News Analysis: FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's speech at the National Holocaust Memorial Museum calls for the use of technology to shine a light on oppression and intolerance.
Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski spoke on Monday, Dec. 5,
to an audience that had assembled to witness the swearing in of the United
States Holocaust Memorial Council, of which he is the chairman.
his speech, Genachowski related the
horrific struggles of his ancestors as they escaped Nazi oppression in
Europe at the beginning of World War II. But as moving as his speech was, he
also delivered a warning about the misuse of technology today.
noted that the Nazis, who at the height of their power during World War II
occupied or otherwise controlled most of continental Europe, applied the
latest available technology to round up, catalog and exterminate political
opponents and ethnic groups that were the focus of their racial hatred,
including Jews and Gypsies. While the Germans were well-known for their mastery
of technology and industrial efficiency, the fact was that mastery was in
itself perverted, Genachowski said.
Holocaust proves many sad truths," Genachowski said. "One is that
modernity is not an inoculation against genocide. The pillars of
modernity-technology and science-are powerful forces. They were perverted for
evil by the Nazis, but technology and science are also sources of unlimited
hope, opportunity and transformative change."
hope is that these positive aspects of technology and science can be used to
fight this perversion. "We must fight so that technology is used to shine
a light on oppression and intolerance, to illuminate persecution and
dehumanization, to take oppression and mass murder out of the shadows," he
this sounds a lot like the famous Google unofficial motto of "Don't Be
Evil," it is. Genachowski is calling for a level of responsibility by
people and companies, and for the use of technology to hold accountable those
who conduct their business in a way that is evil or exploitive. Sadly, the fear
that technology will be used to commit evil acts is well-founded.
Author Edwin Black, who chronicled how
Germany used technology to commit genocide, is now researching how this is
happening in the present day. Black said he suspects that the fight to prevent
the perversion of technology around the world may already be lost.
points to tracking technology that will allow anyone with a wireless phone to
be located indoors or out and to the vast collection of data that can be mined
to find out nearly anything that can be found out about a person.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.