ISSUES

EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES

Think of all the ways we use technology on any given day to make our lives easier. Your GPS is an absolute must to get to a new doctor’s office. Don’t want to deal with finding a parking spot downtown? Hail an Uber through your app and somebody will be at your place in a few minutes to take you anywhere you want to go. Need a weekend getaway? Hop on Airbnb and book that perfect mountain sanctuary for some rest and relaxation. Need your air conditioner fixed? Find a good repairman on Angie’s List or Handy. Can’t get to the grocery store because your car is in the shop? Pull up the Instacart app and for a small fee have your groceries delivered right to your door. 

All of these examples highlight the effect of innovation on our lives. Innovation is the process of creating better products, services, processes, or business models for society. Entrepreneurs develop these innovations by identifying problems, investing their capital, and creating solutions. Many times, as consumers, we don’t even know we have these problems. Take for example Henry Ford who once famously quipped, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” 

These and countless other examples of modern conveniences would seem unimaginable just a few short years ago. And now we can hardly imagine life without them. Innovation makes our lives easier, more affordable, more convenient, and even creates new opportunities and markets. It makes us more productive and allows for greater human flourishing. What would happen if we tried to slow this process down or prevent these innovators from implementing their next idea? What could we as a society miss out on? Because there are always those who try to stop innovation at every turn. Sadly, that usually involves using the power of government to ban the competition. For example, rather than change to market demands for cheaper and more convenient transportation, taxi drivers lobbied to have Ubers banned in many cities. The same happened with hotels and Airbnb, and countless other examples. 

This is why Beacon is working to ensure that Tennessee remains a place where entrepreneurs and small business owners can start their businesses without fear of the government getting in their way. Or that new products and services aren’t shut down by competition looking to win through lobbying politicians rather than proving their value in the marketplace. 

Tennessee should create an environment that allows new businesses and innovators to develop and bring their businesses to the market, creating jobs and improving the lives of all. To do so, the state should follow the lead of other states and countries by creating a regulatory sandbox, where entrepreneurs can ensure their new product or service won’t be subject to archaic and onerous regulations that don’t apply well to new technologies. Additionally, Tennessee leaders should look to study and work with industry leaders to ensure Tennessee’s business landscape is ready for new technologies, whether that is drones, autonomous vehicles, or other innovations.

Why can’t Tennessee lead the nation in innovation freedom or be the next Silicon Valley? Or perhaps more importantly, what will our lives look like if we don’t?