Chief Technology Officer of the United States Michael Kratsios delivered remarks at Web Summit 2019 urging Europe and our allies to come together with the U.S. to drive global technology leadership and ensure our values underpin the development of emerging technologies. Full remarks below as prepared for delivery:
It is such an honor to be with all of you at the 2019 Web Summit here in Lisbon.
I’ve heard this is the best technology conference on the planet, and based on the incredible entrepreneurial energy in this room today, it’s very clear why. Here, ideas are converging from around the world, bridging cultures and bringing together innovators to solve the greatest challenges of tomorrow.
It enables the best technologists and creators to be in the same room and build off of each other to help solve global challenges and make the world a better place for generations to come. When Americans come to Europe, we have a deep and inexpressible sense that we have landed on familiar ground.
America inherited a legacy of core institutional and cultural values from Europe, spanning from the earliest reaches of your history. It is because of that legacy that we became a center of innovation and technology.
America succeeds because people have an unparalleled freedom to chase their dreams and pursue excellence. Citizens are secure in their property and protected by the rule of law. Government defends justice and fair competition. We constantly debate and challenge each other. We passionately stand for the dignity of every person.
And we believe that those who create, innovate, and flourish should not only work to improve their own lives, but serve their neighbors as well. Our bottom-up system works not because of government management—but because it is driven by the brilliance of good and free people who are confident in their most fundamental rights.
Upon this proven foundation, our community of nations has developed technology for the benefit of all people. Many important technological inventions of the 20th century originated in Europe, from the automobile to the telescope. The ingenuity of the United States resulted in the quick adoption of new innovations, expanding upon them and unleashing new breakthroughs.
Together, we built new modes of communication and transportation. We cured diseases and explored new frontiers. And we designed tools of every kind to solve our common challenges.
The combined power of the U.S., Europe, and our allies to drive technological leadership means our core values will continue to underpin the development and application of emerging technologies. Our future depends upon America and Europe working together to embrace innovation and defend our free system against our adversaries that seek to undermine our shared values.
The United States remains unwaveringly committed to advancing technology leadership at home and abroad. The U.S. system is centered on a light-touch regulatory approach that advances economic freedom and a commitment to the rule of law and human dignity. We have done this domestically with actions to prioritize research and development, build the workforce of the future, address regulatory challenges and remove barriers to innovation.
We embrace an unrivalled ecosystem of innovation built on cooperation between academia, the private sector, and the federal government. When we create an environment for each of these institutions to freely work together, we are able to push the boundaries of science and unlock new potential for technological advancement. This is why the United States continues to be the birth place of incredible innovation.
Last month, we proved just how well our system works when an American company partnered with the federal government and our world-class universities to achieve “quantum supremacy,” demonstrating that a quantum computer can perform tasks that reach beyond the capabilities of classical computers.
Our approach rejects the false dichotomy that somehow we must choose between the benefits of emerging technology on the one hand and following our moral compass on the other.
Importantly, we recognize that we don’t need to impose preemptive, overly-burdensome, and innovation-killing regulations to stay true to our values. The United States is demonstrating how this model of innovation works.
Through the American AI Initiative launched by President Trump, we empower our innovators to boldly pursue R&D, while also developing national standards and guidance on AI explainability, safety, trustworthiness, and other challenging technical and ethical issues. When it comes to technology, the best way to uphold our values is to make sure America and our allies remain the global hubs of innovation.
Only then can we shape the global evolution of technology in a manner consistent with our values. We have taken a number of steps to work with like-minded nations to advance innovation in line with our principles around the world.
We have enhanced cooperation on AI research and development with our international partners. We have committed in the G7 to work with our allies on how AI can be applied to solve challenges that reach across borders—from cancer research to emergency response.
And we’ve warned of the dangers of working with repressive regimes that don’t share our same values. Earlier this year, the United States joined with our allies in the OECD to agree to international principles to advance the trustworthy development of AI.
OECD nations recognize that because AI is essential to our economies, our national security, and the quality of life for our people, we must support AI innovation, not restrict it. We are committed to developing this emerging technology in a way that promotes public trust, protects civil liberties, and respects the privacy and dignity of every individual.
Yet while we all work together to promote our principles and develop technology for the good of mankind, we must also defend ourselves against an increasingly aggressive government that is undermining our values and subverting the free and fair system that allows all of us to succeed.
