Under what conditions would high-tech companies want to work with the government? Clearly, he said, there is a patriotic intent to participate in programs that advance security. But commercial high-tech companies—even those with the best intentions and will to help—cannot afford to allow their business plan to be derailed. The challenge is to devise a working relationship that has benefits for all partners.
In designing technologies and systems to work in ports, hospitals, borders, and other “real-life” environments, how can we integrate the experience of first responders in thousands of local communities—firefighters, emergency medical people, police? These people are unlikely to have high-tech backgrounds, but they know how large systems work, and their knowledge is essential to adapting and operating high-tech tools in the real world.
Dr. Gabriel began by noting the importance of a portfolio of approaches. Every new technology, every platform, and every sector has different qualities, and the only way to create an entity broad enough to comprehend these qualities is to create a partnership with diverse representation. Also needed is a variety of programs and approaches, both from social science and “real people.”
“We must keep reminding ourselves,” she said, “that one of the reasons we do technology is because we know how to do it. Technology has always been the route for the best and brightest people to get really exciting work.” At the same time, she said, it may actually be easier to work on a technology problem than to address many of the critical but broader challenges facing the world “You hear that if someone were to come back from Biblical times,” she said, “they would be astounded by the technology and wouldn’t understand a thing about it. But if you told them about our current geopolitical tensions, they’d understand them perfectly.” The point, she said, is that we have made too little progress in solving many of the complex social problems that are limiting the progress of people and nations toward a better quality of life and “the pursuit of happiness,” which is why there are still “David’s” out there trying to kill the “Goliaths.” How do we make progress on those underlying issues?
In setting up any program, she said, it is important to have the policy agenda, the goals and objectives, the evaluation mechanism, and the leadership. But it is equally or more important to ensure that the program has the right operational features; specifically, what incentives invite the people naturally to work toward the goals of the program. When a group of agencies is forced to make joint decisions about funding allocations, for example, the group has to work in collaboration or nothing will be accomplished. She also advised that the group have diverse expertise, not only in the specific sector under study, but also in related sectors. As an example, she suggested that people who work in government after