2015 may go down as the year that the Internet became political–and entrepreneurs, engineers, consumers and everyday users (i.e. nearly everyone) have the most to lose.
From the FCC’s decision to regulate the Internet as a utility, to Chicago’s new cloud tax, to California’s attempt to classify Uber drivers as employees rather than contractors, there is not a quarter of the online world that won’t be affected–from the largest telecommunications firm to the single user checking email.
Never have so few made so many decisions that have the ability to affect so many.
But this weekend in San Francisco offers a ray of hope.
On Friday, Lincoln Labs, a liberty-oriented technology thought leadership group, opens its second annual conference: #Reboot2015. Featuring an array of experts from across technology, politics and the ideological spectrum, attendees will discuss how technology can and should impact our politics and how we can harness innovation to improve government, society and life for all Americans.
“We’re first and foremost about solutions,” said Lincoln Labs co-founder Garrett Johnson. “Technology is a great tool–and it’s politically agnostic. If a product works well and let’s people solve problems they couldn’t before, we’re less concerned about the opinions of who wrote the code.”
Putting this ethos into practice, the conclave will feature several events, including a discussion with congressional leaders, a hackathon, office hours and a variety of panel discussions and networking opportunities detailing the best of what the tech sector has to offer the public and political sectors.
The hackathon will feature teams of technical talent–engineers, designers and other experts, working for 24 straight hours to devise a concept, flesh out their idea and then actually build a working prototype. The winners, announced on Saturday evening, are eligible for a $10,000 prize–and all of their work, code and intellectual property belong to them.
“Hackathons are amazing microcosms of innovation,” said Chris Abrams, another Lincoln Labs co-founder, an engineer and the group’s Chief Technology Officer. “What can happen on teams that often start out as strangers in a 24-hour period always impresses me. We had an excellent experience last year (at Reboot 2014) and we expect this year to be even better.”
The weekend will also feature the digital and technical directors of many of the Republican presidential campaigns, several veterans of President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 races, and the political professionals who are ultimately the end users of the products the engineers design and build.
Earlier this spring, Lincoln Labs put out its Digital Handbook for Campaigns–a comprehensive how-to guide for efforts large and small–from national campaigns to city council elections, which allow anyone with an interest to leverage technology to improve voter turnout, communications and operations.
“We started Lincoln Labs after 2012 because we felt that the digital space was an afterthought for a lot of people on the right,” said Aaron Ginn, the group’s third co-founder. “In the two years since we started Lincoln Labs we’re excited to see how far so many candidates and operatives have come in utilizing technology to its fullest.”
But there is more to be done, he says.
“You can always do better–you can always learn something new. That’s what we’re hoping for this weekend. We want people to go home having learned how best to incorporate tech, and technical talent, into their organizations in a way that makes both even better.”
Despite Silicon Valley’s overwhelming reputation as a bastion of progressivism, Lincoln Labs represents the libertarian and conservative viewpoint and hopes to create a pipeline for those with similar beliefs to become more involved in politics.
“We’re behind in recruitment,” said Abrams. “But we’re confident that the talent is out there. We want to find them, bring them together and make sure the political environment is ready to let them do what they do best–create innovative products that make non-techies shake their heads and say, ‘that’s amazing.’”
Lincoln Labs #Reboot2015 begins Friday, July 17 in San Francisco, California. To learn more about the group and the conference, visit their website: http://lincolnlabs.com.