Intel’s New Mission: Find Fresh Uses for Its Famous Paranoia

15. August 2016

Date: 15-08-2016
Source: The New York Times

Kraznich CCBrian Krzanich, Intel’s chief executive, is scheduled to speak at the company’s Developer Forum in San Francisco this week.

Andy Grove, the renowned chief executive of Intel, who died in March, coined a phrase beloved in Silicon Valley: “Only the paranoid survive.”

That sounds cool, if you like your capitalism fierce. That idea, however, turns out to have some significant downsides.

Intel is the world’s biggest semiconductor company because when Mr. Grove was in charge, it dominated the personal computer industry and was an important player in the associated business in computer servers.

Today, the PC market is shrinking, hurting Intel’s profits. The server-chip industry is still strong, thanks to the rise of cloud computing at companies like Facebook and Google. Cloud companies engineer server chips in ways that make very powerful and flexible systems used by millions of people.

But Intel missed joining a number of other markets that did not look like the PC business, particularly smartphones. It is scrambling for a place in sensors (or what is called the internet of things), wireless networking, autonomous vehicles and other hot areas, as computing spreads from traditional computers to nearly every machine. Read the rest of this entry »

Why the Economic Payoff From Technology Is So Elusive

6. June 2016

Date: 06-06-2016
Source: The New York Times

Your smartphone allows you to get almost instantaneous answers to the most obscure questions. It also allows you to waste hours scrolling through Facebook or looking for the latest deals on Amazon.

More powerful computing systems can predict the weather better than any meteorologist or beat human champions in complex board games like chess.

But for several years, economists have asked why all that technical wizardry seems to be having so little impact on the economy. The issue surfaced again recently, when the government reported disappointingly slow growth and continuing stagnation in productivity. The rate of productivity growth from 2011 to 2015 was the slowest since the five-year period ending in 1982.

One place to look at this disconnect is in the doctor’s office. Dr. Peter Sutherland, a family physician in Tennessee, made the shift to computerized patient records from paper in the last few years. There are benefits to using electronic health records, Dr. Sutherland says, but grappling with the software and new reporting requirements has slowed him down. He sees fewer patients, and his income has slipped.

“I’m working harder and getting a little less,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »

Where Computers Defeat Humans, and Where They Can’t

16. March 2016

Date: 16-03-2016
Source: The New York Times

By ANDREW McAFEE (right) and ERIK BRYNJOLFSSON (left)McAfeeBrynjolfsson CC

ALPHAGO, the artificial intelligence system built by the Google subsidiary DeepMind, has just defeated the human champion, Lee Se-dol, four games to one in the tournament of the strategy game of Go.

Why does this matter? After all, computers surpassed humans in chess in 1997, when IBM’s Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov. So why is AlphaGo’s victory significant?

Like chess, Go is a hugely complex strategy game in which chance and luck play no role. Two players take turns placing white or black stones on a 19-by-19 grid; when stones are surrounded on all four sides by those of the other color they are removed from the board, and the player with more stones remaining at the game’s end wins. Read the rest of this entry »

Tech’s ‘Frightful 5’ Will Dominate Digital Life for Foreseeable Future

21. January 2016

Date: 21-01-2016
Source: The New York Times

There’s a little parlor game that people in Silicon Valley like to play. Let’s call it, Who’s Losing?

There are currently four undisputed rulers of the consumer technology industry: Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, now a unit of a parent company called Alphabet. And there’s one more, Microsoft, whose influence once looked on the wane, but which is now rebounding.

So which of these five is losing? A year ago, it was Google that looked to be in a tough spot as its ad business appeared more vulnerable to Facebook’s rise. Now, Google is looking up, and it’s Apple, hit by rising worries about a slowdown in iPhone sales, that may be headed for some pain. Over the next couple of weeks, as these companies issue earnings that show how they finished 2015, the state of play may shift once more.

