October 14, 2021
United States Representative, California
Senior Vice President, C_TEC, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
It’s no surprise that technology has improved the lives of many Americans and our economy as a whole, presenting new and efficient ways for us to thrive — both in business and in our personal lives. New tech developments offer convenience and opportunities that are unmatched.
Jordan Crenshaw, VP of the Chamber of Commerce’s Technology Engagement Center (C-TEC), sat down with U.S. Representative Jay Obernolte (CA-8), a politician and owner of video game development company FarSight Studios. The two discussed Obernolte's technology and business experience, as well as ever-changing government policies regarding the responsible use of technology, artificial intelligence, data privacy, and cyber security.
The U.S. Is Developing Comprehensive Policies for Artificial Intelligence and Data Privacy
There has been a great deal of criticism regarding the lack of technology experience on the part of policymakers working to create government policies on topics such as artificial intelligence and data privacy. However, Rep. Obernolte argued that “We can't be too hard on our fellow legislators.”
“Sometimes in Congress, it feels like our knowledge is a mile wide and an inch deep, especially when it comes to areas of policy that are very complex and somewhat arcane,” he said.
As a technology-related business owner, Rep. Obernolte believes that industry partners who have expertise in this area should bring said expertise to the table and help in drafting these policies.
“I ... think it's extremely important to bring expertise as the owner of a business because that is ... not a common track for members of Congress,” he explained. “I think we have a lot of members of Congress who don't understand the challenges of being an entrepreneur, starting a business, and growing it organically. I think that that perspective is really key to understanding how to create an environment that's going to foster the kind of technological innovation [we need].”Currently, California is leading the U.S. in data privacy laws, and theirs have become the standard.
“I think that eventually, this issue is going to be federally preempted,” Rep. Obernolte said. “It has to be because data privacy is so obviously related to the issue of industry and commerce that I don't think that we as a federal government can allow a patchwork quilt of 50 different state regulations to exist.”
Congress Is Exploring Role of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in Creating Tech Policy
The FTC is beginning to venture into a rulemaking role in the area of technology. It is wading into regulating liability and examining the intention of free speech, especially when it comes to stopping the spread of misinformation.
“One thing that I feel strongly about is that the federal bureaucracy is ill-equipped to deal with this problem on its own,” said Rep. Obernolte. “I think it’s going to need a partnership from us in Congress because we serve very different clienteles. The FTC is a branch of the administration … [and] they can promulgate rulemaking more quickly than we can in Congress.”
The U.S. Government Is Taking Steps to Be at the Forefront of Tech Innovation
Right now, cyber security is an especially high priority for the government, considering the several cyber attacks this year that devastated different businesses. Rep. Obernolte feels that one of the best ways to ensure cyber security for America is to bring the country to the forefront of computer science research.
To that end, he said, there has been a piece of legislation passed that grants scholarships and fellowships to early-career AI researchers to respond to the fact that many other countries graduate more computer science professionals than the U.S.
“In 2007, China passed the United States in the number of computer science Ph.Ds that their universities were issuing,” said Rep. Obernolte. “And in the next year or two, we project that they will be awarding twice the number of those degrees than the United States does.”
“I think that we should all find that truly alarming because we have this kind of geographical arrogance, where we assume that America is always going to be at the forefront of technological innovation, just because we were the home of Silicon Valley,” he added.
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