“There’s no think tank for technology in the UK” someone said to me once.
They were right. There are think tanks with political leanings, like IPPR or Policy Exchange, there are think tanks for some of the big policy areas, such as RUSI or The Kings Fund, and there are think tanks about the processes of government itself, like the Institute for Government.
There is at least one tech think tank in the US, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, who “formulate and promote public policies to advance technological innovation and productivity”. Perhaps the closest thing in the UK are academic research groups such as SPRU and the OII, or Demos’s social media project.
Why are think tanks important? In their lesser moments their ideas are obscure and superficially evidenced, funded by murky sponsorship deals. In their better moments they make new ideas viable, test them with rigorous research and raise levels of public understanding and debate on important issues.
Astronomer and science writer Carl Sagan wrote in 1996:
We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster.
There are an abundance of technological trends: big data, machine learning, the internet of things… One that’s particularly interesting – for the questions it raises and the future it suggests – is the future of people and technology: human enhancement, robots replacing workers, the changing relationship between people and machines.
That’s what this blog is about. Providing news reports on developments in personal technology; analyses of new products and prostheses; interviews with experts and so on. It’s not a think tank, it’s just a blog – but like a think tank it does hope to spread ideas and provoke thought.