Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio said Thursday that the popular "Minecraft" video game is a good example of how to prepare young people for the new economy.
The Florida senator visited the Lamp Post Group, a startup incubator in Chattanooga, to discuss his plans for promoting innovation. Rubio said a key part of that is for the government to avoid new regulations and to roll back existing ones that can serve as barriers to entry.
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"What we're facing is not an economic downturn, it's a massive transformation," Rubio said. "The longer we wait, the more opportunities are going to leave us behind, and eventually the future leaves us behind."
It's the latest in a series of meetings that the 44-year-old candidate has held with entrepreneurs to tout his credentials as the candidate who understands both the traditional and new economies.
"Convincing people that this is a generational choice — where we have entered a new era of human history and you need to be led by people who understand it — is important," Rubio said.
Chattanooga promotes itself as the Gig City because of the super-fast broadband that is available throughout the service area of its electric utility.
Rubio met with several entrepreneurs, including moving service Bellhops, which coordinates the logistics of managing thousands of college student contractors around the country; image digitizer Southtree; and Torch, the makers of a Wi-Fi router designed to give parents more control over their children's online behavior.
Rubio said his limited-government philosophy translates well to tech-savvy young people who have come to rely on innovations like online ride-sharing service Uber instead of traditional taxis.
"Virtually every traditional economic business model is today endangered by innovation," Rubio said. "Our job is to make sure that we don't do anything in government to stop that creative destruction."
As president, Rubio said he would change the education system to focus on more real-world skills.
Rubio said children playing "Minecraft" don't even realize they are learning elements of computer skills they may use later in life.
"Minecraft" allows players to explore and create virtual worlds built from blocky 3-D objects. Microsoft acquired its developer, Mojang, for $2.5 billion last year.
"If you play 'Minecraft,' you're basically writing code when you're converting a hammer into a pickax," Rubio said. "Kids might not realize they're coding, but that's going to be almost a basic proficiency just because of the way they grew up."
Weston Wamp, a co-founder of the Lamp Post Group who has twice run for Congress, told Rubio he was impressed by his comments.
"We just hope you know what an advantage it is as a 44-year-old candidate for president that you know what 'Minecraft' is," Wamp said. "That's the proof you can bridge that gap."