Technologies affect everyday life and the environment, social and political relations, and, indeed, the course of history as profoundly as do major legislative initiatives and Constitutional amendments. The development and deployment of technologies--ranging from consumer products to workplace technologies, infrastructure, medical devices, and so on--also represents a leading component of the entire U.S. economy. For instance, each year the United States spends some $150 billion on research-and- development (apportioned roughly evenly between the private and public sectors).
While the U.S. is at the forefront of global innovation, American science and technology policies suffer from two fundamental shortcomings:
1. Although strongly attentive to technology's role as an economic factor of production, current policies are insufficiently attentive to technologies' profound range of environmental, social, and political effects. As a result, technical capabilities that could be used to solve national problems are often squandered or, worse, misdirected to the point of becoming a major _source_ of problems.
2. For the most part, policies are being formulated and implemented without the involvement of public-interest, grassroots, and worker organizations. (This second shortcoming helps to account for the first.)
Since its inception in 1987, the Loka Institute has established itself as a vital information and organizing hub among thousands of people and groups worldwide concerned with science, technology and society.
Recent accomplishments and new activities of the Project include:
Launching and coordinating FASTnet (the Federation of Activists on Science & Technology Network)
Promoting and helping to coordinate a Community Research Network
Co-Planning the first Citizen's Panel to take place in the United States
Briefing government leaders, including the Chairman and Staff of the House Science Committee, the Director and Executive Committee of the National Institute of Standards & Technology, and the Director and staff of the Danish Parliament's Board of Technology
Giving media interviews (e.g., to CNN, The New York Times, Civilization, Omni, Investor's Business Daily, Science Magazine, and on regional and national radio shows, such as CBS-Radio's "Osgood File", and NPR's "To the Best of Our Knowledge") Publishing constructive policy critiques (e.g., in the Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Technology Review) and the books Democracy and Technology (New York: Guilford Press, 1995) and Technology for the Common Good (Washington, DC: Institute for Policy Studies, 1993)
Disseminating Loka Alerts concerned with democratizing science and technology to thousands of individuals and groups worldwide
Giving public presentations (e.g., at conferences of the National Association on Science, Technology & Society; the International Forum on Globalization; Computers, Freedom & Privacy; the Participatory Design Conference; Internet World; Professional Pugwash; the Annenberg Washington Program, etc.)
Co-organizing conferences and public forums (such as "Technology and the African American Experience" at Howard University; "Challenges to Citizenship in an Age of High Technology," a multisite interactive discussion series broadcast by satellite; and "Dissenting Ways of Knowing," the 4th International Conference on Comparative Scientific Traditions)
Functioning as an informal information clearinghouse for other grassroots and public-interest organizations, journalists, government staff, businesses, trade unions, foundations, students and scholars.