posted about 3 hours ago on re/code
You have to spend money to make money. For the likes of Apple, Microsoft and Google, their approach to Washington, D.C., is straightforward: They’re willing to spend money to make money — at a lower tax rate. The industry’s record lobbying spending in the second quarter of 2017 — disclosed in federal ethics forms filed Friday — reflects a widespread desire for reforms to U.S. tax laws, including changes that might make it cheaper for them to bring back billions of dollars that they’ve long kept overseas. Five of the country’s largest tech companies — Apple, Microsoft, Google, Cisco and Oracle — together have about $512 billion in cash parked abroad, according to an analysis by Moody’s released this week. That money remains on foreign shores because companies generally don’t want to pay a 35 percent tax for returning — repatriating — those earnings. To that end, tech companies and other businesses have for years lobbied in Washington in pursuit of lower tax bills, including reforms that would reduce — or potentially suspend — the tax that applies to repatriated corporate cash. And they’ve picked up their pace in recent months, as President Donald Trump and his administration consider the issue. There’s even talk of trying to lower the rate to 10 percent. (function() { var l = function() { new pym.Parent( 'recode-lobbying-spending-by-major-tech-companies-this-quarter-compared-with-a-year-ago__graphic', 'https://apps.voxmedia.com/at/recode-lobbying-spending-by-major-tech-companies-this-quarter-compared-with-a-year-ago/'); }; if(typeof(pym) === 'undefined') { var h = document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0], s = document.createElement('script'); s.type = 'text/javascript'; s.src = 'https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/pym/0.4.5/pym.js'; s.onload = l; h.appendChild(s); } else { l(); } })(); Companies like Amazon, Apple and Google, which spent record sums lobbying the federal government between April 1 and June 30, specifically focused some of those dollars on pushing for changes to the U.S. tax code, their federal lobbying disclosures reflect. Some of the industry’s leading lobbying associations, meanwhile, huddled last month at a private meeting with Gary Cohn, Trump's leading economic adviser, and Steve Mnuchin, the president's Treasury secretary, to talk tax reform, sources previously told Recode. Still, Trump has yet to release a final tax reform plan. His current attempt to move another piece of major legislation — health care reform — has proven politically perilous. And tax reform long has eluded congressional lawmakers, even though both Republicans and Democrats speak openly about the need to rethink the rates that apply to individuals and corporations.