But don’t expect it to shift much. Asking “who’s losing?” misses a larger truth about how thoroughly Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft now lord over all that happens in tech. Read the rest of this entry »

Transformation at Yahoo Foiled by Its Leader’s Inability to Bet the Farm

3. December 2015

Date: 03-12-2015
Source: The New York Times

alibaba cc campusThe Alibaba Group campus in Hangzhou, China. Planning a spinoff of Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba has consumed much of Marissa Mayer’s tenure.

It’s not a big surprise that Marissa Mayer has failed to resurrect Yahoo. When the
celebrated Google executive took over the web’s most iconic basket case in 2012, the odds were stacked against her. Turning around any company is difficult; turning around a tech company is nearly unheard-of. There’s just one example everyone can think of — Apple — but that effort took nearly a decade to show results, and anyway, if your requirement for success is to be like Steve Jobs, good luck to you.

So the fact that Yahoo’s board is now considering a sale of the company’s web business — after months of pressure from activist shareholders and a mass defection of executives that has left morale spiraling — is hardly a shock. The hearse has been heading down the 101 freeway to Yahoo’s sunny headquarters for years. Now it’s pulling into the parking lot, and Ms. Mayer just happens to be the chief executive who will greet it. Read the rest of this entry »

The Crispr Quandary

10. November 2015

Date: 10-11-2015
Source: The New York Times

A new gene-editing tool might create an ethical morass
— or it might make revising nature seem natural.

Gene EditingOne day in March 2011, Emmanuelle Charpentier, a geneticist who was studying flesh-eating bacteria, approached Jennifer Doudna, an award-winning scientist, at a microbiology conference in Puerto Rico. Charpentier, a more junior researcher, hoped to persuade Doudna, the head of a formidably large lab at the University of California, Berkeley, to collaborate. While walking the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, the two women fell to talking. Charpentier had recently grown interested in a particular gene, known as Crispr, that seemed to help flesh-eating bacteria fight off invasive viruses. By understanding that gene, as well as the protein that enabled it, called Cas9, Charpentier hoped to find a way to cure patients infected with the bacteria by stripping it of its protective immune system.

Among scientists, Doudna is known for her painstaking attention to detail, which she often harnesses to solve problems that other researchers have dismissed as intractable. Charpentier, who is French but works in Sweden and Germany, is livelier and more excitable. But as the pair began discussing the details of the experiment, they quickly hit it off. ‘‘I really liked Emmanuelle,’’ Doudna says. ‘‘I liked her intensity. I can get that way, too, when I’m really focused on a problem. It made me feel that she was a like-minded person.’’

At the time, bacteria were thought to have only a rudimentary immune system, which simply attacked anything unfamiliar on sight. But researchers speculated that Crispr, which stored fragments of virus DNA in serial compartments, might actually be part of a human-style immune system: one that keeps records of past diseases in order to repel them when they reappear. ‘‘That was what was so intriguing,’’ Doudna says. ‘‘What if bacteria have a way to keep track of previous infections, like people do? It was this radical idea.’’ Read the rest of this entry »

Rethinking Work

30. August 2015

Date: 30-08-2015
Source: The New York Times

HOW satisfied are we with our jobs?

Gallup regularly polls workers around the world to find out. Its survey last year found that almost 90 percent of workers were either “not engaged” with or “actively disengaged” from their jobs. Think about that: Nine out of 10 workers spend half their waking lives doing things they don’t really want to do in places they don’t particularly want to be.

Why? One possibility is that it’s just human nature to dislike work. This was the view of Adam Smith, the father of industrial capitalism, who felt that people were naturally lazy and would work only for pay. “It is the interest of every man,” he wrote in 1776 in “The Wealth of Nations,” “to live as much at his ease as he can.”

This idea has been enormously influential. About a century later, it helped shape the scientific management movement, which created systems of manufacture that minimized the need for skill and close attention — things that lazy, pay-driven workers could not be expected to have.

Today, in factories, offices and other workplaces, the details may be different but the overall situation is the same: Work is structured on the assumption that we do it only because we have to. The call center employee is monitored to ensure that he ends each call quickly. The office worker’s keystrokes are overseen to guarantee productivity. Read the rest of this entry »