February 2, 2021
An op-ed by Vivek Wadhwa and Alex Selkever: History is likely to repeat itself with President Joe Biden’s immigration proposal. Yes, the plan is laudable for its twin goals of providing a path to citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants and reinstating visas for highly skilled workers. But as the idiom goes, this dog won’t hunt. That’s because both sides of the aisle in the U.S. Congress will find aspects of the legislation objectionable. Even if the Democrats eliminate the filibuster so they can pass legislation with their ever-so-slim control of the Senate, Democratic lawmakers themselves are unlikely to reach a consensus, as experience shows. This is a repeat of the political battles of the Obama years, when the Republicans staunchly supported skilled immigration while the Democrats held U.S. companies and their would-be workers hostage to demands to provide citizenship to the undocumented. The Democrats have also battled each other, as when Sen. Dick Durbin held up bipartisan legislation to remove discriminatory per-country limits on visas, which led immigration-advocacy groups to call him a racist. Sadly, the results of the Biden plan will be the same: warfare between and within the parties; no immigration reform; and a further demolition of U.S. competitiveness. There is a simple solution: Separate skilled and unskilled immigration into separate bills—and let each piece of legislation stand on its own merits.
January 28, 2021
The next global pandemic could be the result of a bioterrorist attack, a tech expert has warned. Vivek Wadhwa, a distinguished fellow and adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon's School of Engineering, said in an essay for Foreign Policy that this was largely due to advances in cheap and easily accessible methods of genetic engineering. Conspiracy theories have often suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic is a "bioweapon" manufactured in a Chinese lab. However, Wadhwa, who is also a distinguished fellow of Harvard Law School's Labor and Worklife Program, insisted that the pandemic was not created in a lab, citing a report by Nature Medicine. "But if genetic engineering wasn't behind this pandemic, it could very well unleash the next one," Wadhwa said. He believes the current pandemic should be treated as a "dress rehearsal of what is to come, including viruses deliberately engineered by humans." The concerns of those in science and tech have slowly been becoming a reality, with Wadhwa pointing to the ease of access to gene editing kits in the US...This ease of accessibility is largely due to the advances of CRISPR gene editing, which enables scientists to cut and paste genes, with the possibility of curing or eradicating malaria or Huntingdon's disease, but also of damaging species and ecosystems. Wadhwa said CRISPR makes it "almost as easy to engineer life forms as it is to edit Microsoft Word documents." "There should have been international treaties to prevent the use of CRISPR for gene editing on humans or animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration should have kept companies from selling DIY gene-editing kits," Wadhwa added.
January 7, 2021
Harvard Law School Distinguished Fellow Vivek Wadhwa says he 'wouldn't be surprised' if President Trump's social media accounts will be suspended for a week at a time as 'more clamping down' is expected.
The Trump administration has sued Facebook Inc., accusing the social-media company of illegally reserving high-paying jobs for immigrant workers it was sponsoring for permanent residence, rather than searching adequately for available U.S. workers who could fill the positions. The lawsuit reflects a continuing Trump administration push to crack down on alleged displacement of American workers...Tech companies like Facebook rely on H-1B visas to plug gaps in their technical workforce, which they say is essential to building the software that powers products like the Facebook news feed. Tech executives have said there aren’t enough American students graduating with science and engineering degrees to meet their demand, a problem they say is only worsening as products grow more complex and reliant on advanced technology like artificial intelligence...The H-1B program is the “lifeblood of Silicon Valley” where competition for engineers is fierce, said Vivek Wadhwa, a distinguished fellow at Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program who researches how jobs are being changed by automation. Mr. Wadhwa added that companies seek to hire H-1B visa holders who have done the job because they have a proven track record of being able to handle the required work. “The companies want you because you’ve survived and you’ve proven yourself,” he said. “It’s not a matter of a fake credential.”
October 23, 2020
An article by Vivek Wadhwa: No country will contribute more to the rise in global carbon emissions than India. Energy consumption among its 1.4 billion people is rising fast, with 65 percent of the country’s electrical power currently generated from coal. The world’s filthiest fossil fuel—of which India consumes more than the United States and Japan combined—will “remain ingrained under the fingernails of the nation” because of “politics, economics, and the complications of generating electricity.” So said the Economist in a 2018 briefing. The British magazine’s briefing perfectly encapsulates the widespread view of India as climate policy’s problem child. But the conventional wisdom couldn’t be more wrong. Little noticed in the West, India is undergoing a green-energy revolution—exceeding targets, breaking records, and quickly making the age of cheap clean energy a reality. Because of the dominance of India’s coal industry, few experts ever expected India to be on track to significantly exceed two key commitments to the Paris Agreement. One is India’s pledge to increase the share of power-generation capacity that doesn’t use fossil fuels to 40 percent by 2030; today, generation capacity from renewable, hydroelectric, and nuclear sources already reaches 38 percent, putting India on track to comfortably exceed its target. The other commitment is to reduce carbon emissions by 33 to 35 percent (from 2005 levels) by 2030. Today, India looks likely to reduce emissions by as much as 45 percent by 2030, far surpassing its Paris target.
