2001-2011: Technology under Presidents Gore and Romney

Everyone remembers September 11th, 2001, when President Gore announced that America had been attacked. But few people knew at the time how drastically technology would change over the next ten years.

Gore had long been an environmentalist, but in the months following 9/11, he used his political capital to push through a range of new programs: a carbon tax combined with personal CO2 allowances, subsidies for energy efficiency and mass transit, and unprecedented investments in energy infrastructure, research, and development. This led to a seemingly endless demand for data analysts, physicists, computer scientists and engineers in companies funded by the Department of Energy, causing Jeff Hammerbacher, CEO of AdMath, to remark “Everyone is trying to make energy more cheaply and cleanly. That sucks if you want to do anything else.”  And it also led to many startups in that ecosystem, such as Zuckerberg’s FaceGrid, which lets people trade carbon credits with their friends and neighbors, and the rapidly growing Blipper, which generates a 140 character alert whenever there is a “blip” in power consumption. At first Blipper was parodied as just generating “using microwave for lunch” blips, but it now has a viable revenue stream with sponsored blips from major automakers such as Ford, Toyota, Tesla or GCars.

While Gore’s changes were dramatic, we should note that he was really just in the right place at the right time. The problems of global warming, dependence on foreign oil, and America’s crumbling infrastructure were so large that even if Bush had won, he would surely have implemented similar programs. Gore was also mocked for various gaffes, such as claiming that he invented FaceGrid, and that “his” levees and mangroves saved New Orleans.

After Romney defeated Hillary Clinton in 2008, he largely maintained the Gore agenda, but added a new project: healthcare reform, led by his popular Democratic Secretary of Health and Human Services Barack Obama. “Obamacare”, as it became known, built on Romney’s earlier work in Massachusetts, and cost reduction informed by data analysis and statistical modeling was a major part of it, from the NetDocs prize onwards.

What of the future? Vice President Bush is pushing forward his education initiative to find and reward the best teachers and fire the worst. In his words, “Those who can, can do. Those who can’t, can’t teach.”  Generous merit pay awards for math and science teachers have been unpopular with unions, but they are attracting talented graduates to the field. The administration claims that this and immigration reform will be the bases for continued American technological dominance into the next generation.


2 Responses to “2001-2011: Technology under Presidents Gore and Romney”

  1. essexman Says:

    VP Bush? (Last paragraph)

    • erehweb Says:

      The political history is pretty well detailed elsewhere, so just a brief sketch here. Bush gained a lot of prestige after 2000. As he said, “I was running against peace and prosperity, and I almost won.” This, his conservative bona fides, and his Southern background all contributed to Romney picking him for VP in 2008. Of course, it worked out well for them, with Romney-Bush beating Clinton-Edwards.

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