ASPEN SUMMIT 2000: CYBERSPACE AND THE AMERICAN DREAM VII
AUGUST 22, 2000
"DIGITAL RENAISSANCE, MEDIEVAL POLICY"
© Copyright 2000 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P
All rights reserved. Do not use without written permission from HP.
Thank you for the introduction Jay, and thank you for luring
me here tonight, although I must admit, dinner in Aspen isn't
a tough sell - even if I have to give a speech.
Putting a wrapper on a two-day gathering of great minds
that I couldn't attend is one of those challenges that fall
to a CEO. But let me take a shot at it.
During your working dinners and panels, I'll bet somebody
expressed the concern, that we in business and technology
on the one side, and government on the other, may be talking
past each other - at a time when we need shared understanding
as never before.
Tonight, I'll carry it a step further. I'll propose that:
- business and technology are in a true digital Renaissance,
while our whole approach to policymaking remains rooted
in the industrial, "medieval" world
- like the first Renaissance, which was the liberation of
the inventive imagination, the digital Renaissance is about
the empowerment of the individual and the consumer
- and finally, if we can bridge the gap between business
and science and government so that we all understand and
foster the digital Renaissance, then we have a chance to
make this second Renaissance truly global and grassroots.
THE DIGITAL RENAISSANCE
Just a few weeks ago I was talking to the head of one of our
intelligence agencies. It doesn't matter who, because he speaks
for all of them.
- He was perplexed, because in the old world, government
built impermeable walls, to protect national security. But
the new world is about tearing down walls.
- He was concerned, because in the old world, government
controlled the flow of critical ideas and inventions. But
business in the new world is about acquiring and sharing
the best ideas, right now.
- He was disturbed, because in the old world, government
was on the cutting edge of technology. But in the new world
the newest technology is being driven by business, not by
I sympathize. Many of us are trapped in a frame of reference
that no longer fits. Fifty, even 25 years ago, politics were
based in geography, and national power grew from defense technology.
But today and tomorrow, information technology questions
the relevance of geography. Information technology drives
business and creates economic power and national power. And
defense - even though it gave us the Internet and many of
the technologies business now depends on - is not the primary
driver of change.
This transformation and the resulting disconnect are so
big that to find a parallel, I need to go back in history.
I need to go a long way back - to the Renaissance. Because
when Copernicus and Galileo and Leeuwenhoek exploded the geocentric
universe and the old Greek theories of biology, they exploded
religion, they exploded politics, they exploded commerce.
The explosions were also tremendously liberating.
The quiet world of Everyman, of feudal lords and scribes,
gave way to Hamlet, to Lorenzo de Medici, to Gutenberg's books.
If you had to boil the Renaissance down to one sentence,
it was the end of the medieval, geocentric universe, the end
to humanity's subordinate role, and the freeing of the individual
In that time 500 years ago, invention was the prime virtue.
It stimulated the flowering of a thousand ideas and creations.
The Renaissance enabled the Enlightenment, and the rise of
the West, and the Industrial Revolution, and democracy and
I firmly believe we're at the beginning of a second Renaissance:
the digital Renaissance. Its essence and consequences may
go deeper and wider than the first one.
Again, invention is the prime virtue. This time around,
a million ideas and inventions are flowering. The old concept
of the nation-state is being tested by global connections,
by global communities, by global markets.
Expressed in one sentence, the digital Renaissance is about
empowering all individuals by unlocking their richest core
asset: a great idea, a great invention, even if they don't
own any other assets.
So you could argue that the digital Renaissance completes
the revolution that the first Renaissance began. It gives
us all the tools to be Leonardos and Michelangelos.
And like the Florentines in the first Renaissance, we have
a leading role in this digital Renaissance. Because of the
size and speed of our own transformation, because of our economic
power, and because of our own democratic faith, we have the
opportunity to bring a great portion of the globe along with
But there's something missing in this second Renaissance.
There were some players in the first act of the Renaissance
who haven't yet come onstage in the second. There are some
important voices who have yet to be heard. And the silence
Where are our digital Medicis and Machiavellis? Because
remember, while Lorenzo de Medici began his work as a banker
- more analogous to modern venture capitalists than today's
commercial bankers - he grew to become a master politician,
an accomplished poet and a patron of art and science - all
at the same time. He literally defined the Renaissance Man.
