Alex Feinberg, ex-Google employee and blockchain expert, sat down with TechRepublic’s Dan Patterson to discuss his advice to internet companies regarding profit and privacy. Read the transcript below.
Dan Patterson: Put yourself in the role of a policy maker. You get to determine, or help determine, how our country deals with, not just the rise of technologies like the blockchain, but how we deal with massive technology firms that on the one hand do a lot of good, on the other hand, it’s a lot of centralized control.
Alex Feinberg: Right. That’s a very challenging question.
Patterson: As a policy maker, how do you make good policy for a lot of people based on emerging technologies and appropriately regulate massive technology firms?
Feinberg: Yeah. Well, that is a very complicated question that I’m not sure we’re going to be able to cover completely in a short period of time. But I think a couple of things strike me, just having worked in a global macro hedge fund and seeing the big picture as I move across industries, and that’s centralization of power is quite dangerous. And I think when Reagan started gutting funds for the Department of Justice to go after firms from an anti-trust capacity, that allowed for the massive expansion of the American corporation. I think it probably ended up with a lot, significantly reduced bargaining power of the American employee. And so if you think about how we, as a society, have changed the way we worked over the last 30 years, our corporations have gotten larger and our individual citizens have had less negotiating leverage with these organizations. Ideally, I wouldn’t want to create more laws because creating more laws makes it more challenging to do anything and frequently doesn’t solve any problems, but I would want to enforce existing anti-trust laws to make sure that the larger players are in fact playing by the rules.
SEE: Information security policy (Tech Pro Research)
As far as allowing for newer technologies to proliferate, that’s a challenging question because whether we do it or not, other nations will. And if we let other nations do it, we could find ourselves 10, 15 years from now in a position where the entrepreneur of 2015 that might have wanted to come to San Francisco, raise some money and hire a bunch of engineers, well, maybe now he or she wants to incorporate in Estonia because Estonia’s going to allow for a lot easier laws, a lot easier corporate formation, and will just allow that engineer to do basically whatever he or she wants. It’s really important for the United States to maintain our global leadership position. It’s very important that we have the largest GDP in the world, and it’s going to be challenging for us to continue to have the largest GDP in the world if we don’t have policies that enable technology to be built rapidly and expansively.
That being said, when we allow technology to be built rapidly and expansively, you still create more problems in the data collection standpoint that we discussed recently, but also you create wealth imbalances where you have mega rich billionaires like a Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos, who arguably are displacing people who are just trying to get by, making $50,000 a year working in Iowa. And the way they’re doing that is by essentially making the job that the Iowa person did more efficient, but what happens when you do something more efficient is you transfer the income streams from that work from many people to one person, and that creates imbalances within a society that people, the hard core libertarians haven’t quite addressed yet. Where wealth imbalances are the result of a wealthy society, at the same time they cause problems for the society that has them.
So there’s no quick answer for that and certainly not an answer that can be delivered in a two or three minute snippet, but it’ll be something that we’re talking about for a long time.