Disrupting the game of inches — A review of Episode 2 with Michael Fertik

Last week we released Episode 2 of Tech on Politics. My partner, Bettina Warburg, and I could not have been more excited to release this episode as a follow on to Episode 1 of Tech on Politics with Eric Ries.

We talked about a number of things during this interview — but one of the biggest take aways we certainly took note of was the conversation around mechanisms created by the founding fathers to disrupt government. In particular, we discussed the idea of a constitutional convention.

I’m no constitutional expert, but I’ll attempt to boil down the process. If we wanted a convention to propose new amendments to the US Constitution, we’d have to call for something called an Article V Convention. This is called for by two-thirds of the state legislatures (34), and is one of two routes allowed by Article Five of the US Constitution to amend the constitution — if this were to happen, the nation’s frame of government could be changed. An additional route for new amendments may also be proposed Congress, and would require a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate. Given our current political situation, perhaps this isn’t such a bad idea after all?

This is what Michael referred to as “Mechanisms to disrupt Government” in our last interview. These are ways in which participants in our democracy can have an opportunity to peacefully disrupt government when it’s clear there needs to be a change. For nearly a decade, I’ve sat at the intersection of politics and Silicon Valley, and one of the things Silicon Valley is best in the world at — is disrupting conventional wisdom.

Obviously, this isn’t an easy feat. There’s been several attempts since the 1960s, and only a few times where we’ve actually come close to gaining enough legislative support to see something like this come to fruition. In the late 1960’s, we came up 1 state short. In the early 1980’s we came up 2 states short. On a positive note, getting close enough to achieving this reality did at least convince congress to pass several amendments as the direct result of the various Article 5 efforts.

Going back to the intersection of Technology and Politics, I’ve spent a fair amount of time reflecting on my interview with Michael. I think about the advancements in technology, the logarithmic nature of innovation, and the significant issues we’re going to have to face as a country and a global society. Autonomous Vehicles will become more of a reality and will likely replace numerous jobs, Artificial Intelligence is invading not just blue collar jobs — but white collar jobs as well — especially if you starting thinking about the early signs of things like robo advisory applications, AI based trading algorithms, Data Platforms based on Machine Learning, and etc.

Industrial IoT will become more widely adopted, especially when you look to the sprawling global supply chains designed to efficiently respond to fluctuating consumer demand. These devices will simply do it faster, cheaper, and more efficiently. McKinsey and other top research firms estimate that global production of IoT devices will be nearly 30 Billion units by 2020. Even today you have entire warehousing facilities that don’t require light for their robots to pick and pack as a part of a broader global logistical effort. One can only imagine how much cost savings are rolled into that alone.

Eventually, with technologies like blockchain, you’ll begin to see a new connective tissue. You’ll see an internet of blockchains. Special purpose chains, private chains, public chains — all connected together breathing life into a new trust layer that will fundamentally automate business logic and create machine based trust. Combine that with the birth of devices that manage their own wallets, leverage global prediction markets to automate the brokerage of goods needed in a supply chain, and you begin to see a new consumer class of robots. Will we begin to see the evolution of the autonomous supply chain as a result? If firms are nothing more than a nexus of contracts, will we enter an age of automated business logic that drives towards the idea of autonomous corporations? What about ethics? Who will decide how AI’s are allowed to behave, and how will autonomous vehicles be governed?

Much of this might sound like science fiction, but unfortunately it’s not. Much of it is happening this very moment. Numerous individuals are starting to see the writing on the wall, and people are beginning to debate solutions for the looming structural unemployment problems and whether or not we need a new social contract.

So as I reflect on my conversation with Michael, and Eric as well — I do wonder — is our democracy and government ready to respond to these changes? Is it possible for them to respond adequately, or do we need a meeting of the framers to start thinking about a world that, in the not too distant future, could look quite different.