Now we need to ask: Who are the Renaissance men and women
of the digital age? With skills in commerce and government
and invention and the arts? And with values and ethics grounded
in all these things?
Let's take this idea a little further. Will this second
Renaissance reach full flower if political leaders and lawmakers
don't understand the power of technology - and the potential
of commerce - and enable them?
Will our inventions transform the globe and empower humanity
if business leaders and scientists can't communicate with
officials and policymakers and learn how to work with them,
how to partner with them?
Taking this idea to its conclusion, might we need a whole
new kind of digital Renaissance leadership, a whole new kind
of digital Renaissance man?
THE NEW BUSINESS LANDSCAPE
Before I try to answer, let's think for a moment about the
new business landscape.
At HP, we detect three emerging forces in the technology
Information appliances are anything from the familiar PCs and
pagers and Web-connected cell phones to cars that communicate
maintenance status to Detroit to smart refrigerators. In other
words, anything with a chip inside and able to connect to the
Internet. We foresee billions of these new devices.
- information appliances
- always-on IT infrastructure
- and digitally delivered services, or e-services
The second emerging force is the always-on computing infrastructure
to support this swarm of transactions. And it will need to
be as available and reliable as tap water, as dependable as
the sun and moon, as pervasive as the air we breathe.
And the third emerging force - digitally delivered services,
or e-services - will take any process, any asset that can
be digitized and deliver it over the Web. Whole chains of
transactions will be electronically brokered while you do
better things with your time. Things like travel planning
and scheduling, global virtual learning, supply chain management
But an economy with this kind of fluidity, this kind of
speed and permeability, will affect the behavior patterns
of organizations and markets and economies. It's already having
In this e-services world, companies and organizations are
already functioning more like organisms and less like machinery.
And markets are functioning as ecosystems. Lines between companies,
between industries, between disciplines, are blurring. The
line between work and personal life, for example, is becoming
so indistinct, that for some people, you almost can't separate
Now, let's ask ourselves honestly: Do our policies reflect
this organic new business landscape? Do our leaders sufficiently
understand the porous ecosystem we all live in? Do any of
us fully understand our second Renaissance and where it's
The answer is: of course not. No one understands the new
world sufficiently. It's still emerging from the mist. It's
so big. It's so fast. And it's evolving before our very eyes.
So that only a psychic would know where it's going to end
Our job at HP is to see around corners, and out into time.
Let me tell you what we see.
DIGITALLY EMPOWERING THE INDIVIDUAL
At HP, we've envisioned this digital Renaissance world, from
the viewpoint of the consumer, the individual. And instead
of a medieval illustration with a tiny Everyman dwarfed by
giant technologies and devices, in this new vision the individual
Our digital Renaissance man is Michelangelo's David, with
magical powers at his fingertips.
In the digital Renaissance, David doesn't have to work the
Web, the Web works for him. Silent, invisible, automatic.
Always-on. Fail-safe. And user-friendly.
We've done more than imagine this new world. We've built
it at HP Labs, and we call it CoolTown.
In one CoolTown scenario, we put David at a bookstore. As
he walks in, the shop's Web site pops up on his PDA screen
to welcome him. Infrared beacons on bookshelves transmit data
about the books in each section, as well as recommendations
based on David's interest.
We've also put David at a business meeting. He arrives carrying
nothing but a cell phone. That's all he needs, because his
presentations are on the Web, and URLs are already loaded
onto the cell phone and ready to transmit to an LCD projector
and printer in the conference room.
And we've imagined David touring the Metropolitan Museum.
He wants more information on a particular sculptor. So he
simply points his palm PC at an infrared beacon near the exhibit
and pulls up its Web page, which contains information about
the work and the artist.
POLICY TO ENABLE THE DIGITAL RENAISSANCE
There's a huge technology cluster to support CoolTown - infrared
beacons, GPS, wireless signals, Web sites for every person
and thing, and an array of recognition systems. We've built
all this and have demos running at HP Labs and various HP
sites around the world.
As is so often the case in the digital Renaissance, technology
isn't the biggest challenge in doing all this.
