Meet Andrew Downing Hartford: 26-Year-old New Jersey Native Running to be the Youngest Member of the 2018 United States Congress
“I will earn the respect of the people.”
I had the pleasure to interview Andrew Downing Hartford. Andrew is an American innovator and a public intellectual with polymathic tendencies. He is a 26-year-old New Jersey native running to be the youngest member of the 2018 United States Congress.
Yitzi: Thank you so much for joining us! What is your game plan to solve America’s biggest problems?
ADH: In a sentence full of bitter irony: today’s politics is backwards because we are not solving problems backwards — seeing the solution first, and deriving the best path to achieve it.
To remedy such a systematic error, I’ve worked to codify the problems of the public space into a 23-question problem set called Problems of Our Time. Plainly stated, these are areas where virtuous Americans must focus their thinking resources on (especially public officials)!
While my own solutions have been in active development the past couple years, this will be an open-source initiative. It is inspired by David Hilbert — who, in 1900 AD, challenged mathematicians with 23 open problems — and where Alan Turing’s work product (in resolving one of the problems) laid the groundstone for the (digital) computing revolution.
Problems of Our Time has the following goals:
1) To develop an atlas of summarized and relevant materials (categorized inside this architecture);
2) To create a menu of finalized proposals that will be helpful to the State (by the time I would take office in November 2018); and,
3) To emphasize the fundamental method of progress David Hilbert’s example provides: human beings ask the right questions and try to solve them. That is how we move forward with a focused and efficient direction.
My mission is to cultivate a robust “American Playbook” which will provide the United States with a basis for politics and a focused direction for the next few decades.
The time is now for me to be given the opportunity to revitalize America. My original thinking and new approach to politics is needed in Washington. And I also think a fresh face is needed too — I’m genuinely the first bona fide candidate of the next-generation. It’s time for a unique perspective on things.
And while it would be a tremendous honor to be the youngest member of the United States Congress, if we were judging purely on ability to actually be useful (as we should), I’m as strong as any candidate in any race. As I’m rather non-ideological, I expect to be a bipartisan leader by being a non-partisan actor — Problems of Our Time is a clear example of this.
I will earn the respect of the people, and I appreciate their fair and substantive consideration.
Yitzi: So, I read your introductory essay and was interested to learn about the Hartford family. You have some big shoes to fill don’t you?
ADH: Haha I guess that’s right. I’m proud to say that the Hartford family has been pretty badass! There have been media moguls (like my great-great grandfather FW Hartford who owned and operated “the nation’s oldest newspaper”), important inventors (Edward Hartford perfected the automobile shock absorber in the onset of the industry), business magnates (like George Huntington Hartford, who owned A&P; in 1953, JFK’s father commissioned a famous bust to him), and cultural icons (like Huntington Hartford, formerly the world’s richest person, and the founder of the Ocean Club as seen in 007’s Casino Royale).
Hartford’s have served this country before it was the United States, have held elected office and have been on the front lines — most recently, my grandfather was a Korean War vet, and the Purple Heart he gave me when I was a kid will forever be on my desk. We’ve been on the right side of history, and I expect that my own eventual family will continue this tradition of stewardship and contribution.
Also, I would be remiss not to talk about my other half. My mom’s side of the family had a different journey. My grandfather is from a small Roman village called Arpino best known for being the home of the great Cicero. During WWII, he protected his family and his home. Afterwards, he represented Italy in the Olympics (Helsinki) before becoming a doctor and immigrating to the United States, where he later became the Chief of Anesthesiology at Saint Barnabas.
Yitzi: That’s fascinating and an interesting dichotomy. It’s also cool that you went to law school at UVA where Bobby and Ted Kennedy went. Tell me about your own personal journey?
ADH: I was so lucky to study there. But let me give the quick run down.
So, I’d start by saying that I’ve never been well suited for standardized tests which sucks since it is one of the most primary metrics of one’s early success in our society (and which double sucks because my older sister is like miss perfect score, top of class, most likely to succeed, blah blah…).
I definitely was a late bloomer and, like everyone else, I suppose I’d say I’m an active work in progress walking my own path.
My “academic” journey got going at the University of Maryland. I was a distinguished student there and I focused on political science and economics. To fully capture my growth during these undergraduate years, on the last day of my own classes, I was invited to give a guest lecture on “How Innovators Think”. What a great adventure college really was: the University of Maryland is a fantastic place for robust learning, social experience, and youthful adventure.
I then went down to Charlottesville for law school at UVA. My academic work focused on law & economics, emerging companies, and the economics of information — which culminated in an independent research project considering the Internet of everything (and various related considerations). Outside of the classroom, I was also chosen to guest host various university-wide events — like UVA’s Entrepreneurship Cup in 2014 (‘Technology, Media, Telecom’ track) and 2015 (‘’Computer Science/ Engineering’ track).
While in law school, I continued to run and grow a venture firm that I started at the end of college. My company, Hartford Lab, seeds and scales tech companies, while also incubating and founding our own ventures internally. Hartford Lab built a portfolio which included everything from social networks to a biotech company tackling cancer with personalized drug therapies to a home pet camera plus treat dispenser. We worked across many industries (e.g. advertising, biotech, data, entertainment, hardware, health, IoT/IoE, social networking, VR), with varying business structures (e.g. consumer, enterprise, marketplace, mobile, SaaS), and in different capacities along a spectrum of pre-funded ideas to publicly traded companies. To say it mildly, this diverse array pushed me and challenged me to learn new fields/ things, and really amplified my natural business acumen.
