02). "Voters raise concerns about voting machines, poll access". AP NEWS. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  24. ^ Zetter, Kim (2018-09-26). "The Crisis of Election Security". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  25. ^ a b c Zetter, Kim (2018-09-26). "The Crisis of Election Security". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  26. ^ Sanger, David E.; Edmondson, Catie (2019-07-25). "Russia Targeted Election Systems in All 50 States, Report Finds". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  27. ^ "Verified Voting Foundation | Verified Voting". Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  28. ^ Leovy, Jill (2017-11-08). "Meet the Computer Scientist Championing Paper Ballots". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  29. ^ a b Granville, Kevin (2018-03-19). "Facebook and Cambridge Analytica: What You Need to Know as Fallout Widens". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  30. ^ Granville, Kevin (2018-03-19). "Facebook and Cambridge Analytica: What You Need to Know as Fallout Widens". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  31. ^ Allcott, Hunt (Spring 2017). "Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election". Journal of Economic Perspectives. 31: 211–236.
  32. ^ Lapowsky, Issie (2019-03-17). "How Cambridge Analytica Sparked the Great Privacy Awakening". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  33. ^ Farivar, Cyrus; Ingram, David (2019-05-13). "California is bringing law and order to big data. It could change the internet in the U.S." NBC News. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  34. ^ at 05:48, Katyanna Quach 6 Nov 2019. "Remember the Uber self-driving car that killed a woman crossing the street? The AI had no clue about jaywalkers". Retrieved 2019-11-19.
  35. ^ a b c at 05:48, Katyanna Quach 6 Nov 2019. "Remember the Uber self-driving car that killed a woman crossing the street? The AI had no clue about jaywalkers". Retrieved 2019-11-19.
  36. ^ a b Beene, Ryan (2019-11-19). "Fatal Self-Driving Uber Crash Prompts Call for Tighter Oversight". Retrieved 2019-11-16.
  37. ^ a b Wingfield, Nick (2015-11-23). "A Field Guide to Civilian Drones". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  38. ^ Coombs, Casey (2019-09-03). "With a Fleet of Drones, Amazon Wants To Deliver Packages Within 30 Minutes or Less". Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  39. ^ a b c Kang, Cecilia (2016-06-21). "F.A.A. Issues Commercial Drone Rules". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  • The New Economics of Technology Policy Auth Dominique Foray Ed Edward Elgar ISBN 978 1 84844 349 5
  • Mastering a New Role Shaping Technology Policy for National Economic Performance ED. NAP ISBN 0-309-58407-8
  • Technology and Global Industry Companies and Nations in the World Economy ED. NAP ISBN 0-309-55501-9

External links[edit]