A few weeks ago, Chris Dixon tweeted something thought-provoking:
What were the last Hollywood movies you saw about technology & the future that were optimistic? They seem to be systematically dystopian.
I happened to be sitting in a movie theater waiting for Iron Man 3 to start, so I tried to come up with a good counter-example. It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be. Then the pre-movie trailers starting playing. The new Will Smith (and son) flick, After Earth: dystopia. The new Guillermo del Toro flick, Pacific Rim: dystopia. Even the new Superman flick, Man of Steel, could be classified as a technological dystopia (more below).
Sure, there are some films — mainly smaller indies — that in some ways are starting to buck the trend. But overall, Dixon (and Peter Thiel, who Dixon says he got the idea from) are right: Hollywood seems to hate technology. Why?
My initial thought is simply that dystopia sells. It’s the same reason why the mainstream media covering technology tends to harp on the downsides of new tech, sometimes to the point of fear mongering. They are tracking you! They want to know your location! They want to record you going to the bathroom!
Most people are predisposed to fear what they do not understand. Hollywood’s futuristic films are simply playing to this fear in the same way that horror films are packed with moments meant to startle you.
This is nothing new. In 1927, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis — the very first feature-length science fiction film — told of a 2026 where the lower class workers power the technology for the upper class. In 1951, The Day the Earth Stood Still saw aliens bring a giant robot to Earth that would destroy the planet if humans couldn’t get their act together. The 1960 version of The Time Machine (based on the H.G. Wells book) had technology (nuclear weapons) destroying civilization. 2001. A Clockwork Orange. Soylent Green. Alien. Blade Runner. The list goes on.
The difference is that we now live in a society where advanced technology permeates all of our lives. Nearly everyone now walks around with computers in their pockets that are far more powerful than the computers that filled up rooms just a few decades ago. Nearly the entirety of human knowledge is now just a few clicks or swipes away at any given moment. The vast majority of our recent technological breakthroughs, I think everyone would agree, have been overwhelmingly good for society.
And yet, Hollywood still seems sure that this is going to change. That at some point, our meddling with technology will create HAL 9000 or Skynet, and technology will turn on us.
Gene Roddenberry’s guiding vision of the Star Trek franchise was, famously, that it would offer an optimistic vision of humanity’s future.
And that largely held true through The Next Generation television series:
The Soviet Union collapsed a couple of years into the filming of The Next Generation, and the show’s optimistic future became startlingly coterminous with the optimistic present of the George H.W. Bush administration. Where else but space could you find a thousand points of light? The grand adventure of the NCC-1701-D was no longer to spread civilization, or even defend it; it was just to keep the machinery oiled. Remember 1991, America?
But the recent Star Trek films are a bit different. While I always liked how plot of Star Trek First Contact revolved around making sure a man takes the first flight at warp speed in space to usher in an era of peace on Earth, the actions are kicked into motion by the threat of the Borg — perhaps the ultimate in dystopian technology — taking over the Earth.
The latest Star Trek franchise seems to take a mainly glitz and glam approach to technology — bright white decks on giant starships accentuated with lens flares galore! But there also exists plenty of tech that is also horribly destructive. “Red Matter”, for example.
I saw the latest film, Star Trek Into Darkness, last week. While I enjoyed it, many Trekkie diehards did not. Certainly there are plenty of elements that are more Top Gun than the idea of using technology for exploration. I mean — minor spoiler alert — we have some sort of ultra weapons developed in secret and powered by some vague futuristic technology. And the man with the most technological know-how gets booted off the ship at one point for not wanting to mess around with these things.
Iron Man is another interesting example. It’s seems to be about technology used for good — but only to combat technology used for evil. So it’s basically neutral.
Then there’s the forthcoming Man of Steel. You might think this has little to do with technology (or at least what we commonly think of as technology), but as The New York Times reveals in a profile of the film’s director:
The film also emphasizes the world of Krypton before its annihilation — a bleak, utilitarian planet with sophisticated if downright creepy technology — and the treachery of the Kryptonian villain Zod (Michael Shannon), who finds Kal-El on earth. The result is an unapologetic science-fiction spin on Superman, and while that may shatter audiences’ expectations for pure, unalloyed realism in “Man of Steel,” Mr. Snyder said this approach was built into the DNA of the character.
Why is Superman on Earth? Because technology has led to the destruction of his home planet. I can’t wait to see what the author views as “downright creepy”.
Minority Report is one of my favorite recent sci-fi films. While the future envisioned there doesn’t seem so bad (and the filmmakers went out of their way to make the futuristic world as feasible and realistic as possible), the underlying premise is still pretty dystopian. Also: eye-scanning tech to show you ads. Spider-like robots that scan everything. This sure sounds like The New York Times’ idea of hell.
Another Spielberg film, A.I., paints a peaceful, yet melancholy future where technology tries to but can’t quite replace elements of humanity. It’s far from Utopia. Especially when you consider that ultimately — again, spoiler alert — all our technology can’t save the human race from extinction at the hands of another ice age. Even though our technology, the robots, live on!
Speaking of robots, one of the best sci-fi films I’ve seen recently is Robot & Frank. It’s a decidedly smaller type of science fiction that focuses on an elderly man’s relationship with his caregiving robot. The film is actually quite sweet, but again, hardly a full-on endorsement of technology.
In Gattaca, we again find a fairly peaceful and advanced futuristic society. But the core technology of the film, DNA sequencing — something rapidly becoming a reality in our actual world — has led to a world with a whole new level of prejudices.
The Matrix, Avatar, Prometheus, now I’m just looking over films I own that fit the mold. All are either dystopian or a net-negative for technology. The most positive one I can find is Contact, which still has plenty of negative technological elements (and this is a film based on a book written by perhaps the quintessential science/technology optimist, Carl Sagan).
Where is the It’s a Wonderful Life set in 2150? Are a few scenes from Back to the Future Part II really the best we got?
Again, I think the answer is that we already live in a technological utopia of sorts. No, the world isn’t perfect, but the recent advances in technology have given us so much. And people go to the movies to escape reality. It’s just too bad that science fiction films have essentially become horror movies.Read More →
The Saturday Evening Post has a prominent spot in the history of American magazines. It’s where artist Norman Rockwell made a name for himself, and it has published classic American authors like Edgar Allan Poe and F. Scott Fitzgerald. But if you had no idea that it was still around, you’re not alone — the magazine’s technology director Steve Harman said that many people “are surprised we’re still publishing.”
Yes, it is still putting out a magazine every two months, with a circulation of about 350,000. Subscribers are mostly in their 50s, but The Post is trying to reach younger readers and adapt to the digital world, as recounted in a couple of stories earlier this year. Now it’s taking the next step in that direction with the release of its iPad and iPhone app, which was built by digital publishing company Yudu.
“Lately, there’s been a lot of commitment convert the post into a 21st century media company,” Harman said.
He added that this isn’t The Post’s first move onto tablets and e-readers. It’s already available on the Nook and in Google Play — he said that wasn’t a conscious strategy, but rather a response to overtures from Barnes & Noble and Google. The Post knew it was important to get onto Apple devices too, but it needed to find the right partner to make it happen.
The app itself includes digitized versions of The Post’s issues going back to November/December 2012 — you can enter your existing subscription information, buy a subscription, or purchase individual issues for $3.99 each. The issues themselves are a pretty straightforward PDFs of The Post’s print publication, without additional interactivity or media. Harman said that if Wired represents the cutting edge of what a magazine can do on the iPad, “we’re at the opposite end of the spectrum.”
He doesn’t want to stay that way for long, however — he said The Post chose to work with Yudu because of the promise of adding videos and interactivity. One unique opportunity: The Post already tries to highlight aspects of its long history in the magazine, but the digital versions (which don’t have limited space) provide an opportunity to do that much more of that.
The Post’s broader challenge is trying to court a younger audience without making it seem like it doesn’t value its existing, older readers. I could see that in the May/June table of contents — putting actor Alan Alda‘s face on the cover probably won’t persuade many folks younger than 40 to buy the issue, but there are also stories on Star Trek, Mad Men, and the speed of WiFi in America. And Harman said the magazine’s digital strategy is particularly important for reaching a broader audience. That strategy covers tablet, smartphone, and e-reader editions, and it also includes The Post’s website, which is supposed to be overhauled next month.Read More →
The following is an excerpt from my new book Don’t Go Back to School: a handbook for learning anything.
