Is Truth Soluble in Politics?

Keywords Is Truth Soluble in Politics? HFES Bulletin Human Factors Perspectives on Warnings
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In the partisan political arena of the United States in recent months, we have seen controversy over a proposed OSHA regulation and an intense public forum on the questions of medical error and public safety as presented in a recent issue of the Bulletin. In highlighting these developments, I do not want to provide further discussion of these particular issues; rather, I use them simply as
examples that progressively more social interest is being focused on questions of human-technology interaction, as witnessed also by the recent scare over the interruption to e-commerce through the action of computer hackers. As these political calls to arms occur more frequently, we must be sure that our central theme of the human-centered advantage is communicated alongside our
efforts to address the individual area of concern. Diverse though we may be, if we do not have an agreed-upon central core philosophy, we will not and would not deserve to survive.

All political actions are expressions of the “will to power.” In contemporary representative democracy, issues are brought before assemblies, often constituted in large part by current or former attorneys. (How many representatives in the House or the Senate possess an advanced degree in a technology-related area?) Steeped in the law and the primacy of precedent, they often have little background or experience in the highly technical areas upon which they must ruminate and rule. Inevitably, many controversial issues
devolve to an emotive battlefield dominated by the armies of partisan interest. How does the intelligent, diligent, and responsible representative (yes, contrary to stereotype, there are many) decide upon such issues? In essence, can we afford to have the truth dissolve in politics? Further, when we have exceptionally fast-moving technologies such as the Web or biotechnology, how can the law keep up?

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