Data Sheet—Friday, September 2, 2016


Whether you believe the buzz about artificial intelligence is merely hype or that the technology represents the future, something undeniable is happening. Researchers are more easily solving decades-long problems like teaching computers to recognize images and understanding speech at a rapid space, and companies like Google and Facebook are pouring millions of dollars into their own related projects.

What could possibly go wrong?

For one thing, advances in artificial intelligence could eventually lead to unforeseen consequences. University of California at Berkeley professor Stuart Russell is concerned that powerful computers powered by artificial intelligence, or AI, could unintentionally create problems that humans cannot predict.

Consider an AI system that’s designed to make the best stock trades but has no moral code to keep it from doing something illegal. That’s why Russell and UC Berkeley debuted a new AI research center this week to address these potential problems and build AI systems that consider moral issues. Tech giants Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft are also teaming up to focus on the ethics challenges.

Similarly, Ilya Sutskever, the research director of the Elon Musk-backed OpenAI nonprofit, is working on AI projects independent from giant corporations. He and OpenAI believe those big companies could ignore AI’s potential benefit for humanity and instead focus the technology entirely on making money.

Russell compares the current state of AI to the rise of nuclear energy during the 1950s and 1960s, when proponents believed that “anyone who disagreed with them was irrational or crazy” for wanting robust safety measures that could hinder innovation and adoption. Sutskever says some AI proponents fail to consider the potential dangers or unintended consequences of the technology—just like some people were unable to grasp that widespread use of cars could lead to global warming.

Jonathan Vanian is a writer at Fortune. Reach him via email. Share this essay:



China is looking into the Uber-Didi deal. Antitrust authorities are concerned about the impact of the $35 billion union on consumers. While a rejection is unlikely, the government could impose pricing controls. (New York Times)

Samsung recalls Galaxy Note 7 over fire fears. The world's biggest smartphone maker is halting shipments after at least 35 reported instances of battery explosions and offering a full refund for customers who want to return theirs. Samsung has shipped more than 2.5 million units since Aug. 19. The timing couldn't be worse, as Apple preps its latest iPhone introduction Wednesday. (Wall Street Journal)

Google's parent scraps modular smartphone initiative. Alphabet is killing Project Ara, an effort that was working on mobile devices with interchangeable parts, according to several news reports. The move is apparently part of a broader restructuring of the company's hardware interests. (New York Times)

HP Enterprise mulls sale of software business. The company hopes to raise between $8 billion and $10 billion by divesting the unit, which reported $3.6 billion in revenue last year, reports Reuters. Among the assets it is shopping are Vertica, its big data analytics platform, and Verity, a system for data management. (Reuters)

SpaceX rocket explosion blows up Facebook satellite. Elon Musk's space exploration company lost another Falcon 9 on Thursday after it exploded during prelaunch tests. The incident destroyed a communications satellite that the social network was launching to bring Internet connectivity to Africa, where Mark Zuckerberg is traveling. (Time)

Get ready to pay more money to data specialists. Annual salaries for big data engineers will start at $135,000 next year, according to research by recruiter Robert Half. Raises for data scientists now average 6.4%. (Network World)

Researcher cuts smartphone forecast. Again. Consumers are buying fewer mobile devices (or upgrading them less often) especially in established economies. Projections from International Data Corp. now call for just 1.5% growth to around 1.46 billion units. It previously expected an expansion of 3.1%. (Wall Street Journal)


Where IBM's Influence Is Really Helping Box, by Heather Clancy

Salesforce Will Drop More Einstein Details Before Oracle Event,
by Barb Darrow

Apple's Twitter Account Is Waking Up, by David Meyer

Tesla's Cash Crunch May Be Worse Than You Think, by Shawn Tully

Verizon Touts New Service to Connect Smart Devices, by Aaron Pressman


Check out this robot tractor. The concept vehicle shown off this week in Iowa would let farmers plant and harvest crops via remote control and a mobile app. (Bloomberg)


BoxWorks: Box's annual customer conference. (Sept. 6-8; San Francisco)

The Exchange Community: Workiva's training and development event. (Sept. 7-9; San Diego)

nginx.conf: Strategies for application development and delivery. (Sept. 7-9; Austin, Texas)

Women in Product: A gathering of experienced female product managers. (Sept. 13; Menlo Park, Calif.)

GitHub Universe: For people building the future of software. (Sept. 13-15; San Francisco)

Oracle OpenWorld: The future of the cloud is now. (Sept. 18-22; San Francisco)

IBM Edge: Out-think the status quo. (Sept. 19-22; Las Vegas)

Hosting and Cloud Transformation: 451 Research's annual summit. (Sept. 19-22; Las Vegas)

Gigaom Change: 7 transformational technologies. (Sept. 21-23; Austin)

Lesbians Who Tech + Allies Summit: Exploring solutions for ad, health, and finance technology. (Sept. 22-25; New York)

Workday Rising: Talent management in the cloud. (Sept. 26-29; Chicago)

Microsoft Ignite: Product road maps and innovation. (Sept. 26-30; Atlanta)

Adapt or Die: Apigee's #DigitalKnowHow world tour. (Sept. 27; San Francisco)

Dreamforce: The Salesforce ecosystem meets. (Oct. 4-7; San Francisco)

Atlassian Summit: Tips and training for developers and project managers. (Oct. 10-13; San Jose, Calif.)

Virtuous Circle: The future of the Internet ecosystem. (Oct. 10-11; Menlo Park, Calif.)

Gartner Symposium/ITexpo: A gathering of CIOs and senior IT leaders.  (Oct. 16-20; Orlando, Fla.)

DellWorld: Dell's annual global customer conference. (Oct. 18-20; Austin, Texas)

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing: The world's largest gathering of women technologists. (Oct. 19-21; Houston)

QuickBooks Connect: Intuit's third annual customer and developer conference. (Oct. 24-26; San Jose, Calif.)

World of Watson: The power of data, analytics, and cognitive. (Oct. 24-27; Las Vegas)

AI World: Business applications for artificial intelligence. (Nov. 7-9; San Francisco)

TBM Conference: Manage the business of IT. (Nov. 7-10; San Diego)

DevOps Enterprise Summit: Develop and deploy software faster. (Nov. 7-9; San Francisco)

Drone World Expo: Commercial apps for unmanned aircraft. (Nov. 15-16; San Jose, Calif.)

AWS re:Invent: Amazon's annual cloud conference. (Nov. 28-Dec. 2; Las Vegas)


This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.

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