The Pros and Cons of Technology

At this moment in history, technology surrounds us – even more so in the past two decades. It allows us to stay connected in unimaginable ways.

Twenty years ago, the smartphone, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and video conferencing were all emerging technologies. The world was revolutionized with the advancement of 3G or third-generation connectivity in our mobile phones in 2002, and now, nearly 20 years later, almost every mobile smartphone has the ability to connect to a 5G cellular network.

As technology evolves, so do its uses, especially in the political arena.

Technological advancements in voting were made following the 2000 presidential election which saw no clear winner on election night. Punch cards paved the way for new technology like electronic voting machines. Fast forward 20 years when a worldwide pandemic forced the country to find a new way to get to the polls. A record number of voters cast their ballots by mail, which led to a delay in the presidential election being called not on election night, but nearly three and a half days later.

This delay, and increased election scrutiny following the 2020 election, is causing some tech companies to find a solution that might make it easier and more efficient for people to vote. Earlier this year, the city of Chandler, Arizona, launched a pilot program using a smartphone app to vote. The “Voatz” app uses blockchain technology which makes it difficult to change or hack. It is the same technology used for the increasingly popular cryptocurrency.

While advances in technology are being used in positive ways, there is also a contingent using technology in a negative fashion.

Deep fakes use artificial intelligence (or machine learning) to replace the likeness of one person with another in video or digital media. While these videos have not found their way into mainstream media, some have been found floating around social media. The House Intelligence Committee held hearings on the potential malicious use of deepfakes to sway elections. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have introduced legislation to respond to the problems posed by deep fakes.

So, the question we must ask is should innovation and security always be at odds? Is there a way to find a balance between the two? Join Secretary Janet Napolitano and Senator Mark Warner, two national security experts and public servants, for a fascinating discussion about the risks and opportunities of emergent technologies for voting, political engagement and much more.

Watch: Emergent Technologies: Friend or Foe?

Defending Against the Ravages of Disinformation

The rise of social media has given everyone with a smartphone or computer access to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter the power to broadcast their voice, their message to the masses with the touch of a button. The definition of social media is simple, interactive technology that allows the creation or sharing of information, ideas, interests, and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. However, with its rise in popularity, social media comes with some pitfalls, including the increased spread of disinformation.

There is a difference between disinformation and misinformation.

Misinformation is defined as “false information that is spread, regardless of intent to mislead.”

Disinformation is defined as “false information which is intended to mislead, especially propaganda issued by a government organization to a rival power or the media.”

In just the past 18 months, disinformation has had direct, harmful effects on efforts to check the spread of COVID-19, on initiatives for racial justice and on the 2020 election and its aftermath. What is even scarier, is that the continued spread of disinformation has no sign of slowing or stopping. It has forced social media companies to add disclaimers to social media posts implying that the information being read may not be accurate or truthful. News organizations are employing more fact checkers to ensure the information they disseminate over the airwaves is not false.

Eminent scholars were brought together for a Berkeley Conversation to debate and explore one of the most critical questions facing our democracy: How can we counter disinformation to protect our communities without compromising America’s core principles?

The event is sponsored by the Goldman School of Public Policy, Berkeley Law and the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.

Watch Defending Against the Ravages of Disinformation.

From Cal Student to Mayor of Berkeley

The Center on Civility & Democratic Engagement (CCDE) at the Goldman School of Public Policy presents a special 2021 UC Berkeley Homecoming lecture featuring Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin. CCDE Faculty Director Dan Lindheim interviews Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin on how he went from Cal student to Berkeley’s Mayor, and the key issues the City faces in terms of public safety, housing, homelessness, COVID, and its complicated relationships with the Berkeley campus.

Watch From Cal Student to Mayor of Berkeley.

Homeland Security in the Post-Trump Era

The Biden-Harris administration faces an evolving mix of foreign and domestic threats. Repairing the damage done to domestic security agencies and returning public confidence is at the core of this conversation among four former leaders of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, served as Secretaries of the Department under President George W. Bush. Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson served during the Obama administration. The discussion is moderated by former Assistant Secretary of Defense Douglas B. Wilson.

The panel explores topics from Russian interference in the 2016 election to the racism of the white nationalist groups that were prominent in the January 6 attack on the capitol, and the role of social media in both. They note that the department was created in 2002 based on the assumption that terrorism came from beyond our borders but the principal threat is now increasingly domestic-based.

Challenges abound for the new Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The panel agrees his job includes rebuilding trust in the department, a trust that was eroded by former Present Trump who systematically undermined the department, using it for political gain rather than public safety.

Fortunately, they have faith in the national security officials’ ability to meet the current challenges.

Watch Homeland Security in a Post-Trump Era: Bipartisan Insights for the Coming Years.

Big Ideas: Election 2020

This fall we have the quadrennial opportunity to study American politics during a presidential campaign. Combining real-time analysis of the election campaigns, an in-depth study of the relevant historical context, and a lively roster of guest speakers from academics and social movements, this twice a week class taught by two UC Berkeley professors provides an interdisciplinary introduction to American politics in a time of unprecedented crisis and possibility.

Michael Mark Cohen, American Studies and African American Studies, and Saru Jayaraman, Goldman School of Public Policy, take you through the day-to-day flow of the 2020 campaign, taking on everything from polling data and social media coverage, the COVID-19 pandemic and the waves of social protests, to the presidential debates and the final vote tallies. While the presidential election will hold center stage, they will also explore politics from a local, state wide and international level.

New programs are added every Monday and Wednesday evening. Each session begins with a lively, up-to-the-minute discussion of the latest events in the race. From there, delve into the sources of these current events. Each Wednesday features a guest speaker; specialists, academics and social movement leaders from across the campus, the Bay Area and the world offer their expert insight into our political system.

This election, and this moment of crisis, will define the future of American democracy. And in this class, we will examine this turning point as it happens.

Browse more programs in Big Ideas: Election 2020.