Science & Technology

102 Items

Les Droits de l’Homme, 1947 - a surrealist painting showing an anthropomorphic chess piece standing on a bridge next to a flaming tuba.

Rene Magritte

Report

Whose Streets? Our Streets! (Tech Edition)

    Author:
  • Rebecca Williams
| August 2021

This report is an urgent warning of where we are headed if we maintain our current trajectory of augmenting our public space with trackers of all kinds. In this report, I outline how current “smart city” technologies can watch you. I argue that all “smart city” technology trends toward corporate and state surveillance and that if we don’t stop and blunt these trends now that totalitarianism, panopticonism, discrimination, privatization, and solutionism will challenge our democratic possibilities. This report examines these harms through cautionary trends supported by examples from this last year and provides 10 calls to action for advocates, legislatures, and technology companies to prevent these harms. If we act now, we can ensure the technology in our public spaces protect and promote democracy and that we do not continue down this path of an elite few tracking the many. 

Report - Technology and Public Purpose

Building a 21st Century Congress: A Playbook for Modern Technology Assessment

| June 2021

How can United States policymakers better understand the next generation of emerging technologies and their societal implications? How can we make more educated decisions on the basic and applied research needed to solve the next generation of emerging threats? 

The 117th Congress and the Biden Administration must urgently address these questions to protect the lives and livelihoods of those living in the United States.
 

A quantum computer

Adobe Stock

Policy Brief

Using Advance Market Commitments for Public Purpose Technology Development

    Authors:
  • Alan Ho
  • Jake Taylor
| June 2021

Advance Market Commitments (AMCs) are a powerful policy tool that can be used to ensure that America can retain leadership in technology fields such as climate change, computing, and medicine. In an AMC, a U.S. agency commits to buying some specified new technology before that technology exists. This provides a price, specification, and framework for evaluation that can streamline decision making and funding approaches in the private sector and accelerate progress towards well defined technical outcomes without being directed about the underlying solution and steps along the path. As such, AMCs represent a powerful option for ground-up technological building where private investment replaces the role of more traditional, blue sky government funding, and the larger market for the resulting product is jump-started by an initial government market.

A scene of the Bay Bridge with San Francisco in the background

Adobe Stock

Paper

Venture Capital and Public Purpose Playbook

    Authors:
  • Liz Sisson 
  • Nathalie Gazzaneo
  • Campbell Howe
| April 2021

The Venture Capital Public Purpose Indicator and this accompanying playbook provide guidance to VCs and startups that are interested in preventing negative consequences and in laying a public purpose foundation.  They can be used alongside other existing diligence or planning processes.

Paper

The Coming AI Hackers

| April 2021

Hacking is generally thought of as something done to computer systems, but this conceptualization can be extended to any system of rules. The tax code, financial markets, and any system of laws can be hacked. This essay considers a world where AIs can be hackers. This is a generalization of specification gaming, where vulnerabilities and exploits of our social, economic, and political systems are discovered and exploited at computer speeds and scale.

The Dave Johnston coal-fired power plant is silhouetted against the morning sun in Glenrock, Wyoming, July 27, 2018.

AP Photo/J. David Ake

Paper

Enabling U.S. Technological Leadership for the 2050 Net-zero Market

    Author:
  • Jake Taylor
| February 2021

By investing in the public and private sector research and development in this space, and by fostering a community of researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors literate in CO2 capture opportunities, the United States can be the leader of this new economic sector. It is essential for the Nation to build a vibrant and sustained research and development community spanning the public sector, academic and research domains, and for-profit companies, ensuring world leadership in this new technological domain.

A view of the interior of the U.S. Capitol building

Benn Craig

Report

Building a 21st Century Congress: Improving STEM Policy Advice in the Emerging Technology Era

| November 2020

Many congressional personal offices and committees are already staffed by smart, public-spirited scientists and technologists, and Congress can draw on outside experts to inform its legislation and its hearings. But none of the interviewees for this report or our previous report, argued that the status quo worked as well as it should; no one thought that Congress had enough STEM expertise to effectively reckon with emerging technology issues. Everyone—from members of Congress to their staffers, from non-profit leaders to private sector professionals, from generalists to STEM professionals—thought that Congress can do better. 

An abstract design

N. Hanacek/NIST

Policy Brief

The Public-Purpose Consortium: Enabling Emerging Technology with a Public Mission

    Author:
  • Jake Taylor
| October 2020

We are at a moment in time where cooperation between public-purpose stakeholders and profit-motive stakeholders can be an effective means of integrating public purpose into technology as it emerges. This brief covers the basic concept of a public-purpose consortium (PPC), examination of what combination of factors lead to their use for emerging technologies, and considers the key principles for organizing PPCs and enabling their success: Build Community, Enable Cooperation, Ensure Value, Institute Governance, and Keep It Lightweight.

Members of the Faculty Working Group discuss the public purpose implications of emerging technologies.

Benn Craig

Report

Boston Tech Hub Faculty Working Group Annual Report 2019-2020

| September 2020

The Boston Tech Hub Faculty Working Group (FWG), hosted by former Secretary of Defense and Belfer Center Director Ash Carter and Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Dean Frank Doyle, holds monthly discussion-based meetings that explore and answer the question:

How do we resolve the dilemmas posed to public good and public purpose, created by technology’s unstoppable advances?

The Boston Tech Hub Faculty Working Group Annual Report is a summary report of findings, key insights, and outstanding questions from the discussions held during the 2019-2020 academic year.  

Paper

Responsible Investing in Tech and Venture Capital

| September 2020

Historically, venture capital firms have been the first investors in many of the world’s largest and most influential companies. The business model, culture, and values of global companies are often shaped in the early years of a company’s development, and venture capital firms as the first investors and board members play an important role in this process. 

In the last few years, the world’s largest tech companies have run into major challenges in managing societal issues—the result of which has been governments, media, and activists taking a much deeper look how foundational values and cultures were shaped.

This discussion paper highlights several challenges and some potential solutions for advancing the management of societal impacts of venture capital firms and portfolio companies.