Going West: Palo Alto event showcases Harvard tech startup scene

July 12, 2019

“Bear with me,” Jonathan Zittrain urged the audience as his talk — up to this point, a romp through the early history of the internet — lurched into Kantian philosophy: “I’m about to get all ‘East Coast’ on you.”

Zittrain, faculty director of Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, was in Palo Alto, Calif., delivering an energetic presentation on the ethical responsibilities of tech companies toward consumers in the era of artificial intelligence. About the shift of technology environments from unowned to owned and tightly controlled, he asked, “When is it that ‘can’ implies ‘ought’?”

His provocative keynote was the culmination of a Harvard Tech Startup Night hosted by Harvard Office of Technology Development (OTD) and the law firm WilmerHale at its Palo Alto offices.

The soirée on June 26 showcased six early-stage startups that are commercializing innovations developed in Harvard research labs. Though all are based in the Northeast, the event provided an opportunity for the company founders to expand their West Coast connections and for Harvard to raise the profile of its tech startup scene in the heart of Silicon Valley.

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