It’s peak AI in Davos this year. I moderated one of the many sessions on the topic Wednesday, and a long line of interested executives were turned away at the door. There is now a general agreement that AI will transform business in dramatic ways over the next few decades, and that every big company needs an “AI Strategy.” Paul Daugherty of Accenture called it “the fastest growing trend we’ve ever seen in our business.”
Powering this trend is an explosion in data — which is to this new industrial revolution what steam, electricity, and computers were to previous ones. But many companies haven’t yet gotten their data into a shape that can be fed into machine learning algorithms. Another problem they face is finding enough data scientists to do the job.
Bottom line, the gap between possibility and current reality remains huge. Stefan Oschmann, the CEO of Merck, Germany, said that on a scale of one to ten, his company was still at a one in making full use of currently available technology. Others are further behind. The promise of AI is immense, but there’s a long way to go before that promise is realized.
More news below.
Ghosn, Ghosn, Gone
Carlos Ghosn has finally resigned as chairman and CEO of Renault. The French government had been calling for his defenestration over the last week, as he battles ever-mounting accusations of financial impropriety. Ghosn was already out as chair at Nissan and Mitsubishi. CNN
Ford lost money in every region except for North America last year, hitting its overall operating income by 27% compared with 2017. That piles more pressure on CEO Jim Hackett, whose global restructuring efforts aren’t moving swiftly enough, nor with enough detail, for analysts’ liking. Wall Street Journal
Airbus’s CEO, Tom Enders, has something to tell U.K. lawmakers who suspect people are overstating the risks of a no-deal Brexit: “Please don’t listen to the Brexiteers’ madness which asserts that, because we have huge plants here, we will not move and we will always be here. They are wrong… If there’s a no-deal Brexit, we at Airbus will have to make potentially very harmful decisions for the U.K.” Fortune
Starship vs Wind
A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship—the craft that’s meant to take people to Mars—fell over after being buffeted by the Texas wind. Apparently 50 mph gusts broke its mooring blocks, and the rocket will need weeks of repairs. Fortune
Around the Water Cooler
Google will appeal its $57 million privacy fine in the EU, which it earned for contravening the terms of the General Data Protection Regulation. The company claims the fine is wrong because it worked hard to comply with the GDPR, and “we’re also concerned about the impact of this ruling on publishers, original content creators and tech companies in Europe and beyond.” ZDNet
Politico has a great piece about Facebook’s tone-deaf attempts to avoid EU regulation by trotting out a line that may work in D.C. but definitely not in Brussels: that regulation is simply not necessary. Best line, regarding under-development communications privacy rules: “In an effort to be excluded from the regulation’s scope, the tech giant also argued that Facebook Messenger is ‘not a messaging service.'” Politico
Billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin has bought the most expensive home ever in the U.S.: a Central-Park-overlooking apartment costing an eye-watering $238 million. The Citadel founder is also buying a £95 million ($124 million) home in London. Financial Times
Berkeley economics professors Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zuckman are fans of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s plans for 70% marginal tax rates that would affect very high earners. They write: “The point of high top marginal income tax rates is to constrain the immoderate, and especially unmerited, accumulation of riches.” New York Times