Just as the first Renaissance created and surfaced values-based
issues and ethical issues that society had never dealt with
before - like depicting the human form, or attributing things
to physics or biology rather than divine intervention - the
digital Renaissance is raising whole new issues too.
Like how secure is your privacy when your habits, your preferences,
even your location are constantly tracked? And recorded? And
used, to sell to you?
How secure is your identity when billions of devices know
who you are?
How secure is the whole world when a weak spot in a planetary
net could shut down communications for all of us?
We've already had a taste of this new kind of issue at HP.
Our executive team recently discussed a digital Renaissance
opportunity, which I'll describe.
- HP has 90,000 employees. We have information on all of
our people. We could use this information as a company asset
- to cement our relationship with other partners and customers.
- How? The HP population is a captive market for new commercial
services. To understand, see our new employee portal as
the gateway to these services. With this employee information,
commercial offerings could be tailored to the individual's
needs, thus maximizing the possibility of a sale.
Our question was: Does HP have the right to do this? Do
we have the right to use our captive market to build relationships
with other companies and profit from them? Do we have the
right to turn our employees and their own habits and needs
into a new kind of HP asset?
And our conclusion was: we don't have that right.
But we also realized we were in uncharted territory. The
familiar landmarks and guideposts just don't fit anymore.
We have to improvise. We have to find the right moral and
ethical compass, when the old one just spins.
Since the individual is the center of both the first and
second Renaissance, logic tells us that empowerment of the
individual should be the guiding principle to develop new
values and rules.
More specifically, we need to build the trust of the individual.
We need to build the confidence of the consumer. Because while
we may have the technology to give consumers magical powers
today, without their trust in this technology, the magic will
never become real or grow enough to become pervasive.
Building consumer confidence must be the foundation of digital
policy, whether it's policy developed through industry self-regulation
or through legislation.
Consumer confidence lies in our resolving many hard questions.
Questions like online consumer privacy, and disputes in cross-border
Internet transactions, and cyberterrorism, and Internet taxation
- just to name a few.
But in searching for solutions, the geography-based, control-based
policies of the old medieval industrial economy don't fit
For example, to combat cyberterrorism, HP and our competitors
need to share information and work together. But if we do
so, we're vulnerable to medieval interpretations of liability
- and antitrust violations.
Internet taxation is another area. While it's unrealistic
to forever exempt e-commerce from taxation, it would be a
tragedy to apply our medieval tax system to the Internet.
Wouldn't it be wiser to reform the old tax system with all
its inefficiency, its complexity, and then apply the new system
equally to both the online and offline worlds?
And the same goes for consumer privacy. In a recent poll,
92 percent of Net users were uneasy about sites sharing personal
info with other sites. Fifty-seven percent said government
should pass new laws, on how this information is collected.
The guiding principle here is that consumers' information
belongs to them. Consumers should be empowered to use their
own property -their personal information - the way they choose.
But in applying that principle, we can't discriminate against
then apply it equally in both the online and offline worlds.
There's a danger when people and institutions and governments
try and regulate change, or create policy around things they
don't understand. Just look at the case of Galileo. As his
ideas about astronomy drew greater attention, Rome put him
on trial, and forced him to recant his views. And didn't get
around to admitting its own error for 400 years.
Others suffered a quieter fate. They were just ignored or
laughed at - for decades.
We need to ask ourselves: Are we repeating history here,
in the second Renaissance? Are we ignoring change? Or are
we rushing to try and stifle it?
I don't have the answer. I don't know that we're doing any
of these things. But I do know, that we need to ask ourselves
the questions. So that we aren't condemned to repeat history.
The panel just before dinner spent a long time talking about
the upcoming election. I'm sorry I missed it.
What I'd like to do is pose a challenge, to all our leaders
of the digital Renaissance - whether they are in business,
technology or the government. I would say rather than look
at the digital Renaissance through the lens of the Industrial
Revolution and the Cold War, can we use technology to reinvent
the relationship between government and industry? Can we use
technology to reinvent the relationship between government
and the people?
IT could bring the same immediacy and relevance to government's
bond with the people as it does to business' tie to the customer.
IT is the greatest customer relations tool in history. Why
can't it be the greatest tool for democracy, in history?
