The life of a politician doesn't match well with that of highly skilled techies. The old stereotype of the computer geek shying away from social interaction isn't terribly far off. Most computer gurus process data in binary form: There are truths and there are untruths. When Chris Dodd stated, "The entire film industry of Spain, Egypt and Sweden are gone" due to piracy, a few minutes with Google would prove him absolutely wrong. A techie would simply discard that statement -- while many politicians appear to believe opinions have the same standing as facts, even when those opinions are based on demonstrable falsehoods. Say it with enough conviction and it counts.
That doesn't fly with techies. After all, if you start inserting vague notions into code or network architecture, at best it doesn't work very well, and at worst, everything breaks. Developing legislation isn't much different -- if it's built on bullcrap, it's a bad idea and it'll cause problems.
The only problem is that you can't run a debugger against legislation, and it will always compile without errors -- before it becomes law. Only after it goes into production do the flaws appear. To a techie, that's even more motivation to make sure it's exactly right. To a politician, it doesn't matter.
But who am I kidding? It's been a while since the U.S. Congress had the actual interests of U.S. citizens in mind. There's very little motivation to do the right or even the appropriate thing these days, and that's certainly not limited to turds like SOPA. If there were a true techie caucus in the federal government today -- a group composed of actual computer and math professionals -- my guess is that it wouldn't last long. There's far too little reason and logic within that body for minds that require those very elements to operate.
The best we can do for the short term is to throw everything we can behind legislation to reinstate the OTA (Office of Technology Assessment). From 1974 through 1995, this small group with a tiny budget served as an impartial, nonpartisan advisory to the U.S. Congress on all matters technological.
For the reasons stated above, it's not surprising that Newt Gingrich and others succeeded in dismantling the office as part of the 1995 "Contract with America" nonsense. Just as the United States was entering a period of monumental and unprecedented technological development and growth, while the world was rocketing forward to the vast networked environment we inhabit today, the U.S. Congress destroyed its logic center. The OTA was the closest thing it had to a technological brain.
If that isn't a metaphor for the current state of politics in the United States, I don't know what is.
This story, "Why politicians should never make laws about technology," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.