“What is it we want to borrow from the tech world? The tech itself? Or a fundamentally different way of approaching problems?” Jennifer Pahlka, founder of Code for America, asked in a presentation last week in San Francisco. Her question mirrored one that came up at a number of sessions at our recent Techonomy Policy in Washington, D.C.
Techonomy Policy was created to probe ideas at the confluence of tech and policy. We were well aware that there are many events and demands for people’s time in the Beltway, but we wanted to bring something a little different and a little more broad in its approach. The feedback we’ve gotten from participants suggests we succeeded. People told us it felt like a different kind of conversation for Washington. One participant used the word exotic, though I’m pretty sure there were more suits in that one room than all other Techonomy conferences combined. We were joined by speakers from both sides of the aisle—Senators Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska), FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel (D) and Michael O’Rielly (R), and FTC Commissioner Julie Brill, as well as tech leaders such as Vint Cerf of Google, entrepreneur (and bi-partisan donor) Sean Parker, and Steve Case.
The sessions covered everything from the blockchain and Internet of Things to privacy, spectrum, and cyberwar. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to listen to all, but for a brief overview, this 10-minute “Parting Shots” wrap-up presented onstage at the end of the day by McKinsey’s Kate Jackson and Rik Kirkland is a good start.
Videos of many sessions are up and available on our website. Here are some highlights:
- Arun Sundararajan’s presentation “Policy for an On-Demand Workforce” gives an exhaustive overview of sharing economy services worldwide, and focuses in on the complicated consumer protection and labour issues that are emerging.
- Personal Democracy Media Founder Andrew Rasiej’s presentation on “The 20th Century’s War on the 21st” shares his fear about our “broken democracy.”
- Coin Center Executive Director Jerry Brito offers a high-level introduction to the blockchain, “How the Blockchain Could Change Everything.”
- The “Privacy Collides with Data in a Transparent World” session features the impressive Julie Brill of the FTC, Brad Burnham of Union Square Ventures, Horacio Gutiérrez of Microsoft, and Robert Quinn of AT&T.
- And last but not least, the closing session on “Technology, Innovation, and American Progress” showcases an important conversation between Senator Cory Booker, Senator Deb Fischer, and Sean Parker. Adrienne Burke’s article “A Bipartisan Call for Policies that Don’t Screw Up Innovation” on Techonomy.com provides a good overview of this session. It is, however, missing one of the funnier quotes of the sessions when Senator Booker told Senator Fischer “Just because I’m a vegan doesn’t mean I can’t butter you up.” (Fischer replied in kind, noting she is a cattle rancher, and that the contrast demonstrates that unlikely allies can work together in the Senate. The two senators have, for example, issued a joint policy resolution on the Internet of Things.)
The intersection between government and tech is one we’ll continue to focus on, not just at our remaining conferences this year, but also when we return to Washington for next year’s Techonomy Policy.