The Economist claims that technology plutocrats are starting to engage with the US political process in a more comprehensive way than they have previously deigned to do.
The paper cites Steve Jobs as typical of the existing attitude. After hosting a dinner with Barack Obama and some fellow tycoons, he reportedly complained “The president is very smart, but he kept explaining to us reasons why things can’t get done. It infuriates me.”
The Economist argues that earlier interventions in Washington from Silicon Valley have been limited to specific issues, but now an organisation called FWD.us, a campaign for immigration reform (seeking to ease the tech industry’s acute difficulty in bringing top global engineering talent into the country) is showing them how to be engaged on a more lasting basis.
And of course Jeff Bezos, based in the other Washington, has bought the Washington Post for $250m.
The Economist may be hanging a big claim on small hooks: it is famous for being pretty accurate about the past, but reliably wrong about the future. But in any case, what it is describing is what Silicon Valley probably should be doing. With a queue of transformative technologies coming down the highway, techno-optimists probably should be investing in political mechanisms to clear existing and potential road-blocks. The adoption of Google Glass, 3D printing, driverless cars, industrial and domestic robots can all be delayed by political misunderstanding and prejudice.
However the Big One – human-level AI – probably cannot.