November 29, 2020

Don't Blame "The Government"

Some people have interpreted my previous posting, “The Fallacy of the Almost-General-Purpose Computer” as saying that the U.S. government views general-purpose computers as a threat. That’s not quite what I meant to say. What I meant to say was that in Washington law/policy/lobbyist circles, the proposition that general-purpose computers might be too dangerous is now (apparently) being taken seriously.

It’s almost always a mistake to talk about “the U.S. government” as having any particular view, as though the government were a monolithic entity that had a unitary viewpoint or a single coherent plan. Any organization so large necessarily will have multiple viewpoints jostling for influence, and its left hand will not know what its right hand is doing. This is especially true for the U.S. government, which was designed to include multiple competing voices, and not to centralize power in any one place.