Welcome to Techne

I’m Will Rinehart, and welcome to Techne.

Techne will be a newsletter focused on tech policy for those wanting to understand what’s actually happening in tech policy. It will be essay-driven, and capture stories driving important debates from someone who is actively participating in them. 

Politics is multipolar, as is the tech ecosystem. Congress, executive agencies, states, and the courts are all jostling for power, just like OpenAI, Meta, Amazon, and all the other players in tech are trying to entice consumers. Techne will be a guide for readers interested in unraveling the complex interplay among forces seeking to shape our technological world and bridge the divide between Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C.

Why “Techne”?

That was the term used by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient Greeks for art, skill, or craft. It is a notoriously tricky word to define. Even those first philosophers struggled with doing so concisely. 

That’s because the ancient Greeks had just acquired the written language and were still thoroughly rooted in a culture of the spoken word. Writing drives a culture to focus on precision and differences in meaning. But oral cultures tend to be more expansive in how they view terms.

In The Greeks, a standard text on the life and thinking of the ancient era, H. D. F. Kitto observed that “the modern mind divides, specializes, thinks in categories: the Greek instinct was the opposite, to take the widest view, to see things as an organic whole.”

Ultimately Techne will strive to do the same, to take the widest view, to see things as an organic whole.

“Techne-” is also one of the roots of “technology,” which was adopted from the Greek tekhnologia. Until about a hundred years ago, technology was more narrowly understood as the study of techne. Just as sociology is the study of social life, technology was the study of practical arts, crafts, and techniques. 

In its own way, Techne will be dedicated to studying the economics and politics of the tech industry.

Each issue of Techne will consist of three segments. The first section, “Notes and Quotes,” will provide a rundown of major tech-related news items from the past week. The second section, the main essay, will dive deep into the debate surrounding an important topic. The third and final section, “Research and Reports,” will highlight a couple of interesting studies or pieces of research.

Most weeks, the main essay will be related to a tech event in the news, like the launch of Apple’s Vision Pro, the Federal Communications Commission’s rule-making on digital discrimination, or the latest Internet Use Survey from the Census.

But some weeks, this essay will focus on topics that don’t get much airtime, like whether the Food and Drug Administration should declare aging a disease or whether mosquitos should be eradicated

While Techne’s primary focus will be on demystifying tech policy in Congress and in the states, it will also cover the long-tail issues that others skip, like desalination efforts in California, the replanting of the American chestnut tree, the impediments to advanced geothermal energy, and the politics of rare earth metals, just to name a few.

In sum, Techne will reflect the eclectic world of tech and innovation policy.

Why me?

I’ve been bouncing around academia and the think tank world for a decade and a half. Until earlier this year, I was a senior fellow at the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University.

Part of that job allowed me to teach students. The other part allowed me to expand my research from the typical tech-related topics of broadband buildout, privacy laws, and competition policy to also include how regulatory frameworks are challenging AI-driven services, the economics of the semiconductor industry, King Tut’s meteorite dagger, the abundance agenda, and diagnostic testing regulation.

If you’d like to check out the total scope of my work, I’ve collected just about everything on my website here.

This January, however, I moved over to the American Enterprise Institute, where I am currently a senior fellow. While I still have research planned in many conventional areas in tech policy, I am also exploring policies to support the development of the space economy, what industrial policy means in our globalized era, and how excessive veto power is slowing innovation.

I don’t have the pedigree of some; I have never worked on the Hill or at a three-letter agency. Instead, I consider my advantage to be that I read everything I can, that I’m a trained economist, and that I’m incessantly curious about topics beyond tech policy.

Now is the golden age for content, but a serious lack of expertise persists. Techne will fill that niche by being a weekly newsletter that offers a unique lens into tech and innovation policy.

I look forward to beginning this journey with you, so please don’t hesitate to send me tips, topics, or interesting research. You can make sure you receive all future editions of Techne by clicking “subscribe” on the newsletters page, and the easiest way to connect with me is via X/Twitter.

Until next week,

🚀 Will

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