President of Microsoft Brad Smith on stage addressing the audience at Web Summit 2018.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
January 14, 2019

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Good morning from Redmond, Wash., where I’m spending the day soaking up some wisdom at Microsoft.

In preparation for my day I perused this “top 10 tech issues for 2019” post that Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote on LinkedIn, which Microsoft owns. I somehow expected this list to focus on the top commercial aspects of tech in the coming year. But that’s not what Smith, Microsoft’s top lawyer and policy executive who has written recently on the need for regulations around facial recognition, means by “issues.”

Instead, Smith is focused on the interplay between big technology companies and society. Topics like privacy, ethical artificial intelligence, protectionism, “disinformation,” and the human impacts of technology top his list.

The technology industry has been branded over the years as not caring all that much about people. Even the industry’s leading humanist, Steve Jobs, ultimately judged the success of his wares by whether they delighted customers, not if they were good for society. The industry is evolving.

I’ll share what I learn tomorrow.

***

The Wall Street Journal wrote a provocative story over the weekend suggesting that as all devices become smarter, smartphones will become less singularly interesting. The word lover in me paid careful attention to the paper’s astute observation that before too long we’ll need a new word for smartphones themselves, a neologism meant to convey the progression from “feature” phones, which used to be called cell phones. I sense a retronym in the making: Perhaps we’ll merely call them “phones.”

Adam Lashinsky
@adamlashinsky
adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

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