Mark Cuban Thinks Government Still Needs Thoughtful Disruption

By SUSAN LAHEY
Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Mark Cuban, Adam Lyons and Michelle Skelding at SXSW, photos by Susan Lahey.

In his heart, Mark Cuban says, he’s a libertarian.

Cuban supports the Trump administration’s efforts to get rid of excessive regulation. But there’s a difference between regulations designed to protect interests with money and regulations designed to protect people.

Cuban spoke at a keynote discussion on Sunday with Adam Lyons, co-founder of Austin’s The Zebra, a car insurance aggregation site. Cuban was an early investor in The Zebra. Michelle Skelding, an Austin-based global technology consultant, moderated the panel on the topic “Is Government Disrupting Disruption?” A lined formed around the block an hour before the discussion began and the ballroom quickly reached capacity.

As an example of government disruption, Cuban noted how he invested in Austin’s BeatBox Beverages, which manufactures party drinks, and also invested in a bar before learning that people aren’t allowed to own a part of a manufacturer of alcohol and also own part of a bar. He now has to disentangle his interests.

“There’s a difference between a regulation that protects somebody and regulations that protect all of us in some way because someone in the past was short sighted,” Cuban said. “In my mind those are good regulations…. Getting rid of regulations for short term thinking in an effort to try to create jobs when it won’t, that is the biggest myth.”

Cuban’s position on regulation has evolved, he said.

“As a country we have a balance sheet. We’ve taken on a responsibility for citizens and those create a liability…Reagan said you can’t fall over dead in the streets. We have to take you in and stabilize you,” Cuban said. “Those regulations are good. When we think the citizenry deserves something and that is a right you amend the Constitution to that. Healthcare for chronic illnesses and serious illnesses is a right…we all play the genetic lottery every day. Some disease is going to come out and we’re fucked. A toilet comes out of space labs and hits you on the head, you’re fucked. There should be healthcare for that.”

Next Up for Disruption: Tech

Lyons’ company has been called the Kayak of car insurance. He said they had to work within all the regulations of the insurance industry, using publicly available documents, to guide how they created the company. His company has more than 100 insurance certifications. A graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia, which has a top ranked program in risk management and insurance, Lyons said he was intrigued by the fact that Lloyd’s of London, a shipping company, created insurance to protect its investments if the ships sank.

When Cuban got an initial email from Lyons, he said, he believed the car insurance agency was ripe for disruption. That’s what caught his interest. But, he also said, everything can be disrupted. He made a mistake not investing in Uber because of all the regulatory hurdles. Everything, Cuban said, can be disrupted. The rule should still be “Ready, fire, aim.”

One of the prime targets for disruption may be the tech industry itself, Cuban said. While everyone is pushing STEM degrees, much of the work now done by mathematicians will be done in the future using machine learning and artificial intelligence. It would be better to have a philosophy degree and a knowledge of foreign languages than a math degree because deep learning, neural networks, and critical thinking will be the tasks left to humans. That’s the kind of thing that people—or the government—need to take to small towns that have lost manufacturing jobs, Cuban said.

Calling Donald Trump the “Zoolander President,” Cuban is toying with the idea of running in 2020 because “it would be nice to have a president who knows how to use a search engine.” Trump’s idea of efficiency, he said, is that Cuban sends him an email, Trump’s secretary prints it out, Trump writes a reply by hand, then the secretary scans it and sends it back as an attachment.

“He has never written an email in his life,” Cuban said. What’s worse, though, is that he believes Trump hasn’t read a book in 30 years.

“I like my presidents to read.”

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