Technology rules the way we communicate, connect, consume and collaborate. For both companies and governments, this provides incredible economic and infrastructure opportunities, but also exposes massive risks to security and privacy.

Brown Advisory’s Lauren Cahalan sits down with David Edelman, director of MIT’s Project on Technology, the Economy & National Security, to discuss the challenges posed by technology’s penetration of all aspects of our lives, the responsibility of organizations to identify misinformation and protect our privacy, and how these issues have been heightened by the pandemic.

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Episode Introduction

Lauren Cahalan: We’re living in a moment of great disruption. Our home lives, our work, our travel are unrecognizable compared to what we knew a few, short months ago. And while we have always been dependent on technology and platforms, it has reached a new level during the pandemic. Microsoft Teams connecting businesses. Apple connecting family through FaceTime. Google connecting us to updates in our communities. Facebook connecting friends through social media. And Amazon connecting us to essential goods. We are more dependent on technology than ever before.

We also live in a world where these 5 companies represent 5.5 trillion dollars, making up over 20% of the S&P 500. It is nearly unheard of to spend a day and not interact with at least one of these companies. “Big tech” is in a position where they are serving as gatekeepers of how we communicate, access essential goods, and provide critical infrastructure for our data.

This begs the questions: What role do platforms and social media companies play as arbiters of speech? How do we think about companies when they have more data than any government could ever obtain? What happens when companies fill foreign policy roles on the geopolitical stage that we never imagined? What happens when the market cap of a company is greater than the resources of a country?


Technology is no longer a siloed issue of debate. It is ingrained in every sector, in the ways we communicate, connect, consume, and collaborate. More than ever, the risks we are navigating are sight unseen- a pandemic traversing the globe, and information moving across the internet. Yet, as we have learned, sometimes the things we cannot see, cannot touch, are the hardest to understand. Which leads us to some really difficult questions as a society. What has happened and where are we going. From data privacy to misinformation, these were difficult topics before current events, and they are even more challenging looking into the future.

I’m Lauren Cahalan. I’m an equity analyst at Brown Advisory. And I want you to meet David Edelman. David is an academic and policymaker who currently directs the Project on Technology, the Economy, and National Security at MIT. I heard him speak at a conference last year and I was captivated, so it’s my great pleasure to welcome him to the podcast today.


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R. David Edelman, Ph.D.

R. David Edelman, Ph.D.

MIT Scholar and Former White House Tech Adviser

MIT scholar, Presidential advisor, and leading technologist R. David Edelman is one of the nation's foremost authorities on how new innovations are changing life and business around the globe. Dubbed the nation’s “Chief Cyber Diplomat,” his insights on issues like artificial intelligence (A.I.), cybersecurity, data ethics, and the geopolitics of technology have shaped national and international policy at the highest levels. Dr. Edelman served in the Bush and Obama Administrations, rising to become the youngest­ever Director named to the U.S. National Security Council. As Special Assistant to the President, he led the White House economic team’s work on technology, media, and telecom policy. He currently teaches at MIT and leads its Project on Technology, the Economy, & National Security. A sought­after counselor to CEOs and Boards on managing technological disruption, Dr. Edelman has a unique ability to clearly communicate these complex topics, making them both accessible and engaging. His insights and analysis have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, WIRED, Forbes, Fortune, and on CNBC, MSNBC, and numerous international outlets. At MIT, Dr. Edelman leads an interdisciplinary team of researchers, students, and policymakers to address the challenges created by technological disruption – from the international concern of cyberattacks to the economic and regulatory consequences of A.I. and autonomous vehicles. He holds joint appointments in the Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) and the Center for International Studies (CIS). At the White House, Dr. Edelman led the development of and co­authored over a dozen legislative proposals, national strategies, Executive Orders, and Presidential policy reviews. As Director for Cybersecurity and International Cyber Policy at the National Security Council, he penned the government’s principal doctrine on cybersecurity and Internet issues within U.S. foreign policy. As chief architect of the President’s ConnectED initiative, Edelman managed the $10 billion effort that brought broadband to over 30 million American students in their classrooms. As Special Assistant to the President, he led White House engagement with top executives at over 100 companies in the technology, media, and telecom sectors and managed the Administration’s policy development on issues like net neutrality, consumer privacy, and patent reform. Prior to his time at the White House, Edelman served at the State Department’s Office of Cyber Affairs, and as the United States’ lead negotiator on Internet issues at the United Nations, where he received the Department’s Superior Honor Award and twice received its Meritorious Honor Award. He was named one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30” leaders in Law & Policy. He holds a B.A. from Yale University in History, and a Master’s and Doctorate in International Relations at Oxford University. His groundbreaking dissertation, “Cyberattacks in International Relations,” examined which forces might restrain state use of cyberattacks.



Lauren Cahalan

Lauren Cahalan

Equity Research Analyst, Brown Advisory

Lauren is an equity research analyst at Brown Advisory. She focuses on utilizing fieldwork and network driven research to provide in-depth analysis on existing and potential portfolio companies. Lauren interned as a summer analyst at the firm in 2017. She earned concurrent degrees at Towson University with a BS in Economics and an BS Political Science in 2018.



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