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posted about 20 hours ago on re/code
Spoiler alert: He’s not building a time machine. On this episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, PARC CEO Tolga Kurtoglu dropped by the studio to talk about what’s new and what’s next at the storied Silicon Valley research and development company. You can read some of the highlights from the interview at that link, or listen to it in the audio player below. We’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation. If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn or Stitcher. Kara Swisher: Recode Radio presents Recode Decode, coming to you from the Vox Media Podcast Network. Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, Executive Editor of Recode. You may know me as someone who invests heavily in R&D, which stands for retweets and dark sunglasses, but in my spare time, I talk tech. You’re listening to Recode Decode, a podcast about tech and media’s key players, big ideas, and how they’re changing the world we live in. You can find more episodes of Recode Decode anywhere you listen to podcasts, or on Apple Podcast, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher, SoundCloud, and more, or just visit Recode.net/podcast for more. Today in the red chair is Dr. Tolga Kurtoglu, the CEO of Silicon Valley research and development company, PARC. Previously known as Xerox PARC, its team has pioneered some of the most important advances in computing over the past 50 years, including everything, including the UI, all kinds of things like that. Tolga became the CEO in January of this year. Before that, he oversaw PARC’s research into artificial intelligence, machine learning, security and more, all the key things that are popping up now. Tolga, welcome to Recode Decode. Tolga Kurtoglu: Thank you, and thanks for having me. No problem. So, let’s talk a little bit about your background, how you got to PARC. People like to know where people come from. Obviously, taking over PARC, which is the iconic font of innovation from the beginning of the Silicon Valley, is an important job. Why don’t we talk about how you got there? Sure. I got to PARC in December of 2010. It’s almost been seven years. I think it will be mid-July is going to be my seventh mark. Background wise, I was born and raised in Turkey, came to US in 1990 just to pursue a graduate degree in mechanical engineering. That’s what my training is in. In Turkey? No, in the U.S. I did my undergraduate in Turkey. I was born and raised there. Always a nerd? Yeah, pretty much. At the end of my undergrad, I decided to come to U.S. and get a graduate degree, so I did that in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at Carnegie Mellon. From there, I moved on to Austin, Texas. I lived there for a couple of years. I worked as an engineer, and then moved to the Bay Area in the summer of 2006. So, I’ve been in the Bay Area since then, and, like I said, I started at PARC 2010. Why did you go to PARC? You were in Austin, I assume, working for either Dell or ... Yeah, I did work for Dell. That’s a good guess. Number of reasons. So before PARC, I was at NASA Ames Research Center. I was a researcher there. So, I did combination of those, gave me a perspective on ... I knew academia, I have a lot of friends and colleagues that chose the academic career path, and I saw the government agency side and how research gets done in that context, as well as a pretty fast-paced product company in Dell, right? So ... Right. I think the synthesis of those experiences led me to think about my next career move, and PARC was a perfect choice for that. And why was that? Because PARC has seen its day, right? Right. It has been there all along, but it really had its big time when Xerox owned it. That’s true, but that is also what people remember PARC by. We do work on ... And I’d like to talk about that later in the podcast, about the kind of things we’re working on today. I think there’s a couple of reasons. The major one is it’s a unique R&D place, in the sense that it focuses on what I call translational research. Really kind of at that boundary of research and development. And you think about science and technology, but you also think about how to really translate that into market and marketing in a product and services, etc. So, it has that applied nature, and you can kind of see the impact of your ideas and your thoughts in your work. When it goes through that transformation translation, it creates that kind of impact that we want to create in the market in the world. There is a big reward for a lot the people that we have at PARC today, if not all, but to me personally that was a big passion, right? So to really see through that ... So you wanted to go there while you were working a Dell. You were doing what? What were you doing there? Product design. Product design for what? For just computers? For server products, basically. Yes. Okay. And why did you want to move out of that to PARC? Because ... I went from that back to the research realm, right? So I think there is a certain level of repetition, if you will, that it gets ... Okay, so you move from this product to the next product, but if you think about really the skill-set and the kind of problems that you’re working on, they get somewhat boring after a while. And I always challenge myself to go out of my comfort zone and try to think about the next thing, and what might be the thing that would push me harder, compared to what I’ve done in the recent past. In that first transition into the research and development world first, and then go to PARC, because there’s a big variety of domains and problems that we work on there. And, as I said, that applied nature of it, perhaps a contrast to academia, where you solve the hard problems, and you publish, and you generate the knowledge, and that’s the mission of educational institutions, but then you move on to the next hard problem, right? But I think there’s a big reward, at least for me, and a big personal passion, where you don’t just stop at the output of that R&D activity, if you will, but you really think about what that means for the people and for the society and for the culture, where it goes further down. Sure, where it goes. You go to PARC to work on areas that are now the hottest areas in Silicon Valley. Talk about ... It was somewhat early to be looking at those. Before PARC, again, I worked on a lot of predictive analytics and AI technologies, and at NASA as well, and a lot of my background and training is in engineering and how to apply, again, AI and other computational technologies to engineering problems at large, and with a specialization in product design and development, and how to do that better. What kind of tools and technologies you might develop to do that more efficiently, and to come up, both from a process point of view, more efficiently, but also to be able to design and develop and deploy better products. Sure. Right. At the time of my transition from NASA to PARC, PARC had won a big contract from the Department of Defense, DARPA, agency that really looked at how to revolutionize how people go about designing these highly complex systems. That was a perfect fit for my background, so I made the switch. I started working ... This I the Defense Department’s research arm? Yes, right. Right. And so you went there to do that? So, they had contracted with PARC to do that? Yes. And what were you trying to do with that? What was the concept, specifically? Sure. I can talk about that. So the whole idea is when you develop these complex systems like automobile or airplane and whatnot, there is thousands and thousands of — tens of thousands, essentially — of requirements that you have to meet, NGA requirements, compliance, etc. And if you look at the typical design cycles from ideation of concept to coming up with initial designs and what we call validating, and verifying that, and then manufacturing and deploying, it can take decades. Right. And the aim of DARPA was to ... It can take decades for a number of reasons, but partly it was because you have to do a whole lot of testing before you deploy these systems. And a lot of those are what we call “hardware in the loop” testing where you have to build prototypes of these things and test things. Sure. Like crash simulation, right? So you have to drive the car to the wall and then see what happens. It crashes. It crashes, and you need to assess that. But the beauty of the developments and computation and modeling and simulation allows us to do a lot of that in a virtual environment as opposed to a real physical environment, right? So that was the idea of how to really leverage computers and computing power in a way that would do two things, that would allow you with new tools and methods and also workflows conceive and construct different alternatives for a given design, but also use virtual environments and simulation to be able to really validate and verify that it would meet your requirements to your satisfaction in a much, much shorter amount of time. So they really wanted to go from something that takes decades to something maybe that takes months. Months, a shorter time to do the computation. So you go to PARC and you start working on these things. How big was PARC ... give us a sense of how big it is now, how many people are there. Where is the budget from, besides secret government agencies? Good question. So we have a little over 200 people at PARC today. It’s a combination of our technical staff, which is ... the majority of them are PhDs coming from different disciplines. All the major engineering fields, aerospace, mechanical, electrical, industrial scientists, a lot of computer scientists, as you might imagine. And physicists, chemists, etc. But we also have social scientists, ethnographers, anthropologists, and user experience, user studies experts, as well as business experts that understand certain markets, IP strategy and those kinds of things. So we really blend those set of talents and resources when we ... So kind of like university without students there? We have well-educated students that are in their professional lives [now]. So what are you looking for when you do it? It was started by ... give a little short history of Xerox PARC. It started off as a XEROX research facility. Many big companies has research facilities. Right, I can do that. So we’ll start in 1970. It was founded on the West Coast, which is far away from where the headquarters were. And it started with a sole mission, and the mission was to invent the office of the future. It hired only generations of computer scientists and other scientists to really think about what the world would look like and what the office would look like in the future. And a lot of the early work, the kinds of things that you mentioned earlier, came out of those first formative years. The first decade or two, the graphical user interface, the laser printer, the mouse, and ethernet and the GUI object oriented programming. Those are the kinds of things … That many other people took advantage of. Now this notion of kind of connected worlds seems to be ... Yes, it started there. And it famously had its ideas stolen by Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, who then later went on to be Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. But I think the mission is, your question about what we’re looking for today, is the same thing. What we provide to the world is we become partners with our clients to really envision the future for them and with them and really create a set of technology options, if you will. Right. No. A lot of companies have their own research. Microsoft has an enormous research. So does Google. So does ... but most companies don’t, right? They contract with you? Is that how you’re paid? Can you explain the business plan of PARC? Yes. You would be surprised if you actually looked at our set of clients, how big their internal IT budgets are. They already have. They already have. They still come to us, and for a number of reasons. So you asked earlier kind of our, where’s our funding coming from, right? So we’re still a subsidiary of Xerox, so slightly less than half of our funding comes from Xerox. And then the rest is our open innovation business, and that’s where we work with government agencies or commercial companies. So, again, they’re kind of different in the nature of research that they’re seeking for, but essentially it’s about the future. It’s about what might the future look like, and here’s a tough problem in a particular domain. It requires deep technical and scientific investigation to be able to solve it, right? And that’s what we provide. We put our brains together and they look at that problem and they provide potential solutions or options. But it’s not just ideas about what might be the solutions to that. We do the deep science and the scientific investigation, but we do put prototypes together. We provide them proofs of feasibility. We provide them proofs of concept. And we do that in parallel with our strength on the business side, so the business modeling side, the market strategy, go-to-market. So essentially we not only deliver then the technology options, but we also deliver them how to think about really coupling that with the right business model and with the business strategy. You’re trying to give them a full menu of ... if they’ve decided to create the best chair, whatever the heck you’re working on. Right. And do you tell them what you’re working on or do they say, “We have a problem with ... blank”? It goes both ways, I would say. So there are emerging areas in technology, IOT, artificial intelligence, machine intelligence, autonomy, digital manufacturing ... This is some of the areas that we are very actively pursuing. And they’re interested sort of generically in those areas. We give them the kinds of capabilities we have, the technologies we have developed in the recent past. But sometimes they come and say, “We have this problem, and how can we go about that?” And then you get paid for that, correct? Yes. You get paid for that. Can you say what your budget is? We cannot, we don’t disclose that. Right. But how many clients do you have? It changes. It depends on the duration of the projects that we have, but we have a very large commercial client base, and we work with all the major government agencies. Okay, you mentioned a spate of topics that I want to get to in the next section, in talking about automation, robotics, manufacturing, just-in-time manufacturing, all kinds of things, and what you guys are working on and where you see it going. We’re here with Dr. Tolga Kurtoglu, who is the CEO of Silicon Valley research and development company PARC. It was previously known as Xerox PARC. And we’re going to be talking about where research is going and where the future is going, I guess, when we get back. [ad] We’re here with Dr. Tolga Kurtoglu, the CEO of Silicon Valley research and development company PARC. We’ve been talking about the history of PARC, which is very famous in the history of Silicon Valley. But I want to delve into some of the things they’re doing. Tolga, you had been working on artificial intelligence, machine learning, and you mentioned some others. Let’s talk about each of these areas and what’s happening because it seems to me, and maybe I’m just a casual observer, that Silicon Valley’s gotten a little more serious again and they’re moving into some of these issues. You can pick any one of them. Automation, you mentioned, or manufacturing. Yeah, I’ll give examples in each. Let’s go through each of them. Automation. So automation, to me, is part of, as we think about it, the mission intelligence. If I think about this, there’s three major emergent technology trends that are happening simultaneously. And actually the potential kind of comes together from the intersection of those three things. And one of them is this notion of IOT, and people use that in various different ways. But essentially what it is to me is the ability to embed sensing and sensors in physical devices, and this can be in the industrial context or it can be in the consumer context, and be able to basically generate data about that device in real time. It gives you a lot of advantages ... If you have a tractor and you know how the tractor’s working or the plane or the ... whatever. Exactly. It gives you this ability to sense and control and do that in real time, which is a very, very powerful notion. The other one is this notion of machine intelligence, and automation is a big part of that, which we’re seeing more and more systems that can mimic and do the kinds of things that we thought only humans can do really well. Mm-hmm. Give me an example. Classification is a typical example in the AI, right? So if you think about looking at an object and telling whether that’s a car or not, that’s something that a 3-year-old kid picks up fairly quickly after somebody reinforces that, right? So it says, “This is a car.” They kind of get a sense of cars come in different shapes, models, colors and whatnot very, very quickly. And for machines to be able to do that was very, very difficult because you knew a lot of computation, a lot of data, and a lot of label data. So we’re seeing advances in computation, advances in access to computation as well, right? This whole notion of cloud computing and the ability to have as much computation power as you needed is very powerful. And, to the first point, a lot of data is available today that was simply not available. And that enables us to train these, what we call the artificial intelligence algorithms, in a way that they can do those kinds of things. So now they can act like 3-year-olds. They can act like 3-year-olds, exactly. And that elevates. That elevates their intelligence level and that’s why we hear about smart TVs, and smart trains, and smart cars. Presumably they’d be affected by these sensors, along with the ability for the machines to react and do things with. It’s exactly that. So they can hear, they can sense, they can act, and they can respond to their environments in a way that, again, in an intelligent and a smart way. So talk about robotics, which is linked to it, the same thing. Yeah. I think robotics is, to me, it’s a domain where all of this is happening as well. It’s really interesting. So you ask what are we doing in some of these domains, AI and robotics. I’ll give you one example. Really interesting project and technology that we’re working on is about how to bring together these AI agents or computation agents and humans together in a way that they form sort of collaborative teams to go after tasks. And robotics is a great domain for really exploring some of the ideas there. So there’s a lot of ... So meaning collaborative. We already do work with computers. Right. We just don’t respond. We just tell them what to do and they bring, pop an answer from Google or whatever. That’s precisely right. So you can actually prescribe or ask or inquire an answer from a computer. What we’re talking about here is more of a symbiotic team between an AI agent and a human in a way that they solve the problems together. It’s not one of them tells the other one what to do, but they go back and forth. And they can formulate the problem, they can build on each other’s ideas and things of that nature. And it’s really important because we’re — as you mentioned, Kara — we’re seeing significant advancements in penetration of AI technologies in almost all industries, right? So the more there’s going to be automation and AI in those ... you know, they predict which stocks we should buy to which songs we should listen to, when our Uber service will arrive to everything in our everyday lives. And you can kind of stretch that to the extreme. At some point, there’s going to be a huge issue with people really taking the answers that computers are suggesting to them without questioning. Right, right. So this notion of trust between the AI agents and humans is at the heart of the technology that we’re working on. We’re trying to build trustable AI systems. And one way to get there is for the AI systems to be explainable. So imagine an AI system that explains itself. So if you’re using an AI agent to do medical diagnostics and it comes up with a seemingly unintuitive answer, then the doctor might want to know why, right? Why did you come up with that answer as opposed to something else? Today these systems are pretty much black boxes, so you put the input, it just spits out what the answer is. “You have cancer. Thank you.” Yes, right. Exactly. “Have a nice day.” What we want to enable is for these systems to explain themselves in a way that they ... How they thought of it. Yeah, how they thought about it. Here are the assumptions that I made, just like we explain to others here are the assumptions that I made, here are the paths that I’ve considered, here are the paths that I’ve ruled out, and here’s why. Why do we need explanations? They’re smarter than we are. I mean, that’s the problem, right? So, again, I think that as you push the boundaries of automation, I think it’s likely ... well, two things. As you push the boundaries of automation, it’s likely to hit the barrier there in which everything is controlled by these things, but that’s ... Well that’s the fear, right? Societal, it’s a societal kind of interesting question. But don’t they already do that? Don’t we already rely on them for maps now? We do. Just think of when’s the last time you looked at a map, figured it out for yourself. Not ever. Yeah, so it seems a distant past. But I remember. I remember very vividly when I first moved to the U.S. I was trying to do online shopping for travel and I was supposed to get my credit card information. And I was like, “Should I really trust this?” because it wasn’t the common way of booking. Right, but then you did. Then I did it. I think with time, as the adoption curve goes up and whatnot, there’s a certain level of trust that builds in, but I think the rate at which these algorithms are advancing now, they’re going to be everywhere. I think it’s going to be significant. They’ll be talking to you, explaining to you, like regular people. They’re gonna be ... but not rude, for example. Just give you nice answers and stuff like that. That’s what we’re working for. You could make them a little rude in different places. We’ll talk about that, the societal impact and the responsibility of Silicon Valley in the next section, but what about self-driving? Are you guys doing stuff in self-driving cars? Well, we are indirectly. We’re not developing, I would say, our own version of a self-driving car, but there’s subsystems that then would support the autonomy that we’re working on for the sensing technology, for example, the radar technology and whatnot. There’s a number of areas in which we develop new technologies that would then enable better sensing of the information that comes from computer vision and some of the work that we’ve done in metamaterials. That’s gotta be the most tricky problem of all, in all computing, so I think. It is one of the most interesting. So many inputs all at once. Everyone’s like, “Why don’t these work?” I’m like, you know how difficult it is to drive a car? Merge, just anything. And again, I think cars are really interesting examples. From the previous conversation as well, fully autonomous versus ... and I talked about this recently at a keynote ... It’s great. You can have a self-driving car on a perfectly sunny, California day on a highway that’s well marked and everything is kind of consistent with how you modeled the world. But take that same car and put it on an intersection in a different part of the world — you know, Asia, where it’s highly densely populated and traffic flows in a very, very different and chaotic way potentially. Or put it on a winding road, which is foggy, in the countryside. I’d still trust it more than my mother, but okay. That should be fine. But again, I think there are these cases where ... because ultimately the learning is statistically based. The more data you see that represents the real world, the better you can get. And people feel more comfortable in these situations as time goes on. I mean, that’s the thing. At first you’re discomforted and then a second later you’re using it, and then the third later, you insult it. Like, “It’s not fast enough. It’s not enough,” kind of thing. Yeah, I think the fast and the accuracy, those things are improving really rapidly and radically. The point I was trying to make is there’s still the complexity in the world. There’s still those edge cases, if you will, or cases that are very, very complex, where humans are really good intuitively or experience based to kind of look at the situation at hand and make a judgment, where computers can’t. And that’s, again, an area that we’re working on. That’s what collaboration means, in addition to what I talked about earlier. And what about manufacturing? You mentioned manufacturing. Yeah, manufacturing is a huge area of interest for us. Because? Because I think it has an enormous potential for disruption. Manufacturing is going through the digital transformation, if you will, that a lot of other industries have already gone through and completed to a great extent. But if you look at the world of manufacturing, there’s a lot of things that are still being done, either manually or that are things that are still being done that even by expert and tribal and sort of tacit knowledge, if you will. It is, I think, moving in a direction where — with the emergence of these computational techniques and AI and data and other things — that it is on the verge of digital disruption, and that’s what we ... So explain what that would mean. Give me an example. Sure. So, I’ll give an example from one of the technologies that we worked on recently. For example, if you want to get a part made, manufactured for you, typically you have to send out a request for code and you send to a bunch of suppliers, and they need to kind of look at that. They have experts that understand the complexity so that they can retool it. “Do I have the right machine, right resources, assets, etc., on my production environment that I can make that?” So this process is a back and forth between design and manufacturing, which has sort of an artificial boundary in between, if you will. The designers specify what needs to get made, and then the manufacturing engineers really need to figure out how to get it made, right? So that translates into delaying to go to market, delaying the productivity of the machine shops, and a bunch of other inefficiencies, if you will. So we developed a platform that kind of brings those two worlds together. It’s a cloud-based service platform that really maps designs with supply chain capabilities. So you basically say, “I want this coffee cup to be made,” and you can drop that on the website and it understands manufacturing processes through advanced AI and modeling and simulation algorithms. So it can actually look at the design and look at, if given a shop, it can use a virtual model of that shop with the processes and simulate how you would translate that design into machine operations or instructions. Right. Without the back and forth. Just instant. Without the back and forth, right, in real time. And you can say if you were to go with this particular shop, this is how they would do it. This is how much it would cost, and how long it would take. If you don’t want to go with them, here’s another alterative, and then a different set of machines, different set of people, a different set of processes, what have you. It’s a different answer. So it really digitally connects the supply, the industrial base, which ... Which is now done by flying to China or ... you know what I mean? People, they just do that, which seems insane. They do, and they’re experts that really understand what you’re trying to do and understand the supply chain, and really connect that, right? So in this particular example, we build a platform that kind of brings that together for practical domain. Okay. When we get back, we’re here with Dr. Tolga Kurtoglu. He’s the CEO of Silicon Valley research and development company PARC. We’re talking about innovations and where they’re going. When we get back, I want to talk about the responsibility of Silicon Valley to these innovations, and also some of the way-out ideas he thinks that are happening, because that’s what PARC is known for. [ad] We’re here in the red chair with Dr. Tolga Kurtoglu, the CEO of the Silicon Valley research and development company PARC. We’ve been talking about a wide range of where things are going, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, security and other areas. So let’s talk about ... you’re talking about constant innovation, the business of innovation, which I think is the business of Silicon Valley, trying to be. How do you assess where Silicon Valley is now, because these areas of innovation change and morph over time. Obviously a lot of people are worried they’re shifting to China or somewhere else. Probably China would be the biggest choice. How do you assess Silicon Valley’s health right now, in terms of innovation? In terms of innovation and innovation leadership, I think Silicon Valley continues to be the world leader in innovation. But you’re right. I think the pace of innovation has changed dramatically. And to a certain extent, I make an analogy to kind of riding waves. So these innovation topics and areas come in waves, and when you’re there in the water, you kind of have to catch on to that wave, stand up and ride it, and then you have to think about what comes next and whatnot. Sure. So I think in terms of really defining what those waves are, Silicon Valley holds the leadership today, as we see in the Internet of Things, AI, self-driving cars and a bunch of other areas, robotics for sure. Still the majority of innovation comes from the Valley. The center of gravity is closer to our coast than other parts of the world, but clearly there is competition elsewhere in the world, right? So there’s pockets of areas and regions that either aspire to or that already have a solid base for innovation and technology development. I think partly the continued leadership is continuation of a number of factors that kind of made Silicon Valley Silicon Valley in the first place. And those factors are still there. Such as? In my mind, there are three or four, right? So people often ask, “Such and such place would be the next Silicon Valley,” or “We want to be the Silicon Valley of X.” There will be an X Silicon Valley. Sure. But I think it comes down to four factors in my mind. There is access to capital, which we have with the VC community and otherwise. Access to talent, with not only one of the two best universities, but more in all the world’s talent want to be here in the Valley. But also access to what I call entrepreneurial mentorship. That’s something that people often overlook. We had fair trials, and if you go back to the history of Silicon Valley, a lot of those people that were influential in the formation of the Valley and the silicon industry, they moved on, and they themselves became investors and mentors. And they educated the next entrepreneurial generation. And that kind of continues. So there is a tremendous amount of know how to work in terms of entrepreneurialship, and how to really think about technology and innovation and take it the market and make it a success. That’s hard to repeat elsewhere. And then there’s a really interesting connection, which is the fourth factor, is the people of Silicon Valley and the culture here. Often when we talk about innovation, we talk about early adopters and laggards and the ones that follow, right? So Silicon Valley is full of people that are early adopters, that are dying to try out the next big thing, right? So if you think about all the technologies that we use today in our daily lives from Waze to Lyft and Uber and other things, you know as they come out, there’s already a cultural test bed, if you will, that are willing to really try out those things. All right. So that’s the happy case, but some things are starting to show. What’s happening at Uber is ugly. Yes. And sort of a nasty version of what’s happening. It’s arrogance. It’s sort of the end of an empire kind of behavior. It’s messy and sloppy and not at all these vaunted ideas. Yes. What’s the danger to innovation in these cultures? Obviously, money. It’s warping. It generates a tremendous amount of wealth for a limited number of people. And then it comes down to individual preferences and character as to how people deal with that, right? So that’s certainly a risk. And I think there is also a danger of, with great power and leadership comes also responsibility. So you really need to understand what that means. You’re changing the world, you’re really disrupting major industries in profound ways. And you can behave in a way that then shows a certain character versus you had behaved in a way that shows you do that with a certain humility. Right. So, again, what I think we’re seeing is, in the examples that you’re saying, that there’s a potential to kind of be too arrogant about all of that and behave in ways that is not very productive for our culture. Right. So talking about great responsibility, do you think people in Silicon Valley do understand the impact of their ... I had a really interesting meeting yesterday with someone from Facebook who — we had a large argument about their responsibility in the election, and obviously they were grappling with it. They’re definitely concerned about what their impact is. Same thing with the self-driving car stuff. What happens to jobs? Don’t you understand the linkage between job elimination, or Amazon and retail? You could iterate through lots and lots of innovations that are happening. And machine learning and automation, they all have a profound impact on our society. And you can see it politically right now, the rise of populism, the rise of really idiotic leadership that takes advantage of those fears about the future. How do you look at that? Or do you think Silicon Valley has to do something to understand its responsibility? I think it does understand, because there’s not only the sort of the bad examples, if you would, but there’s a fair amount of good examples that are coming out of Silicon Valley as well. I mean, through either philanthropic causes or some of the discussions that are going on. You know, off the top of my head, I’m trying to think of examples. When you think about robotics and AI and automation and jobs, this whole notion and conversation about universal basic income, taxing robots and AI agents, and really kind of creating value for the society at large, I think those discussions are happening. We know of research centers that come together that have a social mission in trying to use artificial intelligence and machine learning for those causes and for those causes only. So, again, this is not black and white in my mind in terms of Silicon Valley is all bad or all good. There is a subset of people that really understands it comes with a certain level of responsibility, understanding the impact of what technology development means, what innovation means for the society here, but also for the world at large. And there’s some people that simply don’t think about that, or choose to act in a different way. I think this is the first time they really understood jobs, especially job elimination, because some of these technologies ... It’s not a photo app. It’s not ... they sort of decimated media certainly, but nobody, they didn’t seem to care that much about that. Right. Now it’s getting to the heart of a lot of things. When you’re talking about automation and self-driving cars, you really move quickly through a large swath of the population and how you ship them. We just had an interview with Reid Hoffman and Marc Andreessen, and I just did another one with Reid. I had a really interesting back and forth with Marc Andreessen, who’s one of the most prominent venture capitalists. And he was saying, “It was better when we got to manufacturing over the farm economy because there was more jobs than ever.” And I said, “Yes, but the transition.” And he was like, “Well, there were blacksmiths and then there weren’t.” And I was like, “Yeah, but what about the blacksmiths’ family? What about the people they bought food from? What about ...” I think there was a great deal of social discomfort during that time that we utterly forget about, but was very profound at the time. So who is responsible for that from a technological point of view, because here you are saying, “We’re going to make this of the future, that of the future.” What about the present? How do you deal with the present? Would you think about that? Is it just resurgency, or “Just forget it. We’re just going to invent time machines and invisibility cloaks and whatever happens, happens?” We’re all individuals and we think about what that might mean for the future because absolutely we want to impact the world in a positive and significant way. And again, with that comes a certain level of responsibility. You have to kind of think about, “Well, those are the positives, but what about the negatives?” And yes, I think this is an interesting moment from that perspective, with all the advances in automation and AI and robotics and the kinds of things we talked about. There is the reality of jobs being lost and certain people being displaced from the workplace in a profound way. And I think that there’s two pieces of perspective on that. One, we need to think about also technology and what opportunity it creates. So it takes away certain jobs, but it also presents opportunities for different kinds of jobs, different kinds of skill sets to be significant. Let’s talk about that finishing up. What do you imagine ... I’ve seen recently, I’ve been reading a lot of stuff around what the work that’s needed in the future is, what the actual jobs are, and what’s going ... A lot of them are eldercare, childcare, things that are pretty basic. What do you envision will Xerox PARC be looking at in 20 years? What are the things ... Right now we’re doing that automation and AI kind of thing. If you’re thinking way out, what is it? Like time travel or telepathy or what? No, I don’t know if this is going to be way, way out there, but I think the answer is kind of an intersection of those technological trends that are emerging. We think about the office place of the future and how that may look like, right? So it’s most likely going to look very different than the one that we have today. And it’s also very likely ... If you look at the consumer space and how people interact with technology. There’s a slew of sensors on my smartphones and other things, variables in our smart watches, etc., and all data that is coming from that is sort of contextually processed. And I think the future is a bit where we all have as individuals these systems, if you will, that would then help us with what we need to do. Like if you’re trying to find food, we can immediately get recommendations about that. If you want to make reservations at the concert and whatnot, they can get done. It’s like these virtual aids and assistants surrounding us in real time and processing a lot of data that are coming from different sources to kind of really help us out. And I think the future of work is no exception to that. It’s going to be really interesting experiencing that ... The office spaces, whether similar to what we have now or radically different in different places, would be loaded with sensors. It would be loaded with machines that can talk to you and that can interact with you. You can think about how we have the Amazon Echoes and Google Homes at home and interact with them. And all of that data and all of that interaction would be delivered to people in a way that those agents understand the workflow, the task, the corporation hierarchy and those kinds of things, and able to deliver you personalized experiences, given the task that you want to do. Yeah. You are talking about a fully monitored society. That is the risk. And then another area we’re working on ... No, that’s exactly what it is. That’s exactly what it is, right? And then I think one of the biggest question marks is what does that mean with respect to security and the privacy of people, right? And that’s another area ... There is no such thing, right? I’m sorry. I thought that was gone 20 years ago. It is a significant challenge, yeah. That was what, Scott McNealy? There is no privacy. Just get used to it, or something like that. Yeah. So what does that mean? Obviously we’ve seen cyber attacks. Let’s finish up on that. We’ve seen all kinds of threats, the more we depend on these technologies. Yeah, I think my prediction is it’s only going to go up, right? So, we need to think about the signs in technology that would then make our data, our workflow, more secure and more private as well as the personal data more secure and more private. Financial data. Financial data, other personal identifiable data and sensitive data and whatnot. But also, on the physical or the cyber-physical systems as well, right? So if you have an autonomous car, you don’t want somebody to take control of that autonomous car and do whatever they want with it, right? Same thing with the drones and whatnot. So it’s really fascinating if you just kind of go beyond the traditional notions of security and privacy with the data, but we have all these smart systems and machine intelligence, I talked about, and all those systems need to be secured as well. Yeah. Because humans never use good things for bad purposes. Exactly, so. I had an ongoing fight with the Facebook people about their Facebook Live. And when they first showed it to me, I said, “Oh, someone’s gonna kill someone.” And they’re like, “Kara, you’re such a bad person.” I was like, “What? Am I the only person that’s thought of this?” And obviously they had thought about it, but it was my absolute first thought, not my ... And they were like, “It will be wonderful.” I’m like, “It will be awful.” So it’s a really interesting ... I have a terrible perspective. But can we finish up? Let’s finish up. What is the craziest thing that you’ve seen lately, like there’s something that you’re like, “Whoa, that’s pretty cool.” Because you couldn’t have imagined the graphical user interface, or even at the time that was probably like, “Whoa, that’s pretty cool,” because the way computers and we interact, and no one ever thought about interacting with them in a friendly way. So what’s the thing you’ve seen and you’ve gone, “Oh my God?” It’s a really interesting question. I know you’ve seen something. Yeah, well, I have, but this goes back to sort of being immersed in technology so much that sort of the surprise element or the wow factor, if you will, is just kind of gone. Okay, I’ll give you an example. When we had Regina [Dugan] when she was heading DARPA, she started talking about like a Mach 10 plane, or something Mach whatever that went across the world in 30 seconds. That was “Wow.” That was “Whoa.” Yeah, I’ll give one example. It’s a problem for humans to be in it, but that’s another issue. I’ll give kind of ... We talked about security and privacy. I’ll give one example from PARC. When I first saw it, I wasn’t part of that group. I was like, “Wow, that’s really cool.” And that’s a self-disintegrating electronic circuit, which is basically built in a particular way on a particular glass base that you can then basically put a lot of energy in, and then you can remotely release that energy, trigger that. And then when it releases, it completely disintegrates. What? Why does it disintegrate? Well, you can imagine that there’s electronics in which there is data that you don’t want anyone else to have access to. Oh, so like “Mission Impossible.” It was exactly my reaction. I was like, “Wow, that’s really cool.” That’s a cool technology. So it would just disintegrate on command, like whatever. On a trigger. You can do it many different ways. You don’t have to like break the cellphone dramatically. It just would like ... Or have it be a Samsung Galaxy or whatever. Exactly. Imagine your phone and you know where it is and you can remotely just trigger that, and then it just kind of goes away. Wow. That’s interesting. No time machine then. No time machine here. I’m waiting for someone to come here and tell me about how the time machine is going or the invisibility cloak or ... I would be happy to come back for that. Well, I’m waiting. All right, Tolga, it was great talking to you. Thanks for coming by.

