National Security

YPO-Socrates Program Seminars

October 15, 2009  • Institute Contributor

Socrates partnered with the Young Professionals Organization for the YPO-Socrates Program Seminars on October 12-15 in Aspen, CO. Two seminars were offered to participants: Privacy and Democracy, and 21st Century Energy.

The Impact of Technology on Democracy around the World
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, breathtaking changes in technology are posing stark challenges to our constitutional values in democracies around the world. From free speech to privacy, from liberty and personal autonomy to the right against self-incrimination, basic constitutional principles are under stress from technological advances unimaginable even a few decades ago, let alone in the founding era. The seminar on Technology and the Constitution will ask questions such as the following:

• Is privacy obsolete in an age of ubiquitous cameras and unlimited data storage and processing, or can the law somehow restrict surveillance without crushing innovation and hobbling government?
• How vigorously should society respect the autonomy of individuals to manipulate their genes and design their own babies?
• Does the Constitution restrict the government’s ability to look within our brains, and should it?
• Should it place restrictions on governmental power to investigate people’s DNA?
• How can we protect free speech in a world in which most speech is online and suddenly subject to regulation by governments and companies, worldwide?
• Is online privacy hopeless or is some protection possible?
• Is the Internet solely responsible for an explosion of democratic participation, or is it also undermining checks on democracy that are
 necessary for individual rights to flourish?

There is no question that democracies around the world will change in response to developing technology, as they have always changed in the past. But it is far from clear how that change will take place, what form it will take, and how effective it will be. In the seminar, we will identify the range of options that judges, technologists, and legislators have as they struggle to respond to technological shifts and to offer an analytical blueprint for translating democratic values into the twenty-first century.
Moderator: Jeff Rosen, professor of law, The George Washington University Law School

21st Century Energy — Can it be Clean, Secure, and Affordable, or Must we Choose?
The way we produce and use energy — principally but not exclusively for the generation of electricity and for transportation — is at the nexus of three major sets of issues that confront us and future generations.  First, can we produce energy cleanly?  And in these days that includes not only traditional ecological concerns about air quality and the like but also the question of CO2 emissions and climate change.  Second, can we produce it securely?  Our security is affected not only by the foreign sources of oil and the possibility of oil cut-offs or terrorist attacks on the oil infrastructure but also by the fragile nature of our electricity grid — vulnerable both to tree branches touching power lines and to intentional cyber- or physical attack.  And third, energy’s affordability affects not only our own prosperity but particularly the prospects for economic development in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America — can African villagers count on expensive imported oil and huge power projects to supply them with the energy they need? In the midst of these uncertainties governments seem frozen into repeating what they have done in the past, and three giant industries — oil, electricity, and automotive — generally plod forward implementing their 19th-century business plans. Yet the circumstances in which we find ourselves would not seem to warrant relaxed confidence that little needs to change.

In this seminar we will address the key challenges and opportunities of producing reliable, cost-effective, clean and secure energy. How will climate change affect energy resources? What are the risks imposed by war and terrorism? What are our national and global energy alternatives, and do those interests conflict?
Moderator: R. James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence