May 2, 2020 – “Silicon Valley needs to become more political,” said Mark Lutter, founder and executive director of the Charter Cities Institute, at a webinar hosted by the Lincoln Network on Thursday.
The discussion, “A Time to Build?” was focused on legendary entrepreneur Marc Andreessen’s recent article by the same name. In the piece, Andreessen, co-creator of the Mosaic internet browser and co-founder of Netscape, argued that governments, businesses and other institutions failed to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic.
In Thursday’s discussion, Lutter cited Apple’s $2.5 billion payment towards building affordable housing around its headquarters instead of using lobbyists, which he argued would have achieved the same results with less money.
Apple and other large tech companies need “more political will,” he insisted. He also urged tech entrepreneurs “build movements, don’t build another app,” in his recent article responding to Andreessen’s.
On the call, Lutter spontaneously proposed the creation of an an “Andreessen Fellowship” that would fly 10 to 15 policymakers from D.C. to San Francisco for several days to learn creative problem-solving solutions from tech executives. They should be able to use that knowledge to better bolster institutions.
Lutter also contrasted the two cities, arguing that San Francisco has a higher tolerance for failure than D.C. That’s because Washington punishes policymakers more harshly for taking chances than does Silicon Valley.
“What’s the Y-Combinator for the next institutions?” Lutter asked glibly, referring to the startup accelerator synonymous with creative destruction.
Competition policy, but applied to the nation-state
The panelists also discussed the role of competition in building institutions. “Competition matters,” Lutter said, arguing that America hasn’t had a true competitor for past 30 years since the Soviet Union. Even that claim is debatable, he added, since the Soviet Union at its peak only reached half of the industrial output of the United States.
The lack of a clear rival has lowered the stress on American institutions, causing them to pick “all of the low-hanging fruit for technological innovation,” Lutter said. He criticized Washington’s “lack of vision” and proclaimed that “Silicon Valley is the only place that has this bigger vision.”
Marci Harris, CEO and Co-Founder of PopVox, a tech platform for civic engagement, noted that the government’s role in innovation is made more complicated by what she termed the pacing problem.
The pacing problem is the idea that tech develops exponentially while policy develops linearly, forcing Congress to always play catch-up.
Harris suggested that policy wonks should try solving problems the Silicon Valley way: start with the problem they’re trying to solve and then work backward, while comparing and refining their approach. This process “begins to take some of the ideology out of the picture,” Harris said.
Lutter remained adamant that “we can’t separate ideology,” pointing out that it is an inevitable part of how results are interpreted. What’s to stop partisans from blaming the origins of a societal problem on China, healthcare or large government, he asked?
Government Needs to Enact Cryptocurrency Policy to Get Ahead on Global Competition, Experts Say
China is believed to be creating a central digital currency soon, as the U.S. lacks policy governing cryptocurrency.
WASHINGTON, December 1, 2021 – Cryptocurrency experts say the federal government needs to implement more policy governing cryptocurrency to get in front of international competition in the space, as ransomware threats in the country continue to rise.
Patrick McCarty, professor at Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, said at an event at the American University School of Law on November 23 that China’s central bank may create a central digital currency in the near future, and other nations’ central banks are likely to create their own digital currencies in response.
If the U.S. is to remain competitive on the international cryptocurrency scene, they say, the government must take key steps to solidify its digital currency systems.
Meanwhile, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law last month, establishes tax reporting requirements for cryptocurrencies.
McCarty said it is unclear whether Congress will take such steps, including clarifying whether cryptocurrencies are securities or commodities, and the Securities and Exchange Commission identifying which assets are considered securities to help with building digital currency systems in the U.S.
Melanie Teplinsky, professor at American University Washington College of Law, pointed out that even the major cryptocurrency players are asking for government regulations to be imposed on the industry.
Need better ransomware security
Teplinsky also said the U.S. must work to improve cybersecurity for cryptocurrency exchange.
With a four-times increase in the ransom that ransomware hackers received last year compared to 2019, she said shortages of available cybersecurity workers pose a very large problem.
She predicted there will be efforts to strengthen cybersecurity as the private sector seeks to work more collaboratively with government, and that active cyber defense through threat hunting will become more prevalent.
Teplinsky also stated that coordinated domestic and international policy responses to ransomware threats are specifically necessary, such as through diplomatic efforts to shut down foreign safe havens for hackers and common exchange regulations to ensure adherence to anti-money laundering rules.
FCC Requires Telecom Companies to Let Subscribers Text to Suicide Prevention Hotline
The measure would increase access for those seeking emergency mental health assistance.
WASHINGTON, November 18, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to require providers of telecommunications to permit individuals to text directly to a three digit number, 988, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The suicide prevention lifeline is a national network that offers free and confidential support in Americans in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. The move increases access for individuals in crisis by routing text messages sent to 988 to the group’s 10-digit number, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).
The vote to establish text-to-988 comes after Americans spent months isolated under stay-at-home orders in 2020. The CDC reported that last year, 44,834 individuals died by suicide in the United States. Experts have suggested that the pandemic has increased mental health struggles for Americans. The FCC has repeatedly recognized suicide’s impact on at-risk communities, including youth, the Black community, the LGBT community, Veterans, and the deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, and people who have speech disabilities that affect communication.
The FCC required text providers to support three digit dialing and text messages to 988 by July 16, 2022. “This uniform deadline will help to prevent confusion and facilitate unified outreach campaigns,” said Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, who described 988 as “life-saving work.” “I am pleased to approve today’s decision because Text-to-988 will save lives in vulnerable and underserved communities by taking advantage of this vital communications channel,” he said.
Commenting on her vote to approve the measure, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel noted that LGBT youth are almost five times as likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. “These young people deserve a future,” she said. “They deserve support. And that support should be simple to access. Today we help make that possible.”
Americans sent an estimated 2.2 trillion text messages in 2020. Texting to 988 may be an especially important option for young people, who may prefer the anonymity and convenience of texting a crisis counselor instead of engaging in a phone conversation, said the FCC.
The agency urged Americans who need help during the transition to 988 should contact the Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) and through online chats.
Facebook Lobbying Congress on Blockchain Policy
The registration comes after the company rebranded to Meta, taking it beyond its social media origins.
WASHINGTON, November 18, 2021 – Facebook has registered this month to lobby Congress on blockchain policy, following a rebranding of the company that is intended to take the company beyond its social media roots.
The lobby registration was filed on November 4 and it comes after the infrastructure bill, signed into law this week, established tax reporting requirements for cryptocurrencies, which require the decentralized transaction ledger known as the blockchain to function.
The registration, which does not provide specifics on what the company hopes to discuss, also comes just days after the company rebranded as Meta, which is intended to broaden the company’s scope into new technologies that allow people to be together in the virtual space.
When the rebranding launched in late October, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote a letter that indicated that this new metaverse would require open standards and interoperability, including supporting crypto projects.
Meta also has a number of jobs that require knowledge of crypto and blockchain.
Facebook has set its sights on initiatives involving the blockchain for years. In 2018, head of Facebook Messenger David Marcus announced on Facebook that he would set up a small group to “best leverage Blockchain across Facebook, starting from scratch.”
On Thursday, a bipartisan group of House representatives introduced a bill – the Keep Innovation in America Act – that would better define who are crypto brokers for tax reporting purposes.
In a separate lobby registration, Facebook also specified that it would like to discuss specific funding for computer science education in legislation.
The company has previously registered to lobby Congress on Section 230, the law that shields tech platforms from legal repercussions for what their users post.
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