Dear Silicon Flatirons Friends and Supporters,
Last week, Silicon Flatirons hosted our annual technology policy conference, focused on Regulating Computing and Code. More than 200 people filled Wittemyer Courtroom to hear from speakers discussing a range of issues, including software-defined networks, national internet borders, and how “soft law” can be used to govern emerging technologies. Some highlights are below. I encourage you to view the video recordings and presentations for yourself.
Vint Cerf, the co-creator of the TCP/IP protocols and internet architecture, opened the conference with his keynote where he addressed the current challenge of cybersecurity. He stated that cybersecurity is a risk management issue where we need to do more to improve it, even if it’s short of perfect.
Five different panels discussed the various challenges of governance given the rapid evolution of technology and its pervasive use. One panel, focused on software and software-defined networks, acknowledged that with more users, and more devices per user, there is an increased need for transparency by makers of products and their underlying software to end users. One key takeaway from this discussion was that economic incentives drive policy and thus need to be part of the solution.
A panel addressing challenges of governance agreed that multi-stakeholder governance faces challenges in keeping up with technological progress and policy issues. There were different views among the panelists on whether private industry or public regulatory bodies should craft these policy solutions. On the theme of transparency, panelists agreed that platforms themselves must be transparent with their customers about their business practices.
Another panel discussed the growth of business models based on collecting and processing data and the ethical use of algorithms. One core recommendation was transparency on behalf of the government policy decisions and the companies sharing their data sets with the public.
Two other panels focused on policy decisions driven by technological changes, with presenters taking a range of views on whether public regulators or private industry should take the lead and the extent to which soft law is a viable option for governing.
In an innovation for Silicon Flatirons, we held a debate about whether we need to protect strong national borders on the internet. The audience, polled before and after the debaters argued their points, were slightly swayed toward the affirmative.
Brendan Carr, the FCC’s newest commissioner, and Jeff Storey, President and COO of CenturyLink, each joined us for fireside chats. Commissioner Carr shared his belief that multi-stakeholderism can and does work. And he was optimistic that the FCC’s new Office of Economics will be a good check on FCC policy. Storey spoke about his own personal interactions with evolving technology and how he would like some protections on how his data is shared. He also suggested that policymakers should take a light touch in regulating the telecommunications industry in order to keep it competitive. He was also confident that industry partners can work together to address key issues, provided that they have the incentive to do so.
The conversation surrounding many of these issues will continue in upcoming Silicon Flatirons’ conferences. I am most grateful for our speakers who shared their time and insights with us. The papers that the presenters discussed will be published in a forthcoming edition of the Colorado Technology Law Journal, which we will announce.
If you have reflections or feedback on topics discussed at this conference, or ways in which we can improve next year, please contact me at Phil.Weiser@colorado.edu.