Technology

Josh Hawley: What Has Technology Done for Us Lately?

The senator leading an anti-tech crusade in Congress is being willfully ignorant of all the ways technology has improved humanity in recent decades.

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While speaking to a group of young conservatives on Wednesday, Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) made the bizarre claim that the biggest problem with technology today is the lack of innovation.

His "biggest critique of big tech," Howley said, "is: what big innovation have they really given us?"

"I mean, we just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Think about what the tech sector gave to America in the 1960s—just in that decade, think about what the tech sector gave to America," Hawley said. His remarks, delivered before a gathering hosted by the Young America's Foundation, a conservative nonprofit, were recorded and posted to Twitter by audience member Greg Price.

"What is it now that in the last 15, 20 years that people who say they are the brightest minds in the country have given this country?" Hawley continued. "What are their great innovations?"

Hawley should pick up the latest issue of Reason, half of which is devoted to the many ways in which the world is getting better. He'd be shocked to learn that a lot of those improvements are due to modern technological innovations. "We live in a world of reliable miracles," writes Reason Editor in Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward. It is a world where deaf people can be made to hear with the use of cochlear implants, where the nearly blind can have their vision restored by lasers, and where paraplegics have access to advanced prosthetics that let them walk.

Adrianne Haslet-Davis lost a leg in the Boston Marathon bombing, but now, thanks to technology, she can do this:

That prosthetic was designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology biophysicist Hugh Herr, who also happens to be a double amputee. As Associate Editor Mike Riggs detailed in that same issue of Reason, Herr's latest project is a surgical procedure that will allow the brain to control robotic limbs as if they were part of your body. That's technology!

There's also a Silicon Valley biotech firm that's developing artificial pancreases for diabetics. Technology!

It's not just medical technology that's getting better and better, though that's obviously Hawley's biggest blindspot. Hawley wants to sneer at the vapidity of Snapchat "streaks" and fret over YouTube's "autoplay" feature, but he's ignoring the real ways in which social media companies are making the world a better place.

"Social media and Google and such things have revolutionized public discourse," says Price, who posted the video of the senator's speech and also questioned Hawley about the bill. "There's certainly ways to criticize specific actions of the companies without making the government our social media nanny."

Daisy Soderberg-Rivkin, a technology fellow at the R Street Institute, a free market think tank, points out that social media has helped people topple oppressive regimesrespond to disastersbuild democracy, and expose human rights abuses.

"I think what this senator often forgets is that social media is not just a way for users to scroll through endless videos of puppies, or talk to friends about their last vacation," says Soderberg-Rivkin. "To claim that social media does more harm than good is a broad generalization that underestimates the power of users to harness technology to make a real difference."

That Hawley seems unable to grasp the value of such things is a good indication that he's the wrong guy to be leading a legislative crusade against technology.

But leading one he is. Earlier this week, Hawley introduced a bill that aims to regulate how Americans use social media. As Reason Features Editor Peter Suderman explained yesterday, Hawley's proposal would "outlaw such features as infinite scroll and Snapchat's 'streaks,' which encourage users to engage in unbroken communications with friends. The bill would additionally require social media companies to install time-use dashboards, and it would give the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services the power to regulate other features in the future."

Hawley's bill is one of the first legislative ideas to emerge from a growing conservative backlash against modern technology—a backlash generated in part by Fox News' Tucker Carlson and others in the nascent "national conservatism" movement. They are all making the same mistake: dismissing the obvious benefits of technology while focusing solely on some of the unproductive trade-offs.

Recent technologies have helped countless Americans live longer, better, healthier, happier lives. And while scrolling through a never-ending Instagram feed might not be as valuable as the development of prosthetic limbs, both innovations add value to the human experience and should be free from government interference.

What has technology done for us lately? Just open your eyes.

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  1. Don’t forget Twitter which allows Trump to send thousands of SJWs into a blind rage whenever he tweets. That’s just magical.

  2. Perhaps some sort of new tax is in order….

  3. Where my flyin’ car at? What ’bout that?

    1. Lots of luddites everywhere. Is someone holding a gun to these anti-technology heads to use the internet and social media- – politics keeps getting stranger.

      1. Oops, this was not supposed to be a response. DAM TECHNOLOGY!!!

      2. Is someone holding a gun to these anti-technology heads to use the internet and social media-

        Kinda, yeah

      3. Is taking guns out of my hands (or my kids’ hands) equivalent to putting a gun to my (or their) head?

        Universal background checks would require an interconnected network of computers and I (or my kids) would be required to use it before purchasing or selling a gun. Would something like that count?

    1. Twitter needs to die .

  4. He is welcome to not use any technology more recent than July 20, 1969. I will help him compile a list.

  5. “3) Said that we don’t consent to them taking our data even though there’s this thing called terms and conditions”

    And yet, if I put up a sign on my property saying “trespassers will be shot”, and then I shoot a trespasser, I’m the bad guy. Didn’t the trespasser consent to being shot?

    If it’s really small print, then I’m really the bad guy.

  6. I think we need to send Hawley back to …. to before the invention of radio. That way I won’t have to hear about the drivel coming out of his mouth.

  7. Josh Hawley: What Has Technology Done for Us Lately?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvPbj9NX0zc

  8. “What is it now that in the last 15, 20 years that people who say they are the brightest minds in the country have given this country?” Hawley continued. “What are their great innovations?”

    Emojis. Twitter. Instant Dick pics, free porn… I can do this all day, Sen. Hawley.

  9. Josh Hawley: What Has Technology Done for Us Lately?

    Don’t have any specifics off the top of my head, but I’m willing to bet more than Josh Hawley has.

  10. TECHNOLOGY IMPLODING!!!

  11. “His “biggest critique of big tech,” Howley said, “is: what big innovation have they really given us?””

    An acquaintance is what’s known as a ‘enzyme engineer’. In the ’70s, you could buy good wine or bad whine; one of the folks working that field developed the enzyme which mean you no longer had ‘bad’ wine (not counting T-bird and the like); you had good wine and OMG! wine, counted among the least of their efforts.
    Medical advances from their efforts mean many diabetics no longer need insulin, cancer treatments are now customized to the individual, and so forth.
    None of this would be possible absent the tremendous growth in computing power.
    He once mentioned that calcs which required months on IBM System 370s (when they could get the time) were now done in less than a day on a run-of-the-mill Dell laptop.
    Hawley’s a fucking ignoramus.

  12. All of his proposals would run counter to the 1A since code is speech and the govt would either be compelling speech our infringing it.

    1. “Limiting how long an infinite scroll wall can be”, how idiotic. It’s like limiting how long a newspaper can be.

      And that it’s intended to limit viewing of content really clinches it, regardless of attempts to obfuscate this through descriptions of mechanics.

      1. For that matter it is a double violation as not only does free speech imply the right to read others’ speech, but limiting the scroll wall length is a limitation on the press, the mechanical means of mass production and distribution of speech, which tyrants also controlled as a backdoor method of censorship. Such a law is literally limiting the mass production of speech by others to you.

        And it is doing so for the exact reason this was included in the first amendment — controlling that so you can’t see as much speech, just like the tyrant wants.

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