Event Report: Washington Ideas Forum (#IdeasForum) Highlights America's Current Challenges

Washington Ideas Forum Creates A Convergence Of Thought Leaders
Influencers in politics, academia, and business converge once a year at the Washington Ideas Forum to discuss the challenges and potential solutions America faces.  This event held November 14th to November 15th pulled together over 1200 attendees and was sponsored by The Atlantic in partnership with The Aspen Institute and the Newseum.
The Day 1 morning sessions included a Post-Election outlook with:

  • Lawerence Summers and Al Hunt
  • Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Jonathan Karl
  • Joel Klein, Jack Markell, and Michelle Norris
  • Michael Bennet, Tom Coburn, and Martha Raddatz
  • Jose Andres, Sam Kass, and Corby Kummer

Day 1 afternoon fireside chats included conversations with:

  • Kevin Madden, Jennifer Psaki, and John Dickerson
  • Bill Burton, Trevor Potter, and James Bennet
  • Barney Frank and Andrew Ross Sorkin
  • Amy Klobuchar and Katty Kay
  • Jonathan Alter, David Maraniss, Ron Suskind, and Walter Isaacson
  • Julius Genachosksi and Walt Mossberg
  • Henry Crumpton
  • Bill Gates and David Leonhardt
  • Steve Case, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Robert Kimmitt, Michael Porter, and Steve Clemmons
  • David Drummond and Katty Kay

Day 2 morning fireside chats include:

  • Chris Matthews
  • Marco Rubio and Major Garrett
  • Madeleine Albright and Jonathan Karl
  • Sheila Bair and Steve Clemmons
  • David Rubenstein and James Fallows
  • Gene Sperling and Chuck Todd
  • Nancy Pelosi and Margaret Carlson
  • Ed Rendell, Michael Steele, and Jonathan Alter
  • Ezekiel Emmanuel and Corby Kummer
  • Grover Norquist and Steve Clemmons
  • David Corn, Anne Gearan, Michael Hastins, Chuck Todd, and Richard Wolffe

(Photo: R Wang, All Rights Reserved)

Working Group Highlights Seven Themes Impacting Policy Decisions In Disruptive Technology
As part of the event, a disruptive technologies summit convened the morning of the 14th.  Moderated by The Atlantic's President, Scott Havens, participants included influencers from Arnold, Brewster, Children's National, CH2M Hill, FCC, Google, IMdB, KBS, MIT,  National Science Foundation, Paper, Rose Park Advisors, Sony Music Entertainment, US Department of Energy, United Technologies, Washington Post.  Amidst a lively discussion, seven clear themes emerged:

  1. Massive tension exists between disruptive technologies that displace jobs versus disruptive technologies that create new jobs.
  2. New ecosystem models must encourage collaboration and incentives with incumbents and disruptors to create a climate of success.
  3. Long term investment strategy at organizations and government often threatened by short term pressures for maximum monetization and political success.
  4. The average American lacks access to basic educational skills for new economies and jobs influenced by disruptive technologies
  5. Many industries will be disrupted, hence, government policies should focus on developing broader policy implications, not creating detailed purpose built programs.
  6. Policy making must consider the ramifications of the new winners and losers in a societal re-balance.
  7. Policy should focus on supporting a culture of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship.

Figure 2. The #IdeasForum Flickr Photo Stream
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(Photo: R Wang, All Rights Reserved)
The Bottom Line: Policy Failing To Keep Up With The Rapid Pace of Change

The mindset gap between Washington policy makers and disruptive tech influencers continues to widen.  As more and more disruptive technologies emerge, key policy makers fail to understand the ramifications of these shifts.  The result - a disconnect between the investment required to create continued economic success and the policies required to move society forward. Instead of treating Silicon Valley and other entrepreneurial centers as rich ATM stops during campaign seasons, a more concerted conversation and development of deepr relationships would bridge the gap.  One solution - create more frequent opportunities for interaction and updates in a "cross-cultural" exchange.  Further, the creation of more think tanks such as Nigel Cameron's Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies (C-PET) should provide rich resources to shape policy makers going forward and help disruptive tech leaders understand how to work better with government.
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