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Do you think that the American government would be substantially different if most senators and congresspersons previously worked as scientists or engineers instead of as lawyers, as is the case today?
The fact that very few elected officials in America have professional training in science or technology is going to inhibit the effective governance of science and technology. Government policies and activities can place either a direct or indirect influence on technological change (Volti, 2010 p. 340). The government can place an impact on science and technology in numerous ways, some examples being: budgeting, the passing of laws, the funding of research and development, implementing tax policies, offering tax credits and deductions, and influencing the public (Volti, 2010 p. 340-346). If government officials have little to no knowledge or background in regard to the science and/or technology at hand, this makes it incredibly difficult for them to effectively influence and govern such a science and/or technology.
The American government would be substantially different if most senators and congresspersons previously worked as scientists or engineers instead of as lawyers. This is due to the fact that a change in ones background is going to drastically alter their values and personal agenda. Government officials who previously worked in a science or technology related field are going to advocate and support more science and technology related projects. As stated in the text, Some agencies are more influential than others because of the greater technical abilities of their staff and their greater interest in science and technology. (Volti, 2010 p. 349). Currently, policies relating to technology emerge from committees and subcommittees (Volti, 2010 p. 346). With more government officials interested in the subjects of science and technology -due to the changes in previous careers-, it would be likely that a new, larger department would be created in relation to technology and science.
Can you think of any potentially important technologies that have languished because they have lacked political support? How could they gain this support?
I am having difficulty coming up with examples of technologies that languished because they lacked political support. The best I could come up with are technologies which still exist, but I believe they need government support in order to accomplish what they are designed to do. For example, electric/hybrid cars and utilizing cleaner energy sources such as wind and geothermal. These technologies are quite expensive and will require government intervention and support to become common practices in the U.S..
In order to gain political support, a technology must exhibit or market itself as desirable to government officials (Volti, 2010 p. 347). There must be a need or demand that this technology is fulfilling, some greater purpose. A technology is more likely to gain political support if it offers some form of benefit to those supporting it. Perhaps this technology will benefit the people which a government official represents, allowing the government official to utilize this as support for a campaign. Money can also be a big factor, if a technology is going to be a greater expense than what the government thinks it is worth, it is not likely to be supported. In order for technologies to be sponsored, a coalition must be formed from the members of the iron triangle who see to it that the technologies develop in accordance with their own needs and interests (Volti, 2010 p. 350). The iron triangle consists of congressional committees, government agencies, and the key groups whose interests are closely impacted by government decisions (Volti, 2010 p. 350). Gaining political support of a technology is not easy, but it can be done!
Volti, R. (2010). Society and Technological Change (6th ed.).Worth Pub.