To someone who has never tried, it’s not obvious how to learn the things you want to learn outside of school. I’m on a mission to show you how. To do that, I became obsessed with how other people learn best, and how they do it without going to school.
My research based on interviews with 100 independent learners revealed four facts shared by almost every successful form of learning outside of school:
It isn’t done alone.
For many professions, credentials aren’t necessary, and the processes for getting credentials are changing.
The most effective, satisfying learning is learning that which is more likely to happen outside of school.
People who are happiest with their learning process and most effective at learning new things — in any educational environment — are people who are learning for the right reasons and who reflect on their own way of learning to figure out which processes and methods work best for them.
This interview with Harper Reed is a great example of how independent learning works. Reed served as the Chief Technology Officer for Obama for America during the 2012 election; before that, he was CTO at Threadless. He is an engineer who builds paradigm-shifting technology and leads others to do the same.
I love computers and I’ve always been around computers. I can’t really talk about education without talking about computers. I went to high school and I actually really loved it. I took all the classes I could, I was prom king, student council president. I did everything I could to be more involved in high school and that is obviously not the normal path you’d expect for a computer geek.
But, along with that, I was constantly getting into trouble with computers. Never with the cops, but I was always getting banned from all the computers in the school district. Then, they would let me back in, and I would mess up again for whatever reason. It happened over and over. I was caught in this dichotomy of trying to be involved, but whenever I was trying to get involved with computers, I messed it up because I was curious and experimenting outside what was allowed. After that, I went to a small liberal arts college. I studied history along with computer science, because I knew ultimately I was going to work with computers and I wanted to learn something else, too. I studied Catholic history and the history of science, which overlap a lot. I’m not Catholic. I’m not a religious person at all, but it was really fascinating to learn all of the idiosyncrasies of Galileo and Bruno and all these different weird scientists who got burned at the stake for their discoveries.
I realized about probably three-quarters of the way through my education that in terms of computers, I actually wasn’t learning anything I needed to learn to get a job later on. I did learn some coding concepts in college, but more importantly I figured out that I’m an experiential learner. I need to put my hands on things and really see them, and really chew on them. It was better to do it in a real context, where it mattered if I did it right. Like where there was money at stake. So, I did an internship in Iowa City, IA. I worked for a real company that was trying to make a profit. The company built ecommerce apps. As an intern I started learning web apps to build web pages. Given my way of learning, it was fascinating to see how the management dealt with me. I was a child. I asked questions like a child does. “Why is the sky blue?” They just said, “It’s just blue. Go with that.” I said, “No! Tell me why we’re doing it this way. What is this?” It was client services, so we were just doing it because the client wanted it done, with no thought behind it. But all the questions I asked gave me this opportunity to see how things worked and the value of asking things that seemed obvious to everyone else. It gave me a lot of hope. It really kicked off the career that I have now.
The methods I used to learn technology don’t work for everything. I’m struggling with learning Japanese. My wife is Japanese and I want to learn the language, but I don’t know how. I take classes, I fail, it doesn’t work out. I have to figure that out. With technology, I immediately find a problem I want to solve. It’s usually about learning a new programming language or learning a new technology. If it’s a real problem, I want to get to where I can actually picture the solution and be able to see it through from the beginning to the end. For me, I can’t learn from videos. That just doesn’t do it for me, although there’s a lot of video learning right now. I find it very frustrating. So usually what I do is I just go through a tutorial of some sort and then really start iterating, doing it over and over. I start trying to be creative on top of that, and say okay, now that I can figure out how to do this, how would I use it? So I set a new goal pretty close in difficulty, and when I achieve that, I do that again, until suddenly I’ve learned something. When you’re in that process, it can also be the best time to teach someone else. A tech writer named Mark Pilgrim, who writes manuals for learning coding languages including Dive into Python, and Dive into HTML5 said, “The best time to write a book about something is while you’re learning it yourself.” So you know what’s hard to learn and can talk in an excited, confident, honest way about how you got to the place where it’s not hard anymore.
