President Donald Trump would be a “disaster for innovation,” 145 tech stars argue

It’s fair to say that the Republican nominee for the White House, Donald Trump, has few friends in Silicon Valley. This was pretty obvious already, but given his obliviousness on all kinds of things, from climate change to economics, it can’t hurt to spell it out. And that’s exactly what 145 tech heavyweights have done with an open letter published on Medium.

Among the 145 names, you’ll spot Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak, Tumblr’s CEO David Karp, Reddit’s co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Twitter’s co-founder Ev Williams, Slack founder Stewart Butterfield, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, Zynga founder Mark Pincus, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and Arielle Zuckerberg. The last person on that list is Mark Zuckerberg’s sister, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, although the Facebook founder himself is notable by his absence, as are several other big names.

Still, the letter doesn’t pull any punches. “We have listened to Donald Trump over the past year and we have concluded: Trump would be a disaster for innovation,” it reads. “His vision stands against the open exchange of ideas, free movement of people, and productive engagement with the outside world that is critical to our economy – and that provide the foundation for innovation and growth.”tech_experts_open_letter_trump

Elsewhere, the letter hones in on Trump’s well documented ignorance on technology. “Donald Trump proposes ‘shutting down’ parts of the internet as a security strategy  –  demonstrating both poor judgement and ignorance about how technology works. His penchant to censor extends to revoking press credentials and threatening to punish media platforms that criticise him.”

Finally, the letter targets Trump’s business credentials, questioning whether his policies would really turn America into a job-creation powerhouse: “Donald Trump articulates few policies beyond erratic and contradictory pronouncements. His reckless disregard for our legal and political institutions threatens to upend what attracts companies to start and scale in America. He risks distorting markets, reducing exports, and slowing job creation.”

Personally, I always feel a bit uneasy about this kind of co-ordinated letter, even if I think the sentiment is appropriate. As I’ve written elsewhere, Trump treats willfully ignoring eggheads and experts as a badge of honour, preferring to deal in “common sense” (or “populist”, to paraphrase slightly) solutions.

You just have to look at how the recent EU referendum turned out to see that this kind of intervention often ends up backfiring, no matter how well intentioned. Interventions from businesses, scientists and economists were broadcast, considered, then roundly ignored by the electorate. “People in this country have had enough of experts,” argued Leave campaigner and now ex-minister Michael Gove at the time, and even though his campaign has subsequently been proven wrong on an awful lot of things, you have to concede that he was at least right on that one.

Images: Gage Skidmore under Creative Commons

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