I’m the brand new, in the job for one week only, Director of Public Affairs at Cambre, Will Parker. After ten or more years working on tech policy, I’m here to share some thoughts on what I have seen and try to predict what’s next.
Governments love to hate tech. If you listen to any European politician discuss tech policy, you will detect schizophrenia. One day they will lambast tech companies for stealing our privacy and enslaving us with algorithms, and the next day they will launch a programme to create the same (European) companies to steal our private data and enslave us with algorithms. This can be seen in the EU’s own digitisation programmes.
Before the pandemic, European Commission officials needed a token to work at home. Now they are all drafting happily in their spare rooms on the same tech as you and I. This is replicated across Europe as official documents can now be ordered online and local governments meet online. So, they love tech, but clearly 2021 has been about hating tech. The need to get a grip on the tech sector started with the revised GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) entering into force back in 2018. These rules, whilst strict, were also complicated as it’s taken time to bring enforcement cases. The current Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act were drafted to give EU regulators more tools to manage the tech sector. It is yet to be seen whether they just increase the regulatory burden on the sector to the same level as other highly regulated sectors like pharmaceutical.
Looking forward, it’s clear that more will have to be done. 2022 may be lighter in terms of tech regulation but the impact of social media on the political discourse and misinformation is huge. A threat to democracy. This will be the key discussion moving forward but a hard nut to crack because every politician likes to bend news for their own ends…and journalists need stories. As is often the case, our own behaviour as consumers of information will have to change too.
The resolution may be simple – as technology changes (and it always does) new services will come along. Meanwhile, the famous slogan “the children of the revolution eat themselves” will still stand as tech CEOs are sometimes more afraid of a small start-up than the entire EU.
The first ever codable music video [The Verge]
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to manipulate the music video of your favourite artist as you follow along? Well, Doja Cat in collaboration with Girls Who Code have developed the first ever codable music video! The user can control the music video using code and, in the end, you will get snapshots of how each area looked after you finished coding it. The site also lets you download or share the result on social media. Although it does not involve any intense amounts of programming, it is still a fun experiment and perhaps just the beginning of a new era of music videos? Try it out yourself and put your skills to the test: Dojacode.com
A tale of plants and technology by Sir David Attenborough [Wired]
“We have cameras that can take a demonstration of a parasitic plant throttling another plant to death. It’s dramatic stuff” says Sir David Attenborough, referring to his latest documentary, The Green Planet. The documentary mixes two of his greatest accomplishments over his career – getting nature close to his viewers, and technological innovation. To show plants fight, photosynthesize, or survive hostile environments, the team of the BBC Natural History Unit have resourced to complex Phantom Cameras, home-made drones attached to a window-cleaning pole, rare electron microscope systems and cameras hanging from giant canopies, among other. These innovative technologies have permitted Sir Attenborough to return to the tapes he first filmed.
Therapy 2.0 [MIT Technology Review]
The widespread nature of mental illness in our societies is increasingly recognised along with the stigma around therapy. While far from removed, it is improving ever so slightly. This recognition is now pushing for modern solutions to improve upon the surprisingly low quality of support to treat our mental health. There are simply not enough good therapists. The solution? Using natural language processing, through transcripts, to identify which parts of the conversation are most effective at treating disorders. Companies like Ieso and Lyssn are training AI on such transcripts and prove to be especially important during the circumstance of a pandemic. Humanity has constantly discovered new tools and used these to improve our quality of life, so let’s embrace the opportunities of machine learning and uncover where it may lead us.
Help! UK spy agency needs tech sector [BBC]
James Bond can no longer operate effectively with traditional spycraft alone. Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service needs to deploy technology to contend with threats to the country’s national security. That was the message of MI6 chief Richard Moore (no relative of Roger, the late Bond actor) in his first big speech since being appointed in October 2020. The agency has no choice, he said, but to team up with the private sector to add AI and other digital tools to its arsenal in order to keep pace with its adversaries. All eyes will be on this move to open up the inherently closed world of espionage to external partnerships on technology.
The most action Twitter got this year [TechCrunch]
As Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down from his role last week, Parag Agrawal was appointed as his successor. Agrawal came in with a bang, announcing a major reorganisation of the company, forcing the Chief Design officer and Head of Engineering to step down from their positions. Part of the change within the Twitter team will also be expressed in the workplace culture. While the details of these changes are yet to unfold, the new CEO looks set to implement operational changes with the aim of achieving the company goals in mind. Worth a like?
About this week’s editor, William Parker
I am a public affair professional with lots of experience in the tech sector, as well as sustainability. I come from a now unfashionable, former EU member state. I oversee the public affairs team at Cambre working with a stellar team on a range of issues around trade, tech, energy, chemicals and the broad sustainability agenda. When not thinking about policy, I am a keen cyclist.
In case you haven’t had enough…
Plans for a new ‘carbon free’ liquid hydrogen aircraft revealed [Travel Weekly]
Spotify Pulls Content of Hundreds of Comedians Fighting to Get Royalties for Their Written Work [Gizmodo]
NASA wants to use the sun to power future deep space missions [Technology Review]
Someone Is Running Hundreds of Malicious Servers on the Tor Network and Might Be De-Anonymizing Users [Gizmodo]
Jimmy Wales is selling his first Wikipedia edit as an NFT [The Verge]
When Did Spotify Wrapped Get So Chatty? [The New York Times]
Two Disney Legends Are Tackling an Animated DC Movie [Gizmodo]