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Deep Learning Could Be the Next Internet

We’re taking a break today from the election and corporate scandals to do something that most leaders–in fact, most people–generally, don’t do often enough: Thinking great big thoughts about how technology will change our lives. Many CEOs tell me their greatest fear is being blindsided by a competitor they never even thought of as a competitor, threatening to make the CEO’s business irrelevant by using technology and a business model the CEO hadn’t imagined. It’s a main challenge now — simply imagining what might be possible as technology advances ever faster.

That’s why I urge you to read Roger Parloff’s new cover story on deep learning, how it’s changing our lives, and how, as he says, it “will soon transform corporate America,” and business globally for that matter.

This is the technology powering the hugely improved speech recognition in so many products, including the Google Home device introduced yesterday as the company’s answer to Amazon’s Echo. Roger notes that Google Translate now “renders spoken sentences in one language into spoken sentences in another for 32 pairs of languages, while offering text translations for 103 tongues, including Cebuano, Igbo, and Zulu.” Deep learning is why software is now better than humans at pattern recognition and will soon read x-rays, for example, better than radiologists do; maybe it does so already. It’s critical to the development of self-driving cars. It’s why search engines can now distinguish pictures of dogs from pictures of wolves.

Remember that just five years ago, technology performed such tasks poorly or not at all. What’s happening now is a sudden explosion of change built on 60 years of computer science. Computing power’s steady advance combined with specific new chip designs, fast-improving algorithms, and virtually limitless data available online are together sparking “deep learning’s Cambrian explosion,” says Frank Chen, a partner at the Andreessen Horowitz venture capital firm.

We’ve all been reading a lot about artificial intelligence (AI), but we now must understand finer distinctions. Within AI is a set of techniques called machine learning, enabling computers to get better at tasks with practice. And within machine learning is deep learning, involving algorithms by which computers train themselves using multi-layered neural networks and vast quantities of data. If you don’t really understand that, you’d better read the article.

Many business leaders probably underestimate the significance of what’s happening. As Roger explains:

“Indeed, corporations just may have reached another inflection point. ‘In the past,’ says Andrew Ng, chief scientist at Baidu Research, ‘a lot of S&P 500 CEOs wished they had started thinking sooner than they did about their Internet strategy. I think five years from now there will be a number of S&P 500 CEOs that will wish they’d started thinking earlier about their AI strategy.’

Even the Internet metaphor doesn’t do justice to what AI with deep learning will mean, in Ng’s view. ‘AI is the new electricity,’ he says. ‘Just as 100 years ago electricity transformed industry after industry, AI will now do the same.’”

Are you fully imagining what deep learning might mean in your business? For all of us who give the same unsatisfactory answer, this new cover story will help us meet today’s crucial challenge of imagination.

 

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What We’re Reading Today

Twitter fielding buyout bids this week 
Marc Benioff‘s Salesforce, Larry Page‘s Alphabet and even Bob Iger‘s Disney reportedly have expressed interest in buying Jack Dorsey‘s company. Those bidding would possibly need to come in north of $20 billion for Twitter to even consider selling, but even then it could side with continuing as an independent company. WSJ

VP candidates battle it out
Mike Pence and Tim Kaine had their one (and only) vice-presidential debate, and it was contentious. Pence managed to sidestep most questions regarding Donald Trump‘s plans on immigration and his ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kaine tried hard to put Pence on the defensive, but Pence held steady, even if he distanced himself from some of Trump’s more controversial statements.  Washington Post

Google launches new phone to challenge Apple… 
…but it could hurt Samsung more. While Google’s Pixel phone looks eerily similar to an iPhone, it still runs on Android software. This could pit Sundar Pichai‘s Google phone against some of the company’s largest partners, including its top phone manufacturer Samsung.  Fortune

Shari Redstone’s victory 
A year ago, it seemed as Redstone would be cut out of her father’s life. She was restricted from seeing Sumner Redstone;  Philippe Dauman, then Viacom’s CEO, was his closest ally. But after several lawsuits, a reconciliation with her father, and the ousting of Dauman, Shari now appears in full control of National Amusements (the family holding company that owns 80% of Viacom and CBS voting shares). This article is a deep dive into how Shari Redstone wrested back control of the $40 billion media empire.   NYT

Building a Better Leader

When writing a cover letter…
…don’t feel like you need to thank the hiring manager “so much” for reading it. That’s the person’s job, and a huge turnoff. Fast Company

Coffee may help fight dementia in women
A new study has found that older women cut the chance of getting dementia by 36% by having three cups a day. While the study didn’t establish a clear cause-and-effect, there is at least now another good reason to order another cup of Joe. Fortune

The brain drain
Organizations often recruit the best-and-brightest from top universities, only to shun these knowledge workers’ advice and relegate them to menial tasks to please clients, according to researcher André Spicer who studied this phenomenon. Aeon

The Political Winds

Libertarian VP candidate makes a stunning shift
Bill Weld
says instead of trying to boost running mate, Gary Johnson, he’s focusing now on ensuring Donald Trump isn’t elected president. “I have had in mind all along trying to get the Donald into third place, and with some tugging and hauling, we might get there,” says Weld. He also said that Hillary Clinton is more qualified than anyone to serve as president. Fortune

Chinese President may delay succession pick
It’s customary for Chinese presidents to determine their successor prior to beginning the second term. But President Xi Jinping is considering delaying his decision as to who will lead the Communist Party until late 2017. This delay is causing anxiety among the party elites, as well as sparking concerns that Xi may want to remain in power after the traditional two terms.  NYT

Bill Clinton walks back Obamacare comments
On Monday, former President Clinton was discussing some of the impact of the Affordable Care Act and called it the “craziest thing in the world.”  The off-the-cuff remark concerned supporters of Hillary Clinton, who has been a staunch advocate for the health care law. Bill clarified his position yesterday, reaffirming his support for the law. Politico

Up or Out

Pinterest has hired Todd Morgenfeld as its CFO. Fortune

Fortune Reads and Videos

Target’s small-store strategy faces a big test
The retail giant will open its first small-store format in NYC today. If successful, there could be hundreds more of these smaller stores in urban areas.  Fortune

Clinton Foundation denies it has been hacked
Guccifer 2.0, a hacker widely believed to be a Russian operative, says he stole hundreds of thousands of documents about donors from the Clinton Foundation’s databases. But the Foundation says none of the files came from them, based on screenshots the hacker posted. Fortune

Facebook Marketplace’s “technical issue” led to…
…holes in its filtering process, allowing items like guns and drugs to be listed. Fortune

If you love the smell of a new Mac laptop…
…you can now buy a candle that mimics that scent. Fortune

On this day…

…in 2011, Steve Jobs passed away after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.  Fortune

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Produced by Ryan Derousseau
@ryanderous
powersheet@newsletters.fortune.com