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posted about 20 hours ago on re/code
Thanks to a new course and a newish nonprofit. The share of women and underrepresented minorities taking computer science for college credit in high school spiked, thanks in part to a second Advanced Placement computer science course that launched this year. Part of the credit also belongs to Code.org, a nonprofit that teaches K-12 computer science curriculum and has been working to bring more women and minorities into the field. The new AP course, Computer Science Principles, is considered more accessible and creative than the traditional CS offering, which focuses on a specific coding language. In its first year, 15,000 young women took the new Computer Science Principles final, several hundred more than took the original course this year. Thirteen thousand underrepresented minorities — blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and Native Pacific Islanders — took the Principles final this year compared with 9,000 for the traditional exam. It was a banner year for both AP computer science courses. (function() { var l = function() { new pym.Parent( 'recode-number-of-highschool-students-taking-ap-computer-science-exams-jumped-up-this-year-thanks-to-a-new-course__graphic', 'https://apps.voxmedia.com/at/recode-number-of-highschool-students-taking-ap-computer-science-exams-jumped-up-this-year-thanks-to-a-new-course/'); }; if(typeof(pym) === 'undefined') { var h = document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0], s = document.createElement('script'); s.type = 'text/javascript'; s.src = 'https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/pym/0.4.5/pym.js'; s.onload = l; h.appendChild(s); } else { l(); } })(); Principles tackles larger computer science concepts and isn’t constrained to one programming language. And as part of their Principles final exam, students submit a portfolio of apps they’ve created rather than simply taking a multiple-choice test. It’s meant to appeal to a wider array of students in general, which also means more women and minorities. Last summer, Code.org taught 500 teachers its AP Computer Science Principles curriculum and is teaching nearly another 1,000 this summer. Currently, 15 percent of high schools offer computer science AP courses, up from 5 percent when Code.org — which is funded partly by Microsoft, Facebook and Infosys — began its work four years ago. Twenty-seven percent of students finishing computer science AP courses in 2017 were women, up from 23 percent in 2016. Similarly, underrepresented minorities now make up 20 percent of these test takers, up 5 percentage points from last year. Of students who took Code.org’s CS Principles AP course, 70 percent said they wanted to study computer science after graduating high school. Half of the students taking Code.org’s AP curriculum are underrepresented minorities. (function() { var l = function() { new pym.Parent( 'recode-the-share-of-women-and-minorities-taking-ap-computer-science-exams-also-jumped-this-year-with-the-new-class__graphic', 'https://apps.voxmedia.com/at/recode-the-share-of-women-and-minorities-taking-ap-computer-science-exams-also-jumped-this-year-with-the-new-class/'); }; if(typeof(pym) === 'undefined') { var h = document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0], s = document.createElement('script'); s.type = 'text/javascript'; s.src = 'https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/pym/0.4.5/pym.js'; s.onload = l; h.appendChild(s); } else { l(); } })(); These AP courses are a way to give high school students college credit and steer them toward an industry with high pay and prestige, but one that has been plagued by inequality in representation, pay and treatment. The AP trend is positive but computer science participation and the tech industry in general is still far from being equitable. “We can’t just change it by changing the pipeline because there’s still major issues of culture — unconscious bias and unfair promoting practices in the workplace,” Code.org founder Hadi Partovi said. “Similarly, it’s impossible if we only change workplace culture.”

