Are Tech Giants Stepping into Government Roles?

As technology races past the ballast of institutional norms and the privatization of government functions continues, tech giants seem to have increasing involvement in issues that were usually the sole province of governments. In what can only be called a major public health experiment, Verily (a subsidiary of Google’s parent Alphabet) has released 20 million specially bred mosquitoes in California. Known as the Debug Project, the release aimed to reduce one problematic species of mosquito from an area known to carry Zika, yellow fever, and other viruses. The science around such initiatives remains unsettled and there may be longer-term risks to public health from unintended consequences. As with the release of genetically modified insects in Florida, many questions surface. Among them: should citizens only get a say about what these companies are doing in non-binding referenda as was the case in Florida? And, most importantly, should public health projects like these only be in the hands of private companies with very limited government oversight? —TV

Photo: / nechaev-kon