Ep. 60: Adam Thierer on Evasive Entrepreneurship as Technology Liberation, Dystopian Misrepresentation by Popular Culture and the Dangers of Washington’s Coming AI Regulation

Adam is one of the most experienced technology policy analysts in the world – he was writing about the internet on day 1 in the 1990s. Now, Adam is an innovation policy analyst at the R Street Institute, and the author of several books, including Permissionless Innovation (2016) & Evasive Entrepreneurs (2020).

Isn’t it striking – almost all popular sci-fi movies about technology are dystopian? Not only does that warp the public perception of technology as something dangerous, but it also influences policy. Supposedly serious policymakers make arguments for increased regulation like “we don’t want the Terminator, don’t we?” all the time.

Adam takes us through the quagmire of Washington D.C. policy through the lens of one message: permissionless innovation is key to unlock a better future.

He introduces the term “evasive entrepreneurs” through case studies of Uber, Lyft and biohackers that used 3D printing for making prosthetics. These cases of “technology liberation have a few things in common: a) the operate at the borderline of legality, and b) they succeed by making consumers advocates for them.

Evasive entrepreneurship describes the premise of this podcast and of Infinita VC. Special jurisdictions like Prospera in Honduras, the Catawba DEZ in North Carolina or other free zones in Africa or Latin America can be regulatory sandboxes.

However, evasive entrepreneurs have moral obligations. It is also a tactic used by bad actors, such as Sam Bankman-Fried, who used an offshore jurisdiction (Bahamas) as a launchpad for a move to do regulatory capture in the United States.

We concede that evasive entrepreneurship can be done for good and bad.

Recently, Adam has been writing about the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. He brings bad news: Washington D.C. policymakers want to use it as an excuse to control the internet. Adam has been in the business for three decades and he’s never seen more extreme proposals in a short amount of time.

This should be alarming to entrepreneurs. Technology is a force for good in the world, and we need permissionless environments to thrive. The good news is that we don’t need to advocate for policy in Washington, we can criticize by creating.

Adam blogs at techliberation.com