For me this whole process is really collaborative. I treat everything like I’m the CEO of my life. CEOs have boards of directors and boards of advisors and these are groups of people who they’re using to really rely on for help and advice to be successful. I think every person should treat their life like that. So, if I’m stuck, I know I can reach out to a buddy, or I can reach out to my brother. I know I can reach out to these people who are experts in whatever I’m trying to do. I try to surround myself with incredibly smart people who are often, if not always, smarter than me. Because other people are so important to learning, I also think one of the most significant things about the internet is democratization of access. Anyone can email you about self-learning and you’re probably going to respond. Probably. I think it’s about how you phrase it. We are all very busy, but we’re probably going to respond if you approach it efficiently.
You can learn a lot about this from a really good book called Team Geek by Brian W. Fitzpatrick. It’s actually about project managing software development geeks, but it applies to most things with communication. It should really be called “Interacting with People,” because all it is, is just little tricks on how to interact with people, how to make those interactions better. There’s a section called “Interacting with an Executive,” and that part should be called “Interacting with Busy People.” It says if you want to connect with someone who is very busy, tell them three bullets and then a call to action.
So if someone wanted help from me, it might go like this: “Harper, I’m interested in what you’re doing with the campaign. I’m going to be doing technology for a campaign in the coming election. Do you have a hint for product management or project management software that you guys use?” I can answer that quickly. It’s very simple. Then all of a sudden there’s this person who probably wouldn’t have had an opportunity to talk with me, and I can help them out. I love what that kind of efficient communication does for you.
Kio Stark is a writer, researcher, teacher, and passionate activist for independent learning. She teaches at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. She is also the author of the novel Follow Me Down. You can find out more about her work at KioStark.com.Read More →
A few days ago I landed in England and, expecting little, slipped an old UK SIM card into my phone. I’d bought it when living in London five years ago, and hadn’t used it in more than a year. But to my amazement it was still active — as was the money I’d added to its pay-as-you-go account 16 months earlier…and then I received a friendly text message informing me that my data costs were now £1 per 100MB. Another SMS popped up when I emerged from the Channel Tunnel in France a few days later, informing me it would cost me 8p to send texts and 7p per minute to receive calls.
Can you imagine any of that happening with an American phone company? Or Canadian? North American carriers generally expire pay-as-you-go accounts after 90 days of inactivity, and it’s at best a struggle to get them to support data at all, much less seamlessly, much much less at that price. (Which isn’t even that great, by global standards; in India two years ago I was charged $1 for a full gigabyte.)
As for roaming, you’re very lucky to get American or Canadian pay-as-you-go accounts that can roam across that vast undefended border at all, and if you do, they’ll charge the proverbial arm and a leg. That same UK SIM card worked just fine in Kenya last year, and as I type this I’m about to land in Turkey, where I expect to receive another text informing me that my UK pay-as-you-go number continues to work just fine outside the EU, albeit more expensively. (Update: yep.)
What’s wrong with this picture? Why are America and Canada so unbelievably awful? Yeah, I’m being anecdotal, but there is all kinds of data to support the notion that cell service there is outlandishly expensive compared to almost all of the rest of the developed world. (And worse than a lot of the developing world, too.)
Part of it is laissez-faire capitalism run amok. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a staunch defender of capitalism…that is, well-regulated capitalism. Until 2008 that was a hard row to hoe among many of my friends, but that recent embarrassing spate of financial cataclysms have made it much easer. Why is my UK SIM card relatively cheap to use in France? Because EU regulators insisted on it. Why are America’s carriers so parasitical, predatory, gouging and user-hostile? Because they can be, which in large part means because their regulators (including, alas, Canada’s CRTC) don’t insist on much of anything.
Oh, sorry, no, my mistake. They do insist on perpetuating this state of affairs. Consider the recent breathtakingly wrong decision to make it illegal under the DMCA to unlock your phone. This was one of those classic bureaucratic catastrophes: every individual step that led to it doubtless made sense to the people involved, who were too close to their system to take a step back and notice that its actual outcome was complete insanity. If anything it should should be illegal to lock phones, not unlock them. This is regulatory capture taken to new heights of Stockholm-Syndrome madness.
And yet. At the end of the day the true power lies not with the carriers, but with their customers. Alas, American and Canadian customers seem to have been hypnotized into a kind of learned helplessness where they just sit there and silently accept locked phones, bloated Kafkaesque pricing plans, insane roaming charges, Android phones stuffed with crapware, and two- or even three-year locked-in contracts.
