R. David Edelman

Founder & Director, Project on Technology, the Economy, and National Security, MIT | Former White House Tech Advisor
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Dr. R. David Edelman is one of the world’s leading authorities on the geopolitics of technology and the new landscape of corporate risk, helping U.S. Presidents, CEOs, and MIT’s best-and-brightest glimpse into the future and make sense of what they see. From AI and data privacy to cybersecurity and nuclear fusion, Edelman combines uncanny insights with a unique clarity in explaining what’s next for our world.
A Yale- and Oxford-educated technologist, investor, and former policymaker now based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his insights and analysis have appeared in print in The New York Times, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, the FT, Der Spiegel, WIRED, Fast Company, and Fortune, and in broadcast on CNN, Bloomberg, CNBC, MSNBC, and NPR. For three years running, he has served as a judge for the Forbes AI 50 List which recognizes standout companies making the most interesting and effective use of artificial technology. He is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Brookings Institution non-resident Senior Fellow of Foreign Policy at the John L. Thornton China Center.
 
Edelman’s first book, Rethinking Cyber Warfare: The International Relations of Digital Disruption, is an instant bestseller that debuted at #1 on Amazon. As cyberattacks become increasingly common components of arsenals around the globe, Rethinking Cyber Warfare provides the technological and historical context necessary to better understand and prepare for one of the most underexplored threats to international security.
 
In government, Edelman served for over six years in the Obama White House, including as Special Assistant to the President for Economic & Technology Policy on the National Economic Council, Director for Cybersecurity on the National Security Council, and Senior Advisor in the Office of Science & Technology Policy. When appointed, he was the youngest-ever Director in the sixty-year history of the NSC. Prior to the White House, he began his career at the State Department in the George W. Bush Administration as a founding member of the Department’s Office of Cyber Affairs, ultimately serving as the lead U.S. negotiator on cybersecurity and digital economy matters at the United Nations and later, the G-20.
In academia, Edelman is currently the IPRI Distinguished Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he founded the Project on Technology, the Economy, and National Security, co-chairs the AI Policy Forum, and holds dual appointments at the Computer Science & AI Lab (CSAIL) and Center for International Studies. He teaches Foundations of Internet Policy at MIT, a course designed to help students develop the technical, legal, and rhetorical skills to analyze and participate in the evolution of the global public policy environments that govern human behavior on the Internet.
In the private sector, Edelman is the founder and managing partner of Catalyst•Wayfare, a boutique geopolitical advisory firm serving breakthrough technology CEOs. He previously built the public-sector and global strategy teams at multi-billion-dollar AI and clean energy startups and has been a venture investor in a range of deep-tech innovations. He is a sought-after counselor to and serves on several public and private corporate boards. 

Topics

The Next Decade: Tech Trends and Innovations Shaping Our Future

Following a tumultuous period that changed where and how we work, the ways that we interact and care for one another, and the relationship between business and government in profound ways — nearly all of it was mediated by technology. What will the next decade look like, and how can you get ahead of the next tectonic shift? In this talk, Dr. Edelman illuminates how key technological inflections in AI, blockchain, robotics, cybersecurity, and 5G – as well as the new regulatory and geopolitical landscapes – will shape the future in ways big and small. Audiences will leave empowered to recognize and seize the changes that their businesses and careers will encounter not just during the next year but for the next ten.

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Innovation in the Era of Trade Wars: Navigating the Digital Decoupling

The trade relationships between the United States, China, and European markets have never been more dynamic — or more fraught. How will trade disputes new and old affect the tectonic shifts in wireless connectivity, the technological supply chain, and the sharing of data that companies across the economy rely upon? In this talk, Edelman discusses the future of the Internet and all who do business on it, delving into the complex motivations of regulators in Beijing, Washington, and Brussels. From web censorship to IP protection, 5G to semiconductors, Edelman provides concrete insights on how “the new tech mercantilism” will shape tomorrow’s global economy in every sector and with ripple effects far beyond Silicon Valley.

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Ethics In the Age of Data & Artificial Intelligence

With technology permeating every sector of the economy, our businesses, and our everyday lives, we are being asked to confront new and profound ethical questions. From ensuring data is used for and not against customers and employees, to creating cultures of compliance among not just people but the artificial intelligence systems they design, confronting these challenges is a must in navigating the 21st-century workplace. This timely discussion helps audiences understand the underlying technological trends forcing these new kinds of ethical dilemmas; provides them with the tools to manage them whether leading teams, writing code, or defining culture; and engages them with timely examples of how organizations and their executives have dealt with them — successfully and otherwise.

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Cybersecurity: What You Can (And Can’t) Do to Protect Yourself & Your Business

In an era when Fortune 100 CEOs and top politicians are finding their careers ended by cybersecurity incidents and consumer confidence relies on protecting customers’ precious data, fluency in this field is no longer optional. Gleaning insights from a decade at the forefront of cybersecurity from the Board Room to the White House Situation Room, Edelman identifies the key threats that businesses face and explains precisely what can (and can’t) be done to defend both reputation and the bottom line. Drawing from the real-life experiences of hundreds of companies who have navigated threats from competitors, criminals, and nation-states, this talk will help executives and enterprises stay ahead of the curve as cybersecurity transitions from just another cost of doing business to the cost of staying in business.

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Cybersecurity & Geopolitics: Beyond the Headlines

Is “cyberwar” on the horizon for the United States, Russia, or China? Can hackers 10,000 miles away really steal billion-dollar military innovations; pilfer sensitive medical records to aid their own research; turn your iPhone into a remote microphone; and even use social media to swing an election? What do these new digital threats mean for the future of American democracy and the global order? What does it mean when hackers can discredit high-ranking politicians, or cut off a state’s electricity, with seeming impunity? These questions, once hypothetical, are now at the core of great power politics and the competitiveness of the world’s largest economies. In this engagement, Edelman guides general and expert audiences alike through this period of unprecedented change, equipping them to navigate the most important overlooked area of the new economy — the intersection of innovation and geopolitics.

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Artificial Intelligence: Decoded

Artificial intelligence (AI) captures headlines nearly every day, but how well do you understand what the technology is, what opportunities it presents, and what challenges might lurk around the corner? As executives and boards increasingly demand data-driven decisions and actionable insights from the mountains of information available within every sector of the economy, Dr. Edelman helps audiences make sense of the commercial revolution in big data and AI transforming individual firms and upending entire industries. Explaining in concrete, accessible terms how data-driven insights are creating the next generation of corporate gazelles, Edelman also guides audiences through the most common, costly mistakes that might undermine how companies use data — and can cost executives their jobs. Participants will leave with a thorough, informed understanding not just of the state of artificial intelligence, but of the national and international forces that will shape minds and markets for years to come.

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Videos

How Forbes Identifies The Most Promising AI Companies In The World
R. David Edelman

Articles

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Shaping the Future: Top Tech Trends from Mews Unfold 2024
HospitalityNet.org
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A Surprising Truth About A.I.
R.DavidEdelman Video
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The Digital Threat to Democracy
R.DavidEdelman Video
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AI 50 2023 Methodology: Our New, Improved Process For Selecting Honorees
Forbes
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Here’s how to regulate artificial intelligence properly
The Washington Post
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Here’s what keeps Obama’s former cyber policy advisor up at night
CNBC
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About MIT's Project on Technology, the Economy and National Security
MIT ILP
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‘This is an all hands on deck thing’: A former Obama technology advisor on robots, jobs and cyberwarfare
The Washington Post

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Artificial Intelligence
Cybersecurity
Technology
Big Data & Data Science
National Security
Moderators
Future of Work
Geopolitics & Globalization
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