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posted about 22 hours ago on re/code
It’s still here. Microsoft’s share price set an all-time record high yesterday, $74.30. This morning, it’s down a bit, in the $73-$74 range. But yesterday, after Microsoft reported strong fourth-quarter results, it passed $77 in after-hours trading. This is significant because Microsoft has been a public company since 1986, so this is effectively a 31-year high-water mark for the company, with a market capitalization around $570 billion. (function() { var l = function() { new pym.Parent( 'recode-microsoft-adjusted-weekly-closing-share-price__graphic', 'https://apps.voxmedia.com/at/recode-microsoft-adjusted-weekly-closing-share-price/'); }; if(typeof(pym) === 'undefined') { var h = document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0], s = document.createElement('script'); s.type = 'text/javascript'; s.src = 'https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/pym/0.4.5/pym.js'; s.onload = l; h.appendChild(s); } else { l(); } })(); It’s also significant because many — myself included — had been pessimistic for years about Microsoft’s prospects, considering how it blew two massive shifts in how software is used and sold, both on the web and mobile devices. So why is Microsoft stock at its all-time high? First and foremost, because Microsoft didn’t simply collapse during the massive global shift to mobile computers from desktop PCs and software sold as a subscription service instead of on a CD-ROM in a cardboard box — the way Microsoft had become the world’s dominant software company. The mobile era is mature — the revolution has happened — and yet Microsoft still generated $21 billion of profit on $90 billion of revenue in its 2017 fiscal year that just ended. It’s still a very big business, still growing a bit, and many things are still working. Second, because — better late than never — Microsoft is finding success in the cloud software era, selling software to businesses on a recurring subscription basis. The company’s “Commercial Cloud” business is within spitting distance of its fiscal 2018 goal of a $20 billion annualized revenue run rate. Its Azure cloud business, which competes with Amazon Web Services, grew 97 percent year over year last quarter, a re-acceleration of growth. And for the first time last quarter, Microsoft’s Office 365 Commercial business generated more revenue than its traditional licensing business, CFO Amy Hood said on the company’s earnings call. So the rise of Google Docs and other web-based apps didn’t actually destroy Office — it just forced Microsoft to change business models, which it has done. Also, the PC hasn’t collapsed at the rate some predicted. The question in technology is, as always, what’s next, and Microsoft may still miss the next several big shifts. But for now, it’s still here. And investors are interested.

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posted about 22 hours ago on re/code
We’ll always have the memories. Sean Spicer, arguably the most well-known White House press secretary in recent memory, has resigned. Spicer’s resignation came somewhat abruptly today after he told President Trump that he “vehemently disagreed with the appointment of the New York financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director.” Spicer had a combative relationship with the press since Trump’s inauguration; his turn at the press podium was a must-watch for Washington and elsewhere. His press briefings, though, became infamous once comedian Melissa McCarthy began pillorying his appearances from the “Saturday Night Live” stage. Sidenote: It’s almost too perfect that the reporter who broke the story of Spicer resigning, the New York Times’ Glenn Thrush, was also regularly featured in the SNL skits himself. Screengrab from SNL’s YouTube video So without further ado, let’s play Spicer off the White House staff by watching some of McCarthy’s best impressions of him on “SNL.” Thanks for the memories, Spicey.

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posted about 23 hours ago on re/code
Plus, Tesla rival Lucid Motors faces a choice, corporate ethics are on trend, and Instagram is influencing restaurant design. Twitter claims that its recent efforts to curb abuse are helping. The company has launched several product updates to curb abusive behavior, including changes to its private messaging feature and algorithmic filters to hide abusive replies. Without supplying specific numbers for scale, Twitter said it is "taking action” against 10 times the number of accounts than it did a year ago. And Twitter's VP of trust and safety says the new anti-abuse rules apply to the Tweeter in Chief, too. [Kurt Wagner / Recode] Trump is set to hire hedge fund star Anthony Scaramucci as his new communications director. Among other things, Scaramucci was the focus of the botched CNN story that led the network to fire three of its journalists last month. Meanwhile, Trump’s team is setting up a showdown with special counsel Robert Mueller. [Jonathan Swan / Axios] Short of cash, electric-vehicle startup Lucid Motors faces a choice: Build or sell? The company is considering several acquisition offers, even as it raises money to build an assembly plant in China or Arizona for its would-be Tesla Model S rival, called the Lucid Air. Ford CEO Jim Hackett recently presented an acquisition offer; at least two other companies are interested in acquiring the company, which was founded in 2007 by an ex-VP of Tesla. [Mark Harris / Recode] Take a look under the hood of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, already the nation’s largest owner of broadcast TV stations, which is buying Tribune Media and its 42 TV stations for $3.9 billion. Sinclair is positioning itself to turn its existing 173 stations into a cohesive network that pushes low-budget, Fox News-esque conservative commentary into small markets like Sioux City, Fresno and Little Rock. [Felix Gillette / Bloomberg] The new Uber exec tasked with repairing the company’s culture says former CEO Travis Kalanick can be redeemed, even after cascading scandals forced him to resign in June. In an onstage conversation that was recorded for the Recode Decode podcast, VP of leadership and strategy Frances Frei stopped short of saying Kalanick should stay involved in the company after the board chooses his replacement. Uber has tapped lobbyist Brian Ballard, a top ally and major fundraiser for President Trump, as it tries to push for friendlier regulation in a Republican-dominated Washington, D.C. [Theodore Schleifer / Recode] The next big corporate trend? Actually having ethics. Ethical transformation is as impactful and critical as digital transformation — the other megatrend of the last 20 years. So many companies are getting it wrong, and the consequences are real — public boycotts, massive fines, fired CEOs and falling stock prices. Related: Top VC Vinod Khosla thinks other industries have bigger harassment problems than the VC industry. [Patrick Quinlan / Recode] RECODE PRESENTS ... Sweetgreen and Glossier have built enthusiastic millennial followings, raised funding from top investors, and now they’re ready to scale. We’ve invited Sweetgreen co-founder and co-CEO Jonathan Neman and Glossier founder and CEO Emily Weiss to Code Commerce to discuss how they built brands that young people love — and how they plan to maintain that authenticity during a period of rapid growth. Register now to receive a $200 discount on your ticket for the day-and-a-half event — Sept. 13 and 14 in New York City, hosted by Jason Del Rey — to discuss all things retail and commerce. Top stories from Recode We have a lot of questions for Elon Musk about the “verbal government approval” for an NYC-DC hyperloop. First question: Say what? Senator Cory Booker thinks the U.S. government should keep an eye on the size of Amazon, Google and other tech giants. He talks about the need for antitrust enforcement in a coming episode of Recode Decode. Vimeo isn’t launching a new subscription service, but it does have a new CEO. Anjali Sud gets a promotion; Joey Levin goes back to running IAC full-time. A year after Pokémon Go’s meteoric rise, no other app launch has come close. It really was that special. Is the future AR … or VR? Google VR boss Clay Bavor explains why the two technologies aren’t so different on the latest Too Embarrassed to Ask. This is cool Come for the banana wallpaper, stay for the Cuban sandwich. Food photos have been Instagram bait from the start. Now some restaurateurs are designing their physical spaces to inspire the maximum number of photos. They’re commissioning neon signs bearing modestly sly double entendres, painting elaborate murals of tropical wildlife and embedding floor tiles with branded greetings — all in the hope that their guests will post them. [Casey Newton / The Verge]

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posted about 24 hours ago on re/code
They focused their efforts on immigration, taxes and privacy, new records show. Amazon, Apple and Google each spent record sums lobbying President Donald Trump and the rest of Washington, D.C., over the past three months, new federal records show, shelling out a combined $10 million to shape federal policy on everything from privacy to immigration reform. It’s the most expensive quarter ever for these tech giants, many of which found themselves face to face with Trump in June as the White House commenced a new effort to modernize the inner-workings of the U.S. government and tackle regulations around drones and other emerging technologies. Apple, for one, spent $2.2 million between April 1 and June 30, 2017 — about double from the same three-month period in 2016 — to lobby on issues like tax and surveillance reforms. The iPhone giant, like other businesses, had to disclose its lobbying activities from the second quarter of the year to the U.S. government by midnight. In its filing, Apple explicitly called attention to its work around immigration — an issue that mattered so much to Apple CEO Tim Cook that he confronted Trump directly about it during a private reception at the White House in June. But the biggest spender is still Google, which spent nearly $5.4 million to lobby Washington in the second quarter of 2017, its report shows. As usual, the search-and-advertising giant focused its lobbying efforts on shaping self-driving car regulation, pushing for surveillance reforms and addressing potential competition concerns in the nation’s capital. New to its agenda, however, is “government funding of science,” an item that appears on its lobbying disclosure months after Trump proposed a budget for the U.S. government that slashed federal science and research spending. Apple declined to comment on its lobbying activities, while a spokeswoman for Google did not immediately respond to an email Friday. If anything, these companies’ blossoming federal lobbying bills reflect the high stakes for the entire tech industry in Trump’s Washington. Some have warred openly with Trump — from the halls of Congress to U.S. courtrooms — around efforts to restrict immigration and rethink the U.S. government’s approach to climate change. Others have fought the administration as it prepares to unravel the government’s net neutrality rules. For all their differences, however, Silicon Valley’s top executives see some space for potential compromise with Trump’s White House, including over tax and infrastructure reforms. The likes of Apple and Google long have sought to bring back billions of dollars in cash kept overseas without incurring a stiff tax penalty, an idea the president’s team has publicly supported. To that end, Amazon spent a record $3.2 million in the second quarter of the year, according to its lobbying disclosure. It’s part of Amazon’s fast-paced growth spurt in Washington, D.C., where it even hired a top fundraiser for Trump from the 2016 presidential campaign as one of its lobbyists — perhaps hoping the president would stop slamming the company and its chief executive, Jeff Bezos. Amazon’s political efforts also come as the company begins its work to sell a proposed $14 billion merger with Whole Foods to the U.S. government — a deal that already has drawn some early criticism on Capitol Hill. The company did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Other big Beltway spenders include Facebook, which like some of its web company counterparts focused some of its $2.3 million in spending between April 1 and June 30 on fighting a proposal in Congress that seeks to impose new limits on how tech companies tap users’ data to sell ads. The so-called Browser Act, unveiled by Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, has drawn immense opposition from groups like the Internet Association, which represents Amazon, Facebook, Google and others. The group previously told Recode the bill “has the potential to upend the consumer experience online and stifle innovation.” Facebook also did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