But they don’t have to. That’s what’s so infuriating. You too could buy an unlocked phone — an unlocked Nexus 4, which is a terrific phone, costs all of $299! (And I have high hopes that Google’s rumored new X Phone initiative will be even cheaper.) You too could switch to T-Mobile’s monthly pricing plan, or Straight Talk’s, instead of signing a contract. You’d more than make back the upfront costs of the unlocked phone in less than a year. And if enough people did it, the carriers would be forced to compete on quality and improve their pricing, rather than rely on their customers’ passive despair.
The logical conclusion is that if your phone is locked, or if you’re on a multi-year contract, then you have no right to complain about your terrible carrier — because you’re part of the problem. “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” In fact, you’re ruining it for the rest of us. Thanks.
But it’s not too late for redemption. Just repeat after me: “I solemnly swear that I will never buy a locked phone or sign a multi-year phone contract again.” And when your current contract expires, do just that. Maybe, just maybe, with your help, we can finally defeat these gargantuan economic tapeworms called AT&T, Verizon, Rogers and Bell — and finally catch up with the civilized world.
Image credit: Tapeworm, by Rhys Ormond, on Flickr.Read More →
Editor’s note: Marco Rubio is a United States Senator from Florida. Follow him on Twitter @marcorubio.
Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation will examine the role of immigrants in America’s innovation economy. More specifically, the committee will look at how our broken immigration system is holding back American innovation and job creation, and how the immigration reform proposal before the Senate can promote a thriving U.S. technology sector that benefits American workers.
While there are a number of broken aspects of our immigration system today – including porous borders, weak workplace enforcement and an inadequate system to track foreign visitors who overstay their visas -
one that also stands out is the way we handle academic talent and highly skilled workers.
Every year, our colleges and universities graduate thousands of foreign students who have been educated in our world-class university system. But instead of putting that talent to work in the American economy, we send them home to places like China and India to compete against us. In other words, in many cases, other nations end up benefitting more from our education system than the United States does.
The Senate immigration reform bill would end this debacle. After educating the world’s brightest and most innovative minds, we will no longer send them home; we will instead staple green cards to their diplomas.
We will also expand the highly skilled H1-B visa program from the current 65,000 to a program with a new floor of 110,000, a ceiling of 180,000, and an additional 25,000 exemptions for persons who graduate from a U.S. university with an advanced degree in science, technology, engineering or math. In order to accomplish these necessary moves to a more merit-based immigration system, we eliminate certain categories of family preferences that have allowed for chain migration and completely eliminate the diversity visa lottery, among other reforms.
These measures, which we hope to improve on as the bill moves through the legislative process, are at the heart of our efforts to modernize our legal immigration system to help meet the needs of our 21st century economy, make it more merit and skill-based than ever, and allow our economy to remain a dynamic global leader. They are also the kinds of reforms that will make immigration reform a net benefit for our economy and our federal budget – the way immigration has always been a net benefit for America.
For example, studies show that 40 percent of American Fortune 500 firms were started by immigrants, as are roughly half of the most successful startups in Silicon Valley. This doesn’t just lead to corner-office, executive-level jobs; these generate jobs across the income spectrum that help Americans rise to the middle class and beyond.
With the reforms being offered, the benefits to our economy and our people will come from the infusion of entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, skilled workers and others driven by the desire to build a better life for themselves and their children. And when our economy needs foreign workers to fill labor shortages, our modernized system will ensure that the future flow of workers is manageable, traceable, fair to American workers, and in line with our economy’s needs.
Let there be no doubt that immigration will always be a powerful source of American strength. While some worry that the immigrants that will most benefit from the Senate’s legislation are mostly poor, with limited education and destined to be government dependents, history has proven something else. It has demonstrated the power of the American free enterprise system to lift people from the circumstances of their birth and into more prosperous and stable lives for themselves and their children. Over two centuries of life in America have demonstrated this to be true.
Of course, there are legitimate questions some have raised about why this is now the Senate’s priority. During the time I’ve been working on immigration reform legislation, I’ve been asked why we are dealing
with this issue at this time, with some questioning the need of dealing with it at all with so many other pressing concerns like our growing debt, millions of unemployed or underemployed Americans, and the persistent threat of terrorism that recently manifested itself on our soil.
It’s absolutely true that these are the defining issues of our time that, frankly, should have been addressed a long time ago.
