Scoble's back to pushing his Orwellian "Government should have it's hand in all technology" agenda again. This time he wants a national Chief Technology Officer...
On the way over to the interview I kept thinking back to our Washington DC visit. Both Republicans and Democrats told me they wish there were someone in the White House that they could talk to about tech and science issues. That seemed to support Barack Obama’s tech policy, which calls for a national CTO position.
Now first, let me just say that I'm extra sensitive about this topic right now.
I have many friends and several family members who currently work for the State Government here in California. Currently all those people (about 150,000) are about to have their salaries cut down to minimum wage because the Governor and the Legislature can't agree on a budget after 52 days of trying.
For the record that cut means they'll make $6.55 an hour which comes to $229.25 a week before taxes. So if two Government workers making the average salary of $35,000 a year are married they'll see their combined monthly salary drop from $5833 to $993 with practically no warning
(The courts have stayed the decision until the end of August but a month's warning is essentially none in my book)
This sort of situation is why the last thing we need is a national, government dictated tech policy. Because Government can't move quickly and that's exactly what IT needs to do. A Government based CTO would need congressional approval to make decisions which would be a disaster.
Let me give you one hypothetical scenario. Some new threat arises and the CTO of the United States decides we need new Firewalls immediately. Congress agrees but the Senator from Utah wants to buy the technology from Novell while the Senator from Washington wants to buy it from Microsoft. Suddenly we're playing politics and the congress ends up debating the situation for weeks while our technological infrastructure gets compromised in the mean time.
Think I'm wrong, look at the areas hit by Katrina. For all the political blame passed around the bottom line is the Katrina situation would have been avoided if any of the various Governments (State, Local or Federal) had managed to do their job competently. Moreover, the situation could have been resolved in minutes had there not been a bunch of Government imposed rules that prevented competent people from stepping in (Most notably, the Military deals with these types of situations all the time overseas but they couldn't help our own citizens because Posse Comitatus prevents the use of any Military forces on U.S. Soil)
I don't think I need to point out that a virus hits much faster than a Hurricane.
That's the point: Government, by it's nature, can only hope for baseline competence at best. If anyone can name even one example of a Government operation that runs efficiently I'd consider rethinking my position but after spending my whole life asking that same question I've yet to get even one good answer.
Given that why would you want to entrust more power over things, especially something as vital as IT infrastructure, to an organization (aka the Government) that has never managed to do anything right?
Addendum: A thought that occurred to me while I was posting this…
Most Obama supporters see George Bush as a bad president with no respect for privacy and Obama as a good possible president who would respect their privacy. Hence, they’re willing to give Government control over our technological infrastructure to Obama.
Now, I’m not saying that is true (I don’t take political sides here) but let’s assume for the purposes of getting into another person’s mindset that it is true. How then does it never occur to these people that a bad President like Bush might come in after Obama and use all the control they gave Obama for nefarious purposes?
2nd Addendum: I hate doing two addendums to a post but I just love this quote from Duncan Riley because it proves exactly what I was saying the first time Scoble brought this up...
One of the promises of the Obama campaign is to appoint a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the United States should he win in November. It’s recognition of tech has a driving force within the US economy, and it’s an idea that I know I’d want copied in my native Australia.
This is what the whole things has been about from the start. Bloggers wanting validation so badly that they're willing to inflict terrible consequences on the world to get it. The message is...
"Give Government control over the infrastructure, let them dictate over the Internet and basically drive full speed ahead to the future that George Orwell warned about. As long as someone's paying attention to me I'm happy"
Bottom Line: Technolgoy does not need the Government to validate it's importance. It's done just fine and will continue to do so. Bloggers on the other hand seem to want it more than anything else.