Our first Techonomy Policy conference takes place in Washington, DC, next week. This is our third focused new conference we’ve launched since the first wide-ranging Techonomy event in 2010. In 2012, we added Techonomy Detroit, and in 2013, we began our Techonomy Bio series. So why Techonomy Policy? There are many reasons. One is that in order for tech leaders and innovators to create the impact and benefit they envision, they must understand the complex ecosystem of government well enough to become valued partners and to create responsive relationships. The role of government, governance, and policy cannot simply be ignored. In addition, in a time when tech is changing everything around us at a rapidly accelerating pace, leaders of the institutions that serve us need close relationships with the techies who are changing the world. Without these relationships in both directions, the people who claim to serve us in both the public and private sectors will be missing part of the bigger picture of possibilities at the nexus of tech, entrepreneurship, and public policy.
Tech as a tool, alone, has limits. And to quote something Techonomy Policy speaker Sean Parker said at Techonomy 2011: “The tools can be used for good and evil, and you sort of have to bet that our better angels will prevail and that the tools will primarily be used for good.” There’s a lot of confusion, fear, and misunderstanding at the intersection of tech, policy, and governance. But how we act now will determine what our world looks like in coming years. What will economic progress and social cohesion look like? And who is best qualified to lead us through this change? At this week’s Personal Democracy Forum in New York City there was a glimpse of those leaders—the activists and movement makers, the entrepreneurs and innovators, the policy wonks, the elected officials, and many others actively engaged in utilizing the power of tech to benefit the many.
So on to Techonomy Policy. While it would be politic for me to say I’m looking forward equally to all our sessions next week, it would be bending the truth a little. Here are some I think will be pivotal:
- NYU Professor Arun Sundararajan’s briefing, “On-Demand Workers May Demand New Policy.” Arun is one of my go-to gurus on the sharing economy. He’s already kept our community current in a couple of previous Techonomy discussions on this topic. The first was at Techonomy 2013 during a session called “The Sharing Economy and the Symbiotics of City Life.” He also helped us understand “The Economics of Sharing” at Techonomy Detroit last year.
- Jerry Brito’s briefing “How the Blockchain Could Change Everything” (and the associated Blockchain Lunch Lab).
- “How Tech Is Making Government Work Better,” which includes Damon Davis from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and Raphael Majma from group inside the federal General Services Administration mysteriously named 18F (it refers to their street address apparently). They call themselves “a civic consultancy for the government.” (And though not represented on the program, let’s not forget the U.S. Digital Service.)
- “Startup Designs for Future Government,” moderated by Jennifer Bradley of the Aspen Institute’s Center for Urban Innovation. It features a number of startups creating systems aiming to remake government and governance.
- The interview with Ambassador David O’Sullivan, “Europe’s Digital Mission,” about differences between Europe and the U.S. and the EU’s efforts to create a single digital market.
- “Militarization of the Internet: the Expanding Boundaries of Cyberwar,” moderated by The Hill’s cybersecurity correspondent Cory Bennett.
- And last but not least the closing session, “Technology, Innovation, and American Progress,” with Senator Cory Booker, Senator Deb Fischer, and Sean Parker. Sean joined us at Techonomy 2011 in Arizona, on a fantastic session with Jim Breyer called “What Comes After the Revolution?” Here are a couple of short excerpts that are, I think, relevant to next week’s conference: “The Negative Consequences of Social Networks;” “Platforms for Individual Empowerment;” and “Can Direct Democracy Work?”
Some food for thought before we meet in DC June 9.