By Geoff Colvin and Ryan Derousseau
June 23, 2016

-Remain’s proponent problem. Britain is voting on Brexit as this newsletter goes out to readers, and I’ve given up trying to guess the outcome. But the whole saga has posed an unusual dilemma for leaders, exemplified in the letter signed by 1,280 CEOs favoring Remain published in yesterday’s Times of London. You might suppose that in a debate overwhelmingly about economics, CEOs’ views would carry some weight, and no doubt they will. The trouble is that CEOs are exactly the figures least likely to persuade the people they’re trying to persuade.

We should be careful drawing parallels between the Leave phenomenon and the TrumpSanders phenomenon, but they have this in common: They’re driven by rejection of established authority, and the more that powers of the establishment criticize them, the stronger they become. So when over a thousand CEOs tell Leave backers they’re wrong, what more do they need to know? They see it as further evidence that they’re right.

Not that I blame the CEOs for signing the letter. It might sway a few undecided voters, which is probably the best that could be hoped for. But even if the Leavers lose, they’ve created a movement just as the Trumpkins and the Sandernistas have, and leaders will continue to face the question of how to deal with all of them.

-Which way would robots vote? I’ve been preaching for a while that all leaders need to think hard about robots and artificial intelligence because they’re going to reshape our world profoundly and sooner than most think. Latest evidence: a draft motion before the European parliament to give robots legal status as “electronic persons with specific rights and obligations.” Companies using robots would apparently have to pay tax on the money they save on social security contributions by not employing humans, among other requirements.

Yes, this is ridiculous, but it reflects growing anxiety over technology’s threat to human employment. The threat is still theoretical; for all we know, robots may create more and better jobs, just as advancing technology has been doing for 200 years. But more people than usual worry that this time is different, and there’s no denying that it feels different. Google researchers and academic scientists recently published a paper on preventing accidents in AI systems, and a Russian robot has reportedly “escaped” from its lab – twice – and disrupted traffic. Duke University researchers have created a processor especially for one of the hardest tasks in robotics, “motion planning” – for example, reaching into the back of a crowded refrigerator to pull out a bottle. And that’s just from this week’s news.

Getting ahead of this issue means listening to people who sound nuts as well as those who don’t. It’s a good moment to remember the seemingly crazy people who foretold the financial crisis in 2007 and the Internet’s potential in 1992, and to seek out their equivalents today.

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