Microsoft, Facebook, trust and privacy

Facebook’s struggle with abusive behavior today looks a lot like Microsoft’s struggles with malware 20 years ago: people take advantage of an open platform, and you have to work out how far you can close the holes, how much you can scan for bad stuff, and whether you need to change the whole concept from the ground up. The answer to Microsoft’s problem wasn't Microsoft: we moved to the cloud and to secure OS models (iOS, ChromeOS). By pivoting to ‘privacy’, Facebook is trying to make the same move, but to do it itself.

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Is Alexa working?

Amazon’s Alexa has been a huge, impressive and unexpected achievement. Amazon created a category from scratch and left both the AI leader Google and the device leader Apple scrambling in its wake. It’s now sold 100m units. So far, though, this success is pretty contingent - we do still have to ask what Amazon actually gains from this. What do consumers do with these devices that helps Amazon? What fundamental strategic benefit does it get? Amazon has put an end-point into tens of millions of homes - what does it do with it?

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Does AI make strong tech companies stronger?

Machine learning is probably the most important fundamental trend in technology today. Since the foundation of machine learning is data - lots and lots of data - it’s quite common to hear that the concern that companies that already have lots of data will get even stronger. There is some truth to this, but in fairly narrow ways, and meanwhile ML is also seeing much diffusion of capability - there may be as much decentralization as centralization. 

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