The daily download on the business of technology.
Retired Stanford computer science professor Terry Winograd is known as much for what he’s done as whom he’s taught. A renowned expert on artificial intelligence long before AI became sexy in the corner office, Winograd advised Larry Page on his graduate research at Stanford. Page repaid his teacher by asking him to advise Google, for which Winograd reaped riches in the form of Google stock.
It may come as a bit of a surprise, then, that Winograd is gently biting the hand that enriched him, namely the technology community. He’s an admirer of a book by former Microsoft researcher Kentaro Toyama called Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology. In a speech this weekend to the American Jewish World Service, a relief organization, Winograd praised Toyama for recognizing that technology companies don’t so much to change the world as amplify changes that are already underway.
Winograd was being honored by AJWS, which he has supported financially. He was introduced at the event by another famous former student, Marissa Mayer. Winograd’s point wasn’t so much to diminish the gains of technology as to urge more people to apply its lessons of success to achieving true social change. Relief organizations like AJWS, he argued, behave like good tech investors. They make small investments in programs that support leaders in the developing world, who will then have a large impact on the population. AJWS, said Winograd, fosters networks-just like good tech investors-because a network is more powerful than an individual actor. Good investors look for “game-changing” ideas, Winograd noted. AJWS advocates for rights because an expansion of rights leads to “fundamental change” in society.
Entrepreneurs like Peter Thiel have groused that too many inventors focus on creating better games for smartphones rather than making planes fly faster or ending disease. Terry Winograd makes a different case, that the lessons of Silicon Valley’s success can be applied to problems more important than, for example, and these are my words, better algorithmic searches.
Let me IM you about that. Corporate chatroom startup Slack Technologies is getting takeover overtures from companies including Amazon, Bloomberg reports. No deal is certain but a buyout would likely require $9 billion or more.
It’s the plumber, I’ve come to fix the sink. Boston-based Dispatch raised $12 million. The startup’s service allows people to schedule home improvement appointments, track their technicians, and contact someone for additional help if needed. (And a bonus video link for you non-Gen Xers who don’t get the reference.)
Taking our own sweet time. President Trump nominated Jessica Rosenworcel for the empty Democratic seat on the Federal Communications Commission. Rosenworcel served as an FCC commissioner for four years, until the end of 2016 when lawmakers failed to take up her re-nomination under former President Obama, which gave Republicans a 2-1 majority at the five-seat agency. Trump has not yet announced a nomination for the currently empty Republican seat.
Did I say that? Meanwhile, as the FCC moves closer to canceling its 2015 net neutrality rules, the cable industry undercut one of its biggest arguments for repeal. As is often the case, the industry’s leading trade group thought it was addressing a different audience and refuting a report on slow U.S. home Internet speeds. “This near-quadrupling of Internet speeds in just five years is the result of constant innovation cycles and aggressive deployment of new technologies across the country,” the NCTA said in a blog post. But at the FCC, net neutrality opponents claim investment went down because of the rules. Whoops.
Don’t need Taylor Swift. Getting close to going public, Spotify is showing explosive revenue growth, if not in profits. The world’s biggest music streaming service brought in about $3.2 billion last year, up more than 50% from 2015. An operating loss of $389 million grew just under 50%.
Downsizing media. It was a tough day for online news sites on Wednesday. The Huffington Post laid off about 40 people, Vocativ cut at least 20 people-its entire editorial staff-and Time Inc, the parent of Fortune, eliminated 300 jobs.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Apple CEO Tim Cook appears to be on one of his periodic openness and transparency tours. Today comes a lengthy interview with Bloomberg Businessweek editor Megan Murphy. It’s not the world’s most newsworthy set of answers, but Cook does discuss his sometimes-criticized approach to President Trump.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
A Bot to Schedule Your Meetings? Facebook Says It’s Possible by Barb Darrow
Instacart Will Deliver for Yet Another Grocery Chain by David Z. Morris
Netflix Limits How Many Times You Can Download Some Videos by Tom Huddleston, Jr.
Will Replacing Human Drivers With Self-Driving Cars Be Safer? by Jonathan Vanian
Here Are All the Top-Level Vacancies at Uber Right Now by Aric Jenkins
Here’s How Google Plans to Tackle Silicon Valley’s Housing Crunch by Don Reisinger
BEFORE YOU GO
There are quests and then there are QUESTS. Sports Illustrated reporter Michael McKnight, a 45-year-old dad who hadn’t played organized baseball since the seventh grade, wanted to see if he could hit a real home run. That is, could he train hard to enough to be able to hit a pitch out of a major league baseball stadium? I won’t spoil the ending of his well-written tale.