Government Assessment of Innovation Shouldn’t Differ for Tech Companies

Publication Type: 
Other Writing
Publication Date: 
October 24, 2016

At the outset, it's not clear to me what Silicon Valley is and isn't — or why that matters. Companies like Google are often contrasted with companies like General Motors, and yet, according to an automotive industry group, automakers spend over $100 billion every year on research and development worldwide. R&D is a form of tech innovation. Energy companies, pharmaceutical firms and financial institutions are also technological powerhouses. Innovation is central to telecommunications, defense and health care.

Is lobbying by companies that hail from or otherwise evoke Silicon Valley fundamentally different than lobbying by companies in all of these industries? Does lobbying by today's "tech" companies pose any more or less of a concern, or is it simply interesting because it seems new? I see a similar fascination with the shiny and new in public reactions to nascent technologies: We focus on the risks of these innovations while ignoring the risks of the status quo. For example, we're concerned about self-driving cars when we should be terrified about today's drivers.

At the same time, it's important to consider how government is approaching innovation, regardless of its providence. And while legislators and regulators can't have all the answers, they must get better at asking the key questions. Because the federal government will never be able to keep up with all the technologies that are emerging, developers themselves will often be best positioned to explain innovations, identify the specific legal changes (if any) that are required, and provide concrete evidence to support their claims.

Read the full piece at The New York Times