Super Cities №56 — Innovation in War and Policy

Brendan Hart

One Big Thing

War Policy is Broken

Put simply, it’s increasingly clear that years of presidential overreach, congressional inaction, and partisan bickering have jeopardized our constitutional structure. We are steadily moving away from the separation of powers and toward an unconstitutional legal regime that places sole war-making authority in the hands of an increasingly imperial presidency. This is wrong. It’s dangerous. It has to stop.


Politicians established the foundational principles of American war and peace at a time when people traveled on horseback, lit their homes with candles, and sent information via courier. That’s not to say these principles, still debated, are wrong; they were just established in a long-ago era.

David French’s timely essay in National Review got me thinking about other areas (non-exhaustive) where public policy needs a refresh:

Cyber

Cyber capabilities, offensive and defensive, are proliferating. Cyber hackers hold companies hostage, attack vulnerable people, and cripple nuclear programs. They shake industries and governments. 
Because it is a hard-to-track digital weapon, cyber activity is not clearly defined as war. But it should be.

In 2015, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping stated: “will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information for commercial advantage.”

As the two largest economies, the American-Chinese cyber detente is a move in the right direction. More needs to be done, though, to account for state and non-state actors.

Forecast: There are severe misalignments of interest, so progress will take time.

Mobility

From taxi medallions to autonomous vehicles, city-level mobility policy is at the start of a wholesale transformation. So far, it has not been pretty.

But cooperation is slowly emerging. Uber recently partnered with Cincinnati on operations, training, and mobility studies. Lyft is partnering with Phoenix. Didi and Softbank are partnering on similar efforts around the world.

Forecast: The autonomous market is fast moving, so I expect significant policy breakthroughs within years.

Long Distance Transportation

Beyond cities, long-distance transportation policy is failing.

Airports are barely functional. Trains are slow and deadly. The result is that, while billions of people can connect to the internet, their physical location is a personal and professional constraint.

Companies like Virgin Hyperloop One are working on 21st-century solutions.

Late last year, Virgin Hyperloop One partnered with the state of Colorado on a feasibility study for a 300+ mile transportation system. Since its operation claims to travel at 700-miles-per-hour, we could see a fundamental shift in the work-and-live constraint.

Forecast: This market is resource-intensive — and only possible with significant policy backing — so real progress will take a lot of time and infrastructure capital.

Connectivity

Research shows that economic output closely correlates to internet connectivity. If you’re offline during otherwise productive hours, you either have to make up that time or lose productivity. That’s a terrible choice.

LinkNYC — a partnership between city government and technologists — is working to provide a free, fast wifi network in New York City. Civic and technology leaders should establish something similar in every city and community.

Forecast: The world will soon be digitally connected. This connectivity will generate incredible economic opportunities but pose substantial risks for historical models of power.

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