Data Sheet—Elon Musk Is Learning Just Because He Thinks Something Is True Doesn’t Make It So
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A month ago, I observed there would be consequences for Elon Musk’s recklessness, if not for the other guy whose behavior his so resembles, Donald Trump. That reckoning came Thursday with a suit against Musk by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The regulator charges the Tesla CEO with making misleading claims and seeks to remove him from his job.
The case against Musk seems obvious. In early August, he tweeted the news that he would take Tesla private, sending the automaker’s shares soaring. By pulling a number out of nowhere—$420 per share, a marijuana reference he made to amuse his girlfriend, says the SEC—Musk bamboozled his shareholders. He fibbed further, conflating preliminary discussions he’d had with a sovereign wealth fund with having secured funding for a deal.
The SEC couldn’t resist at minimum making an example of Musk. It can’t tolerate having a fabulist as the head of a public-shareholder-owned company. Musk will argue that he had no doubt the funding for a take-private deal was in the bag, and therefore that he told the truth. He’ll likely learn that just because he thinks something is true doesn’t make it so.
Nobody forced Musk to take money from public investors, of course, and he no doubt figured out that for many reasons he wishes he hadn’t.
Tesla’s shares plunged on the prospect of life after Musk. Breakingviews cleverly posits that a Musk-less Tesla will reveal the true value of the innovative but financially challenged company.
The hoo-hah that is Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference is generating real news, like new software alliances. (Here’s the healthcare panel I moderated there Wednesday.) Longtime software analyst Pat Walravens smartly notes that two distinct camps are emerging in the software world. “The most interesting new development in the competitive landscape is the way the battle lines are being drawn between Salesforce, Google, and Amazon, which announced new strategic relationships this week,” he wrote to clients, “and SAP, Adobe—soon acquiring Marketo—and Microsoft on the other side, which announced the Open Data Initiative on Sept. 24.” This bears watching.
One must read and one must watch: Robert Hackett’s profile of prosecutor-turned-investor Kathryn Haun and Mellody Hobson speaking at Brainstorm Reinvent this week on the appalling lack of corporate diversity.
Double dare you. A Taiwanese hacker named Chang Chi-yuan says on Sunday he will broadcast live video of himself attempting to erase Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, Bloomberg reports. Chang has been known as a “white hat,” hackers who work to uncover security flaws and report them (sometimes to claim a reward) so they can be corrected.
All is revealed. The latest startup to reach a valuation of over $1 billion is Butterfly Network. Despite the light weight name, the company aims to make a pocketable sensor for conducting ultrasound exams that connects to an iPhone. Butterfly raised $250 million of private capital to further develop the $2,000 device dubbed the iQ.
Catch-22. In the latest privacy imbroglio for Facebook, researchers found the social network targeting advertising based on phone numbers of people who were listed in the contacts of other people. The company seemingly provides no way for a user to block the use of this so-called shadow contact info, Gizmodo reports. “People own their address books,” Facebook responded. “We understand that in some cases this may mean that another person may not be able to control the contact information someone else uploads about them.”
Data dump. The nonprofit USAFacts, started by Steve Ballmer, opened an online interactive tool called the Voter Center that can compare positions taken by members of Congress with related government data. A voter can input their zip code and see the positions of candidates running in their area on hot topics, like education and guns, contrasted with actual conditions in their area on those same issues.
Dark side. About six in ten American teenagers say they have been cyberbullied, according to a poll by Pew Research. Name calling, spreading of false rumors, and being sent unwanted, explicit images were the most common forms of bullying online.
FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE
A few longer reads that I came across this week that may be appealing for your weekend reading pleasure:
Computers Can Solve Your Problem. You May Not Like the Answer
Years of research have shown that teenagers need their sleep. Yet high schools often start very early in the morning. Starting them later in Boston would require tinkering with elementary and middle school schedules, too—a Gordian knot of logistics, pulled tight by the weight of inertia, that proved impossible to untangle. Until the computers came along.
How I Went From Google Intern to the Head of Google Maps (Fast Company)
Jen Fitzpatrick started out in Google’s first class of interns in 1999. She now runs one of the company’s most important businesses. And along the way, she saw–and shaped–a lot of history.
Masayoshi Son, SoftBank, and the $100 Billion Blitz on Sand Hill Road
Two years ago, Masayoshi Son, chief executive officer of SoftBank, sat in a Gulfstream jet high above the Arabian Gulf, en route to meet with potential investors in a new fund that would invest in technology startups. He was going through his presentation with Rajeev Misra, a key lieutenant, when something stopped him.
Mourning at the Magic Kingdom (Slate)
Right after my father’s funeral, I took my family to Disney World. It turned out to be the right place for me to grieve.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Israeli author and historian Yuval Noah Harari is best known for his 2011 best-selling book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which made it onto the recommended reading lists of both Bill Gates and Barack Obama. He has a new book out looking at the future instead of the past called 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. Harari spoke to the Wall Street Journal about some of his predictions around artificial intelligence. The rise of AI may not be good for everybody, he warns:
People who talk in terms of universal basic income usually mean national basic income. They think we’ll tax Google and Facebook in California to pay for unemployed coal miners in Pennsylvania and unemployed taxi drivers in New York. But the really big problem will be in places like Honduras or Bangladesh. Do you really think the U.S. government will tax Google and Amazon and then use the money to support unemployed people in Bangladesh or Honduras? This seems far, far less likely. And this is the really big problem with joblessness: The automation revolution is likely to make some areas of the world extremely rich and powerful while completely destroying the economy of others.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Why Belgium’s Defense Department Is Planning to Sue Google By Grace Dobush
Uber Has Considered Benefits for Its U.S. Drivers, CEO Says By Glenn Fleishman
News Sites That Take on Big Tech Face Legal Peril By Jeff John Roberts
How 5G Wireless and Cloud Computing May Make $1,000 Phones Obsolete By Aaron Pressman
Tivo Targets Cord Cutters and Amazon With Its Latest DVR By Chris Morris
BEFORE YOU GO
Depending on your age, you may have wasted hundreds of hours as a teenager playing video games like NBA Jam and Bust a Move, or never have even heard of these former stalwarts of the 1980s and 1990s. But Canadian gaming studio Liquid Media is looking to bring back many such titles after acquiring the rights to 65 oldies. “Retro gaming is driving incredible success for the world’s largest players, like Sony and Nintendo,” director Charles Brezer tells GeekWire.