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We need more scientists in the government

Science and politics are amongst my favourite conversation topics. Not the lightest dinner conversation, I know. Perhaps that is the reason why all those Tinder dates didn’t work out in the end. Anyway…

A couple of days ago, I sat across from one of my favorite people in the universe discussing how science and technology have been neglected by many governments.

It’s like “Mean Girls”, the political sphere and the scientific community sit on different sides of the canteen for lunch.

Scientists want to advance science, politicians want votes.

Unfortunately, it is much easier to convince the broader population to vote for a candidate by creating short tangible gains, than by investing nine-figure budgets in scientific research that might take a decade to come to fruition. Not because there is no benefit in the scientific research, but because the benefits are not instantaneous and certainly not obvious to the entire population.

I get it. You need better schools for your kids and less crowded hospitals. That is VERY important. But it is equally important for us to find an affordable cure for the Zika virus.

That is why we need more scientists in the government.

We need people driving the science agenda. We also need people that can communicate the value of science in a simple and concise way. People that apply scientific thinking in politics, that have the long-term vision, instead of plans that flourish and die in 4 years.

Our generation experiences the fast pace of technology and science like no one else has before. We saw drones emerge, we experienced the incredible benefits of the sharing economy with the likes of Airbnb and Uber, and we were wowed by the genome being cracked. But at every step-up, we saw how policy makers did not follow the pace.

I believe politics should always help to pave the way. It should be working alongside technologists, scientists, and the population proactively, not reactively. Ensuring that its policies protect people against the risk that any uprising technology represents. Adapting to the way those technologies change behaviour, opinions etc.

That is why we need more technologists in the government.

The problem is, most scientists or technologists are too busy getting stuff done to want to navigate the “politics” of politics. So I ask myself, how can we make politics more attractive to them? Perhaps it is time to stop patching the old system, and start putting our minds together and start building a new system that serves our society better from all angles.

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