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About Darrell M. West
Darrell M. West is vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. Previously, he was the John Hazen White Professor of Political Science and Public Policy and director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. He is the author of numerous books on American politics, campaigns and elections, and technology policy. His recent books include Megachange: Economic Disruption, Political Upheaval, and Social Strife in the 21t Century and Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust. He can be reached at DWest@Brookings.edu or through his webpage at www.InsidePolitics.org.
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Artificial Intelligence is here, today. How can society make the best use of it?
Until recently, artificial intelligence sounded like something out of science fiction. But the technology of artificial intelligence, AI, is becoming increasingly common, from self-driving cars to e-commerce algorithms that seem to know what you want to buy before you do. Throughout the economy and many aspects of daily life, artificial intelligence has become the transformative technology of our time.
Despite its current and potential benefits, AI is little understood by the larger public and widely feared. The rapid growth of artificial intelligence has given rise to concerns that hidden technology will create a dystopian world of increased income inequality, a total lack of privacy, and perhaps a broad threat to humanity itself.
In their compelling and readable book, two experts at Brookings discuss both the opportunities and risks posed by artificial intelligenceand how near-term policy decisions could determine whether the technology leads to utopia or dystopia.
Drawing on in-depth studies of major uses of AI, the authors detail how the technology actually works. They outline a policy and governance blueprint for gaining the benefits of artificial intelligence while minimizing its potential downsides.
The book offers major recommendations for actions that governments, businesses, and individuals can take to promote trustworthy and responsible artificial intelligence. Their recommendations include: creation of ethical principles, strengthening government oversight, defining corporate culpability, establishment of advisory boards at federal agencies, using third-party audits to reduce biases inherent in algorithms, tightening personal privacy requirements, using insurance to mitigate exposure to AI risks, broadening decision-making about AI uses and procedures, penalizing malicious uses of new technologies, and taking pro-active steps to address how artificial intelligence affects the workforce.
Turning Point is essential reading for anyone concerned about how artificial intelligence works and what can be done to ensure its benefits outweigh its harm.
Looking for ways to handle the transition to a digital economy
Robots, artificial intelligence, and driverless cars are no longer things of the distant future. They are with us today and will become increasingly common in coming years, along with virtual reality and digital personal assistants.
As these tools advance deeper into everyday use, they raise the question—how will they transform society, the economy, and politics? If companies need fewer workers due to automation and robotics, what happens to those who once held those jobs and don't have the skills for new jobs? And since many social benefits are delivered through jobs, how are people outside the workforce for a lengthy period of time going to earn a living and get health care and social benefits?
Looking past today's headlines, political scientist and cultural observer Darrell M. West argues that society needs to rethink the concept of jobs, reconfigure the social contract, move toward a system of lifetime learning, and develop a new kind of politics that can deal with economic dislocations. With the U.S. governance system in shambles because of political polarization and hyper-partisanship, dealing creatively with the transition to a fully digital economy will vex political leaders and complicate the adoption of remedies that could ease the transition pain. It is imperative that we make major adjustments in how we think about work and the social contract in order to prevent society from spiraling out of control.
This book presents a number of proposals to help people deal with the transition from an industrial to a digital economy. We must broaden the concept of employment to include volunteering and parenting and pay greater attention to the opportunities for leisure time. New forms of identity will be possible when the "job" no longer defines people's sense of personal meaning, and they engage in a broader range of activities. Workers will need help throughout their lifetimes to acquire new skills and develop new job capabilities. Political reforms will be necessary to reduce polarization and restore civility so there can be open and healthy debate about where responsibility lies for economic well-being.
This book is an important contribution to a discussion about tomorrow—one that needs to take place today.
Few developments have had broader consequences for the public sector than the introduction of the Internet and digital technology. In this book, Darrell West discusses how new technology is altering governmental performance, the political process, and democracy itself by improving government responsiveness and increasing information available to citizens.
Using multiple methods--case studies, content analysis of over 17,000 government Web sites, public and bureaucrat opinion survey data, an e-mail responsiveness test, budget data, and aggregate analysis--the author presents the most comprehensive study of electronic government ever undertaken. Among other topics, he looks at how much change has taken place in the public sector, what determines the speed and breadth of e-government adoption, and what the consequences of digital technology are for the public sector.
Written in a clear and analytical manner, this book outlines the variety of factors that have restricted the ability of policy makers to make effective use of new technology. Although digital government offers the potential for revolutionary change, social, political, and economic forces constrain the scope of transformation and prevent government officials from realizing the full benefits of interactive technology.
Meet the Billionaires: the 1,645 men and women who control a massive share of global assets worth $6.5 trillion. Darrell West reveals what the other 99.99998% of us need to know.
With rich anecdotes and personal narratives, West goes inside the world of the ultra wealthy. Meet U.S. billionaires such as Sheldon Adelson, Michael Bloomberg, David and Charles Koch, George Soros, Tom Steyer, and Donald Trumpas well as international billionaires from around the globe.
The growing political engagement of this small supra-wealthy group raises important questions about influence, transparency, and government performance, and West lays bare the wealthification of politics, including:
How billionaires can block appointments and legislation they don't like
Why the supra-wealthy moved into policy advocacy and referenda at the state level
Why billionaires run for office in more than a dozen countries around the world
Why are Americans so angry with each other?
The United States is caught in a partisan hyperconflict that divides politicians, communitiesand even families. Politicians from the president to state and local office-holders play to strongly-held beliefs and sometimes even pour fuel on the resulting inferno. This polarization has become so intense that many people no longer trust anyone from a differing perspective.
Drawing on his personal story of growing up as a fundamentalist Christian on a dairy farm in rural Ohio, then as an academic in the heart of the liberal East Coast establishment, Darrell West analyzes the economic, cultural, and political aspects of polarization. He takes advantage of his experiences inside both conservative and liberal camps to explain the views of each side and offer insights into why each is angry with the other.
West argues that societal tensions have metastasized into a dangerous tribalism that seriously threatens U.S. democracy. Unless people can bridge these divisions and forge a new path forward, it will be impossible to work together, maintain a functioning democracy, and solve the country's pressing policy problems.
Slow, incremental change has become a relic of the past. Today's shifts come fast and big, what Darrell West calls megachanges, in which dramatic disruptions in trends and policies occur on a regular basis.
Domestically, we see megachange at work in the new attitudes and policies toward same-sex marriage, health care, smoking, and the widespread legalization of marijuana use. Globally, we have seen the extraordinary rise and then collapse of the Arab Spring, the emergence of religious zealotry, the growing influence of nonstate actors, the spread of ISIS-fomented terrorism, the rise of new economic and political powers in Asia, and the fracturing of once-stable international alliances.
Long-held assumptions have been shattered, and the proliferation of unexpected events is confounding experts in the United States and around the globe. Many of the social and political institutions that used to anchor domestic and international politics have grown weak or are in need of dramatic reform.
What to do? West says that we should alter our expectations about the speed and magnitude of political and social change. We also need to recognize that many of our current governing processes are geared to slow deliberation and promote incremental change, not large-scale transformation. With megachange becoming the new normal, our domestic and global institutions must develop the ability to tackle the massive economic, political, and social shifts that we face.
This new edition includes coverage of social media campaigning, nano-targeting strategies in a fragmented electorate, and thorough analysis of the 2016 presidential campaign, from the candidates’ use of Twitter to concerns over falsehoods and deception, the impact of ads and debates on candidate perceptions, and the risks to democratic elections from new campaign developments.
FREE POSTER: Fact or Fiction? Use this checklist to avoid the pitfalls posed by the rise of fake news
How American elections are increasingly vulnerableand what must be done to protect them
Until recently, most Americans could assume that elections, at all levels of government, were reasonably clean and well managedmost of the time. Yes, there were exceptions: some states and localities were notorious for occasional election-rigging, losers often complained that winners somehow had unfair advantages, and money increasingly distorted the electoral process. But even when voters did not like the results, the overall system of elections did not seem nearly as corrupt or warped as in many other countries.
That positive view of American politics now seems outdated, even naïve.
This new book by Elaine Kamarck and Darrell West shows how American elections have been compromised by what used to be called dirty tricks and how those tricks are becoming even more complex and dangerous the deeper we get into the digital age. It shows how old-fashioned vote-rigging at polling stations has been overtaken by much more sophisticated system-wide campaigns, from Russia’s massive campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election through social media to influence campaigns yet to come.
Dirty Tricks in the Digital Age looks not just at the past but also toward the future, examining how American elections can be protected from abuse, both domestic and foreign. State governments have primary responsibility for elections in the United States, but the federal government also must play a major role in shaping the system for how Americans cast their votes.
The book explores what political leaders are doing and must do to protect electionsand how they can overcome the current toxic political climate to do so. It outlines five concrete steps that state and federal leaders must take to secure the future of American democracy.
Dirty Tricks in the Digital Age is a valuable resource for scholars, students, journalists, politicians, and votersindeed, anyone interested in securing the most basic element of democracy.
