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

Adam Thierer, Adam Marcus | Jun 01, 2016
We stand on the cusp of the next great industrial revolution thanks to technological innovations and developments that could significantly enhance the welfare of people across the world. Inventions previously seen only in science fiction, such as artificial intelligence, connected devices and 3D printing, will enable us to connect and invent in ways we never have before, notes a recent World Economic Forum report on the amazing technological revolutions that could be coming.
Adam Thierer, Ryan Hagemann | Jun 01, 2015
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.
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.

Working Papers

Adam Thierer | Jul 12, 2016
Do citizens have the right to determine their own courses of treatment and to use medicines and devices that they believe could improve their health? In other words, do patients have a “right to try” medicines and devices that can help them?
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.
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.

Charts

Policy Briefs

Testimony & Comments

Adam Thierer, Andrea Castillo | Jul 22, 2016
The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has requested comments pertaining to the governance of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. The Technology Policy Program of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University is dedicated to advancing knowledge of the impact of regulation on society. It conducts careful and independent analyses employing contemporary economic scholarship to assess policy issues from the perspective of the public interest.
Adam Thierer | Jun 01, 2016
My name is Adam Thierer, and I am a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where I study technology policy. Along with other Mercatus Center scholars, I have conducted extensive research on the questions raised in the NTIA’s Internet of Things (IoT) proceeding. Accordingly, I am pleased to submit for the record two recently published Mercatus Center articles. The first article is a compendium of statistics on the economic impact of the IoT and wearables that I coauthored with Andrea Castillo. The second is a law review article I authored for the Richmond Journal of Law and Technology last year.
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.

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

Jun 28, 2016

In the end, there is more reason for optimism than pessimism when it comes to additive manufacturing. Like the internet before it, 3D printing is another important generative technology. It can unleash the creativity of the next generation of innovators and spawn entirely new, life-enriching products and services in the process.
Jun 10, 2016

If enough lawsuits start flying, it could seriously undermine this potentially unprecedented public health success story. That’s why it may be necessary to limit liability in some fashion to avoid the chilling effect that excessive litigation can have on life-enriching innovation.
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.

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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