You are probably aware that voters can now vote on the Internet.
You may have heard of ResourceLink. This is an HP digital
service or e-service, that took the broken process of food
distribution - millions of pounds of surplus food going to
waste, thousands of hungry people who couldn't find food -
and brokered a solution by putting them together electronically.
Result: No more wasted surplus food, no more hungry people.
But you may not have heard of a marvelous case of medieval
walls being torn down in India by digital empowerment.
NIIT is a large computer training and software service firm
in New Delhi. But their corporate headquarters adjoins a colony
of squatters and day laborers. The scientists at NIIT literally
tunneled a hole through the wall, and placed a PC there, facing
the people outside. And without any training, the kids there,
from age 8 to 11, have, over time, taught themselves how to
use this PC - surfing the Web, downloading Hindi music, playing
games and even landing 747s on a flight simulator.
Because the Western icons like the hourglass are strange
to the kids, they've assigned the name Damru to the hourglass,
the name of Shiva's drum.
The man who created this experiment believes it's the seed
of a whole new kind of democracy in India.
That's the democratic power this new Renaissance has. But
the power is going to be unleashed only if we act like true
Renaissance men and women - if we can knock holes in the intellectual
walls that divide us by acquiring broad perspectives in ethics,
government and commerce, as well as science.
The only way it can happen is for all of us to fully appreciate
the digital Renaissance. Carried one step further, the only
way it can happen, is through a new kind of digital leadership.
To be digital Medicis, we need to give our Renaissance a
new kind of leadership, a leadership that doesn't control,
but that empowers.
To be digital Medicis, we need to give our Renaissance a
new kind of leadership that doesn't control decision-making,
but that asks the right questions.
To be digital Medicis, we need to give our Renaissance a
new kind of leadership that simply creates the right environment.
And as we lead the patron nation of the digital Renaissance,
we need to show mankind a new kind of digital leadership that
sets guidelines and boundaries and parameters - and then sets
us all free.
In the digital Renaissance, a leader's greatest obligation
is to make possible an environment where peoples' minds and
hearts can be inventive, brave, human and strong; where people
can aspire to do useful and significant things; where people
can aspire to change the world.
This should be the challenge of our nation's next leaders.
And it should be the challenge of our whole nation, as we
lead others into the possibilities of the digital Renaissance.
I opened tonight with the story of the intelligence chief,
and his concerns.
How many of us are on the wrong side of the split between the
digital Renaissance and medieval policy?
- Though government once built walls to defend freedom,
those walls shouldn't now stand in the way of greater freedom.
- Though government once kept the best inventions from the
enemy, government shouldn't now become the enemy of invention.
- Though government once owned the greatest technology,
now the greatest technology can belong to anyone.
But there's hope for us. All we need to do is look at our
original mission, which was to defend freedom and the individual,
and look at how freedom and the individual are best defended
in the new world.
All we need to do is to understand that the digital Renaissance
and the new economy, led by information technology, are the
greatest enablers of freedom and the individual in our history.
Just that realization, would be the first step in turning
medieval policy, into Renaissance policy.
To embrace the new world doesn't mean that our leaders must
let down their guard, or be fools. All they must do is look
at the Renaissance father of modern power politics, to see
where we all must go.
His name was Niccolo Machiavelli, and he was nobody's fool.
And while he has been misunderstood and mistranslated, and
taken out of the context of his day, there are some of his
words that we should keep in mind, from that first Renaissance,
as we go into this new one.
"Whoever desires constant success," he wrote, "must change
his conduct with the times."
And his tomb is inscribed with the following words:
"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more
perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than
to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things."
I couldn't agree more wholeheartedly. And all the more reason
to take the risk.
Because the risk of ignoring the new world, or trying to
make it fit the rules of the old, is far greater than learning
how to change with the times, or how to lead change.
Now I'm out of questions. Maybe you have some of your own -
and some answers too. So thank you very much for listening,
and for a great dinner. And I'm at your mercy.
- By leading change, don't we have a chance to make the
digital Renaissance a truly global and grassroots event?
- By leading change, don't we have a chance to make the
American Dream a universal dream?
- By leading change, don't we have a chance to change the
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