Silicon Valley Throws Its Pocketbook Into The Race

Many years ago I got to participate as a fly-on-the-wall journalist in an important collaboration of the Advertising Research Foundation and the MIT Media Lab that sought to predict the future of digital media, how it would impact society, and how advertisers, agencies and media could map its trajectory.

The project fittingly was called "D-Map," and it created a model that could be used to plot how key variables -- policy, regulation, economics, consumer adoption and technological innovation -- would lead to various outcomes.

And while all those variables were important back when the project took place in 1999, I believe the role of technology has grown disproportionately significant, because of geometric effects that technological breakthroughs could have on all the other variables.

Back then, I was only thinking in terms of Moore's Law, not quantum computing or general AI. Or whatever comes next.



As a result, I also believe the other stakeholders -- government, consumers, allied industries, etc. -- should play an increasingly active role in influencing the policy governing the tech industry's ability to move fast and break things, or put a dent in the universe.

That's why I frequently point out the role that the ad industry has played in underwriting the development and proliferation of so much tech innovation. Obviously, media -- but increasingly, in indirect applications, including the current and emerging generation of AI applications.

The reason is that as important as venture funding is, many of the most promising technology product innovations have failed to develop a direct-consumer marketplace, and have defaulted to advertising and marketing models as a source of, well, making money, turning profits, and letting all those VCs achieve an exit.

So when I read a declaration today by one of the most powerful of Silicon Valley's venture capital firms -- Andreessen Horowitz -- that it was getting into politics, I felt compelled to weigh in on the implications of that.

"As software has eaten the world, it has become integral to every industry and nearly every endeavor in our society. As a result, the governments around the world have become increasingly interested in the implications and how they might regulate the technology," AH Cofounder Ben Horowitz posted on the firm's blog today, adding: "We believe that advancing technology is critical for humanity’s future, so we will, for the first time, get involved with politics by supporting candidates who align with our vision and values specifically for technology."

In other words, Big Tech is about to become a pretty big PAC, and that should give us all a bit of pause coming at a time when the complexity of technology and the potential for unintended consequences is growing faster than many people in government can comprehend or effectively legislate.

Read Horowitz's laissez-faire post yourself and tell me what you think at

I know I sometimes sound like a Luddite, but when he sums the firm's goal up by asserting, "Every penny we donate will go to support like-minded candidates and oppose candidates who aim to kill America’s advanced technological future," I just want to feel that the people in our government are also focused on making sure advanced technologies don't also kill future Americans.

Next story loading loading..