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posted about 24 hours ago on re/code
The company will be offering automakers a hardware and software suite that enables self-driving. It’s early days for the self-driving industry and yet the network of alliances among companies in the space is already incredibly complex. Now, it’s only going to get more complicated as Lyft begins to expand its role in the driverless ecosystem. Lyft has announced it’s starting to develop a hardware and software kit that will enable self-driving cars. The company already works with self-driving tech companies, like Waymo or nuTonomy, which are expected to plug their tech into Lyft’s network of cars. Lyft will continue to operate the network, but this move means it will also be competing, to some degree, with its own partners. That raises questions for the future of this complex ecosystem, which in the case of Lyft also includes automakers like Jaguar. The idea is that people will eventually be able to hail a self-driving Jaguar using the Lyft app. Lyft’s new initiative includes building software for mapping and computer vision algorithms, which can help the car know where to go and understand what it’s seeing. That technology stack will include off-the-shelf hardware, like cameras and radars, from other companies. But why would Lyft, a company that was well positioned to serve as an agnostic on-demand platform for a series of automakers and tech companies, decide to take on the cost and burden of building out its own tech? Part of it may have to do with trying to become more appealing for current and future automaker partners (or maybe even a potential buyer). Other automakers without the technology could find Lyft more appealing either as an acquisition target or a partner if it owns more of its technology — particularly since Lyft has a built-in path to market. Lyft also appears to be willing to piecemeal out some of the components of its kits, so if one automaker just needs better maps it can use Lyft’s maps, as one example. Other partners could simply choose to plug their self-driving cars into the network without using any of Lyft’s technology. Second, the company appears to be hedging its bets on its partnerships by owning more of the self-driving value chain. The autonomous ecosystem consists of three primary parts: The car, the tech and the path to market. Without the tech, Lyft just served as the path to market. It’s not necessarily a bad position to be in. The company is working on ways to own more of the user experience beyond hailing the cars. That includes working on features within the app and eventually on in-car tablets that will walk customers through what the self-driving car is seeing, where it’s going and why it does specific things. This way, customers continue to interact with Lyft’s brand throughout the ride. The company’s pitch to partners is its geographic scale and that it offers the added benefit of already having a pool of drivers on its network. This is key to its value proposition, the company’s chief strategy officer Raj Kapoor said during a press briefing, because automakers or tech companies don’t have to worry about not meeting rider demand as they incrementally deploy self-driving cars into the network. But Lyft seems to not want to take any chances by being beholden to one company or its timeline for deployment. Autonomy could be a huge boon to the company’s business down the line and without it, its marketshare could be at risk. Other players in the space appear to be jockeying for position as well. Alphabet’s Waymo has previously hinted at working on its own ride-sharing service. So to ensure that Lyft maintains some of its power in a situation where one partner creates a competing service, pulls out of the network or takes longer than expected to build the technology, the company is diving into the ever-crowded driverless tech space head first. “[Self-driving cars] are going to be critical to our longer-term existence,” the company’s head of product Taggart Matthiesen told Recode. “That makes it critical that we work [on] and have access to this technology longer term.” There’s a lot of competition in building autonomous technology. That makes Lyft’s value proposition look a lot like its partners: Waymo and nuTonomy. By contrast, Alphabet’s self-driving car division, Waymo, is building some of its own hardware, like the laser-based radars called lidar, in a bid to supply carmakers and other self-driving technology companies. Nevertheless, each of these companies — while they’re working together — are also now competing for the same business relationships with carmakers. !function(){if("undefined"==typeof powerbiresize){powerbiresize=1;var e=function(){for(var e=document.querySelectorAll("[data-resize=powerbi]"),i=0;i Matthiesen told Recode that the company has been transparent with its self-driving tech partners Waymo and nuTonomy about this since the beginning. NuTonomy co-founder Karl Iagnemma echoed that in a statement saying that he’s excited about the work the company is doing with Lyft. “The AV ecosystem is constantly evolving and no single winner will be crowned,” Iagnemma said. “Partnerships remain critical to nuTonomy's success, and our aim is to work with groups with whom we share strategic aims and core values. These are partners that are transparent, innovative, and are focused on putting autonomous fleets on the road.” Eventually, what we’ll see — at least based on today’s development — is a network wherein Waymo, nuTonomy, GM’s Cruise or Lyft-powered cars will drive alongside each other on the Lyft platform. Building out a self-driving kit in-house wasn’t the initial plan for the $7.5 billion company. But Matthiesen said Lyft has been working on this new version of its autonomous ambitions for the better part of the last year and a half. It’s not exactly an easy or inexpensive endeavor, however. Uber has been working on driverless tech since at least 2015. As of earlier this year, the company’s cars had to be taken over by a human driver once every .8 miles, according to documents Recode first obtained. Lyft — which Matthiesen said wants to make sure people know they’re serious about this — is also building out a Palo Alto site where he and the company’s vice president of engineering Luc Vincent will lead a team of self-driving engineers.

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The company is hiring for a number of positions related to monetization. WhatsApp, the standalone messaging app that Facebook bought for $19 billion back in early 2014, doesn’t make any money. That’s about to change — apparently soon — as WhatsApp is hiring for a number of key monetization roles, including a product manager position to “lead product development on our monetization efforts.” WhatsApp, which has more than 200 employees, recently posted three job openings related to business products it doesn’t currently offer. There’s the product manager role mentioned above; a product marketing manager position, a role focused on selling and marketing that product to actual customers, including helping the “go-to-market plans”; and a business communications position, someone who can help explain WhatsApp’s business to the press. Under the “preferred qualifications” section of the PM and PMM postings, WhatsApp says it’s also looking for people with “prior experience in local, search and payments.” A source familiar with WhatsApp’s strategy said the company is particularly focused on creating something for emerging markets, like Brazil or India, where the app is very popular. In fact, all three job postings mention a desire for experience in international or emerging markets. WhatsApp doesn’t say much publicly, period, and it has said even less about its business plans, other than to say, repeatedly, that it doesn’t like advertisments. But earlier this year, WhatsApp hired its first COO, a business exec from parent company Facebook, and started testing a product that would let businesses actually communicate with customers via the messaging app. In April, reports surfaced that WhatsApp was working on a payments feature to launch in India. Another source described WhatsApp’s plan as similar to Apple’s recently announced Business Chat, which lets customers communicate with businesses to “get answers to questions, resolve issues, and complete transactions.” Facebook’s other messaging app, Messenger, is trying to do something similar. Here’s how WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum has described it in the past: “That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight. We all get these messages elsewhere today — through text messages and phone calls — so we want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam.” It’s unknown how close WhatsApp is to actually unveiling a business product like this, but usually you don’t bring in the comms professional or the product marketing person until you have an idea that you’d like to start talking about. A WhatsApp spokesperson declined to comment. WhatsApp has 1.2 billion users worldwide, and is incredibly popular in emerging markets outside of the United States. Many businesses in countries like India and Brazil already use WhatsApp to send messages to customers. WhatsApp just doesn’t offer custom tools or dashboards to help with that. Facebook has said that growth for its core moneymaker, News Feed, is going to slow down, and the company is looking for other business options inside many of its other apps. Messenger, the company’s other standalone messaging app, is also trying to connect businesses with their customers, though it is more popular in the U.S.

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posted 1 day ago on re/code
Google VR boss Clay Bavor explains why the two technologies aren’t so different on the latest Too Embarrassed to Ask. Google isn’t trying to hide what it’s doing with virtual reality. The long-term goal, said Google VR boss Clay Bavor on the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, is rethinking “any experience with sight and sound.” “It’s not that hard to see where this all goes,” Bavor told Recode’s Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode. “Imagine you have some glasses and you put them on and you feel like you’re completely transported somewhere else: Courtside at a Warriors game, or Machu Picchu, or maybe back in a moment in your life that you’ve recorded.” “I think that was an episode of ‘Black Mirror,’” Swisher said. “A bad one.” “The reality is, we’re at the very beginning of the journey to that fully realized version of VR,” Bavor said. Google consciously chose to make its first VR headset out of cardboard, he explained, because it’s more important to give people a “glimpse” of what will be possible than to push the bleeding edge from the get-go. But in certain areas, like 360-degree videos that can be viewed in a VR headset, the technology is near or already here. “If you think about what do we use our phones’ cameras for, very few of the photos we take are artistically beautiful and well-composed — I’m speaking for myself,” Bavor said. “It’s about capturing a moment, capturing a memory, and we have line of sight to the first versions of VR cameras that let you record an experience. I’ve been using these in my own life — I have two young kids. The ability to step back into those moments and almost re-experience them, it’s very powerful.” You can listen to the new podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud. But consumer VR hardware is still considered a niche gaming experience, and some in the tech industry have started to say that augmented reality is the future, instead. Google has been experimenting with Tango, its AR platform for certain mobile phones, since 2013, and Apple recently entered the fray by announcing its own platform, ARKit, for newer iOS devices. Bavor said he doesn’t believe there has to be an either-or choice between VR and AR. “They’re different points on the same spectrum of — I call it immersive computing,” he said. “I don’t really care about the label, but it’s this idea that you have computing and digital imagery that feels like it’s there. Virtual reality, everything is computer-generated; augmented reality, you have bits and pieces of digital information overlaid on your environment.” The same device that transports you to Machu Picchu, he said, could also guide you around the world by turning into an AR assistant. “One [use] I am very excited about is navigation,” Bavor said. “I spend my day in this building, I still can’t find all the conference rooms. Imagine that you could just look through your phone: ‘Oh, your next meeting is over there.’ Or you get out of a taxi or an Uber; you’re disoriented. It could just say ‘You’re over there,’ [and] overlay footsteps on the ground, leading the way.” Have questions about VR that we didn’t get to in this episode? Tweet them to @Recode with the hashtag #TooEmbarrassed, or email them to [email protected] Be sure to follow @LaurenGoode, @KaraSwisher and @Recode to be alerted when we're looking for questions about a specific topic. If you like this show, you should also check out our other podcasts: Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers in tech and media every Monday. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud. Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud. And finally, Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, such as the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify, TuneIn and Stitcher. If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts— and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara and Lauren. Tune in next Friday for another episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask!

