IT Planning & Management

What would Donald Trump as US president mean for tech?

I happened to be reading Brett Easton-Ellis’ cult classic American Pyscho for the first time recently and the following scene made me laugh out loud:

“‘Where does Donald Trump think the best pizza in Manhattan is served?’ [McDermott taunts the evil psychopath narrator, Bateman, with a newspaper.]

“’Let me read this, I sigh, waving him away. You might be wrong. What a lousy photo.’

‘Bateman. Look. I circled it,’ he says.

’So what? What does this mean? What are you, McDermott, trying to tell me?’”

‘What do you think of the pizza at Pastels now, Bateman?’ He asks smugly.

’Well,’ I say, choosing my words carefully. ‘I think I have to go back and re-taste the pizza…’ I’m saying this through gritted teeth. ‘I’m just suggesting the last time I was there the pizza was…’

‘Brittle?’ McDermott offers.

‘Yeah.’ I shrug. ‘Brittle.’

‘Uh-huh.’ McDermott smiles triumphant.

‘Listen, if the pizza at Pastels is okay with Donny,’ I start hating to admit this to McDermott, then sighing almost unintelligibly, ‘it’s okay with me.’

McDermott cackles gleefully, a victor.”

As a piece of fiction published in 1991 goes, this seems strangely prescient.

This is not to suggest that Donald Trump is an inspiration to every callous psychopath out there – the senseless murder in the story is largely irrelevant here. But sitting reading this 25-year old novel in 2016 with Donald Trump headlines raging around me, it seemed amusing that so superficiality-obsessed a character as Bateman should make Trump his hero.

Mr Trump has already polarised the world with his presidential campaign. His forthright stance and lack of political correctness are legendary. His role as media sensation is unparalleled. His reaction ranges across the spectrum: from passionate support, to hair-do jibing, right through to outright fear. American comedian Louis CK summarised this in his blistering 1430 word email: “the guy is Hitler. And by that I mean that we are being Germany in the 30s”.

But wherever you personally stand on the Trump debate, if he were to get in, what would all this mean for the technology industry?

Well, as one person suggests semi-flippantly: “Considering he wants to build a wall between him and Mexico, I would imagine the sales of surveillance systems would skyrocket.”  

It would be very easy to get het up about Trump’s more lunatic suggestions here. But this is covered extensively elsewhere. And realistically if he were to achieve office, many commentators believe, he might have to ditch some of his madder ideas as untenable.

So, specifics aside, how would his broader policies around ‘Making America Great Again (!)’ impact global technology?

“The entire tech revolution of the last twenty-five years has been based on the free flow of ideas internationally and eliminating barriers between peoples,” says Emma Smith, CEO of Memberoo, a platform for customer engagement based on a digital loyalty app.

“The protectionism espoused by Mr Trump are enemies of progress, and as a tech entrepreneur I worry about any US President pursuing a nakedly 'America First' policy. Even if a future President Trump's policies do not directly hinder the spread of technology and innovation, American governmental policies are still hugely influential in a wide range of spheres.

“When my company begins exporting our ideas to the rest of the world in coming months, I don't want it to be in a context where British technology is mistrusted for being foreign.”

Ian Tomlinson, CEO and founder of Cybertill, which provides multi-channel solutions to retailers in the UK and US adds:

“Lower business tax rates, combined with lower tax rates from the middle class down will mean businesses may find it easier to add more people. This will lead to the ability to grow businesses of all kinds, including technology companies but it's likely Trump would make it harder for US-based tech companies to rely on outsourced labour.”

He continues: “Trump's China trade reform could have a significant impact on cheap goods from China, and specifically goods in the technology sector. We may see some of the larger players receive quite a bit of incentive to move manufacturing home.”

On a more positive note he says: “Ending corporate tax loopholes will mean that smaller technology companies will be able to compete better.”

Donald Trump is such a divisive, pantomime figure that it is hard to believe an individual like that could have come as far as he already has. Yet he is a highly successful individual, adept at playing the public and has been a celebrity for decades. Beyond the inflammatory soundbites and ceaseless rabble rousing must operate some form of cold, calculated business logic.

What do you think this means for the tech industry?

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