The Chinese government has built an advanced authoritarian state by twisting technology to put censorship over free expression and citizen control over empowerment. Through their massive system of censorship, the Great Firewall, the Chinese government violates the privacy of every person in their country by monitoring online communications and blocking access to information.
The Chinese Communist Party uses technology to control and imprison dissidents, activists, and minorities including the Muslim Uyghurs.
They degrade the individual dignity of Chinese citizens by implementing a dystopian “Social Credit Score.” And the government continues extending its authoritarianism abroad—and in no case is this more clear than with Huawei.
Chinese law compels all Chinese companies—including Huawei—to cooperate with its intelligence and security services, no matter where the company operates. In perhaps the most disturbing account of espionage, news outlets have reported that after Huawei installed communications technology in the headquarters of the African Union, their computer system was hacked and data was transferred to servers in Shanghai every single night for 5 years.
Yet despite this and other grave and documented actions that run counter to the values of America, Europe, and our allies, countries around the world continue to consider opening their arms to Chinese companies in order to build critical infrastructure, like 5G, or develop key technology, like artificial intelligence.
If we allow Beijing such a profound degree of access and influence in our technology systems, we run the risk of repeating the same mistakes our nations made nearly 20 years ago. In 2001, our leaders let China into the World Trade Organization, expecting that as we opened our economies to them, the country would liberalize politically and economically.
Instead, China stole our intellectual property. They forced companies to hand over valuable technology in order to access their market. And now, they require access to all data, information, and secrets contained on any server in China. Today, we must ask ourselves if we face a similar crossroads in technology.
Emerging technologies like 5G and artificial intelligence will underpin everything from our communications systems to our militaries. We fundamentally believe that innovation will uplift and empower all people.
But if we don’t act now, Chinese influence and control of technology will not only undermine the freedoms of their own citizens, but all citizens of the world. And while it took decades for China to shift the gravity of global manufacturing after entering the WTO, technology moves at a much faster pace.
Technological leadership from democratic nations has never been more of an imperative. We must continue to advance innovation that is ingrained with our approach to human rights, civil liberties, privacy, and the rule of law.
In America, we are leading by example.
We combat technological repression with an innovation ecosystem that is the envy of the world – one driven by free market capitalism and bold ideas that advance science and technology and make our nation prosperous and strong.
But we have also been forced to take steps to stop others from infiltrating our technology infrastructure, stealing American research, and using technology to violate human rights.
Earlier this year, President Trump signed an executive order providing new authorities to ban, within the United States, the sale of unsecure communications technology equipment.
President Trump also signed legislation expanding our authority to restrict foreign investment in American businesses that compromises our critical technology.
We commend those nations that have begun to protect their own strategic industries from foreign takeovers.
And we are standing up for human dignity by restricting Chinese entities that have committed human rights abuses from purchasing American products and by banning the sale of high-tech equipment to known human rights abusers.
Today, we are not just fighting for fairness or for our economic rights. We are fighting to defend the free market system that fuels our innovation. We are fighting so technological advances driving our economies, strengthening our security, empowering our citizens, and defining our future will be built by us and with our values. When our values drive innovation, technology that could be used to repress people will instead lift them up.
We will use artificial intelligence to reinvigorate manufacturing and save lives through improved disaster response. We will use biotechnology to develop individually tailored treatments for diseases and extreme weather-resistant crops.
We will use quantum computing to explore the origin of our universe and design new chemicals and materials. We will use 5G to revolutionize health care with remote surgery and make our roads safer with automated vehicles.
We will do all of these things and so much more if we have the will to make the right choices now—and the courage to ratify our words with our actions.
The American government is taking a stand — and we cannot do this without Europe and our allies around the world. We may not see eye to eye on every aspect of technology policy, but we all agree on the principles that matter most. So if we want to safeguard our freedom, we must work together.
Ultimately, our free system succeeds because power rests in the hands of our people. Companies, creators, and consumers must decide what future they want. You must be willing to fight for your interests and for our shared values.
It is up to all of us to support the international innovation ecosystem that relies on fairness, respect, and reciprocity. It is up to all of us to ensure our innovators have the openness and freedom to thrive. It is up to all of us to defend our technology and our fundamental rights from foreign adversaries.
We must act now, because the world can change quickly. We have built an age of unprecedented prosperity and technological wonder. Now, we must all recommit to defending the principles that made us great—and we must always build technology that serves our people and inspires hope in the world.