Government in the technological age


Graphic: Azwan Azhar/ Iowa State Daily

Technology affect the government greatly especially in modern warfare or encrypted intelligence purposes. 

In late September, the U.S. Department of Defense discovered that severe errors had been made in an almost $400 billion program tasked with the construction of the F-35 fighter jets for the military.

This week, an aerial target drone being used in training by the U.S. Navy malfunctioned and crashed into a missile cruiser off the southern coast of California, causing minor injuries to two sailors.

New technology has both directly and indirectly shaped the American government into what it is today.

“There have always been flaws in every technology. It would be mind boggling if we had hard data and video of the failures of equipment in World War II or Vietnam. Rifles and machine guns jammed at the slightest occasion. We just did not know,” said Steffen Schmidt, political science professor. 

Overall, technology has made for a much more transparent government and military. The internet and its nearly instant access to information have made for what was once unseen to be in plain view. Some may argue whether or not such access is necessarily good.

“It depends on what it is. Personal issues that have little or no impact on policy should be private. Malfeasance and corruption or dangerous practices that undermine law should be public,” Schmidt said. “I would add that tyrants and dictators always want nothing to be public whereas in a democracy we need to know of the system will corrode and be corrupted.”

Among the more controversial examples of government use of technology are unmanned drones. Whether they be used for surveillance or as tools of war, they are one of the more advanced forms of technology currently utilized by the military.

“Like every new technology drones will be used as tools for combat and for intelligence gathering,” Schmidt said. “The important thing is that, like firearms used by authorities, the use should be scrutinized and controlled and not random and unlimited. The use of drones domestically is a risk but it will and is happening including by news media.”

The modern age is one of advanced and intricate devices and systems. It’s possible that the utilization of today’s technology is merely the current interpretation of a long-standing ideal.

“We live in a time where we have more access to government information than ever before,” said Zachary Bonner, a Graduate Assistant in the Political Science Dept. “but on the flip side of the coin, I do not believe the average U.S. citizen knows or cares where to find most of this accurate government information outside of what they hear on the news program they watch.” 

In today’s political climate perhaps it is to be expected that certain uncomfortable policies must be upheld.

“Technology has always been used as a tool of law and order, it’s just a new package of technology that is more awesome and appropriate to our times. Kings and potentates always spied in one way or another on their opponents,” Schmidt said. “opening mail has been used since the invention of mail. Phone taps since phones, it just has to be done in a way appropriate for a democracy. In an era of terrorism there is more threat thus more surveillance and less privacy. That will never change.”