Tech Innovation & Pres. Trump's Agenda

These are my notes from the 1/18/2017 Tech 2025 workshop in NYC (NYU Entrepreneurial Institute). This is part of a technology and politics series of "Frontier Tech Forecasts" focusing on technology innovation policies, legislation, and relevant current events, delivered in a non-technical way and open to anyone. Tech 2025 was founded by Charlie Oliver, and the speaker was Chris Coffey of Tusk Ventures. Charlie coined the name Tech 2025 because when you talk to tech companies and ask when these technologies will become mainstream, they generally say oh, anywhere between 5 and 10 years. So within a fairly short timeframe, we will see our world completely transformed by the perfect storm of new technologies. How will we deal with these changes?

To do from introductions: look into The Reset Podcast - discussions on business and technology, available through iTunes, Google Play, etc.


  • Drone guidelines - safety guidelines say to keep your drone in sight, but the true power of drones is when they can operate out of sight.
  • Obama administration released two AI "reports".
  • Hacking - Snowden, Uber accounts, email, surveillance.
  • Home sharing - NYC banned much of Airbnb - no ads to rent home for less than 30 days.
  • CA told Uber to stop their self-driving taxis which still had engineers as backups. They said it is illegal to operate self-driving cars on public roads without proper permits.
  • Uber and Lyft don't offer ride sharing services in Austin, TX due to fingerprinting being part of background checks.

We have blurred lines between ownership, employment, robots, privacy, authority, and facts.

Ownership of cars:

  • You own the physical car, but don't own the software. How do we perceive liberties taken with terms of service, and user license agreements?
  • Tesla - ban on autonomous technologies in their cars used outside the car. You can drive your Tesla, but if you turn on the autonomous option, you violate your contract with Tesla, and break rules or even the law depending on how they are enforced. Unauthorized use of computer system.

Employment lines are blurred:

  • Who is W2 vs. 1099?
  • Automation - those who used to drive a car, work as a cashier, work in a call center are being replaced.
  • "Robot" is actually a blanket term for automation, e.g. self-driving cars. This is sneaking up on us.
  • A capital asset can be either physical or IP, and replace a person.


What is the government allowed to see? You give information in exchange for free software, or complicated opt-outs. E.g. Google tracking location. Would you like helpful suggestions on where to go? This sounds helpful but now they have unfettered access to your location, and they are doing the FBI's job. Court order, they take your information, e.g. they go to Amazon for your Echo information.


  • The internet is decentralized. Where do we go for protection? Youtube is not liable for broken copyrights. Youtube is only liable for not taking it down after being notified.
  • FB, Twitter, Reddit - they are all platforms claiming lack of authority. There tends to be a small group doing bad things. Are you able to stop that? Authorized to stop that?
  • Bitcoin - Jamie Diamond doesn't have faith in Bitcoin. Government won't let people use Bitcoin. This is a permissionless system. Who is responsible? Users? Wallet creator?


There used to be three TV channels. Now we have links to fake newspapers - Washington Guardian, Denver Post. We used to laugh at people reacting to Onion posts. Millions are doing the equivalent of that now without knowing it. Aside: Frank and I have had discussions on provenance (chain of ownership) and changes to the internet and browser so people can click on information and see where it came from. Or choose not to read something (or trust it) if the chain of ownership cannot be verified. We're basically in an all-out bullshit arms race.

"Three Body Problem" (book) - if you have three bodies, you can't create a predictable mathematical model of the orbital path.

  • We have different degrees of authority, and they don't always agree on what authority they have. States wouldn't adhere to Obama's directives.
  • Problem: airspace is under federal jurisdiction. What about privacy and property rights? The FAA monitors drones - TX determines if you can fly over someone's house. The different entities crave authority and power.
  • Trump will establish a federal low threshold, states will raise this. The small town of Denton TX tried to pass a law banning fracking in Denton.

High stakes:

  • Future of work
  • Surveillance (corporate and government)
  • Freedom of expression (policing of media sites, libel laws). Gawker - what they did was in poor taste but they got sued out of existence.
  • New technologies

We then went through two group exercises, then wrapped up the discussion.

What's next:

  • Cities and states as policy labs
  • Accelerating automation
  • Sharp policy turns
  • Low signal to noise ratio

Trump is very externally focused - e.g. he will blame Bezos.

Getting involved:

  • Show up (hearings, boards, councils)
  • Call or show up at their office (legislators and bureaucrats) - don't email or tweet.
  • Vote (primaries, generals)

Group Exercise 1 by Scott Schwaitzberg

Exercise #1: Jury Duty

Congratulations! You have been selected to serve on an important jury to determine the future of autonomous vehicles in the United States. The facts are simple, the verdict is tough!

The year is 2022, and nearly every car on the road is capable of driving itself, but in the transition, most cars still have a steering wheel, pedals, etc. The logic for self-driving cars was developed through trillions of data points run through a neural network process, which has become somewhat of a "black box" for the automakers themselves. In other words, the designers of the software do not necessarily understand how the car responds to a given set of stimuli, or which stimuli are necessarily most important for the car to make a decision.

  • John Q. Motorist was riding in the driver's seat on a slick country road after a rainstorm.
  • The car is a 2011 Toyota Camry upgraded with sensors and software to enable it to drive itself (a common occurrence).
  • The brakes go out (due to poor maintenance) and the car swerves out of control.
  • There are two options: a gentle grassy field filled with sheep or a granite cliff.
  • The car chooses the cliff, John is paralyzed.

John is suing the software developer for programming the car to hurt him.

The manufacturer claims they had no prior knowledge that the car would do that due to the black box nature of the software (and, more importantly, that John poorly maintained the car). They also cite the EULA which they believe eliminates any responsibility on their part.

Plaintiff or Defendant?

Exercise #2: Rise of the machines

You are all members of the President's Domestic Policy Council in 2024. Unemployment has been on the rise for the past several years (now at 11.5%) as "worker displacement technology" (WDT) has taken hold of our economy (most acutely with self-driving cars and chatbots).

Amazon Go (cashier-less retail) is finally ready for prime-time, and they have announced large scale partnerships with Walmart, Target and Kroger and many others. Investors are thrilled and a combined 850,000 jobs are slated to be eliminated in the next 18 months.

The staff have presented you with three options to take to the President; you can only pick one.

Option 1: Do nothing, the market will sort it out. You have to provide a justification for why.

Option 2: Announce a new "worker displacement program" to provide healthcare, training grants, and unemployment benefits for up to five years for anyone displaced by the technology, to be funded by an increase in corporate and capital gains taxes. You have to set a standard for what qualifies, and what type of training.

Option 3: Propose a five-year ban on layoffs related to WDT, accompanied by a mandatory reduction in the minimum wage to 2012 levels (regardless of state laws). You have to set a standard for which technologies / industries / companies are included.

What will you present to the President?

Workshop Discussion

Exercise 1:

Most groups thought the company was somewhat liable. Main issue our group discussed was skin in the game - who had it? The car owner? Software developer? Company? And that skin in the game was needed to ensure companies had a stake in doing the right thing. One group was divided and having a lively debate.

Exercise 2:

Most groups chose option 2 (including our group). One group chose option 1, and one group chose option 3. One thought: option 2 is cheaper than a revolution.

Eileen Sauer