Opinion: Congressional Hearings should be done by industry insiders

Congressional hearings seem to be a trending topic. After Mr. Pichai refused to join the tech-table a few months back, he is up for a nice session today. However, the toughest job of all might not be Pichai’s today, but that of the congressmen.

Let’s be fair, it is not easy for politicians to keep up with everything that goes on around them. They are just mere humans; highly intelligent ones actually, who are capable of absorbing information like a sponge. These interviews might be a little bit out of their league, though…

US congressmen and women, get the chance to dive into the world of technology and innovation. The best part is, we all get to watch. We “all” seem to get a kick out of the congressional hearings in the USA at the moment, though.

Sure, the questions are somewhat ridiculous sometimes. Some, do not seem to understand the difference between Google as a company and the iPhone (as a product). But, can we really blame them for it?

Can we blame them?

I believe that we tend to forget, that these technological advances are still very young. We have only had smartphones for roughly a decade and although we “all” use them, we might be users, but not experts on how the technology works. Hence, I think it is sort of normal, that congressmen ask questions that seem out of context.

Have a look at the video above. After approximately 2:30 minutes, on of the congressmen asks whether Google can track the movement of his iPhone. For him, this is a straight-forward question and Mr. Pichai is right in saying:  it could very well be that Google can track his movements, but it is not something that is set up by default. I think many people are afraid of what Google might know. Yet, they are unaware of the role they play in this themselves.

The questions these people ask, show us that we need to work on educating everyone in society on what technology really means. We need to explain what the threats and opportunities are, and show them how they can take control of how and what kind of information we share.

Let experts ask the questions

  • Why don’t congressmen and -women alike, rely more strongly on the advice of actual experts.
  • Why don’t they prepare themselves for these kinds of interviews, with preliminary talks to people who know what tech innovation is all about?
If you want to get the right answers out of someone like Zuckerberg or Pichai, you need to ask the right questions.

The problems and concerns the congressmen are trying to address are valid points. They just do not know how to pose the right questions, that will actually give them the answers they need. One solution could be to prepare a list of topics for industry experts to ask these CEOs, and have them do the interviews.

My whole life as a tech entrepreneur has been about explaining technology to others. I probably spend more time explaining the limitations of tech, than building new solutions. Technological advances are part of our everyday life, but we know very little about what we can do with it; let alone how it can and will affect our society in the long run.

If we do not teach others, what technology can actually do, and show them how things work, we will not be able to take away that fear and the uncertainty that comes along with technological change.