The White House held a roundtable “listening session” on innovation with top tech executives on Thursday, part of the Trump Administration efforts to ensure US leadership in emerging fields, such as artificial intelligence, 5G wireless and quantum computing.
Executives who participated include Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Google’s Sundar Pichai, Oracle’s Safra Catz, Oracle’s Steve Mollenkopf, IBM’s Ginni Rometty and others, according to White House officials. Representatives of Blackstone Group, Carnegie Mellon University and MIT, will participate, as will former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the officials said in a briefing.
The executives met with a handful of top administration officials, including Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who serves as a senior adviser to the president; Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and advisor; and Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council. Michael Kratsios and Chris Liddell, both senior technology advisors, will also attend the meeting.
President Donald Trump stopped by the meeting, according to a White House official. It was initially unclear if Trump would attend. A White House spokesman didn’t share details of Trump’s remarks or how long he stayed. The meeting wasn’t open to the media.
It’s unclear what was specifically discussed at the meeting. In a statement, Google’s Pichai called the gathering a “productive and engaging discussion” about “America’s leadership in emerging technologies.”
Ivanka Trump, who spoke at an innovation conference in Washington, DC later in the day, said retooling the American workforce in order to fill tech jobs of the future was a focus of the discussion. She used quantum computing to illustrate the idea that industries will be created that haven’t been thought of yet. And while automation may displace some current jobs, she sees skills training as a way to retool workers for better employment.
“Innovation is always a net positive,” she said on a panel that also included Walmart CEO Doug McMillon and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. “And it’s our job to ensure the swiftest transition for those affected. The ones who are most vulnerable are the ones with fewer skills.”
Administration officials said the meeting is the first of many that the White House plans to have with a wide range of companies. In the future, the guest list may include executives from Amazon, Apple, and others, they said.
The meeting comes amid tension in the relationship between Silicon Valley tech firms and Washington. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are looking to, especially when it comes to security and privacy concerns. Up to now these firms have operated with little to no government regulation or oversight.
President Trump has also been, including Google, accusing the company of “ ” its search results so that they return “fake news” that is critical of him.
“Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good,” Trump tweeted in August. “They are controlling what we can & cannot see.”
Google’s Pichai isto discuss these issues.
Ahead of Thursday’s meeting, White House officials said neither of these issues would be discussed. Instead, the meeting was to be focused on technologies of the future, relieving regulatory burdens and preparing the US workforce through STEM educational initiatives.
One topic that likely came up is the Trump administration’s trade war with China, which has many in the tech industry concerned. It’s also still unclear what President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to at a meeting held over the weekend.
First published Dec. 7, 8:24 a.m. PT.
Updated 1:50 pm PT: Updated with additional details about the meeting. Includes comments from Google CEO and Ivanka Trump.
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