Most recently, I founded an R&D Division at the heart of our enterprise. Modeled after the original Bell Labs, Entropy Ventures has been exploring the frontiers of science and technology (towards figuring out the backbone powering tomorrow). Trust me when I say doing this all while going through a top-10 law program, where over 150 people worked for me directly under my leadership, was nontrivial (and a wee bit stressful)!
Yitzi: Your work ethic and natural leadership skills are impressive. You focused on the law and social sciences formally, yet you have a broad and deep command of a ton of other subjects. Tell me about this.
ADH: Firstly, thank you for the compliment.
Ok, so during law school, I became close friends with two Computer Science Professors at UVA who have mentored me as I’ve worked tirelessly in architecting a new data model to power the Internet of Everything. Furthermore, after law school and for the past two years, I have kept a Ben Franklin-esque schedule of something like 2 hours a day of writing, 4 hours a day of learning, and 2 hours a day of thinking (outside of my work schedule). This has included learning new subjects across math, the sciences, philosophy, computer science, biology, etc. While the founders had great ideas, their ideas in no small way are derivative of who they were as people, and who they were as people was a function of their lifestyle and methodology. Emulation of heroes, big minds, great people — men, women, of any race, and from any time — needs to be sincere and genuine for it to be bona fide. I try to act in accordance with such.
So while I’m formally a political theorist, economist, lawyer, and technologist, I often use the phrase “polymath” to emphasize that it is important for a real thinker to ingest material from every subject. While paying homage to the great minds of history and today who I study and admire (who used the term much more regularly), I also do it to make the point satirically because in fact it really is just one subject (i.e. the workings, patterns, and rules of our World broken up into modules, frameworks and heuristics for different scales and for different considerations)! In coming full circle by exploring the quantitative and technical disciplines, my work in my own subject matter expertise has been thoroughly enriched.
One important thing I’ve learned is that there is a Golden Sequence at the backbone of value creation, and that this is the roadmap to human civilization — where (new) knowledge is constructed into (new) technologies that manifest in (new) economy upon harvest. One can see this process architecture as new science → new technology → new economy. Once you see this, it becomes a powerful guiding construct. I think getting the US back into a renaissance-like phase and mindset is both possible and important. To be up to that big task, I knew I needed to get 10x smarter after law school by getting up to speed on the cutting edge of our modern Knowledge.
To be candid: I feel most fortunate to work in an age of such foundation and at a time when information is so readily available. Some of my intellectual heroes the past couple years include the Greek guys (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle), Gottfried Leibniz, the Big 3 (Albert Einstein, John von Neumann, Kurt Gödel), Emmy Noether, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Josef Wittgenstein, Richard Feynman, Marvin Minsky, Juan Maldacena, Leonard Susskind, Nima Arkani-Hamed and Scott Aaronson.
To those who know, they can also attest that there most genuinely is a torch we cultivate, protect, and pass on — of knowledge, wisdom and truth. I do not care about money or possession and will die happy as long as my work is useful.
Yitzi: I’m sold! But, I still have to ask, why you? Why should someone vote for Andrew Downing Hartford?
ADH: I guess when it really comes down to it, one could answer this question with a simple thought experiment. Let’s say we are in the halls of Congress and we give each public official 5 hours for productive exposition in the form of extemporaneous discourse — with 0 staffers or entourage. The task would be to ‘explain how the world works’, ‘how we can use this Knowledge’, and ‘what we should do (i.e. a robust action plan)’. Because, that is our real task at hand when we strip away the BS.
A well-placed leader would start with sub-questions like ‘what have we learned across the subjects and of history over the past 100 years (and how does this inform our most current understanding)?’ They would discuss ‘the relationship between science, technology, and the economy’. They would ‘identify how problems are solved generally by citing real examples of the techniques used in the past’. They would arrive at ‘describing America’s biggest problems, and the process architectures that can resolve them (i.e. the sufficient and necessary conditions, with an embedded variety of path progressions)’.
This same leader, if virtuous and worthy, would also discuss our American Calling: the animating principle of original orientation that our founders demanded: our government is to maximize 1) the life, liberty and happiness of our people, and 2) the resources of the State.
And further, if I was feeling argumentative, I guess I might turn around the question [in answering it], and pretend you asked, “how are you already here at 26?” It’s because of how passionate I am, how driven I have always been — because I work really freaking hard, and because I work correctly. I’m trying to be numero uno — and will give my full heart, soul and mind into being the most effective and visionary political thinker of this century. Those are the stakes.
The proof will be in the pudding, no doubt. In being practical, I’d like to raise ~ $10 million dollars to jumpstart a much-needed political war chest, and if that can happen, I truly will be able to make a difference for the people over the next handful of years.
Lastly, but not least, if I am to achieve any of these dreams — to act on my lifelong calling to perform the functions that I can for the State — it will be owed in no small amount to Caroline (my GF, who also works with me). Caroline helps me calm an active mind, and truly is the love of my life. She is my muse and my inspiration, and I could not have a better partner in this life. She is tremendously talented (she’s an actress and studied media at UVA where we met) and yet, literally has 0 ego and is as sweet as honey. She’s remarkable.