December 27, 2023

Around the Table with Anna Blue

Three Questions with the Make Room Email Newsletter

Around the Table is a three-question interview series from the Make Room email newsletter. Each edition features a conversation with a peer in the national security community to learn about their expertise and experience in the sector.

Anna Blue is an MPA candidate at Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, a social impact fellow at the Responsible AI Institute, and the winner of The Pitch 2023: A Competition of New Ideas. The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the position of Princeton University nor the Responsible AI Institute.

What inspired you to study foreign policy and technology policy specifically?

I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area, and politics were a constant source of debate in my family, so I was exposed to policy ideas at a very young age. I was particularly interested in foreign policy because it was a vehicle for learning about other parts of the world. Then, I went to college in the heart of Silicon Valley, at Stanford University, and it was inevitable that my passion for international relations would be infused with a curiosity for technology policy. A lot of the themes of Palo Alto, like engineering for social good, trickled into my college coursework. But, I didn't fully commit to work at the intersection of technology policy and international relations until I started my Fulbright research grant in Estonia. I spent a year in Tartu to study the country's impressive e-governance system, and it made me more excited than ever about how technology could help the government (of the United States or other countries) work better for people.

What challenges do you face in working on contentious and rapidly evolving issues in the world of Artificial Intelligence?

The challenges are numerous, and that's part of why I like the field so much! The ones that stand out to me the most are the tension between innovation, regulation, and debates over whether AI should be placed in positions of power. Not only are these AI issues particularly knotty, but they make me question my own position daily. AI policy is not black-and-white, and so much analysis is currently done on a case-by-case basis, making it difficult to form an absolute opinion to guide decision-making. Another challenge I would note is the uneven dynamic between technical people and non-technical people. I don't have a background in engineering, so it can sometimes be hard to make the case that my insight on AI matters and is important.

What advice do you have for someone early in their career?

This might be a controversial piece of advice in some circles, but I highly encourage everyone who wants to work in policy to spend some time in the private sector. Although I want to work in public service, I did spend three years in crisis management at Meta, Inc., and it drastically changed my outlook on issues like freedom of speech, internet security, and data privacy. Essentially, it was a formative part of my development as a policymaker. On a separate note, I would also recommend improving your project management skills and saying yes to opportunities that you hadn't previously considered.


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