2020 will be very different in Brussels and DC. But whether it’s the US election or the first year of the new EU Government (Parliament Commission, President Of the Council, etc.), tech will be front and center in every major policy discussion.
May you live in interesting times.
The U.S. began the impeachment trial of DJT this week and the first primary of the 2020 election cycle is just two weeks away. Meanwhile, in Europe, the UK is set to step out of the EU at about the same time, followed by months of negotiations over the new relationship between the two. Hard to see how any substantive policy work will be coming from the politicians.
But of course, not every government official is elected or focused on foreign relations.
In the EU, the new Commission is driving hard to define the relationship between regulators and Europe’s largest technology companies – most of which have American roots. Their focus is on how to regain leadership in tomorrow’s data and innovation-driven economy. While this sounds like a positive thing, so far most of the effort has gone into how best to handcuff the current leaders versus helping new European champions. The result has been heated discussions on taxing tech, breaking up tech, fining tech, and regulating tech, but nothing on promoting tech.
For developers, the 2020 EU challenge is how to engage with policymakers so that the inevitable rules on AI, Competition, Data, and Online Speech are based on an accurate and informed understanding of the digital ecosystem that innovation currently relies on. Regulations driven by fear or misinformation are the error to be avoided here. Developer voices must play a crucial role in those discussions, if not we will find our jobs and businesses’ future dictated by those who don’t understand our work.
In the U.S., political candidates are likely to push messages that resonate with voters and differentiate them from their competitors, regardless of whether the policy basis behind them is sound. We can expect extreme positions and plenty of rhetoric on the campaign trail. Developer’s voices will be critical to counter the spread of misinformation, fear of tech, and its role in the innovation economy. Above all, developers must speak up when technology is blamed for larger social and economic challenges. The digital economy has played an outsized role in improving the lives of so many that its universality has made it invisible. We must now defend the forest from the trees.
For our part, we will focus on inserting ourselves into all discussions in both the U.S. and EU where software is an issue.
On AI, we will emphasize that policymakers must separate the tool itself from its many applications.
On data, we will defend the value it can unleash if allowed to flow freely.
On competition, we will emphasize a focus on market failure over market engineering.
Above all, we will bring our knowledge of technology and the digital economy to the table so that decisions are made based on facts and objective assessment instead of fear, ignorance, and politics.