Regulate us. That’s the unexpected message from one of the country’s leading tech executives. Microsoft President Brad Smith argues that governments need to put some “guardrails” around engineers and the tech titans they serve.
If public leaders don’t, he says, the Internet giants will cannibalize the very fabric of this country.
“We need to work together, we need to work with governments to protect, frankly, something that is far more important than technology: democracy. It was here before us. It needs to be here and healthy after us,” Smith says.
Smith has co-authored, with Carol Ann Browne, Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age. The title reflects a simple fact about how any technology — and digital tech in particular — works. It can be a tool or a weapon, much like a knife.
Microsoft is not in the crosshairs right now. But when it was, back in the 1990s, Smith was the man repeating that well-worn refrain about how regulation kills innovation.
“I look at the things that we said, I look at the things I said 20 years ago,” he says. “There were many things that we got wrong.”