Technological disruption in the 21st century is different. Societies had years to adapt to change driven by the steam engine, electricity and the computer. Today, change is instant and ubiquitous. It arrives digitally across the globe all at once.

Governments at all levels on all continents are suddenly waking up to how social media and other forms of algorithms and artificial intelligence have raced beyond their control or even awareness. (See the Trump campaign and Russia, 2016, for one example.)

This realization that American lives are on the cusp of technological disruptions even more sweeping than those of the past decade was driven home to me by being part of a research project on technology and governance at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University this year. “Autonomous” (i.e., driverless) cars, the cloud, and swarming drones that deliver goods to your doorstep or transform naval and ground war-fighting strategy are well-known concepts. But the reality that they are breathing down my — and your — neck came as something of a surprise.