Good morning again from Aspen, Colo., where once again I will apologize for my brevity. Our day was long—from early breakfasts through all-day panels to an evening of schmoozing—so I’ll give a few highlights with supportive links and a promise to reflect more when we’re done.
Brian Cornell, CEO of Target, appropriated the word “and” to convey his strategy of bricks (physical stores) and clicks (e-commerce). It felt like Brad Garlinghouse’s famous criticism of Yahoo as being too much like peanut butter: spread too thin.
Jamie Miller, who runs GE’s rail-focused transportation business, epitomized a manager playing long ball. On the one hand, she is fighting hard to drag GE’s locomotive business into the digital era. On the other hand, she said truly disruptive technologies could be 20 to 30 years out.
Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon’s $120-billion-plus retail businesses, wowed the crowd with his description of how Amazon focuses on multiple businesses simultaneously, avoids short-term thinking, and applies a spirit of invention to everything it does. (Did you know Amazon has something called a Treasure Truck, a rolling bazaar of eclectic deals? Neither did I.) Wilke also not-so-convincingly said Amazon pays no attention to Alibaba, its Chinese e-commerce rival.
The emotional highpoint of Brainstorm Tech was a town hall-style session on fixing inequality in Silicon Valley, hosted by Bloomberg TV’s Emily Chang. Carnegie Mellon leadership development expert Leanne Meyer explained the deficiencies of unconscious bias training. (The effects tend to wear off.) Nicole Farb, a former banker and current tech entrepreneur, said Wall Street is far better on equality than Silicon Valley. And Christa Quarles, CEO of OpenTable, literally called bullshit on the assertion that women in Silicon Valley don’t help each other out.
I have a lot more to share, and I’ll do it soon.
Long way to go. Almost 30,000 female students took one of the AP computer science exams this year, more than double the number that took a test in 2016, according to non-profit Code.org, which works to encourage more diverse participation in the field. And the number of black and Latino students nearly tripled to more than 22,000. Still, only 27% of all test takers were female and 20% minorities.
Long way to go, part II. Apple appointed Isabel Ge Mahe, who oversaw wireless technology, to the new position of vice president and managing director of Greater China, reporting directly to CEO Tim Cook. Ge Mahe, who is from the Chinese city of Shenyang, will try to restore Apple’s falling Chinese sales, which declined 14% last quarter.
I’ll be back. Autonomous robots should not be equipped with weapons and put on the battlefield, Gen. Paul Selva told Congress on Tuesday, rejecting the Terminator scenario. “I don’t think it’s reasonable for us to put robots in charge of whether or not we take a human life,” the second highest-ranking U.S. general said.
Ugly finances. An Israeli startup called CoinDash said hackers stole $7 million from the company while it was trying to raise money from investors by selling its own digital tokens. The theft raised questions about the security of raising backing via the sale of digital currencies, an increasingly popular technique known as an initial coin offering, or ICO. Still, excitement about digital currencies continues apace. Famed stock picker Bill Miller of the money management firm Legg Mason says he’s invested 1% of his net worth in bitcoin.
Ugly finances, part II. Another terrible quarter for IBM or, as I call it, “Medium Blue.” Revenue of $19.3 billion hit a negative trifecta: it was down 5% from a year ago, missed Wall Street analyst estimates, and represented the 21st consecutive quarterly decline. IBM’s share price, already down 7% this year, fell another 3% in pre-market trading on Wednesday.
Finally. After some delays, Samsung on Wednesday is rolling out its Bixby voice-controlled digital assistant to all Galaxy S8 phones in the U.S. The phone, which went on sale in April, has a dedicated button to summon Bixby but now users can also call out “Hi, Bixby” and issue voice commands like “read my texts.”
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
California is a hotbed of self-driving car development, in part because the state has put laws in place to encourage testing on its roads. Department of Transportation Director Malcolm Dougherty says 36 companies have received permits to test autonomous vehicles on public roads. In an interview with radio station KPCC, he explains why he is an advocate of the autonomous effort.
I think the safety implications are significant. If my car is talking to your car, you and I are much less likely to run into each other when we approach an intersection. If any of our cars are looking out for pedestrians and bicyclists, I think that will be a very big safety benefit from the vulnerable user on the transportation system. I think if my car is talking to the signal, I’m also less likely to run a red light by accident. We’re having a lot of accidents with human-driven cars and we’re having a lot of fatalities, so I think the opportunity for the technology to improve safety is significant.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
How Mattel Plans to Win Over Generation Alpha by Kirsten Korosec
Four Forces Revolutionizing Marketing by Alan Murray
How Social Media Caused the WWE to Drop the Word ‘Diva’ by Jonathan Vanian
Bitcoin, Pot Startups Embrace Regulations to Succeed by Aaron Pressman
Spying or Cyber War? How to Tell the Difference by Jeff John Roberts
How Companies Can Make Their Workers Happier by Adam Lashinsky
BEFORE YOU GO
Medical waste costs hundreds of billions a year and part of the problem may be the practice of throwing away perfectly good medications. Hospitals are required to get rid of drugs that reach the manufacturer-set expiration date. But as ProPublica reports, studies have found that the drugs remain potent for much, much longer. Lee Cantrell, who helps run the California Poison Control System, ran tests on decades-old medicines and concluded:
Lo and behold, the active ingredients are pretty darn stable. Refining our prescription drug dating process could save billions.