Money Quote, Jan. 8 2018
AI buys smarter, Tech policy goals, more Facebook, and Google hits CES.
If 2017 was the year tech got called out, it looks like 2018 is the year it gets punched in the nose, then the gut, and then gets its lunch money stolen. Oh, and kicked while bleeding on the ground. Here’s your first Money Quote of the year. I’m going to try to do about two or three of these a week. And for those of you who read, responded, and recommended my Facebook piece from Friday, thanks. It felt like ten years ago, when folks used to read posts and engage thoughtfully with them again. It kind of swamped my predictions post, so if you’d like to review that (so as to call me out when I’m proven wrong, naturally), head here.
What started with revelations over Facebook, Twitter and Google may soon move from bits to atoms — to the physical instantiation of those services through hardware. Which is why I’ve highlighted this Journal piece. Money quote: “We have reviewed the evidence and we believe there is a clear need for Apple to offer parents more choices and tools to help them ensure that young consumers are using your products in an optimal manner.”
This is fascinating. Media agencies, which make media buying decisions for large brands, have long been the subject of suspicion by corporate marketers. Media buying is something of a black art — who really knows if purchasing media on THAT channel instead of THIS channel really works? In this test, VW measured the output — more cars sold — and compared it between two inputs: The advice of their media agency, and the advice of a finely tuned AI. The AI won. MQ: “Between September and December 2016, Volkswagen used the algorithm’s media recommendations for a campaign for its up! model, which led to a 14 percent rise in orders from Volkswagen’s dealerships versus what those orders would’ve been had the campaign run solely on its agency’s recommendations. In some instances, the difference between the algorithm’s and its agency’s car orders has been as high as 20 percent.”
Roger McNamee is an early Facebook investor, a confidante of its CEO and COO (he helped recruit Sandberg to the company), and now one of its most vocal critics. This is a very long read but very worth it. If you read my piece on Facebook last Friday, you’ll want to read this one too. MQ: “It reads like the plot of a sci-fi novel: a technology celebrated for bringing people together is exploited by a hostile power to drive people apart, undermine democracy, and create misery. This is precisely what happened in the United States during the 2016 election. We had constructed a modern Maginot Line — half the world’s defense spending and cyber-hardened financial centers, all built to ward off attacks from abroad — never imagining that an enemy could infect the minds of our citizens through inventions of our own making, at minimal cost.”
I partner with Microsoft on policy issues for the Shift Forum. I’m proud to do so, because they actually do the work to communicate what matters to the tech industry. Here’s their roundup for the year’s agenda. The (long but valuable) PDF can be downloaded here.
I. Hate. CES. But it still matters. I don’t go anymore, thankfully, but plenty of journalists still do. The biggest story there, from what I can tell so far, is the role Google’s taking — voice is the new OS, and Google, Amazon, and Apple are battling it out. Apple, by the way, is losing. MQ: “Having Google Assistant on more hardware is important, but it’s just as important that it can work with all the other “smart” devices that are making their way into people’s homes. Google says the Assistant now works with more than 1,500 devices from 225 brands — enough that the average consumer won’t have a hard time finding what she needs when upgrading her home.”