Many of America's greatest artists, scientists, investors, educators, and entrepreneurs have come from abroad. Rather than suffering from the "brain drain" of talented and educated individuals emigrating, the United States has benefited greatly over the years from the "brain gain" of immigration. These gifted immigrants have engineered advances in energy, information technology, international commerce, sports, arts, and culture. To stay competitive, the United States must institute more of an open-door policy to attract unique talents from other nations. Yet Americans resist such a policy despite their own immigrant histories and the substantial social, economic, intellectual, and cultural benefits of welcoming newcomers. Why?
In Brain Gain, Darrell West asserts that perception or "vision" is one reason reform in immigration policy is so politically difficult. Public discourse tends to emphasize the perceived negatives. Fear too often trumps optimism and reason. And democracy is messy, with policy principles that are often difficult to reconcile.
The seeming irrationality of U.S. immigration policy arises from a variety of thorny and interrelated factors: particularistic politics and fragmented institutions, public concern regarding education and employment, anger over taxes and social services, and ambivalence about national identity, culture, and language. Add to that stew a myopic (or worse) press, persistent fears of terrorism, and the difficulties of implementing border enforcement and legal justice.
West prescribes a series of reforms that will put America on a better course and enhance its long-term social and economic prosperity. Reconceptualizing immigration as a way to enhance innovation and competitiveness, the author notes, will help us find the next Sergey Brin, the next Andrew Grove, or even the next Albert Einstein.
Curing the causes and consequences of Trumpism
It’s no secret that the United States faces extraordinary political and societal challenges, even as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Political polarization and extremism are the most apparent symptoms, resulting from long-term economic and social inequities as well as a toxic information ecosystem.
It is easy to blame Donald Trump for the sad state of American democracy. After all, he abused his executive authority, spread false claims, and even incited violence. But Trumpism is almost certain to outlast Trump himself. The grievances he exploited and the aggrieved to whom he appealed existed well before he became president and likely will endure after he is gone from the political scene.
The current political atmosphere is poisonous for those who operate on the basis of facts, reason, and logic. It is time to step back from this dangerous precipice and reflect on the causes of the serious threats to American democracy, procedural justice, and a reason-based society. With polarization now entrenched and authoritarianism gaining strength, no one should assume that facts somehow will triumph over falsehoods and reason will prevail over emotion.
Drawing on his personal experiences in the D.C. policy world, Darrell West offers advice for protecting people, organizations, and the country as a whole from our contemporary challenges. This book makes the risks to democracy understandable by explaining specific threats and offering concrete ideas for ameliorating them. It will appeal to anyone interested in American politics, democracy, elections, mass media, technology, and governance.
Nearly a century ago, famed educator John Dewey said that "if we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow." That wisdom resonates more strongly than ever today, and that maxim underlies this insightful look at the present and future of education in the digital age.
As Darrell West makes clear, today's educational institutions must reinvent themselves to engage students successfully and provide them with the skills needed to compete in an increasingly global, technological, and online world. Otherwise the American education system will continue to fall woefully short in its mission to prepare the population to survive and thrive in a rapidly changing world.
West examines new models of education made possible by enhanced information technology, new approaches that will make public education in the post-industrial age more relevant, efficient, and ultimately more productive. Innovative pilot programs are popping up all over the nation, experimenting with different forms of organization and delivery systems.
Digital Schools surveys this promising new landscape, examining in particular personalized learning; realtime student assessment; ways to enhance teacher evaluation; the untapped potential of distance learning; and the ways in which technology can improve the effectiveness of special education and foreign language instruction. West illustrates the potential contributions of blogs, wikis, social media, and video games and augmented reality in K12 and higher education.
Technology by itself will not remake education. But if today's schools combine increased digitization with needed improvements in organization, operations, and culture, we can overcome current barriers, produce better results, and improve the manner in which schools function. And we can get back to teaching for tomorrow, rather than for yesterday.
The digital revolution is in full force but many public and private sector leaders are stymied: How can they maximize the full potential of digital technology? This hesitancy puts a brake on the transformational power of digital technology and means private companies and governmental bodies fall well behind other digital pioneers.
Darrell West focuses on the next wave of technologies and how they can further enhance U.S. social and political innovation. West champions exploiting technological advances to help organizations become faster, smarter, and more efficient. Consumers can deploy new digital technology to improve health care, gain access to education, learn from the news media, and check public sector performance. New storage platforms such as high-speed broadband, mobile communications, and cloud computing enable and improve both social and economic development. However, to gain these benefits, policymakers must recognize the legitimacy of public fears about technology and the privacy and security dangers posed by the Internet. Their goal must be to further innovation and investment while also protecting basic social and individual values.
West argues that digital technology innovation is consistent in many ways with personal and social values; people can deploy digital technology to improve participation and collaboration, and political leaders can work with the private sector to stimulate a flowering of innovation in a variety of policy areas.