But the reality of immigration in America today is that, even if we didn’t have some 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. today, we would still have to fix our broken legal immigration system.
The immigration system we have today is a disaster. It’s de facto amnesty that threatens our security and our sovereignty. But even worse, it’s a job killer.
The immigration proposal being considered by the Senate is not perfect. And I believe we can improve it with the ideas of people like Orrin Hatch who care deeply about fixing the immigration system to work better for American workers.
As the immigration debate continues, it is important that we use today’s hearing and every other avenue we have to fix the broken immigration system we have. In doing so, we can move towards a strong, effective system that will secure the border, encourage job creation for Americans, and ensure America remains a dynamic global economic leader.
[Image: Office of Sen. Marco Rubio]Read More →
Of all the mishaps that happen to us on a daily basis, losing a valued item is among the most frustrating. That’s probably because actually finding the lost item is often nearly impossible.
But what if you had a whole crowd of individuals looking for the item, too? In that case, your chances of recovering that wallet or set of keys are likely to improve.
That’s the thinking behind recently launched crowdsourcing platform crowdfynd, a mobile and web-based application for reporting lost and found items, as well as crimes.
The idea for crowdfynd came to cofounders Jay Sebben and Pinaki Saha when Sebben saw a pamphlet in a Starbucks asking for information about a recently committed crime. This method for collecting information seemed too “old-school,” Saha told Crowdsourcing.org, and the pair began to think about how to update and modernize crime reporting and information gathering.
Thinking about potential ways to do so, the cofounders asked, “Why not let people help people?” Seeing how companies like Kickstarter and 99designs were leveraging the power of the crowd, Sebben and Saha decided to tap into crowdsourcing, as well. (Saha, the company’s CTO, said he also had some previous experience with crowdsourced software testing.)
After several months of development, the pair launched crowdfynd to the public two weeks ago. Here’s how it works: users post a lost item (the platform also accepts missing persons and pets) onto crowdfynd, noting the location of where the item was likely to be lost, a description and picture of the item, and the reward for finding it. Others can then message that person to ask for further information, or to let them know that they’ve found it.
On the flip side, users can report found items, or give information about a crime that may have led to an item being stolen (a potential bike theft, for example). Again, they can post photos where appropriate and geotag the location of the item.
In order to improve its app, Sebben and Saha are also looking to partner with local institutions and organizations like taxi services, event venues, and train stations.
“So many things get lost in yellow cab services, so many things get lost in the transit system, at Penn Station, Madison Square Garden,” Saha explained. “They have lost and found [boxes], but they have such an old-style [approach]: drop it in the bin, if you call we’ll sort through and try to find it, but we don’t care much. That attitude doesn’t help people find things.”
For that reason, the crowdfynd cofounders are offering to license out their technology to such organizations to help them manage lost and found items. In addition to licensing, Saha envisions three other revenue streams for his company:
First, the cofounders want to sell their data to governments and companies (Saha mentioned that he has been talking to an insurance firm in Chicago about this). Second, they will offer a crowdfunding-like system, which will allow a user’s friends and family members to contribute to the reward pool for a lost item, in hopes of enticing more people to look for it; crowdfynd will take a fee of the rewards paid out. Finally, looking further ahead into the future, Saha mentioned a local advertisement and deals component.
“Let’s say 90 days go by and you couldn’t find your bike – a local bike store will be able to push out a deal to you,” he explained.
Currently, crowdfynd can be used anywhere, though Sebben and Saha are focusing on promoting their platform in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to begin with. The CTO also said that the app has been downloaded a lot in Latin America, so you can expect to see a Spanish version come out in the near future.
Crowdfynd’s biggest current challenge is increasing the user base – a crowdsourcing platform with no crowd, after all, cannot be very effective. Crowdfynd hasn’t garnered many users just yet, with around 300 people using the platform thus far.
Saha attributed this to the platform’s recent launch; he pointed out that there is almost $15,000 in rewards being offered for information about lost items, which may signify a big demand for the services that crowdfynd provides. He also noted that this problem is true for most new crowd-powered platforms and said the team is experimenting with different ways to entice new users to try out the app.Read More →
The crowdfunding debate hits my hometown this week at the Crowdfunding Pro and Contra conference in Denver.
