Gary Shapiro: CES 2020 -- Why our leaders need to look to Las Vegas

America isn’t just the land of opportunity. We’re also the land of ingenuity. From legendary innovators such as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford to today’s industry leaders, including Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Ginni Rometty and Meg Whitman, our country is full of talent that transforms our world.

Not coincidentally, many of those who helped make America a global leader also had a stint – if not an entire career – innovating. Benjamin Franklin is the classic example: In addition to his famous experiments with electricity and lightning, he also created bifocals and developed a new model for the stove.

There’s a reason innovators are often drawn to political leadership. The skills needed to succeed in one sector strongly resemble those it takes to succeed in the other. Innovators and legislators must be willing to revise their work based on the feedback and input of their peers. Both must also take risks and try new ideas, with no guarantee of eventual success.


Above all, innovators and political leaders thrive when they’re able to develop and share a vision – a vision of a better, brighter and stronger world that works for everyone. That’s what we do each year at the Consumer Electronics Show — the world’s largest, most influential tech event.

There’s no place like CES – no other place that offers as clear a vision of what the future will hold and how we can get there.

Since 1967, the show has attracted innovators from all over the world to unveil their most cutting-edge works. Many of the world’s most transformative technologies – from the VCR to the tablet to the 3D printer – debuted on the CES stage.

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And because the show is a proven hub for innovators, the show draws major political leaders as well. Policymakers at the local, national and international levels come to Vegas, looking for perspective on the latest trends in innovation. They want to see, touch and try products on technology’s leading edge to help them create a regulatory environment where ingenuity can truly thrive.


That perspective will become even more valuable in the years ahead. In prior generations, technology was a far more siloed industry, able to be compartmentalized in a government agency or committee. The omnipresence of the internet and the popularity of anytime/anywhere connectivity, however, have changed that.

Today, every company is, or needs to be, a tech company – and government leaders across all agencies and specialties have a vested interest in promoting the best in innovation.

CES is where leaders discuss these realities and address the implications for public policy. At CES 2020, we’ll hear discussions on drones, 5G and telecommunications, privacy, health tech and medicine, smart cities, AI and the future of the workforce.

This year, we welcome Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao; Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette; Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai; Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons; and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

I also look forward to welcoming Ivanka Trump, adviser to President Trump, who will take the CES keynote stage for a fireside chat with me about technology’s impact on 21st-century jobs and apprenticeships, as well as the future of workforce development.

Such cross-agency and cross-party collaboration is especially important in these politically fraught times. Stepping away from Washington, D.C., even for a few days, gives leaders the opportunity to temporarily lay aside partisan arguments and convene around the ideas and technologies that will power our future.

We’re also looking forward to hosting Mattia Fantinati, a member of parliament from the Republic of Italy, to speak on artificial intelligence and Dr. Anat Bonshtein, chairman and director of fuel choices and smart mobility initiative for the Israeli Prime Minister’s office speaking on Innovations in Transportation, among others.

At its core, this is a global show. Despite being located in the U.S., CES is fundamentally about spurring competition and innovation, and forming partnerships across national and international lines. By hearing from these international leaders, we can get a better sense of how other countries have promoted innovation and what new strategies we can adopt to strengthen America’s tech leadership.

This is exactly what we look at in our annual International Innovation Scorecard, which ranks countries on their innovation-friendly policies. This year, we’ll announce our domestic 2020 winners in CTA’s U.S. Innovation Scorecard.


We’re excited for the policy conversations that will emerge, and we invite all leaders – local, state, federal or international – to come join us. There’s no place like CES – no other place that offers as clear a vision of what the future will hold and how we can get there.

Working together, I’m confident we can harness American ingenuity to increase American opportunity, leading our nation to new heights of equal opportunity and liberty for all.