Gary Shapiro '77, president and chief executive officer of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), speaks with Coralie Brutus, an industrial and systems engineering major from Stony Brook, during a book signing after Shapiro spoke to the Binghamton Forum on March 31 at Traditions at the Glen.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Consumer Electronics Association leader touts innovationTweet
Innovation is the key to the nation’s ability to succeed, Gary Shapiro ‘77, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, told the Binghamton University Forum on March 31.
“Our ability to innovate depends on certain things that historically we’ve done right, but we are making decisions that are wrong,” he said. “One of the biggest is shutting the doors to the best and the brightest.”
Shapiro told the Forum members gathered for the luncheon at Traditions at the Glen that he was returning to Binghamton for the first time since graduating as a double major in economics and psychology. He has led the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) since 1991, overseeing a trade association that includes more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies and offers an annual trade show that last year attracted 140,000 people and 5,000 journalists.
In January, Shapiro released his first book, The Comeback: How Innovation Can Restore the American Dream. The book was the result of the CEA board deciding that the future health of the U.S. economy and innovation and technology were related.
“We ended up with a consensus that this is a serious enough issue where we had to focus our energies on it,” Shapiro said.
The deficit is the big, looming issue affecting the country and its states, he said.
“When you have a situation like we are in, you have three choices: raise taxes, cut spending or grow,” Shapiro said. “And the way to grow is through
The first factor to ensure innovation is keeping “the best and the brightest” immigrants in the United States, he said.
“We’re trying to shift the tone of the debate,” said Shapiro, who dedicated The Comeback to immigrants. “It’s now all about illegal immigration. I think it should be about strategic immigration. It should not be ‘Who do you not want here?’ It’s ‘Who do you want here?’ We should go after those people.”
The second essential area is the return of free trade: “The rest of the world is signing free-trade agreements with each other,” he said. “We haven’t entered one free-trade agreement in four years. We can’t even get a free-trade agreement with Korea. We’ve had 30,000 troops there for 40 years, but we can’t fully trade with them.”
Shapiro noted that the United States is already at an advantage to make innovation work, thanks to unparalleled research at universities and an entrepreneurial mindset that starts with children and lemonade stands. Today’s entrepreneur may not need more than a computer and a broadband connection, he said.
“The ability to be connected to your environment is going to continue to accelerate,” he said. “There are going to be tremendous opportunities there. I think our goal as a nation has to be to make the United States stand in the lead in these areas.”
From a technological perspective, Shapiro said more spectrum is needed as more people shift large amounts of data on smartphones. He also believes cars will soon become connected to the Internet and miniature sensing devices will continue to be part of the mainstream.
“Creative people are coming up with clever ways of integrating them into useful products,” he said. “What we’ve seen in iPhone apps has been phenomenal. There are 300,000 apps for a product that didn’t exist four years ago.”
Having a 3-year-old child has given Shapiro reason to speak out about the future, he said.
“My generation is the only generation that can look its kids in the eyes and say, ‘We gave you our problems. We didn’t sacrifice,’” he said. “There are (young people) sacrificing in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t know why we can’t sacrifice as adults.”
Shapiro, who helped lead the transition to high-definition television, told Forum members that part of his job is going up against former Washington, D.C., heavyweights. For example, former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith leads the National Association of Broadcasters, while former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman was chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America. The big-name adversaries do not intimidate Shapiro.
“It’s OK. I’m a Binghamton grad,” he said. “I can handle it.”