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posted 1 day ago on re/code
Today’s Google Doodle celebrates McLuhan, who would have turned 106. Marshall McLuhan envisioned the internet decades before it was invented — that’s the popular position, anyway. He never witnessed the web, but McLuhan did anticipate its coming in a way few would, coining the now overused digital proverb, "the medium is the message," in his bestselling 1964 book "Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man." His theories sparked a debate about the narcotic effects of mass media, making him a pop culture fascination at the time and occasionally the focus of academic ridicule. Today would have marked his 106th birthday, which Google is celebrating on its homepage. McLuhan’s point — that massively distributed networks, like TV and radio, were more crucial than the content they conveyed — inspired authors and engineers decades later. “Electric media” is an extension of ourselves, a communal act, he said, adding in a 1968 debate with Norman Mailer “an electronic world re-tribalizes men.” Sound familiar? In that way, McLuhan presaged Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and their attendant miscues — the Trump presidency, Gamergate, the alt-right — by more than four decades. During the ’60s and ’70s McLuhan was a regular presence on the talk show circuit, serving as an expert on the news media and its many failings. He warned of media’s all-consuming effect, of TV especially, how it bound people without real participation. Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat today might seem the ideal corrective, but he’d probably be disappointed in what he’d find. Early internet pioneers latched on to McLuhan, even as they distorted his theories. The founding of Wired magazine was inspired by his work; it even mimicked the experimental typography used in his book, “The Medium Is the Massage,” for its early editor’s letters. But the best instance of McLuhanism involves McLuhan himself as he appeared in Woody Allen's 1977 film "Annie Hall." In a fantasy showdown with a boisterously pompous academic waiting in line for a movie, Allen's character, overhearing his jag, confronts him: "Aren’t you ashamed to pontificate like that? And the funny part of it is— Marshall McLuhan, you don’t know anything about Marshall McLuhan.” “Oh really,” The academic responds, “well I happened to teach a class at Columbia called ‘TV, media and culture,’ so I think that my insights into Mr. McLuhan, well have a great deal of validity.” Allen then magically pulls McLuhan himself from offscreen, who addresses the offender: "I heard what you were saying. You know nothing of my work. You mean my whole fallacy is wrong. How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing.” The metatheatrics in the scene are clever and meaningless, just as McLuhan’s media theories had always proposed. It’s also one of movie’s greatest lines. Happy birthday MM!

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posted 1 day ago on re/code
Still he wasn’t “surprised” by the revelations. To hear Vinod Khosla tell it, sexual harassment isn’t quite as common in venture capital as you might think. As a spate of allegations rock the business, Khosla said he was “a little surprised” by the revelations, but is still arguing that venture capital is relatively a safer space for women than other fields are today. “I did not know that there was any discrimination,” Khosla said, adding that it was “rarer than in most other businesses.” “I’ve never done a statistical survey,” Khosla admitted to an audience at a trade event in Palo Alto Thursday evening. But he said he is quizzing women about their experiences and it was nevertheless his “impression” that the problem was not quite as prevalent as a percentage as it is in other industries, such as autos or finance. Harassment allegations have already ejected two prominent venture capitalists from rival firms in recent weeks, and firms today describe an industry on edge and waiting for more shoes to drop. “It’s a reality because it’s perceived as a reality,” Khosla said of the sexual harassment problem, attributing its prominence to the high media profile of the ousters. “And perception is more important than reality.” One survey from last year found that 60 percent of women in Silicon Valley identified as victims of sexual harassment. Industry-by-industry polls of women are hard to find, though a study last year found that only 30 percent of women in medicine said the same. The founder of Khosla Ventures professed confidence that no women entrepreneurs that walked through his firm’s doors felt harassed, and that companies do better with women involved in leadership. Khosla, speaking at the Commonwealth Club of California, also protested what he sees as an overzealous, unaccountable media: He said he certainly still supported Peter Thiel’s past lawsuit against Gawker, and that he “would absolutely” fund litigation against media organizations if he felt sufficiently offended.

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posted 2 days ago on re/code
It’s just the latest example of a tech company trying to forge new ties with the White House. Uber has tapped a top ally and major fundraiser for President Donald Trump as the ride-hailing company tries to lobby for friendlier regulation — and a bit less scrutiny — in a Republican-dominated Washington, D.C. In an ethics disclosure quietly filed to Congress this week, Uber revealed it had hired the firm Ballard Partners and its leading lobbyist, Brian Ballard, to “advise and advocate for [the company] on general government policies and regulations” in the nation’s capital. Politically, Uber has plenty at stake — whether it’s fighting a new federal probe into its privacy and data-security practices or pushing for new rules that might allow it to test more driverless vehicles on U.S. roads. What Uber lacks, however, is much of a Washington, D.C.-focused staff, following the departure of a number of its policy-minded employees — including Rachel Whetstone, who shaped the company’s political strategy while running communications, and Niki Christoff, the leader of Uber’s office in the nation’s capital. One of Uber’s other Republican lobbyists, Brian Worth, left earlier this year. Uber previously had worked with the Trump-aligned Ballard in Florida, where it for years faced restrictions on its operations. But Uber’s decision to hire him again in Washington, D.C., this month still reflects the great degree to which tech companies are trying to forge new ties with a president that many in liberal-leaning Silicon Valley did not support during the 2016 election. Amazon, for example, hired Ballard Partners earlier this year, months after the company’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, sparred with Trump publicly. Others like Google have hired new D.C.-based employees with deep ties to conservative lawmakers. A spokesman for Uber declined to comment for this story.

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posted 2 days ago on re/code
He talks about the need for antitrust enforcement in a coming episode of Recode Decode. Big tech is a big concern for Cory Booker. A longtime Silicon Valley ally, the New Jersey Democrat told me — in an upcoming episode of our Recode Decode podcast — that the U.S. government needs to apply a much more critical eye to large companies that aspire to become even larger, whether it’s Amazon’s new bid to buy Whole Foods, Google’s ever-growing footprint or a raft of cable and telecom mergers pending U.S. approval. “This consolidation that’s happening all over the country is not a positive trend,” said Booker, acknowledging that the likes of Amazon, Facebook and Google count among the big businesses that deserve more federal scrutiny. But Booker charged that the Trump administration — if not Republicans generally — have been “really slacking in terms of asserting consumer protections,” and he even described a number of key federal agency leaders who oversee issues like antitrust as “dangerous.” To start, one of Booker’s targets is Amazon: The senator plans to team up with his fellow lawmakers in the Congressional Black Caucus to push for greater scrutiny of the e-commerce giant’s proposed merger with Whole Foods. During the interview, Booker previewed to Recode he had signed a letter — which isn’t yet finished or filed with the Justice Department — raising concerns with the $14 billion deal. Booker said he doubted the “willingness” of Attorney General Jeff Sessions — against whom he testified for the DOJ’s top job — to shine a harsh light on Amazon’s plans. Still, the Democratic senator explained he’s particularly fearful that the company’s tie-up with Whole Foods might adversely affect majority-black communities, which Booker said are lacking in options for low-cost, healthy, easy-to-access groceries. “We’re having a hard enough time getting supermarkets to move into urban communities, to give people choice, to give people price competitiveness, so that actually they’re paying for affordable groceries,” the senator said. “I worry about grocery consolidation, I worry about the jobs that many of these grocery stores create, and so I am skeptical of this particular merger, highly skeptical of it, and I believe this consolidation as well as other consolidations, we should be holding a far higher bar than we are when we approve these.” To some antitrust experts, the question is whether U.S. competition law is sufficient to handle a company of Amazon’s size and scope. To Booker, however, the tech industry’s top companies have continued to grow in size because federal agency leaders just haven’t taken advantage of the tools at their disposal. The senator directed some of his ire at the likes of Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and Maureen Ohlhausen, the acting chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. “I think these are extremely dangerous people in positions right now that are going to do nothing but inflame the economic injustices we’re already seeing in our country, giving more power to corporate consolidation, to corporations as a whole, and less power to Americans,” he said in response to questions about their record. Absent strong U.S. regulation, however, the New Jersey Democrat said other countries had become better consumer-protection cops. That appears to include the European Union, which announced in June a record $2.7 billion fine against Google on grounds it harmed customers and rivals through prioritizing its shopping search results over others. Asked about that review, Booker stressed the United States has “regulatory agencies that just aren’t doing their jobs.” Pressed then if the U.S. government should take its own look at Google — an investigation it closed in 2013 — Booker told Recode: “I think the U.S. government absolutely should take a look at Google.” And when asked again if that should involve an antitrust inquiry, Booker chose his words carefully: “I think the U.S. government should be far more active in antitrust actions, because when they have taken actions, it’s often created collateral benefits to society.” He cited federal probes into Microsoft and the breakup of AT&T as examples of probes that have resulted in “many benefits to consumers and to innovation.” “We have regulatory agencies that just aren’t doing their jobs,” Booker said during the interview. “And you see this with big banks, you see this with the entire crisis we just came through. What’s amazing to me is that we haven’t learned the lessons and we’re not protecting consumers.” Look for more from our wide-ranging conversation about politics and technology soon. You can listen to the Recode Decode podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

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posted 2 days ago on re/code
We’re entering an era in which every single company has to go from self-protective, “check-the-box” compliance to a long-term focus on ethics, values and compliance. As San Francisco celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, the city (and its now nearly indistinguishable sibling, Silicon Valley) are watching a very different summer play out: A Summer of Ethics. In yet another iteration of a story that’s feeling all too familiar, three female entrepreneurs accused Binary Capital co-founder Justin Caldbeck of sexual harassment, leading to bungled attempts at a response and Caldbeck’s permanent exit. Susan Fowler’s depiction of sexual harassment and discrimination at Uber continues to rattle the Valley giant, and United’s “dragging” incident was followed by one airline mishap headline after another. Ethical issues are gaining more attention and prompting more outrage than ever before. Slowly, brands are waking up to the fact that strong ethics and core values are no longer a “nice to have,” but a necessity. Slowly, brands are waking up to the fact that strong ethics and core values are no longer a “nice to have,” but a necessity. Failure to take responsibility in times of crisis can take an irreparable toll on the trust companies have worked so hard to build with employees, partners and customers. So many brands are still getting it wrong, and the consequences are real — public boycotting, massive fines, fired CEOs and falling stock prices. This shift is what I call ethical transformation — the application of ethics and values across all aspects of business and society. It’s as impactful and critical as digital transformation, the other megatrend of the last 20 years. You can’t have one without the other. The internet stripped away barriers between consumers and brands, meaning that transparency and attention to ethics and values is at an all-time high. Brands have to get on board, now. Consider some oft-cited casualties of the digital transformation: Blockbuster, Kodak and Sears. That same fate awaits companies that can’t or won’t prioritize ethics and values. For decades, most of the business world focused on what not to do or how not to get fined. (In a word: Compliance.) This is a good thing. Ethical transformation pushes us into a better future, one built on genuinely ethical companies. But it’s not easy. In fact, it’s pretty hard. And it takes time. For decades, most of the business world focused on what not to do or how not to get fined. (In a word: Compliance.) Every so often, ethics and its even murkier brother “values” got a little love as an afterthought. Brands that did focus on values and ethics were considered exceptions to the rule — the USAAs and Toms shoes of the world. No longer. We’re entering an era in which every single company has to go from self-protective, “check-the-box” compliance to a long-term focus on ethics, values and compliance. Companies need to start making that shift now, if they haven’t already. But change is hard. Take Wells Fargo. Its ethical misstep wasn’t setting a goal to open more accounts. That’s capitalistic, but not necessarily unethical. CEO John Stumpf wasn’t strolling into local banks and ordering the 23-year-old kid behind the desk to create fake accounts. Rather, it was the result of thousands of tiny poor decisions, made by many people over a long time. When those bad decisions happen in a high-pressure culture without strong company values or ethics, it snowballs into a full-scale scandal. The CEO gets fired. A centuries-old brand is forever tainted. And I’m not just harping on the “heartless bank” trope. Smaller, mission-driven companies are just as much at risk. Look at Thinx’s recent PR teardown. Miki Agrawal built a brand on an inspiring external message of feminism, empowerment and self-confidence. That’s admirable. But she put zero internal prioritization on making sure her own employees were supported and treated ethically. I believe ethical transformation will be as important, if not more, than digital transformation in the long run. The first step is acknowledging ethics and values as important, and making the decision to prioritize it above the bottom line. This has to come from the top. Leadership is the example, and it trickles down to every employee, every interaction, every day. Make it part of everything you do: Write it on the wall, make values the first slide in every deck, talk about it at every meeting, go beyond check-the-box policy training, encourage employees to speak up when they see something. It’s not an overnight change. It takes time, effort, technology, trial and (lots of) error. That’s why brands have to start now. It’s hard, but not impossible. More and more brands are getting it right and becoming the “new USAA” or the “new Dove.” Three years after weathering headlines like “Citigroup CEO Says Employees Broke the Rules,” it’s now getting coverage for a recent hire — an on-call ethicist (with a direct line to the CEO) who is tasked with “saving Citigroup’s soul.” And smaller companies are getting it right, too, like Luke’s Lobster, which puts sustainability, ethical harvesting and community service at the very core of its fast-growing brand. Ethical transformation is only just gaining steam and despite all the scandals and viral cellphone footage, we’re in the midst of an incredible moment. Brands are learning how to become values-driven in ways that go far beyond an “Our Values” webpage. I believe ethical transformation will be as important, if not more, than digital transformation in the long run. The two movements, in tandem, can improve communities, create thriving cultures and have long-lasting global impact. We can’t eradicate all wrongdoing in business, but we can eradicate a reactive, self-protective, “stay out of jail” mentality that’s been pervasive for too long. The companies striving to do the right thing today are the ones that will lead us into the future. It’s a future of proactive ethics and tangible values. It’s going to take time, technology and more than a few scandals before we get there. But we will get there. And we will collectively be better for it. Patrick Quinlan is the co-founder and CEO of Convercent, a technology company that enables the world's biggest brands to instill ethics at their core of their organizations. Prior to Convercent, he served as CEO of Rivet Software, a technology firm operating in the governance, risk and compliance space. Reach him @Convercent.

