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Data Sheet—Friday, June 9, 2017

Aaron in for Adam on this beautiful spring day in Boston. It’s graduation season, and in Boston, that’s often a big deal. This year, we got Mark Zuckerberg speaking at Harvard and going on a grand tour of his old stomping grounds. And today, Tim Cook speaks at MIT’s ceremonies. Cook is expected to start his speech around 10:50 a.m. ET and you can watch a live stream here.

I was at MIT yesterday, however, to watch another tech industry CEO, Lisa Su of chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices. Su, who has an undergraduate, masters and PhD from MIT, spoke at the doctorate hooding ceremony. That’s the seemingly ancient tradition of giving each PhD graduate a multi-colored hood to hang over their light grey and maroon MIT academic robes.

Su may be a CEO, but she’s also an engineer through and through, and she admonished the graduates to apply themselves to the world’s toughest problems, as graduation speakers are often wont to do. But at a time when science seems to be under attack in some political quarters, the 47-year-old executive also urged them to set their sights higher and vie for leadership roles. “The world is starving for new ideas and great leaders who will champion those ideas,” Su said.

Oh, and the executive who likes to describe herself as “slightly competitive” also had some advice about who should be in charge. “Make sure there are lots of Harvard MBAs working for MIT PhDs in the future,” she said.

Aaron Pressman


Snappy retorts. While I was sitting amongst about 500 of the most erudite scholars on the planet, most of the rest of the world was glued to their TV, phone, and computer screens to watch former FBI Director James Comey blast the president in live Congressional testimony. Not a very tech-y story, but there’s always an angle. Twitter went crazy with reactions. And Comey’s mention of using a friend at Columbia Law School to leak his memo sent so many people searching for his co-conspirator that the school’s web site crashed briefly.

Maybe we will get back together. Taylor Swift decided to put her music back on all of the major streaming services, including Spotify and Amazon Music, three years after pulling out due to frustration about compensation. Swift announced the move in a tweet—of course—but didn’t give a rationale for her decision.

One man’s trash. Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son has used his SoftBank Group to pick up all kinds of tech assets, from wireless carrier Sprint to mobile chip leader ARM. On Thursday, he decided to buy two robotics companies, Boston Dynamics and Tokyo-based Schaft, which Google wants to unload. Mobile networks, mobile devices, now machines that provide their own mobility. (If you’ve forgotten, Boston Dynamics is the company responsible for some of those scary military robots spotted in occasional Youtube videos.)

Slimming down. Now that Verizon has finally acquired Yahoo’s Internet business, it’s time for the “synergies” with prior purchase AOL. And that means layoffs for approximately 2,100 employees, or about 15% of the combined workforce of the two units, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who is expected to depart shortly, comes out of the deal with $220 million, the paper said.

No good, very bad week. Pummeled by bad news all week, Uber could be in for an even rougher ride next week. Worse than news of the CEO using a room set aside for breast feeding moms as his own personal mediation space? Probably. That’s because Uber will release the results of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s report into sexual harassment and discrimination at the company sparked by Susan J. Fowler’s blog blast in February.


Google Slammed for Blocking Ads While Allowing User Tracking by Mathew Ingram

Apple’s Latest Ads Target Trump’s Paris Climate Agreement Decision by Don Reisinger

This Startup Wants to Turn ‘Unboxing’ Videos Into a Big Business by Leena Rao

Symantec’s CEO Says the Company’s Got Its Groove Back by Robert Hackett

3 Things You Should Know About Cloud Computing Right Now by Barb Darrow

Britney Spears’ Instagram Is a Secret Testing Ground for Russian Hackers by Valentina Zarya


There are plenty of proposals to fight climate change, but which are really the most cost effective? That’s the question at the heart of environmentalist and entrepreneur Paul Hawken’s new book, Drawdown—The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, which ranks 100 potential responses.

Hawken edited the volume with input from leading scientists in each field. And the whole ranking of solutions is on his web site. You can click through to get more detail about each idea. It’s a fascinating read, explaining ideas ranging from eliminating the use of hydro-fluorocarbon coolants to planting more bamboo forests.

And the editor makes the point that the information can guide decisions by individuals and businesses as well as governments:

What our work shows is that the decisions we take at all levels of society impact our future on this planet. One pathway risks catastrophe, and the other embraces regeneration. Each individual decision can make the difference, whether that is a consumer or board member. And the benefits speak for themselves. Our analysis shows that costs of doing business-as-usual are higher than the costs to implement solutions to global warming. We encourage you to get involved locally and nationally with those who are already implementing the solutions, using Drawdown as a guide for how you want to be involved.


A few interesting longer reads I came across this week, suitable for perusing over the weekend:

How Big Data Can Help You Pick Better Wine
There are currently over 5,000 distinct bottles of Bordeaux-style red blends available for purchase on Rather than segmenting these wines using traditional structured data—like price, vintage, winery, grape varietal—what if we could instead rely on the rich, expressive language used in the product description and expert reviews posted online?

The Biggest, Strangest ‘Batteries’
What if you need a battery? A really big one—big enough to run a city? It turns out to be a surprisingly tricky question to answer. Today, with the rise of green energy sources like solar and wind, the need for industrial-scale energy storage is becoming ever more vital to make sure there’s power even after the sun sets or the breeze dies down.

Rise of the Machines: Who Is the ‘Internet of things’ Good For?
At first, such devices seem harmless enough. They sit patiently and quietly at the periphery of our awareness, and we only speak to them when we need them. But when we consider them more carefully, a more problematic picture emerges.

The Word Is ‘Nemesis’: The Fight to Integrate the National Spelling Bee
In 1962, teenager George F. Jackson wrote a letter to President John F. Kennedy with an appeal: “I am a thirteen-year-old colored boy and I like to spell. Do you think you could help me and get the Lynchburg bee opened to all children?”


We learned this week that Jean Sammet, a groundbreaking early computer programmer, had died. The New York Times ran an informative obituary but there’s lots more interesting history. Glamour ran a short interview a few months back (Jean E. Sammet Learned to Code when Steve Jobs Was Still in Diapers). To dig deeper, University of Maryland computer science professor Michael Hicks compiled a great list of further reading about Sammet on his blog, the Programming Language Enthusiast. Inspirational reading for a Friday afternoon.
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.