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It’s time to have a conversation about ergonomics.
Sounds thrilling, right? Look at it this way. I could pretend to explain to you why tech stocks are yo-yo-ing. Or I could spend a moment trying to convince you to take your work-from-home setup seriously.
If you’re like me, you were too busy last March to be bothered with ergonomic happiness. Six months later, it’s time to focus on our hurting necks, wrists, forearms, shoulders, backs, eyesight, and so on. I’m shifting to an external keyboard, propping up my laptop screen on some books, and getting a proper monitor. This handy piece from The New York Times has great tips, including these pearls of wisdom about how to sit: “hips slightly higher than the knees, arms relaxed at your side, neck relaxed and straight, forearms parallel to the ground, feet resting on the floor.”
There’s a lot you can do without new equipment. But in some cases, you’ll need some new stuff. GitLab, the all-remote company that makes tools for software developers, encourages its employees to buy whatever they need to get comfortable, within reason. It also has published its suggestions for how to improve your home setup.
If your company is too stingy to invest in your comfort, you might consider investing in yourself—or finding another job.
The Fortune Global Forum convenes each year or so in important business centers around the world. (My passport stamps include New Delhi, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Toronto, and Paris.) This year it convenes online, Oct. 26-27, with a time-zone-sensitive schedule to accommodate participants from Asia and Europe.
Freed from the commitment of travel, we’ve already signed up an impressive group of CEOs including Marriott’s Arne Sorenson, Beth Ford of Land O’Lakes, Brian Cornell of Target, Deanna Mulligan of Guadian Life, and GE’s Larry Culp.
Fortune events are by invitation only; please email me if you’d like to be considered.
SOME CULTURE: I can’t recommend strongly enough the Spotify podcast Wind of Change, the eight-episode exploration by journalist Patrick Radden-Keefe of whether the CIA wrote a famous rock ballad. I spent multiple blissful walks listening to it this summer … I finally watched the three-part docuseries Inside Bill’s Brain, the all-access and slightly puffy deep dive on Netflix into Bill Gates by Davis Guggenheim. Despite all the good cheer, it is really insightful, including comments from Melinda Gates on being married to such a difficult guy and Bill Gates’ regrets about not having said a proper goodbye to his onetime best friend Paul Allen … Fitzgerald nerds and residents of Westport, Conn., need to watch the low-production-value but charming documentary Gatsby in Connecticut on Amazon Prime Video.
JOIN US: The pandemic has rewritten business. Fortune is hosting a virtual discussion with experts across industries (Intel, Slack, Citi, Universal Pictures) to explore how companies can, through transformative tech such as A.I., become more resilient in a time of intense change. Register here for free to join on September 16 at 2:00-3:00 p.m. EDT.
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.
Dead chip bounce. As Adam mentioned, tech stocks bounced back a bit on Wednesday after the big sell-off. Zoom and Tesla jumped 11%, Nvidia gained 7%, while Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon gained 4% each. Still, it wasn't all about winning. As Robert mentioned yesterday, Slack's revenue growth disappointed and its shares finished down 14% on Wednesday. The stock is now up just 12% for the year. If you follow the market at all, it may be time to re-try Google Finance. After years of neglect and lost features, Google unveiled a redesign this week that looks positively useful.
You shall not pass. Like Gandalf making a stand against the Balrog at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, Palantir CEO Alex Karp faced potential investors on Wednesday and gave no quarter in defending his strategy of working with defense and intelligence agencies that some in Silicon Valley shun. “We have certain beliefs and we will stick with those,” Karp said. Don't like it? “Pick a different company.” In more down-to-earth IPO news, future database giant Snowflake announced investments ahead of its stock market debut from Warren Buffett and Marc Benioff's Salesforce. And at the other end of the financing curve, digital healthcare service Grand Rounds is a unicorn, valued at $1.3 billion after a $175 million investment from the Carlyle Group.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich attacked Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Twitter, saying that Tesla's 10% salary cuts while the company stock skyrocketed made Musk "a modern-day robber baron." Musk shot back: "All Tesla workers also get stock, so their compensation increased proportionately. You are a modern day moron."
Flip to the music. In phone world, Lenovo's Motorola unit announced the second generation update of its Razr folding smartphone. Priced at $1,400, a 7% cut, the new Razr 5G gets 5G compatibility, a better camera, and the same cool 6.2-inch screen that folds down the middle. It's also no longer a Verizon exclusive. Michael Fisher, aka Mr Mobile on YouTube, follows the foldable market closely and has a smart take on the new Razr after using the device for a few days. But do you really need a 5G phone yet? Not according to these PC Magazine tests in 26 cities.
The very face you wear will not be your own. The city council of Portland, Oregon, is the latest metro government to ban the use of facial recognition technology. The ban is broader than most, covering government entities and private businesses in any place of "public accommodation," such as a store.
Deja vu all over again. Hackers from the Russian government were caught trying to break into one of the political consulting firms working on Joe Biden's campaign. Microsoft blocked the attack on SKDKnickerbocker and said the hackers used some of the same techniques that got them into the DNC's emails four years ago. In other global tech battles, TikTok's sale by ByteDance is still up in the air. The Wall Street Journal reports on the latest back and forth, but it's still not clear what will happen if the app isn't sold by September 15.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Former Google engineer and computational photography pioneer Marc Levoy jumped to Adobe over the summer, where he's working on improving the pictures taken by all smartphones. In a fascinating and wide-ranging interview with The Verge, Levoy explains the centuries-old influences on the way phone photos look today.
It’s an artistic decision. My team (at Google) was instrumental in that. I looked at a lot of paintings and looked at how painters over the centuries have handled dynamic range. One of my favorite painters was Caravaggio. Caravaggio had dark shadows. I liked that...Last year, we moved a little bit more toward Titian. Titian has lighter shadows. It’s a constant debate, and it’s a constant emerging taste. You’re right that the phones are different. It’s also true that there is probably some ultimate limit on high dynamic range imaging — not necessarily on how high a dynamic range you could capture, but on how high a dynamic range you can effectively render without the image looking cartoony.
One of my favorite photographic artists is Trey Ratcliff, and his look is deliberately pushed and cartoony. I think that’s his style. But I’m not sure I would want the Trey Ratcliff look with every picture that I took every day with a smartphone. I think that’s an important limit. It’s not clear how we get beyond that limit or whether we ever can.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Amazon’s A.I. voice project gets help from Facebook, Dolby, and Garmin By Jonathan Vanian
Nearly half of open board seats went to women in 2019. Only 23% were filled by people of color By Emma Hinchliffe
Review of the Microsoft Surface Duo folding phone: Very pretty but just how useful is it? By Aaron Pressman
Mastercard launches digital currency kit for central banks By Jeff John Roberts
Time is running out for Big Tech’s monetization of Europeans’ personal data By David Meyer
‘A real uphill battle:’ Why China will struggle to counter U.S.’s attack on Huawei By Veta Chan
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BEFORE YOU GO
There have been several previous attempts to adapt Frank Herbert's 1960s sci-fi classic novel Dune for both TV and the movies, none terribly worth watching. That's likely to change now that Denis Villeneuve is at the helm. The new trailer for Villeneuve's version of Dune looks both epic and coherent. When will we get to see it on the big screen? That remains an open question.