Summit Envisions a Future of Public Purpose-Driven Innovation

| Spring 2023

Event Honors TAPP Founder Ash Carter With Commitment to Mission

A video tribute to Ash Carter and his legacy with the Technology and Public Purpose Project that was shown at the TAPP Summit.

On Friday, May 5th, the Belfer Center’s Technology and Public Purpose (TAPP) Project hosted the 2023 Technology and Public Purpose Summit, where it convened “experts and explorers to discuss how we can build a future where public purpose drives innovation.” The summit welcomed more than 175 participants from industry, academia, government, and civil society at the Charles Hotel for a day packed with conversations and idea-sharing at the intersection of emerging technology and public interest—a way to pay tribute to the late Secretary Ash Carter, who founded the project in 2018.

“By bringing people together and creating one conversation that everybody can benefit from…[we can] make sure more people in our society get the benefits of technology without the harm,” Stephanie Carter, widow of Ash Carter and founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Verse Media, stated in her keynote comments as she recalled her late husband’s motivations for creating the TAPP Project. 

A side view of Stephanie Carter standing at a podium on the left and speaking to a large crowd seated at tables on the right.

Stephanie Carter speaks at the Technology and Public Purpose Project (TAPP) Summit about the work and legacy of her late husband, Ash Carter. 

The summit showcased the project’s work from this past year—from CHIPS and Science and digital platform governance to Web3, solar energy deployment, and drug development for Alzheimer’s. The morning opened with Washington Post columnist Bina Venkataraman in conversation with Arjun Bisen, CEO of Overwatch Data; Tim O’Reilly, Founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media; Katie Rae, Managing Partner of The Engine; and Mitch Weiss, professor at Harvard Business School, discussing the state of technology and public purpose. Their dialogue touched on the promises of advanced energy technologies to address climate change, the need for government to use tools like GTP-4 for public services to properly understand them, and the panelists’ optimism that we can make technology serve public interest—if we move fast enough. 

Next, TAPP Fellow Luca Giani, in conversation with Robert Langer, MIT professor and co-founder of Moderna, highlighted the key challenges with IP, funding, and federal policy that limit the progression of basic research to translate into effective drug development for Alzheimer’s. TAPP Fellow Sarah Hubbard then pulled the audience into the world of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), bringing a panel of technologists and legal experts to discuss the potential of DAOs in giving online users more power and ownership of their digital experiences. 

Following a lunch break, Doug Calidas, Vice President at The Complete Agency, led a conversation on the CHIPS and Science Act with the Belfer Center’s Korea Project Director John Park, Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer at America’s Frontier Fund Edlyn Levine, MIT Washington Office Director David Goldston, and Harvard Business School professor Meg Rithmire. The panelists spoke about the political momentum around U.S.-China relations which made way for bipartisan support of the largest industrial policy push since World War II. They also addressed the geopolitical and domestic challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as the U.S. government implements the ambitions of the bill.

Two more TAPP fellows, Helena Rong and Conrad Kramer, then showcased their fellowship work. Helena conducted a thought experiment with the audience to consider how digital technologies, like blockchain, can build trust rather than replace it. Following Helena’s presentation, Conrad took attendees on a journey of purchasing solar for residential property, emphasizing the potential of software to encourage broader adoption within the U.S. 

Finally, the summit’s main programming was capped off with a fireside chat on the future of internet governance between Leisel Bogan, Director of the Senate Innovation and Modernization effort for TechCongress, and Johnathan Zittrain, Harvard professor and Co-Founder of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

Throughout the summit, there was a buzz in the air. The enthusiasm and dedication to the mission of technology and public purpose was palpable. As Chris Lynch, CEO and co-founder of Rebellion Defense, mentioned in his closing remarks, being part of the community that the late Ash Carter created was to be part of “[something electric] and something special.” Speaker after speaker highlighted stories of how Secretary Carter transformed their lives by encouraging and inspiring them to lead a life driven by and for purpose. Almost everyone in the conference room that day was bonded by that shared experience. 

The Technology and Public Purpose Summit ultimately showcased the community’s commitment to the mission of TAPP —to ensure that emerging technologies are developed and managed in ways that serve the overall public good. So, thank you, Secretary Carter, for building this community. We promise to carry the torch forward.


For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Jayanti, Amritha. "Summit Envisions a Future of Public Purpose-Driven Innovation." Belfer Center Newsletter, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School. (Spring 2023)

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