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posted 2 days ago on re/code
First question: Say what? Elon Musk is a busy guy! He’s trying to start an electric car movement, colonize Mars and get the government to regulate artificial intelligence. And now he’s trying to build an underground hyperloop connecting New York City with Washington, D.C. In a tweet on Thursday, Musk said he’d received “verbal government approval” for this so-called underground hyperloop, and boy do we have a lot of questions. Just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 20, 2017 Start with this: What is an underground hyperloop? Good question! And one we can sort of answer. There are few details beyond his tweets, but Musk has been working on an underground tunnel system for cars, with his The Boring Company, a new company staffed by interns and part-time workers as of April. The broader hyperloop idea goes back to August 2013, when Musk wrote up a blueprint for a transportation system that would use technology such as propulsion and magnetic levitation to shoot humans from one city to another very quickly. (This is way oversimplifying it but it’s the gist.) That initial idea, which has birthed non-Musk companies, including Hyperloop One, was focused on an above-ground system. That is, a train. So from these two things we can surmise that an underground hyperloop is essentially a very fast subway system. Musk later cleared up his tweet and said he actually hasn’t gotten formal approval, but that he thinks that will happen pretty quickly. Still a lot of work needed to receive formal approval, but am optimistic that will occur rapidly— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 20, 2017 Following Musk’s tweets, the White House — the same one Musk broke with when he resigned from President Trump’s business advisory councils after Trump said the U.S. would bail out of the Paris climate accord — then said it had actually talked to Musk about the idea, but didn’t add much beyond that. “We have had promising conversations to date, are committed to transformative infrastructure projects, and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector,” a White House spokesperson said in a statement. But we still have a lot of questions! Like: What does “verbal government approval” even mean? Has Musk started discussions with local regulators? A project like this would require formal approval, at a minimum, from every local government in every geography it touches. Yet Eric Phillips, the press secretary for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, says the mayor’s office heard about Musk’s plan on Twitter, just like the rest of us. More questions: Who at the White House did Elon Musk talk to? What did they tell him, and when? Who will pay for this underground tunnel? Is he getting taxpayer funding? Other than speed, what is the difference between an underground hyperloop and a subway? (Does it have air conditioning?) At short distances, can the hyperloop system actually reach its theoretical maximum speed of 700 mph? If it doesn’t, is it worth it? Wait, is Elon Musk still actively having conversations with Trump? Will the underground hyperloop have a quiet car? How about a bar car? How does Amtrak, which operates an above-ground train that connects New York and Washington, feel about this? Will “Underground Hyperloop Corridor” replace “Acela Corridor” as a shorthand for “out-of-touch wealthy people who set the national government and media agendas, even though they feel guilty about that”? We’ve reached out to Musk and his Boring Company for answers.

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Anjali Sud gets a promotion; Joey Levin goes back to running IAC full time. Vimeo has a new boss, after going more than a year without a full-time leader. Parent company IAC has promoted Anjali Sud, who has been the video company’s general manager, to the CEO spot. She replaces Joey Levin, who had been running Vimeo as an interim manager since June 2016, while also serving as IAC’s CEO. Sud, who has previously worked at Amazon and Time Warner, has been at Vimeo since 2014. In a press release, Levin praised Sud’s work building up Vimeo’s core business — selling professional and semi-professional video makers on a paid, upgraded version of its free service. Vimeo charges 800,000 subscribers between $7 and $50 a month. Left unsaid: The fact that a month ago, Levin pivoted Vimeo out of its plans to launch a consumer subscription service, which was supposed to arrive in 2018, following years of promises to launch. IAC has yet to explain why it dropped its plans, which Levin had been talking up as recently as its May earnings call. The best explanation I’ve heard from IAC-adjacent folks: IAC chairman Barry Diller doesn’t really want to spend the money Vimeo would need to spend to create a credible subscription service in an era when everyone is launching a subscription service. Now it looks like he’s content, or content-ish, keeping the company where it has been.

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posted 2 days ago on re/code
It really was that special. That feeling that everyone was suddenly playing Pokémon Go when it launched a little more than a year ago? That wasn’t just a feeling. Its massive launch and rise was by far the biggest in the past year, and no other apps have come close, according to app store data estimates. Just three weeks after it launched last July, Pokémon hit a high of more 90 million downloads in one week, according to data from app measurement company Priori Data. Recently, weekly downloads have declined to just more than a million, according to Priori, which estimates downloads using Google and Apple app store rank and data provided by partners. But it’s easily the biggest launch of the past year. For comparison, Nintendo’s Super Mario Run, its long-awaited first iPhone game, peaked at around 44 million downloads in its best week, according to Priori, and then spiked again this spring, when it launched on Android. Other “big” launches are barely a fraction of Pokémon Go’s. Here, we’ve compared those launches to the steady download beat of Facebook, the world’s all-time top mobile app, which gets about 13 million downloads a week, according to Priori, and is likely approaching 2 billion active mobile users.

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posted 2 days ago on re/code
“The rules are the rules, we enforce them the same way for everybody.” President Donald Trump tweets like no politician ever has before, using the service at times to attack political adversaries, threaten other countries and routinely bash the media. Some have called for Twitter to ban the president for his tweets. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, on the other hand, has said on multiple occasions that having Trump on the platform is “really important.” So when Twitter brought a group of journalists to its San Francisco headquarters this week to discuss the company’s progress on stopping abuse, we asked Twitter’s VP of Trust and Safety Del Harvey: Can you really treat the President’s Twitter account the same way you treat everybody else’s? Harvey first said she couldn’t talk about individual accounts or hypotheticals. Then she added: “We apply our policies consistently. We have processes in place to deal with whomever the person may be, we try to be as consistent as possible, as scalable as possible, and there’s always all sorts of context and other things that come into play that make it impossible to comment on hypotheticals as is.” “The rules are the rules, we enforce them the same way for everybody,” she added. That answer probably won’t satisfy Trump’s opponents. But abuse and harassment can be, at times, a subjective thing. For example, when Trump tweeted out a video of himself body-slamming a person with the CNN logo edited onto their face, was that just a harmless joke? Or a violent threat to the media? Twitter clearly took it as a joke. Making threats of violence is against the Twitter rules.

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Twitter claims its recent efforts to curb abuse are helping. Back in January, Twitter’s product boss Ed Ho sent out a tweet with what many viewed as an overdue promise: That Twitter was finally going to buckle down on fixing its abuse problem. “Making Twitter a safer place is our primary focus and we are now moving with more urgency than ever,” Ho tweeted. “We heard you, we didn't move fast enough last year; now we're thinking about progress in days and hours not weeks and months.” Twitter has a launched a number of actual product updates since then in an effort to try and curb abusive behavior, including changes to its private messaging feature and algorithmic filters to hide abusive replies. Now it claims those changing are generating real results, including more warnings and suspensions for users. Twitter is “taking action” against 10 times the number of accounts it did one year ago, Ho and Twitter’s VP of Trust and Safety, Del Harvey, told a group of reporters this week in San Francisco. Twitter also said it has suspended twice as many accounts in the last four months than it did in the four months prior. Making Twitter a safer place is our primary focus and we are now moving with more urgency than ever.— Ed Ho (@mrdonut) January 31, 2017 Taking action means that Twitter is either warning a user, temporarily limiting that user’s reach so that their tweets are visible only to their followers, or suspending them altogether. These metrics don’t paint the full picture. Twitter did not share how many accounts it took action against a year ago, for example, or how many accounts it suspended in the four-month window. So there’s no way to know if Twitter is jumping from 100 to 1,000 accounts or one million to 10 million. Regardless, Twitter is arguing that these stats are proof that the company is A) taking abuse more seriously on the platform, and B) that its product updates are working. Twitter says part of the company’s change has been applying more technical resources to actually fighting abuse, and bringing product folks like Ho into more meetings with safety and policy executives, like Harvey. “Up until [this year], it’s been sort of policy and enforcement in a vacuum,” Harvey said. “There wasn’t sort of the partnership that we really needed on the product and engineering side to be able to drive a lot of these things the way that we wanted to.” Twitter has a long road ahead when it comes to convincing users that it’s mitigated the problem, and Harvey admits that Twitter is far from done with its efforts around abuse. Twitter has been saddled with an abuse problem for years, and even the fact that it’s just now pairing policy and product execs to tackle the problem is surprising. “This is just a progress update,” Ho said. “By no means are we done.”

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Will Lucid ever launch its Tesla-like sedan? Or will it be a Ford? Build or sell? That’s the choice faced by electric vehicle startup Lucid Motors, which is considering several acquisition offers even as it raises money to build its own assembly plant for its Tesla Model S rival, the Lucid Air. Contrary to some reports, Ford is still very much interested in acquiring the Silicon Valley-based startup, according to one person very close to the negotiations. Jim Hackett, Ford’s new CEO, visited the company with a number of executives on June 28. Ford subsequently presented Lucid with a draft contract called a term sheet. Even if Lucid agreed to sell, there would be a period of research and due diligence before the acquisition closed. However, Recode has been told that at least two other unnamed companies are also interested in acquiring the startup, and that the Series D funding round is proceeding in parallel. One source describes the fundraising as “a work in process,” with Lucid sitting on financing offers of more than $200 million while it considers selling the company outright. Lucid has had a turbulent history. Founded as Atieva in 2007 by an ex-vice president of Tesla, the company initially focused on batteries and drivetrains for electric cars and buses, building up a valuable store of patents. Early in 2014, Beijing Automotive Industry Holding, one of China’s leading state-owned carmakers, and LeEco, a Chinese internet company, invested $100 million so that Atieva could develop its own vehicle. BAIC was meant to help build and market a sedan to rival the Tesla Model S in China. However, BAIC’s involvement did not last long. “They wanted to be in control of the company,” says a source close to Lucid. “That was very disruptive in terms of day-to-day operations.” In April 2016, BAIC sold its shares, which ended up in the hands of LeEco’s owner, billionaire Jia Yueting, two sources confirmed to Recode. As it turned out, Jia was just as disruptive as BAIC. In the summer of 2014, he had quietly formed his own EV company, Faraday Future, to develop and build yet another rival high-end electric car. Faraday Future has since suffered a series of high-profile mishaps, including a failed demonstration of autonomous technology at CES and the suspension of a $1 billion factory construction project in Nevada. In May, Jia resigned from LeEco’s parent company amid concerns over its liquidity and his personal finances. Earlier this month, it was reported that Jia said he had sold his stake in Lucid Motors for several hundred million dollars. Lucid would be delighted to see the back of Jia and any lingering association with the troubled Faraday Future. However, a source close to Lucid says that reports of Jia’s selling his shares are probably untrue. Lucid Motors did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Meanwhile, development of the $60,000 Lucid Air has been proceeding well, and it was recently shown reaching 235 mph on a test track. However, Lucid has had its own setbacks, including abandoning attempts to design its own self-driving technology in favor of using a semi-autonomous system from Mobileye, now part of Intel. Lucid plans to build an assembly plant in China, which would be financed entirely by local and regional government incentives. The site of its proposed U.S. factory, Casa Grande, Ariz., is being somewhat less generous. Lucid has a $1.5 million job-training grant from Arizona, and is negotiating a further $5 million grant, according to a spokesperson for the state’s commerce authority. It could also apply for a tax credit program worth up to another $40 million. However, the make-or-break loan for the $700 million facility would be a U.S. Department of Energy program to help build advanced-technology car plants. Tesla benefited from a $465 million DOE loan in 2010, while Ford secured one for $5.9 billion. But because the loan reimburses expenses rather than paying them up front, Lucid cannot move forward until it has financing in place. Lucid began its fourth round of institutional fundraising earlier this year, with the help of investment bank Morgan Stanley. Ford’s acquisition offer came as a surprise, says a source close to Lucid: “The bank approached Ford to see if they wanted to participate in the Series D. They came back and said they wanted to acquire.” Global carmakers usually shy away from investments where they would be minority shareholders. Buying Lucid outright would let Ford freely use its core technologies in powertrains and batteries, and secure a valuable hoard of patents for the future. It could also mean the Casa Grande factory never gets built, thinks Joe Paluska, an automotive industry consultant. “My personal point of view is that Lucid is unable to come to market as Lucid, due to the significant financing and operational hurdles that face any Tesla challenger,” he says. “A more likely scenario is that they are acquired by a more traditional carmaker who may need a premium EV play to compete.” Mark Harris is an investigative technology reporter based in Seattle. In 2014, he was Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT, and in 2015 he won the AAS Kavli Science Journalism Gold Award. Reach him @meharris.

