this was not the mark Warner’s first CES rodeo. Virginia’s senior senator was on board with this whole technology long before he was elected governor in 2002. His time at Columbia Capital found him steeped in the mobile world during his formative years. Nextel, the major telecommunications company of the era.
After being away for years, the CTA invited Warner to appear on a panel alongside Senators Jackie Rosen of Nevada and Senators Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico. The program was part of a broader and ongoing initiative to invite legal practitioners to her CES as technology becomes more and more important in our lives and the policies that govern it.
Warner has put technology at the heart of much of the work he has done in the Senate, from social media accountability to the long-running tech cold war between the United States and China. He also chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee and was a strong supporter of the CHIPS Act.
We sat down with the senators in a conference room at the Las Vegas Convention Center to discuss some of the most important technological concerns of the day, from cybersecurity and TikTok/Huawei to Elon Musk’s Twitter roller coaster and the rise of killer robots. We talked about what
But first, because that was all everyone was talking about this week, Kevin McCarthy’s propensity to step on the rake on his way to becoming Speaker of the House won the first ballot).
(Editor’s Note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)
What are your general thoughts on McCarthy’s situation?
I don’t know how he will get out of here. I know him because I’ve treated him as a member of the Gang of Eight. […] I am a little surprised that he has implemented all these concessions that he said he will not make and that there has been no more backlash from the moderates.
By the tenth or eleventh ballot, you start making more concessions.
I understand that people can be critical of Nancy Pelosi, but I would have never imagined that this kind of scenario would happen to her.
Everyone seems to follow this.
And the fact that it was the second anniversary on January 6th. The idea that they come on Friday night at 10 o’clock.
How did you get into politics?
I started with an interest in politics. I was out of college with no money, but I did fundraising as a young man for the Democratic National Committee and the Jimmy Carter campaign. $300,000 in debt after losing a race I remember someone who did I couldn’t imagine. The idea is, if I have [a political career] As a possibility, I will go to secure the economic base first. I failed miserably in two businesses. The third was my cell phone, and I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
You come from a tech background, but I think there is a lack of tech knowledge in leadership in general, and even government at large. Given how much technology is involved in every part of the law, what can we do to keep up with the speed of Congress?
I think people are trying. The good news is that most problems with technology don’t fit on the liberal-conservative continuum. My tired trope is “It’s more future and past than left and right.” I think this might make it easier to find coalitions. For Huawei and Semiconductor, I’ve looked at both, but the tech race is national security. In a conflict with China, I don’t think it’s a question of who has the most aircraft carriers and planes. Who controls the satellites, can you turn them off?
With a communication media with 100 million children run by the Chinese Communist Party called TikTok, we may not need to get into conflict. There is growing bipartisan concern about security. Both motivate members to learn about technology and realize that it is something we must focus on. But it was an evolution.
You mentioned Huawei. I assumed, perhaps naively, that there would be entity list rollbacks and other issues when Trump left office.
Huawei is a national security threat. Huawei scared me. I grew up in a world with her Motorola, AT&T, Nortel, Erickson, Nokia and Samsung. Looking back, the North American companies are all gone. All of a sudden, not only did we have Chinese companies, but the Chinese set the ground rules for the International Telecommunications Union and all these standard-setting bodies that we used to control. We are beginning to tell other countries about Huawei’s challenges. But there was no alternative.
You are talking about infrastructure.
yes. Huawei is cheap and soup to basic solution setup. But one thing I find very positive is that even the European companies that have gone the way of Huawei are doing some kind of version rip-and-replace. I think there is a growing awareness beyond the United States that these Chinese companies pose national security risks.
Is it time to start a serious discussion about police and killer robot laws?
To be honest, I probably didn’t think about it enough. Using technology without guardrails – I think the idea of “going out and innovating and breaking things” is wrong.
Move fast and break things.
I think that created some real problems. This is one of the issues I’ve pitched the need to engage standard setting entities around the world. Builds on the value of transparency or privacy protection. I think the combination of technology and AI can sometimes remove humans from decision making. It scares Dickens out of me. How do you legislate front-end guardrails? We’re not very good at it. We usually legislate after the fact, but I’m surprised they haven’t done anything yet on social media.
That’s the subject I wanted to broach in recent Twitter news.
I am a huge supporter of Elon Musk, especially SpaceX.
As an innovator.
yes. My concern with him on Twitter is not about getting Trump back on Twitter, but because his real source of wealth is Tesla, and whether he will rely heavily on the Chinese Communist Party for the source of all his batteries. If you look at the comments he made about China’s regulatory structure, it’s all positive. Also, his comments about European and American infrastructure are generally negative. I’m worried about the effects of undo.
What worries me is that he’s using this as a platform to promote these ideas?
I am concerned that Twitter will suddenly ban negative comments about the Chinese Communist Party.
there was an argument [prior to Musk purchasing Twitter] On “freedom of speech” and how it applies to platforms operated by private companies. If it’s a company he owns, it’s his authority.
I think you can put restrictions on Section 230. I’m not where a lot of the tech community is. I support free speech. I don’t think you necessarily have the right to amplify 8 billion times.
Should the FTC be more aggressive regarding potential takeovers and monopolies?
yes. Some argue that we don’t need additional legislation, we just need a stronger overhaul. I think some of the transactions that were allowed may have been excluded. I think in the long run it made sense. You commented that technology companies are virtual utilities. I take the view that consumer pricing is the only one – and I’m by no means an antitrust expert –
purely capitalist motives.
Yeah, but how do you measure the price? It is often said that “Facebook is free, Google is free”. It’s not free. I’m not saying it’s morally wrong for them to steal and monetize our data.
I would say it
I’m more limp than that. But people should know its value.
And they need to know what data they are about to give up.
Yes Yes. I can’t believe this country has not yet enacted a data privacy law.