In 2017, protesting the presidential inauguration is just as fashionable as attending it, if not more so. President-elect Donald Trump has struggled to convince artists to perform at his ceremony, dozens of Democratic lawmakers will be skipping the event, and thousands of women said they plan to march on Washington the following day in protest.
One person who will be attending is Crystal Rose, a tech entrepreneur.
Rose is the co-founder and chief operating officer of Sensay, a Los Angeles startup whose chatbot algorithmically connects humans anonymously to one another so they can chat about a variety of topics. She is an entrepreneur who is passionate about technology, especially when it comes to artificial intelligence, automation, and the sharing economy. And on Friday, Rose and her partner will be in Washington to witness Trump's swearing in as our nation's 45th president.
"We have to come to the table and bring our knowledge," Rose says. "The decision has already been made, and this happens to be the president that we have, so let's work with it."
For Rose, the decision to attend the inauguration came with conflict.
"Going to the inauguration certainly has a stigma. Everyone colors political statements with their own perceptions," Rose says. "I have to make sure I am representing the interests of my industry as a whole, regardless of my political views."
But despite Trump's polarizing effect, the fact is that he will become the next president of the United States, and for an entrepreneur like Rose, it is important that Trump and Silicon Valley maintain a rapport. A healthy relationship could mean the difference between policies that empower the tech sector or regulation that could stifle innovation.
"If the people in the administration are unfamiliar with technology, it's our responsibility to be the educators," she said.
Since his days on the campaign trail, Trump relationship with Silicon Valley has been a tricky one.
During the campaign, many in the industry donated thousands if not millions of dollars to Trump's opponents. Some, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, publicly criticized Trump. The president-elect's policies, particularly on social issues, are in direct conflict with many of the values the tech industry claims to hold and has previously fought for. And when it comes to technology, Trump has made several statements that are alarming to those in the industry -- he once called on his supporters to boycott Apple, he has called for closing down parts of the internet, and he is famously not a fan of computers.
Since Trump's election, the relationship has evolved. The president-elect met with several tech leaders at Trump Tower in December, and he has picked several technologists, including Musk, as special advisers. At the same time, Trump has exerted his force on companies that do not bow to his every wish -- Twitter was notably left out of that tech summit after the company declined to make Trump his own emoji. And he has yet to address some key technology questions facing the country, notably how the U.S. will deal with artificial intelligence and automation, which pose at least as great a threat to blue collar jobs as the shipment of jobs to foreign countries.
That's exactly why Rose is headed to Washington. "If there is an ignorance around what automation means or what artificial intelligence means then the administration will likely stifle that innovation," Rose says. "That's why I want to have those conversations."
Rose declined to say whom she voted for or whether she voted in this election at all. For her, this trip is not an exercise of support but rather the collaboration of innovators and policy makers.
"If innovators are collaborating with people in the administration and policymakers, we're going to push forward in a much more positive way," Rose says. "My goal is to have a voice at the table."