Obama to host tech conference in Pittsburgh

Obama to host tech conference in Pittsburgh
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The White House will host a conference on innovation in October, it announced Tuesday, as President Obama moves to cement his legacy on tech issues.

The gathering, called the White House Frontiers Conference, will focus on a wide portfolio, from personal medicine to artificial intelligence.

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Programs at the event will be divided into categories like Personal Frontiers, including innovations in healthcare, as well as broader categories focusing on local, national, global and even interplanetary advances.

“The conference will focus on building U.S. capacity in science, technology, and innovation, and the new technologies, challenges and goals that will continue to shape the 21st century and beyond,” John P. Holdren, the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith said in a blog post.

The event is being hosted with the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, the latter of which is known for its computer science program.

Obama will also “guest-edit” Wired Magazine’s November issue as a tie-in to the conference.

“We want to wrestle with the idea of how today’s technology can influence political leadership,” said Wired editor-in-chief Scott Dadich in a post announcing the collaboration. “And who better to help us explore these ideas than President Obama?”

Obama will be traveling to Pennsylvania for the conference at a time when he is focused on establishing his legacy. He has made technology policy — and better utilizing tech in government — a core part of his tenure, and the White House indicated it viewed the conference as a part of that effort.

“Over the past 8 years, President Obama has committed his Administration to reinvigorating and broadening participation in the American scientific enterprise through a strong commitment to basic and applied research, innovation, modernization, and education,” Holdren and Smith wrote.

“As part of delivering on this commitment, we look forward to celebrating progress to date and convening an inspiring cross-sector, action-oriented discussion about the path forward at the White House Frontiers Conference in October.”

While in office, Obama has built links between Silicon Valley and the White House by establishing the United States Digital Service, a new way to engineers to work on projects for the federal government.

And he has weighed in on contentious tech policy issues, including the debates over net neutrality and how to modernize the market for television set-top boxes.

Though the White House did not disclose any other details of the president's trip, the event will put the president in a crucial presidential swing state — and one that is key to Democrats' hopes of taking back the Senate — less than a month before election day.

The president has also expressed a personal interest in the tech industry as he thinks about what to do when he leaves the White House.

“Well, you know, it’s hard to say,” he told Bloomberg when asked this year what industries he could see himself working in should he enter the private sector.

“But what I will say is that — just to bring things full circle about innovation — the conversations I have with Silicon Valley and with venture capital pull together my interests in science and organization in a way I find really satisfying.”