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CEO Daily: Friday, May 22

May 22, 2015, 10:47 AM UTC

Two words for this year’s graduate: Data science.


“Big data” has arrived, and every company has servers stuffed with information about customers, employees, equipment, and more. But few know what to do with it. That’s why “data scientist” has become today’s hot job category. (At Time Inc., we just hired one.) Fortune’s Barb Darrow attended a big data conference in Boston yesterday, at which virtually every speaker bemoaned the shortage of data scientists. The top-paying listings on Facebook and LinkedIn are no longer for software engineers, according to Sirish Raghuram, CEO of the cloud startup Platform9, but for data scientists.


Supply will eventually catch up with this roaring demand. A bigger question for the class of 2015 may be this: given that galloping advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence will eventually eliminate the need for data scientists in processing all this information, what jobs will be left for humans in the future?


I spent yesterday at my nephew’s graduation from St. Andrew’s School in Delaware – where Dead Poets Society was filmed – and listened to venture capitalist Scott Sipprelle take a stab at answering that question. “I assure you,” he told the graduates, “that the most important human qualities that live at the core of human inspiration, success and excellence cannot and will not be replaced by machines.” Let’s hope he’s right.


Carpe diem.





Alan Murray

Top News

FCC isn't against all cable mergers

The Federal Communications Commission chairman has sent a message to cable CEOs: it was against the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal, but that doesn't mean all future cable mergers are doomed. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler called cable executives to let them know they shouldn't assume the agency is against consolidation. Each potential deal would be viewed on their own merits, he said.  WSJ (subscription required)

 More details about the HP split

CEO Meg Whitman gave analysts an update on HP's efforts to split its businesses into two separate companies, saying "Today I'm more convinced than ever that this is the right thing to do." Overall, HP's quarterly revenue dropped but breaking it down by segment, it is clear that the company's enterprise business has a lot more momentum than its PC and printer business.  Fortune

 Merkel disses Greek PM's actions

Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras gatecrashed a meeting on E.U. policy in the hope he could wring concessions out of a small number of key decision-makers rather than the massed ranks of his creditors. No dice. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters there was no way around a three-way solution with the institutions that are overseeing the bailout negotiations: the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.  Fortune

 Hong Kong investors want oversight

After some $35 billion in market value was erased from three Hong Kong-listed firms over just two days, investors are asking if the city's regulators should have done more to prevent the sharp selloff. The volatility highlights the need for regulators to keep pace with the boom in China's stock markets. There were also concerns about broader, long term implications. "When retail investors are upset, they protest. When foreign investors get burnt they will never come back," said one chief investment officer.  Bloomberg

 Senate clears trade deal bill

Republicans and a small group of Democrats were able to rescue President Obama's trade agenda from the brink of failure, clearing a key hurdle in the Senate but leaving the final outcome in doubt. Some popular proposals could dent the legislation's chances, and the bill's fate in the House remains a tossup. Still, the victory on Thursday kept Obama's bid to secure a broad trade deal with Pacific Rim nations alive for now.  Washington Post

Around the Water Cooler

 Lean times for the diet industry

77% of Americans are actively trying to eat healthier, according to a poll conducted this month for Fortune by Survey Monkey—but only 19% say they’re on a diet. Americans are focusing more on health first, and calories second. The result? Crimped revenues for companies in the business of helping people lose weight. Revenue has tumbled for market leader Weight Watchers, as well as at Jenny Craig, Medifast and Nutrisystem.  Fortune

 Egg prices set to soar

Egg prices at retailers are expected to rise as producers face steep financial costs tied to the worst U.S. bird-flu outbreak in history, forcing some poultry companies to suspend operations and thus boost prices for eggs and turkeys as supplies tighten. Avian influenza has resulted in the deaths or extermination of at least 38.9 million birds, more than double the previous major U.S. outbreak in the 1980s.  WSJ (subscription required)

 Startups aren't delivering on worker promises

Startups like Uber, Lyft and TaskRabbit promise they can offer higher wages per hour while letting contractors flexibility. But this week, a broad survey of on-demand workers found they encountered lower pay than they expected and also discovered they had to work longer hours in general because systems weren't as flexible as they had assumed. But there was one bright spot: people are leaving on-demand work after realizing the promises don't hold up.  Wired

 Uber is testing a self-driving car

Uber, the ride hailing service, may have found a solution to complaints about how it screens the background of its drivers: self-driving cars. The startup has started testing a self-driving car as part of a plan to automate rides and eliminate the cost of drivers. A test car was recently spotted on the road in Pittsburgh, where Uber has opened a research lab.  Fortune

Fortune's 5 things to know today

Merkel disses Greece, and Campbell Soup — 5 things to know today. Today's story can be found here.