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Plus, how the “Game of Thrones” budget and audience compares with other blockbusters, and Samsung’s Bixby finally finds its voice. Donald Trump sat down with the New York Times for a wide-ranging interview. The content is notable — there's lots of Russa in there, of course — as is the fact that he did it with the "failing New York Times", which Trump constantly complains about, and reads. [New York Times] If you are reading a story about a potential media merger or acquisition, there is a very good chance John Malone is involved. The cable pioneer/dealmaker has talked to Univision about a big investment, and is pushing Discovery to merge with Scripps. [New York Times] Airbnb is on track to rack up more than 100 million stays this year, up from around 80 million in 2016 — and that’s just the beginning of its threat to the $550 billion global hotel industry. Half of those who used Airbnb last year used it to replace a traditional hotel stay, the company is aggressively going after the market for business travelers. [Rani Molla / Recode] After a splashy introduction during April’s Galaxy S8 launch, Samsung finally rolled out the voice component of its Bixby virtual assistant. The rollout was marred by sexist hashtag descriptions for its male and female voice options — labeling the female voice “#chipper #clear #cheerful,” and the male voice “#assertive #confident #clear.” Samsung quickly said it would remove the gendered descriptions. [Dani Deahl / The Verge] Here’s what really happens in a corporate PR-crisis war room, as told by a veteran of Google and Twitter’s communications teams, and has been privy to a variety of corporate meltdowns. [Karen Wickre / Backchannel] Want to write a bestseller? There’s a book for that. On the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka, “Perennial Seller” author and self-described media manipulator Ryan Holiday describes the process of creating something and marketing it as “two consecutive marathons." [Eric Johnson / Recode] Recode presents ... Fanatics is a new breed of sports licensing company — part manufacturer, part e-commerce retailer, part technology company. Its verticalized structure and on-demand manufacturing capacity has earned Fanatics lucrative deals with the MLB, NBA and NFL. That’s why we’ve invited Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin and NBA commissioner Adam Silver to our September Code Commerce event in New York City. Silver will discuss why the NBA will partner with Fanatics to design and sell its new player replica jerseys. Register now to receive a $200 discount on your ticket to the two-day event to discuss all things retail and commerce. Top stories from Recode This is how the "Game of Thrones" budget and audience compares with other big network blockbusters. The HBO series averaged 25.7 million viewers last season, with 26 percent of those views from HBO Go and HBO Now. Alphabet wants a judge to force Uber to turn over the investor letter asking Travis Kalanick to resign. Alphabet says the letter is relevant because shareholders reportedly blamed the former Uber CEO for putting the company at legal risk. Sweetgreen’s Jonathan Neman and Glossier’s Emily Weiss are coming to Code Commerce. The founders will talk about how they built a brand that millennials love. This is cool Just going to run the original headline verbatim here: China mall introduces 'husband storage' pods for shopping wives "Inside each individual pod is a chair, monitor, computer and gamepad, and men can sit and play retro 1990s games." [BBC]

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Plus, how the “Game of Thrones” budget and audience compares with other blockbusters, and Samsung’s Bixby finally finds its voice. Donald Trump sat down with the New York Times for a wide-ranging interview. The content is notable — there's lots of Russia in there, of course — as is the fact that he did it with the "failing New York Times," which Trump constantly complains about, and reads. [New York Times] If you are reading a story about a potential media merger or acquisition, there is a very good chance John Malone is involved. The cable pioneer/dealmaker has talked to Univision about a big investment, and is pushing Discovery to merge with Scripps. [New York Times] Airbnb is on track to rack up more than 100 million stays this year, up from around 80 million in 2016 — and that’s just the beginning of its threat to the $550 billion global hotel industry. Half of those who used Airbnb last year used it to replace a traditional hotel stay, the company is aggressively going after the market for business travelers. [Rani Molla / Recode] After a splashy introduction during April’s Galaxy S8 launch, Samsung finally rolled out the voice component of its Bixby virtual assistant. The rollout was marred by sexist hashtag descriptions for its male and female voice options — labeling the female voice “#chipper #clear #cheerful,” and the male voice “#assertive #confident #clear.” Samsung quickly said it would remove the gendered descriptions. [Dani Deahl / The Verge] Here’s what really happens in a corporate PR-crisis war room, as told by a veteran of Google and Twitter’s communications teams, who has been privy to a variety of corporate meltdowns. [Karen Wickre / Backchannel] Want to write a bestseller? There’s a book for that. On the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka, “Perennial Seller” author and self-described media manipulator Ryan Holiday describes the process of creating something and marketing it as “two consecutive marathons." [Eric Johnson / Recode] Recode presents ... Fanatics is a new breed of sports licensing company — part manufacturer, part e-commerce retailer, part technology company. Its verticalized structure and on-demand manufacturing capacity has earned Fanatics lucrative deals with the MLB, NBA and NFL. That’s why we’ve invited Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin and NBA commissioner Adam Silver to our September Code Commerce event in New York City. Silver will discuss why the NBA will partner with Fanatics to design and sell its new player replica jerseys. Register now to receive a $200 discount on your ticket to the two-day event to discuss all things retail and commerce. Top stories from Recode This is how the "Game of Thrones" budget and audience compares with other big network blockbusters. The HBO series averaged 25.7 million viewers last season, with 26 percent of those views from HBO Go and HBO Now. Alphabet wants a judge to force Uber to turn over the investor letter asking Travis Kalanick to resign. Alphabet says the letter is relevant because shareholders reportedly blamed the former Uber CEO for putting the company at legal risk. Sweetgreen’s Jonathan Neman and Glossier’s Emily Weiss are coming to Code Commerce. The founders will talk about how they built a brand that millennials love. This is cool Just going to run the original headline verbatim here: China mall introduces 'husband storage' pods for shopping wives "Inside each individual pod is a chair, monitor, computer and gamepad, and men can sit and play retro 1990s games." [BBC]

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Succeeding isn’t the same thing as being a hit on day one, says “Perennial Seller” author Ryan Holiday. If you’re a creative person who wants to make stuff that will last for more than a week, you should think carefully about how you create your work and how you market it. That’s the top level of the new book “Perennial Seller” by Ryan Holiday, a 30-year-old author, marketer and self-proclaimed media manipulator. On the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka, Holiday said creators should be thinking of making and marketing as “two consecutive marathons,” and that too many creators over-value a strong initial launch. “Most creators — especially writers — that I deal with think that ‘writing is the thing for me,” Holiday said. “‘I go off in my cave, I come back with my brilliant work of staggering genius ...’” “And I hand it over to a marketer,” Kafka said. “Yes. Actually, there are a number of decisions you’re going to make in the creative process that are going to have very large marketing implications, or are going to determine your ability to sell in the short term, or in the long term. Who is this for, how are you titling it, how are you positioning it, what are you making?" The minority of books that make back their advances, Holiday explained, do so because they spread to tens of thousands of readers over the long term. And they don’t have to be No. 1 at the beginning: “Star Wars,” he pointed out, lost the box office in its first weekend to “Smokey and the Bandit.” You can listen to the new podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify, TuneIn and Stitcher. It’s worth noting that when he’s not writing books or selling stoicism, Holiday has a marketing business called Brasscheck, which has advised Google, Tony Robbins, Complex Media and more. But he said that his book does not suggest bringing in outside marketing help for everyone. “I’m saying what I try to do in my own career, even if it deprives me of clients in my marketing business,” Holiday said. “I would rather be honest than try to sell someone on something.” He pointed to his time as American Apparel’s marketing director, starting at age 21. “We outsourced nothing,” Holiday said. “We did all marketing in-house. The reason that became a company whose reputation and size was far outsized compared to its business was because we weren’t outsourcing it to someone who didn’t actually care about any of the things.” “The reason it was brilliant at marketing is that the same brilliant people making the stuff were also responsible for marketing it, and they didn’t see one as being an inferior task to the other,” he added. If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts: Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers in tech and media every Monday. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify, TuneIn and Stitcher. Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers all of the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify, TuneIn and Stitcher. And finally, Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, such as the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify, TuneIn and Stitcher. If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts— and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Peter. Tune in next Thursday for another episode of Recode Media!

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But Frances Frei, the new VP of leadership and strategy at Uber, wouldn’t weigh in on Kalanick’s future. The new Uber executive tasked with repairing the company’s culture declined to say Wednesday whether ousted CEO Travis Kalanick should remain involved in Uber’s leadership. Frances Frei, Uber’s new vice president of leadership and strategy, said that Kalanick could be redeemed, even after cascading scandals forced him to resign in June. But Frei wouldn’t say whether Kalanick, who still sits on Uber’s board of directors, should stay involved in the company after the board chooses his replacement as CEO. “I think that he should make the decision that he wants,” Frei told Recode’s Kara Swisher at a live on-stage taping of the Recode Decode podcast. “He’s a board member. He knows the history of the company. I would not presume to make the decision for him.” Frei said that Kalanick “wants the best thing for Uber” and that any successor could “gain a lot of wisdom” from him. She described Uber as suffering from low morale and poor leadership, and that she believed Kalanick would do what is in Uber’s interest and not necessarily what was in his own. Frei, who candidly said she was “embarrassed” and “ashamed” by Uber’s conduct and culture even as she proudly wore an Uber T-shirt, was hired by Kalanick just before the board ousted him. She pointed to tech leaders like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates as examples of CEOs who had successfully redeemed themselves — just like she said Kalanick might. A former leadership expert at Harvard Business School, Frei portrayed Uber as so obsessed with growth that it declined to train its 3,000 managers, build a culture of accountability or install a functional human resources system. She described Uber as “an organization full of mortal beings” and said the company’s boosters, including herself, are “pretty pissed off that we’ve stumbled.” “We should be held accountable for it — 100 percent — for all of it,” Frei said. “I want to squeeze every single bit of learning out of what happened.” Uber’s troubles are widespread: a series of sexual harassment allegations; a lawsuit from Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving subsidiary; and a endless string of senior executive departures. As for who might replace Kalanick? Frei at one point joked about the next CEO being a “she” — but pushed back on the idea that one hire could solve everything. “I don’t believe in the savior CEO,” she said. You can listen to the Recode Decode podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

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