One of the most interesting trends in technology has nothing to do with AI, or machine learning, or the on demand economy. It has nothing to do with informatics and its impact on genomics, or whether (or when) Black Mirror transitions from social fiction to social fact.
No, to me the most interesting trend in technology is simply this: The leaders of the technology industry have internalized the impact of their creations on the world, and they have begun to turn their attentions outward.
By coincidence, not design, I spent the two weeks after the election in the Bay Area, Sacramento and Washington, D.C., engaging with over 100 groups and leaders about the future of our country— bipartisan leaders in media, foundations, think tanks, NGOs, businesses, labor, technology, the academy, public service and the faith community. What I discussed with them is what we do now to move the United States forward. Is the American Dream dead? As we move beyond shock (and for many of us grieving), is there a constructive path out? Can it be bi-partisan? I believe so — it is called Progressive Federalism (a term coined by Andrei Cherny in the Democracy Journal and Joel Rogers and Richard Freeman in an important book on inequality).
Facebook is where a lot of the 2016 campaign played out, and it’s also where much of the election post-mortem is focusing. This is hardly the first electoral autopsy to raise issues like echo chambers, fake news, and media misfires — we had all of those in each of the last three presidential cycles, too.
What’s new about the debate this time is how it’s playing out among Facebook employees themselves. They’re beginning to ask a question that every NewCo worker sooner or later faces: Does the platform my company is building promote a mission and set of values that I believe in?
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, most businesses have made long-term decisions based on the assumption that global trade was on an irreversible arc toward greater freedom. That era is now over.
In the short term, the Trans Pacific Partnership is dead, and China will move into the vacuum it leaves behind (The New York Times). This won’t end up “bringing jobs home.” It means more trade and more jobs will remain in Asia, where China and its trading partners will move forward with their own business. Progressives feared that TPP would open the door to foreign countries suing to overturn environmental rules in the U.S. Ironically, under a Trump administration, those rules are now in far greater danger closer to home.
The model is not the thing itself. The map is not the territory. Our attempts to turn reality into data are inevitably imperfect, and sometimes they’re way off — like they were last night. On Election Night, everything the experts and their algorithms told us was likely to happen came out different.
Trump’s against-all-predictions win doesn’t mean we should give up on the very idea of empiricism. It does mean that each time we inquire into the state of reality, we should begin with humility. We could always be wrong, and we often will be.
How did our country elect this guy? How? How am I so out of touch with the core of our nation, that I believed this outcome was impossible? How is it that every group I’m engaged with, from the boards I sit on to the conferences I attend, to the friends I eat dinner with, to the band I play with, to the companies I lead and invest in, to the schools and the universities my kids attend, to the pundits I follow…how is it that no one I’ve engaged with in an honest intellectual conversation over the past few months, NO ONE, thought it was possible that this could happen?
One of the most indelible images of my career was backstage at the Web 2 Summit, the day after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008. I was in the wings of the main stage at the Sheraton Palace hotel in San Francisco. Out in the ballroom, a thousand of technology’s elite stood roaring and jubilant, delivering a standing ovation to the man who had just walked on stage.
Al Gore strode to the podium, grasped it on both sides, looked out into the lights and the crowd, and suddenly — it hit him. Eight years before almost to the day, several hundred hanging chads fluttering in the Florida breeze had stolen his Presidency. The Supreme Court then delivered it to George Bush.
While the election news cycles dedicated to Hillary’s emails and Donald’s ego sucked the oxygen out of our public sphere, here are some of the topics that barely got talked about during this campaign: Climate change. Life after fossil fuels. Automation and artificial intelligence.
We are inventors, entrepreneurs, engineers, investors, researchers, and business leaders working in the technology sector. We are proud that American innovation is the envy of the world, a source of widely-shared prosperity, and a hallmark of our global leadership.
We believe in an inclusive country that fosters opportunity, creativity and a level playing field. Donald Trump does not. He campaigns on anger, bigotry, fear of new ideas and new people, and a fundamental belief that America is weak and in decline. We have listened to Donald Trump over the past year and we have concluded: Trump would be a disaster for innovation. His vision stands against the open exchange of ideas, free movement of people, and productive engagement with the outside world that is critical to our economy — and that provide the foundation for innovation and growth.
What do your friends think about regulating Airbnb in your city? What’s the most important issue the U.S. faces? Can student protests help end racism on college campuses? Brigade applies the social network model to provide everyone, from neophytes to political junkies, a space to talk politics.
Sean Parker, co-founder and executive chairman of Brigade, discussed the state of politics in the U.S. with Mashable, saying, “Democracy was not designed for a world where we have over 300 million people.” That’s where Brigade’s social approach to politics comes in. Unlike Facebook, which along with political opinions publishes baby pictures and life announcements, Brigade focuses on issue-oriented conversations that it hopes will lead to organization and action. Its app aims to re-energize civic participation in the U.S. by providing a forum to articulate and debate political and civic issues.
In June 2014, Brigade announced its acquisition of Causes, the world’s largest online campaigning platform and one of the first apps on the Facebook platform, and political advocacy startup Votizen. A year later, Brigade launched in beta. Its small cohort of testers has taken more than 3 million issue-based positions in the first few months.