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Good morning from San Francisco. I’m not traveling this week. That’s a good thing.
Last week, from the Fortune Global Forum in Toronto, where Canadians are justifiably proud of their leadership position in artificial intelligence research, I brought you the epiphany that not every businessperson will need to become an AI expert. It will be no more necessary to master the mechanics of AI than it was in earlier eras to be able to design a spreadsheet program or to build a car in order to benefit from those breakthrough technologies.
That said, it absolutely behooves everyone in business and other productive endeavors to understand the ramifications of AI, as it really will change everything. My colleagues at Fortune are here to help with an informative and interesting package in the November issue of the magazine: “25 Ways A.I. Is Changing Business.” There’s something for everyone here: How AI will change work, finance, manufacturing, consumption, and more.
This is really exciting stuff, and the hype is nearly beside point. In his elegant introductory essay, Geoff Colvin points out that anyone making predictions about the precise impact of AI doesn’t really know what they’re talking about. Colvin also notes that even as we attempt to make intelligent guesses at how AI will be applied, the market will determine winning and losing uses of the whiz-bang technology. That’s as it should be.
For what it’s worth, The New York Times Sunday Review section had a good piece on why AI won’t solve the “fake news” problem any time soon.
A few other recommended reads: John Judis analyzes the U.S. political situation well here. I really enjoyed this interview with Hyatt Hotels CEO Mark Hoplamazian. Among other topics, he discusses the importance of empathy, which he also spoke about passionately at the first Fortune CEO Initiative annual meeting in 2017. Finally, Mindy Grossman, CEO of WW International, formerly known as Weight Watchers, debuted at our Brainstorm Reinvent conference last month her company’s new name as it focuses more on wellness. The Economist has a good overview of the reinvention in its current issue.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The market for tech company initial public offerings could really get going in 2019. Really. So reports the Wall Street Journal, observing that some mega-valued startups like Uber, Lyft, Slack, and Palantir are looking to go public next year. Given my track record on this question, I’ll have to sit this debate out.
Poof. The CEO and co-founder of hard-to-believe startup UBeam, Meredith Perry, is stepping down from the top job but will remain on the company’s board of directors. Since 2011, UBeam has been promising to develop a wireless recharging product that could send power over the air to phones and other devices across a room. With Perry’s departure, UBeam will pivot to a licensing model, collecting royalties for use of its technology in products made by other companies.
Green mountain brawl. After taking on California and its recently-passed net neutrality law, the cable and telecom lobby has now targeted Vermont. Five industry groups sued the state in federal court last week, arguing that Federal Communications Commission rules, which don’t explicitly protect the free flow of online content, must prevail. Shot back Republican Gov. Phil Scott: “I strongly believe (our citizens) have a right to free and open access to information on the Internet.”
Designer decliner. I’m sorry I missed this on Friday for the weekend long reads section, but it’s still worth highlighting Apple designer Jony Ive’s interview with the Financial Times. It’s one of the paper’s series of chatting with a famous figure over a fancy lunch. Declining to discuss Apple’s possible car plans, Ives explains: “Some companies use the fact that they are exploring lots of different ideas as a PR tool—we don’t.” Overall it’s a colorful and (mostly) enlightening read.
OMG worthy. Speaking of interesting profiles, Scotty Allen is the guy making insane, techno-DIY YouTube videos, like the one where he built an iPhone clone himself from parts he scrounged up in Shenzhen or the one where he modified an iPhone 7 to restore the headphone jack. Apple-oriented website Cult of Mac profiled Allen and cataloged his obsessions.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
It’s a case study in every business school curriculum on the pace of technological change and disruption theories: how did Kodak go from the king of film photography to the ash heap of digital photography. Filmmaker Oliver Kmia has a deep dive at the photo news web site PetaPixel into the history of Kodak, but what’s enlightening is his contrasting that well-worn tale with the story of another film stalwart that did succeed in making the jump to digital, Fujifilm. Unlike rival Kodak, Fuji leaders led by president Shigetaka Komori sacrificed investing in its existing business to move into new areas, some rather surprising, to provide enough revenue to sustain the company through the transition to digital, Kmia reports:
After a year and a half of technological auditing, the R&D team came up with a chart listing the all existing in-house technologies that could match future markets.
The president saw that “Fujifilm technologies could be adapted for emerging markets such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and highly functional materials.” For instance, the company was able to predict the boom of LCD screens and invested heavily in this market. Leveraging the photo film technologies, the engineer created FUJITAC, a variety of high-performance films essential for making LCD panels for TV, computers, and smartphones. Today, FUJITAC owns 70% of the market for protective LCD polarizer films.
The company also targeted unexpected markets like cosmetics. The rationale behind cosmetics comes from the 70 years of experience in gelatin, the chief ingredient of photo film which is derived from collagen. Human skin is seventy percent collagen, to which it owes its sheen and elasticity. Fujifilm also possessed deep knowhow in oxidation, a process connected both to the aging of human skin and to the fading of photos over time. Thus, Fujifilm launched a makeup line in 2007 called Astalift.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
YouTube TV Is Really Sorry It Went Down, So It’s Giving You a 1-Week Credit By Lisa Marie Segarra
3 Ways Russian-Linked Entities Stoked Controversy on Facebook, Twitter By Jonathan Vanian
Crypto Startup That Lets You ‘Short’ Ethereum Raises $10 Million By Robert Hackett
BEFORE YOU GO
Speaking of photography, Andy Warhol was perhaps the originator of the modern selfie photo. Famed for carrying a film camera almost everywhere he went, Warhol created many of the most iconic images of the mid-20th Century, including many featuring himself. Now Stanford University has put tens of thousands of Warhol’s photos online in a searchable catalog. Peruse the galleries or search more deeply on your own and just imagine what he would have done with a smartphone and an Instagram account.