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Trump, The "Cyber", And The Tech Sector

(Disclaimer: Not a political post.)

With the recent US election and Trump’s shocking victory, one can’t help but wonder what this means for everybody else outside the country. I have to drill down, be more specific, and think about what this actually means for us in the tech industry. 

One thing’s for sure though: Trump is not a big supporter of technology. He thinks that he can have parts of the Internet shut down with help from Bill Gates to prevent further ISIS recruitment. The guy does not carry a phone or use email. During a CNN town hall meeting, he said he tweets by “shouting it out to one of the young ladies who are tremendous. I’ll just shout it out and they’ll do it.” To make things even more fun, his Russian PM BFF sent him a congratulatory telegram. Maybe because in this generation of 140 characters, a telegram has more panache, but one can only guess. 

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Now let’s get to the facts. As the most powerful man in the world to date, Trump stands for what exactly? Here’s the lay of the land. 

  • The leaders from the tech industry have voiced out their stand against Trump. Through an open letter published on Medium, they have agreed to the fact that Trump is innovation’s worst nightmare. His divisive campaign will ultimately break down the building blocks of innovation: all fostered within an environment of creativity, diversity, inclusion, and healthy competition.
  • His immigration policy is another thing to worry about. He is very vocal about his advocacy against immigrants. Aside from that, he thinks that there’s no such thing as shortage in STEM in the US. The strength of the STEM industry is founded mainly on diversity: The exchange of ideas on a global scale will be impeded if he pushes for his anti-immigration stance, eventually having the H-1B visa issuance removed as a result. Silicon Valley highly relies on the H-1B program to support its workers, and basically by closing the doors to immigrants, he is also closing the doors to top tech talents.
  • He has no certain plans about net neutrality. In addition to this, he appointed a new FCC director who is known as a big anti-net neutrality advocate, and it would be just logical to say that there would be significant changes to the policies and regulations going forward. 
  • He has his sights set on changing the rules around DNS and ICANN, as well as in giving out opposing statements to top companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook. 
  • According to this report by Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, he has no strong position on issues such as open data, internet governance, and artificial intelligence.

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Okay, so maybe he's not the most tech-literate US president, so what. It can't be that bad, right? All from a big picture perspective, here's why I think his stand on things matters for us in the sector: 

1. The US is one of the main contributor in the fulfilment of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In this emerging revolution, new technologies that are being developed will converge physical, digital, and biological world and will be shaping all disciplines of human living and interaction. Cyber-physical systems, artificial intelligence, and automation are seen to be the new norm, or maybe even the hope of the future. The progression of these is uncertain under Trump’s rule. 

2. We cannot deny the influence that Silicon Valley has all over the world. It’s been a hub to most of the era-defining tech companies we have today. The Bay Area has been tagged as the “United Nations of West Coast”. If we consider Trump’s interests at heart as listed above, there would surely be massive negative consequences to the Valley, plus ripple effects on a global scale.

Let’s simply put it this way: If the people we put in power are unwilling to adapt and do not have innovation and technological advancement in mind, we are at risk of falling behind as a generation. 

If you're still not convinced, just read his speech below from the 2016 first presidential debate. 

(Photo: TNW)

So we had to get very, very tough on cyber and cyber warfare. It is a huge problem. I have a son—he’s 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers. It’s unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe, it's hardly doable. But I will say, we are not doing the job we should be doing. But that’s true throughout our whole governmental society. We have so many things that we have to do better, Lester. And certainly cyber is one of them.

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