The conference will cover reward- and equity-based crowdfunding, highlight success stories, and look at the business of the new industry. But perhaps the most compelling event on the agenda for the one-day event on May 3, 2013 is a live debate between an international assortment of opponents and advocates of equity crowdfunding.
Lawyers, investors, entrepreneurs, and crowdfunders from New York, California, Utah, and Colorado will banter in person while founders of leading international equity crowdfunding platforms from the United Kingdom, Australia, and Netherlands will enter the fray via videoconference. (Equity crowdfunding is still illegal in the United States, but has been present in Europe and Australia for years.)
Here’s a list of some of the participants:
Dave Milliken, Founder and CEO at Grofolio, Inc., Boulder, CO
Benjamin Hadley, Managing Director and President, Latin America at Clicksco, Vail, CO
James Dowd, Managing Director at North Capital, INC., San Francisco, CA
Brian Korn at Pepper Hamilton LLP, New York, NY
Nicholas Thomas, Founder and President at Fincity, Salt Lake City, UT
via video conference:
Paul Niederer, CEO at Australian Small Scale Offerings Board (ASSOB), Sydney, Australia
Jouko Ahvenainen, Founder & Chairman at GrowVC, London, UK
Korstiaan Zandvliet, Managing Director at Symbid, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Moderator: Richard B. Levin at BakerHostetlerThe event’s organizers, Crowdfund Productions, say it will be possible to watch and ask questions via a live video stream. For more details and to purchase tickets for the conference, click here.
To register for the next event in the series, which is headed for the Bay Area in June, click here.Read More →
The head of Mark Zuckerberg’s enigmatic political lobby took the stage of TechCrunch’s Disrupt New York conference. “It’s incumbent on us to make the knowledge economy as inclusive as possible,” said FWD.us head Joe Green.
FWD.us joins a crowded landscape of politically aggressive trade associations pressing Silicon Valley’s agenda on Capitol Hill. Since the organization’s launch with a rare op-ed from Zuckerberg, there have been few details about FWD.us’s agenda, though that hasn’t stopped it from gathering an exhaustive list of technology’s most influential executives, including the recent additions of Bill Gates and Sean Parker.
FWD.us’s stated mission is to better prepare America for the knowledge economy, taking up the cause of high-skilled immigration as a first step. ” In a knowledge economy, the most important resources are the talented people we educate and attract to our country,” wrote Zuckerberg. To that end, Green took the stage with Vice President of Engineering at Dropbox, Aditya Agarwal, who shared a heartstring-tugging personal story about the madness of America’s current immigration system.
“We learned something really, really simple: do not start a company in this country if you do not have a green card,” Agarwal said. The sentiment is unfortunate, since immigrants have founded many of Silicon Valley’s most iconic companies, from Google to PayPal.
Immigration reform is priority number one for the new congress, and is currently snaking its way through the bureaucratic process. A draft of comprehensive reforms hit the senate earlier this month, which promises to give the technology industry most of what it wants, including more visas for science graduates and a special visa for startup founders. After congress returns from recess, it’ll be taken up again and according to our sources on the Hill, will likely be ratified sometime in the summer, if it passes at all.
There are still far more questions than answers about this new (potentially powerful) political interest group. Immigration will be their first test, and we’ll be watching. See their presentation below:Read More →
As partygoers decend into DC for the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, TechCrunch wanted to remind the nation’s policy wonks of the startups that are keeping America on the cutting edge of innovation. So, we’re inviting proud geeks to party with us at the swanky new headquarters of startup incubator, 1776.
On Friday, April 26th from 8pm-11pm, Aol founder Steve Case co-hosts the 1776 grand opening with patriotic-themed desserts, a full bar, and a (brief) thoughtful discussion on immigration, Internet taxes, and startups with Congressman Darrell Issa–after which there will be a rocking band and a lot of great friends who geek out over both open source and open government.
It turns out that the technology industry is kind of the cool kid in the nation’s capitol. Word got out about the event before this announcement and it was so popular, we sold out of our initial round of 600 tickets in 48 hours. So, we’re opening up a few hundred more. Go to 1776.Eventbrite.com and sign up as quickly as you can or you’ll miss out.
Thanks to Sponsors Steve and Jean Case, AT&T, and the Consumer Electronics Association.Read More →