The U.S. lacks policy makers and politicians who understand the responsibilities and vulnerabilities behind computer systems. As society becomes increasingly tech-dependent, it is imperative that those who make decisions on behalf of national security and citizen safety are knowledgeable in technology implications. But what barriers are preventing this? 

The main issues we face:

  • “The scarcity of cases to analyze and the sheer scientific complexity of the related technology.”
    • Many politicians do not go to school for computer science. This can be attributed to a generational divide and the unsurprising truth that a lot of politicians study political science and law. The average age of senators is 61.0, Congress is 57.0, but the surge of students pursuing computer science and IT related degrees is relatively recent. A statistic I would love to know is the percentage of computer science majors also interested in governance.
  • Governments (domestically and internationally) may be eager to conceal certain technologies, of which only the cyber research community at most may have access.
    • The plausible reluctance of officials to discuss offensive cyber policy — how much should the public know?
    • Policy is complicated when many important technical/tactical maneuvers within the cyber realm are “shrouded in secrecy”.
  • Perhaps a sense of resignation among politicians?
    • To understand the vulnerabilities and dangers of computers requires significant study and knowledge. Today, a scholarly void arguably exists between politics and cyber security.
  • Lack of coordination between public and private sector.
    • Should private companies be required to report network breaches that escape public detection to the government? If so, what is the scope and size of legislature to enforce this? Would this be an overstep of government authority?
  • False public perceptions of cyber issues
    • “‘Cyber threats’ are pernicious lines of codes”, and the public may does not focus on the human agents who actually utilize them.
    • The public might fail in looking beyond the term of “security” as simply the safety of a computer system or network. We must also consider the critical infrastructures that are dependent on the cyberspace.

The aforementioned are arguably some of the main barriers to increased knowledgeability of cyber responsibilities for politicians and policy-makers. Some of the issues are the results of tradeoffs — some technical maneuvers must remain secret to benefit national security — even if the politicians are then left in the digital dark about them. Other barriers should reduce with time as people increasingly realize the relevance and importance of cybersecurity in society.

And finally, a few barriers are perhaps impossible for those with only a political science degree to overcome. Thus, what is apparent is that we need more computer scientists interested in cyber governance, cyber policy, and cyber ethics — not just software programming. A humanities and social science focus must be incorporated in computer science educations, which I argue will result in an increased human capital of politicians who can make the best political decisions as relevant to technology.

 

Works Cited

Kello, Lucas. “The Meaning of the Cyber Revolution Perils to Theory and Statecraft.”International Security 38.2 (2013): 7-40. President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2013. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.<http://www.belfercenter.org/sites/default/files/files/publication/IS3802_pp007-040.pdf&gt;.

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