On June 10th Sally Wentworth, Senior Director of Strategic Public Policy with The Internet Society continued our series with a discussion on key issues and the role of the global Internet Society.
This summer C-PET will be hosting a teleconference series on the future of internet governance. Our series kicked off on June 3rd with a great conversation with Michael Nelson, C-PET Senior Fellow and Principal Technology Policy Strategist with Microsoft and Paul Mitchell, the Senior Director of Technology Policy in Microsoft.
Reports will follow each of these discussions with a fuller document on the prospects for Internet Governance in the early Fall 2014.
On June 11th Forum Global and C-PET partnered to host the 2014 Cloud Computing Policy Conference in Washington DC.
On Cloud and Policy: Atlanticis
By Nigel Cameron, President of C-PET
We have just finished the 2014 Cloud Policy USA conference, in which C-PET was delighted to partner with Forum Global. In my closing remarks, I highlighted some core questions that this immensely significant term raises. At one level, of course, the shift to Cloud might be considered trivial – it’s just time-sharing, say cynics, and we’ve done that for half a century. Others grasp its utility – safe, cheap storage that avoids local backup and also facilitates distance collaboration – work that is location agnostic, as FTC Commissioner Ohlhausen, one of our keynote speakers, eloquently put it. So what?
Well, the history of innovation is peppered with “so whats” whose naivety has soon been obvious. Which is not to say that the wilder enthusiasts for any technology’s potential will always be proved right. Yet the “general purpose technologies” that have economy-wide effects bear inbuilt capacities for extraordinary impact.
The detail of that impact may not be immediately clear. One thing that always perplexes me about technology/business events is the seeming confidence of presenters who claim to track a decade ahead the number of people and dollars and nodes that will inevitably emerge from the application of A, or B, or C. That’s partly because the core lesson of the exponential principle (which goes well beyond Moore’s Law) is the folly of linear projections and the math they make possible. In tandem, we have the interaction of A, and B, and C – about which we may speculate or even war-game; interactions that raise the lack of clarity and therefore risk involved – exponentially. All of which leads me – as I hear the presentations and watch the PPs (and read the analyst reports) – to puzzle. We have little idea of even the business models that these exploding technologies will enable – and if that is true, all bets are off.
As we look back, the best example of this fact lies in what we now call search. Back when, pre-Google and their predecessors, this was not even a concept, let alone a business model. We all searched for things we had lost. We all researched things we did not know. When I was working on my Ph.D., I took the train to distant libraries for that purpose. Point is: Not only did search, perfected by Google, not exist – we were not looking for it. Vastly valuable applications will emerge at the interface of the Cloud and the Internet of Things that we have not yet imagined; while our expectations as to what is likely will fall away. This does make it hard for analysts and management consultants to write reports that generate big bucks and grasp the interest of the press. Without prejudice to the excellence of (some of) their work, the lesson of the past three decades (and the smartest sci-fi) is that the future is not an advanced version of the present.
The future is, as L.P. Hartley famously said of the past, “another country: they do things differently there.”
In my remarks I made these four points.
- Our engagement with the policy and economic dimensions of these emerging technologies must be Atlanticist. The transatlantic corridor between North America and Europe represents the world’s most significant economic axis as well as the main line of freedom and democracy. Ever-nascent anti-Americanism in Europe, coupled with American disdain for and disinterest in Europe, offer continual challenges to the Atlanticist vision – yet it remains key to the success of Cloud and the economic revolution it will help release. It was encouraging to hear from our distinguished speakers that we have a trend toward better co-operation.
- It is crucial to frame this discussion in multidisciplinary terms – as policy, technology, business, values, are more closely correlated with the passage of time. Specialism is so 20th century.
- In that context, the Cloud is the fundamental enabler of the Internet of Things. And the IoT has dramatic, extraordinary implications. Essentially – to use my favorite term – it offers to button the old economy to the new economy. That claim is vast, and its potential for creating value seemingly limitless.
- It also carries disturbing implications, since it offers to extend the already extensive digitized knowledge base of our private lives – and therefore render much more of us accessible to that triad of users of our digital information: governments, corporations, and “bad actors.” (I make no comment about the extent to which governments and corporations should also be classed in that category; though there is no question that they are both capable of “bad actions.”) In the post-Snowden era, the NSA’s efforts now partly in the public domain show the impact of a system in which essentially all the data are accessible to anyone with the smarts and opportunity to mine them; to “data” we are in the process of adding “things.” Trillions of them.
The Conference addressed many of these questions, which help frame our thinking on the policy implications of the Cloud.
Ambassador de Almeida, who heads the Mission of the European Union to the United States, took the “Cloud” metaphor further and suggested it might lead to stormy weather. As it happened, mid-afternoon my phone chirped to let me know that the excellent Red Cross Tornado app had come to life to announce a tornado watch across the DC area for the next 6 hours. (Had it been a warning, the room would have heard a dramatic, loud,”Take cover, take cover,” whether or not I had the volume turned off.) The Cloud-based Internet of Things at work.
The Cloud, like all systematic technological developments of general-purpose application, is fraught with risk even as it is with possibility. Candid discussion – across national boundaries, disciplines, sectors – offers our best approach to exploiting its potential for great good. While doing so non-naively.
Next in our series of events focused on the Internet of Things, a Roundtable with FTC Commissioner Julie Brill on February 26 (Wednesday) at 2.00 p.m. in our G Street conference room.
After Commissioner Brill’s presentation, responses followed from:
Daniel Caprio, Senior Adviser, McKenna Long & Aldridge, and Senior Fellow, C-PET
Nuala O’Connor, President, Center for Democracy and Technology
Carolyn Nguyen, Director, Technology Policy Group, Microsoft, will address the longer term impact of data and the increasing datafication of society on policy.
Beyond the Shutdown: Five Drivers for the Innovation of DC
By Nigel Cameron, President of C-PET
It’s cheap to say “a plague on both your houses,” but what’s clear as the federal shutdown shudders toward a third week is that back of the positions and personalities shaping this piece of disastrous theater lie common commitments to a political culture that is dead but won’t lie down. Part of our tragic predicament is found in the fact, lately exemplified by the plight of BlackBerry and Nokia (and Kodak), that being the pro tem technology leader can mean little for the development of the kind of resilient culture that will drive mission forward in the context of rapid change. What lies ahead, then, for America?
Introducing C-PET’s New Futures Platform
By Gunther Sonnenfeld & Nigel Cameron, C-PET’s New Policy Innovation Futures Platform
So the sequester grinds on, good men and women pursue the trench warfare at which Capitol Hill excels, and the future of the United States looks more precarious by the day.
Public and private policy in today’s world has boiled down to the tepid commitment of belief systems that seem untethered to foundational wisdom and anchored to party alliances that often do very little for our long-term social, political or technological advancement. In short, as corporations, legislators, lobbyists and citizen activist groups, we are seeking quick solutions to highly complex problems that are predicated on borrowed time and borrowed capital…. And doing so from falsely appointed sides of the same coin.
We are here to change that.