What Donald Trump’s Win Could Mean for the Science and Tech Sectors

Image credit: DonkeyHotey via Wikimedia Commons

Image credit: DonkeyHotey via Wikimedia Commons

The results are in and Donald Trump is inevitably set to become the 45th president of the United States of America. It’s a controversial win marked by protests across the nation. Trump is without a doubt a divisive figure and he is already rattling the tech industry.

It is widely believed that technology played a major role in the victory of Trump. It is said that his campaign made heavy use of social media and as Hillary Clinton alleged, Russia was trying to influence the election results by revealing hacked information that could help Trump win the presidency. However, his campaign has not really shown him talk much about his plans for the sci-tech fields. What does a Trump presidency mean to science and technology in the United States and in the whole world in general?

Getting Back at the Tech Industry?

It’s no secret that Trump is not in good terms with most of the tech industry in the United States. There have been a number of instances when he clashed with major US tech companies. He has a feud with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. He has attacked Apple for its reliance on foreign manufacturers. Back in July, tech leaders have signed an open letter assailing Trump, tagging him as a “disaster for innovation.” The signatories believe that Trump’s policy statements regarding technology have been erratic and contradictory, and that he is unlikely to encourage companies to start and scale in the United States. He is also perceived to be a risk in distorting markets, reducing jobs generation, and slowing down exports.

Now that Trump has won, will the tech industry suffer a backlash? Will President-elect Trump childishly get back at those who criticized him? At least for “his first” attack, he didn’t really have to do anything much. His win alone already caused temblors on the stock prices of various tech companies. On November 9, the opening stock price of Amazon dropped 3.01% while others suffered price drops at 1% to 2%.

Image credit: Statista

Image credit: Statista

These stock price drops, however, are nothing compared to the other worries in the tech industry. Many in tech are opposed to Trump because of his potentially damaging policies, such as his stance on data privacy to telecommunications regulation. His stand on immigration is also a major drawback for tech staffing, although he has already started opening to the possibility of a compromise when he said that “we need highly skilled people in this country, and if we can’t do it, we’ll get them in.”

So far, Trump has not done anything significant that indicates his intention to get back at his critics in tech. Many are hoping that he can be more discerning and that he tones down the hardline policies he used during the campaign period now that he’s actually already won.

Trump on Science

Trump is without a doubt a non-authority when it comes to science. His stand on global warming alone is alarming enough. It does not feel reassuring that he has also once tweeted ridiculous science-related comments like when he said vaccinations are linked to autism and that wind farms are bad for people’s health. It’s not surprising that American Physical Society Director of Public Affairs Michael Lubell commented that “Trump will be the first anti-science president we have ever had.”

Based on Trump’s comments, the only area of science and technology that can expect a bright future under a Trump government is the commercial space industry. He once said that he wants to expand this industry.

People in the research community, on the other hand, don’t have a rosy outlook under a Trump presidency. Columbia University Geophysicist Robin Bell, in an interview with The Washington Post, said that there is a possibility that the US scientific infrastructure “is going to be on its knees” under Trump. Many other researchers have also told The Washington Post that Trump’s views on climate change make them worry about his perception and grasp of other scientific fields.

Peter Thiel Finally Wins a Bet

If there’s one sure winner in the tech industry with Trump’s win, it’s billionaire investor Peter Thiel. He is known to be the only prominent figure in the tech industry who had expressed support for Trump’s candidacy. With Trump’s win, it is expected that he will have the president-elect’s ears when it comes to tech concerns. But how does his seemingly solo act impact the tech industry (most of the tech industry is apparently still not in favor of Trump)?

Image credit: David Orban from Italy via Wikimedia Commons

Image credit: David Orban from Italy via Wikimedia Commons

Nobody can really come up with an accurate prediction. Thiel does not appear to have the inclination to serve at the White House so he is not expected to have a direct hand in policymaking. He is a well-known hedge fund manager and venture capitalist, and is associated with Facebook (Board member), PayPal (co-founder), and Y Combinator (partner). However, it’s not certain what kind of impact he will be bringing about for the tech industry under a Trump administration.

He may serve as a bridge for the tech industry and the Trump government as he claims that Trump actually has some “secret support” in the Silicon Valley. Thiel asserts that people should look beyond Trump’s personal failings and aim to revamp the prevailing system that has been “enriching coastal elites” while alienating many others.

Trump, overall, is perceived to be a foreboding figure in the scientific and technological fields. He is not seen as the best leader that will drive science and technology forward. However, there’s also no certainty that he will bring science and technology to a downward spiral. There’s still hope that he can change his views. Personalities and organizations in the science and tech industries, in concert with politicians, need to unite and ensure that the views of one man does not put centuries of scientific and technological progress to a halt.