TheBridge profile: Joseph Lorenzo Hall
Name: Joseph Lorenzo Hall
Current city: Washington, DC
Current job: Chief Technologist at Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT)
Past job: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Helen Nissenbaum (NYU)/Ed Felten (Princeton)/Deirdre Mulligan (UC Berkeley)
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting? Le Pain Quotidien, 14th and K.
Q. Describe how a skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your current job. In my first research job after having been a pastry chef, an astrophysicist taught me that you have to do *both* theory and experimentation to be good at observing the world around you and then in graduate school I learned similarly that people familiar with both quantitative and qualitative methods are more effective at figuring out what the problems are and how to fix them.
Q. Job advice in three words? Always be learning.
Q. How are you (or your company) currently bridging the gap between politics, tech and regulation? We sit directly in the nexus of tech and policy, which often rubs right against politics. Our main approach is demystifying policy and law for technical folks and vice versa in terms of explaining technical topics to the policymaking community.
Q. What can innovators learn from policymakers? They can learn, in the words of the women of the Bombshell natsec podcast, that "process is their valentine"; that is, there are often complex ways that the law and regulation work in certain manners and understanding why that is makes it easier to do new things and correct problems from things that have outlived their welcome.
Q. What can policymakers learn from innovators? How fast the real world is moving; it's quite literally moving faster than we can describe newer technologies to them in terms that policymakers can understand.
Q. Favorite book you recommend? I have a lot of favorite books, but Robert Ruark's "Something of Value" affected me pretty profoundly when I was young. Two friends of very different races become opposite counterparts during Kenya's Mau Mau revolution.
Q. Looking back, what advice would you give yourself in the beginning of your career? You will never have tons of time to study subjects as intently as you do in undergraduate and graduate education... if you don't learn what you need to do what you like, you'll only be catching up later in life! It's not impossible to teach old dogs new tricks but dang you'll have a better life and career if you focus on skills that you know you need to do the things you see people doing that you want to do.
Q: Favorite under the radar company? I'm going to cheat and pick one for-profit company Tall Poppy and Voting Works. Tall Poppy is focused on making online harassment protection part of employee benefits, so that can be available to all. Voting Works, a new company CDT is incubating, will be a nonprofit voting machine vendor, focusing on making highly secure, usable, accessible, and verifiable election technology!
Q. If you had to live in another city, which would it be? I was born in Albuquerque, NM and every day that I spend away from the southwest United States piles up additional longing... something to look forward to in retirement!
Q. Favorite app? In newer iPhones the double camera set-up on the rear-facing side of the phone allows for a "measurement app" which can measure lengths pretty accurately. It's frankly amazing.
Q. Living person you admire? I have a set of nine mentors whom I admire greatly, but I'll highlight my PhD adviser, Pam Samuelson. It's hard to describe the impact she has had on the world and on me specifically. Pam and her husband Bob are the reason there are high-tech legal clinics in each Court District in the United States. She co-founded the EFF. And her scholarship and strategic acumen is unparalleled.
Don’t miss another profile, click here to sign up for our bi-weekly updates with featured profiles.