There are professional and social interest groups to be sure. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a reasonable and strong force on issues related to expanding global networks. Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility are a dedicated, but comparitively small, group of thinkers and activists on social issues related to computing. The Association for Computing Machinery and Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers are primarily professional organizations, but have issued policy statements on important issues. Still, none of these organizations has the punch of the A. A. R. P. or the National Rifle Association.
Society needs the input of qualified computer professionals. Every day's paper has a headline about an aspect of computer technology that impacts American society. From junk email to automated speed traps to computer models of the human genome, computers are changing human capabilities and perceptions daily. Lawmakers are often as unsure of the ramifications of new computer applications as laymen are. They need a resource to clarify the limits of new technologies and their effect on society.
The model of the A. M. A. is the one that computer professionals need. It is an organization of informed scientists who use their deep understanding of medical issues to lobby Congress on behalf of patients. Patients need their rights defended, and they have limited time to talk to their Congresspeople on health issues and limited information on which to base their decisions. Doctors have the facts to use, and that Hippocratic Oath to guarantee that patients come first. A group of concerned doctors is the perfect group to influence policy for the good of society.
One look at the A. M. A.'s record on malpractice laws and health care reform is enough to convince us that.... Er, um, hmmmmm. Well, enlightened self-interest often leads to global improvement.... Well, I guess that I don't believe that in general either.
Maybe I'd better think twice about this one. After all, I think Microsoft's got enough monopoly power as it is.