Adam Thierer

Adam Thierer

  • Senior Research Fellow

Adam Thierer is a senior research fellow with the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He specializes in technology, media, Internet, and free-speech policies, with a particular focus on online safety and digital privacy. His writings have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and Forbes, and he has appeared on national television and radio. Thierer is a frequent guest lecturer and has testified numerous times on Capitol Hill.

Thierer has authored or edited eight books on topics ranging from media regulation and child safety issues to the role of federalism in high-technology markets. His latest book is Permissionless Innovation: The Continuing Case for Comprehensive Technological Freedom.

He contributes to the Technology Liberation Front, a leading tech policy blog. Thierer has served on several distinguished online safety task forces, including Harvard University’s Internet Safety Technical Task Force and the federal government’s Online Safety Technology Working Group.

Previously, Thierer was president of the Progress & Freedom Foundation, director of telecommunications studies at the Cato Institute, and a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Thierer received his MA in international business management and trade theory at the University of Maryland and his BA in journalism and political philosophy from Indiana University.

Published Research

Richard Williams, Robert Graboyes, Adam Thierer | Oct 21, 2015
A new paper for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University shows why the current system of medical device approval discourages technological innovation and ultimately affects patient choice. The approval process could be improved by introducing competition for approval—a process that already exists in the European Union.
Christopher Koopman, Matthew Mitchell, Adam Thierer | May 15, 2015
When market circumstances change dramatically — or when new technology or competition alleviates the need for regulation — then public policy should evolve and adapt to accommodate these realities. This paper concludes with some proposals for further research in this area, and a call for a more informed regulatory approach that accounts for the innovations of the sharing economy.
Adam Thierer | Feb 18, 2015
This paper highlights some of the opportunities presented by the rise of the so-called “Internet of Things” and wearable technology in particular, and encourages policymakers to allow these technologies to develop in a relatively unabated fashion. As with other new and highly disruptive digital technologies, however, the Internet of Things and wearable tech will challenge existing social, economic, and legal norms.
Christopher Koopman, Matthew Mitchell, Adam Thierer | Dec 08, 2014
When market circumstances change dramatically—or when new technology or competition alleviates the need for regulation—then public policy should evolve and adapt to accommodate these realities. This paper concludes with some proposals for further research in this area, and a call for a more informed regulatory approach that accounts for the innovations of the sharing economy.

Working Papers

Adam Thierer, Christopher Koopman, Anne Hobson, Chris Kuiper | May 26, 2015
This paper argues that the sharing economy—through the use of the Internet and real time reputational feedback mechanisms—is providing a solution to the lemons problem that many regulators have spent decades attempting to overcome.
Adam Thierer | Nov 19, 2014
This paper highlights some of the opportunities presented by the rise of the so-called Internet of Things in general and wearable technology in particular and encourages policymakers to allow these technologies to develop in a relatively unabated fashion. As with other new and highly disruptive digital technologies, however, the Internet of Things and wearable technology will challenge existing social, economic, and legal norms.
Adam Thierer, Ryan Hagemann | Sep 17, 2014
This paper addresses some of the early policy concerns about “connected cars” and driverless vehicles and promotes “bottom-up” solutions to ensure that innovation continues to flourish in this space.
Adam Thierer, Brent Skorup | Jul 01, 2013
The danger of creeping cronyism in the high-tech field is that it will dull entrepreneurialism and competition in this highly innovative sector. The opportunity costs of pursuing favors are significant.

Charts

Policy Briefs

Testimony & Comments

Adam Thierer | Mar 03, 2016
If America hopes to be a global leader in wearable technologies, as it has been for the Internet more generally over the past two decades, then the country first has to get public policy right. America took a commanding lead in the digital economy because, in the mid-1990s, Congress and the Clinton administration crafted a nonpartisan vision for the Internet that protected “permissionless innovation”—the idea that experimentation with new technologies and business models should generally be permitted without prior approval.
Christopher Koopman, Matthew Mitchell, Adam Thierer | May 26, 2015
The commission should shift enforcement efforts away from stopping private restraint of trade and toward stopping public restraint of trade. In light of George Stigler’s observation that “the state has one basic resource which in pure principle is not shared with even the mightiest of its citizens: the power to coerce,” the commission would be wise to adopt Commissioner Wright’s approach and shift resources toward fighting public restraint of trade.
Eli Dourado, Ryan Hagemann, Adam Thierer | Apr 24, 2015
The FAA must carefully consider the potential effect of UASs on the US economy. If it does not, innovation and technological advancement in the commercial UAS space will find a home elsewhere in the world. Many of the most innovative UAS advances are already happening abroad, not in the United States. If the United States is to be a leader in the development of UAS technologies, the FAA must open the American skies to innovation.
Adam Thierer | Feb 11, 2015
We should remain patient and continue to embrace permissionless innovation to ensure that the Internet of Things thrives and American consumers and companies continue to be global leaders in the digital economy.

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Speeches & Presentations

Adam Thierer | Sep 11, 2014
"Internet of Things & Wearable Technology: Unlocking the Next Wave of Data-Driven Innovation." A presentation by Adam Thierer made on September 11, 2014 at AEI-FCC Conference on "Regulating the Evolving Broadband Ecosystem."
Adam Thierer | Jun 06, 2014
Successful innovation, which is essential to better health, safety and security, requires freedom to experiment and develop. But there is an array of government rules and processes that increasingly prohibit “permissionless” innovation.
Adam Thierer | Nov 16, 2012
This presentation was delivered before the Southern Economic Association on November 16, 2012. Examines concerns about vertical integration in the tech economy and specifically addresses regulatory proposals set forth by Tim Wu (arguing for a "separations principle" for the tech economy) & Jonathan ZIttrain (arguing for "API neutrality" for social media and digital platforms.
Adam Thierer | Nov 09, 2012
Cronyism generally refers to an unnatural and unhealthy closeness between government and special interests. �…

Media Clippings

Expert Commentary

May 03, 2016

America’s information technology innovators have taken a commanding global lead at the dawn of the Digital Age for a simple reason: They didn’t need anyone’s blessing to launch the next great gadget or service.
Jul 29, 2015

Mercatus Center scholars have repeatedly documented the costs of occupational licensing and offered suggestions for how to reform or eliminate unnecessary licensing practices.
Jun 30, 2015

The Internet of Things is the hot new fixation in the world of technology, and it’s already raising concerns about safety, security, and privacy – many of which are persuasively documented in the special package just published here. We all face a host of new vulnerabilities in a world in which we’re always plugged into the Internet, and the objects around us are constantly sharing data about our personal and professional lives.
May 05, 2015

Public utility regulations have not promoted consumer protection and they won’t today, even if public utility regulations were once justified on those grounds. There is nothing pro-consumer or progressive about foreclosing opportunities for greater choice, competition, and innovation. We should avoid extending such inefficient and anti-consumer policies to the exciting technologies and services that consumers now enjoy.

Contact

Adam Thierer

Books

Adam Thierer | Mar 15, 2016
In this book, Adam Thierer argues that if the former disposition, “the precautionary principle,” trumps the latter, “permissionless innovation,” the result will be fewer services, lower-quality goods, higher prices, diminished economic growth, and a decline in the overall standard of living.

Podcasts

Adam Thierer | September 21, 2015
Adam Thierer joins this segment of the a16z podcast to discuss “technopanic” cycles; emerging areas of interest; and where “best practices” help or hurt when it comes to soft regulation.
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