September 28, 2020
An article by Vivek Wadhwa: For a moment in time, there was complete harmony in the social media world. US President Donald Trump demanded that TikTok be sold to a US company, and China’s propaganda outlet Global Times tweeted: “The US restructuring of TikTok’s stake and actual control should be used as a model and promoted globally.” China and the US agreed that having foreign companies control commonly used apps not only poses a threat to national security, but also distorts a country’s culture and values. Global Times went on to say, “Overseas operation of companies such as Google, Facebook shall all undergo such restructure and be under actual control of local companies for security concern.” India could learn from both countries, requiring that Facebook India be sold to one of India’s tech tycoons. This would be ones step to ensuring that all data be kept locally and tightly protected, and that the algorithms That determine the information that users will receive - which, after all, influences their behavior - truly reflect India’s culture and values. The soulless geeks of Silicon Valley and the ruthless autocrats of China simply cannot be trusted to do that. In fact, it would conflict with their interests.
September 15, 2020
An article by Vivek Wadhwa: Usually good for a conspiracy theory or two, U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested that the virus causing COVID-19 was either intentionally engineered or resulted from a lab accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. Its release could conceivably have involved an accident, but the pathogen isn’t the mishmash of known viruses that one would expect from something designed in a lab, as a research report in Nature Medicine conclusively lays out. “If someone were seeking to engineer a new coronavirus as a pathogen, they would have constructed it from the backbone of a virus known to cause illness,” the researchers said. But if genetic engineering wasn’t behind this pandemic, it could very well unleash the next one. With COVID-19 bringing Western economies to their knees, all the world’s dictators now know that pathogens can be as destructive as nuclear missiles. What’s even more worrying is that it no longer takes a sprawling government lab to engineer a virus. Thanks to a technological revolution in genetic engineering, all the tools needed to create a virus have become so cheap, simple, and readily available that any rogue scientist or college-age biohacker can use them, creating an even greater threat. Experiments that could once only have been carried out behind the protected walls of government and corporate labs can now practically be done on the kitchen table with equipment found on Amazon. Genetic engineering—with all its potential for good and bad—has become democratized.
August 10, 2020
An article by Vivek Wadhwa: The summer has been eventful for ByteDance, the owner of the rapidly growing social network TikTok. First, GoI banned the application from distribution in the country due to concerns that the Chinese government is accessing user data. Then, a number of US companies warned employees to remove TikTok from their work phones. Most recently, US President Donald J. Trump threatened to ban TikTok in the US. Into this maelstrom has stepped Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella with an offer to purchase the US business of TikTok. Nadella has earned a reputation as a savvy operator. He has restored Microsoft’s growth with smart bets on various types of business software, and a strong push to move the users of various applications, including the company’s lucrative Office products on to the online Office 365 version. Nadella has also remade the image of the swaggering giant as a kinder, gentler, more thoughtful company. Microsoft’s purchase of TikTok would be Nadella’s riskiest bet to date. If Beijing, in fact, views TikTok as a crucial asset for influencing US political and social discourse, it could attempt to put backdoors into the software and service. Microsoft would need to work hard to extricate them, and they could result in TikTok’s being shut down anyway. Also, with TikTok, Microsoft would enter the politically fraught world of social-content moderation. Microsoft has assiduously avoided political controversy, but TikTok would inevitably force Nadella to enter that arena in one way or another. For example, critics have loudly complained that TikTok censored videos of recent Hong Kong protests, citing that as evidence of Chinese government control. One can imagine similar discontent, due to slights — real or perceived — arising among any number of causes, particularly at either extreme of the US political spectrum. TikTok’s present valuation $5 billion has critics warning that Microsoft is about to overpay. That is one of many things that could halt the deal altogether — valuation, government intervention, and fresh revelations of spying on users being just a few.
July 15, 2020
An article by Vivek Wadhwa and Alex Salkever: What if Sundar Pichai had been deported while studying at Stanford University: Would he still have become the CEO of Alphabet? Today, if there are any future Sundar Pichais at Stanford or elsewhere, they are likely packing their bags after the U.S. federal government passed a draconian rule mandating that all foreign students unable to attend classes in person must leave the United States. Eight years ago, we wrote a book about how the U.S.’s backward immigration policies were harming the country and stifling innovation. In “The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent,” we presented copious data detailing how immigrants had made outsized contributions to the U.S. economy in general and to the entrepreneurial and innovation economy in particular. We canvassed dozens of entrepreneurs who were either contemplating leaving the United States or had already left due to visa issues and other challenges caused by an immigration system that had become byzantine, capricious and myopic. To our minds, it could not possibly get worse. But we were wrong. First, the U.S. moved to freeze and possibly end the H-1B worker-visa program. We agree that the program’s limitations caused many problems; but millions of productive U.S. citizens came in via the H-1B, including many from the subcontinent. Then, on July 6, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that foreign students at U.S. universities must take classes in person for the coming school year or leave the country. Inflicting such a policy on those who would attend classes in person they could safely do so and who have been doing their utmost to advance their education in accordance with current health guidelines not only is unreasonable, wasteful and tyrannical. But, more than this, it is also economically damaging to the United States, and to the rest of the world. If allowed to go through, it could cause lasting damage to global innovation.