This week, Congressional staffers from the House and Senate came to Georgetown Law for Tech Foundations for Congressional Staff, an immersive two-day program for Congressional staff to learn about new and emerging technologies.
Over two days, staffers attended sessions on subjects such as The Structure of the Internet, the Technology of Privacy, the Future of Machine Learning and AI, and Blockchain Technology. Alexandra Givens, Executive Director of the Tech Institute, framed the program as a way for staffers to "step back from immediate legislative debates and learn about how key technologies actually work -- laying a foundation for informed policy-making."
The program featured an array of subject matter experts, from Georgetown Law's own Paul Ohm, to former FCC Chief Technology Officer and current CMU professor Doug Sicker, to Carolyn Nguyen, director of technology policy at Microsoft, and Ellen Hwang, leader of Philadelphia's Smart Cities initiative. The event drew staffers from the House and Senate judiciary committees, commerce committees, government affairs and oversight committees, finance committees, leadership offices, and the Congressional Research Service.
A cocktail reception on the first night featured tech demos from a number of local and D.C.-based companies. Microsoft demoed its Translate.it realtime speech translation tool and Seeing AI, artificial intelligence that identifies objects, describes people, and reads text when an individual holds up the camera on their smartphone. D.C.-based company Quorum profiled its legislative strategy platform that analyzes Congressional information, and the owner of Open Data Nation was on hand to answer questions about how her company advises clients to leverage open data tools. Guests also had the opportunity to try several virtual reality headsets: Facebook's Oculus, Playstation VR, HDC Vibe and the Microsoft HoloLens.
The two-day program closed with a fireside chat with the celebrated technologist Vint Cerf, widely known as one of the founding fathers of the internet. Dr. Cerf spoke about the risk of a "digital dark age" as new software developments make older computer files unreadable -- an immediate problem facing federal agencies, courts, Congress, and the public at large. He also spoke about opportunities to spread innovation to areas around the United States, stressing the importance of investing in infrastructure and accessible, affordable internet service. Dr. Cerf stayed long after the reception ended to answer individual questions.
The Tech Institute intends to hold Tech Foundations again in future. To suggest topics or join the mailing list for future programs, contact us as TechInstitute@law.georgetown.edu.