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G100 Network Notebook | January 2018

G100 at Facebook

Facebook’s battle against fake news is getting personal. A recent op-ed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explains how his billion-dollar advertising business works with data and why tolerating clickbait or selling user information is counterproductive to operations. An excerpt:

I believe the most important principles around data are transparency, choice and control. We need to be clear about the ways we’re using information, and people need to have clear choices about how their information is used. We believe regulation that codifies these principles across the internet would be good for everyone.

When G100 hosts members at Facebook headquarters later this month, we will hear from the senior executives translating these principles with emerging technology, workplace collaboration, and marketplace innovation. A timely interview articulates how Google and Facebook approach advertising differently, why it changes the market, and the surprising way cookies fuel the attention economy. For example:

Facebook isn’t telling advertisers, “Here’s the price you would need to pay to buy Mary’s eyeballs versus Adam’s eyeballs and here’s all of the information you would need to make the decision about whose eyeballs you should purchase.” Instead, Facebook is saying, “Tell us about your advertising campaign, and we will figure out what you would have rationally done if you had access to our troves of information.”

A Cyber Coldwar

Is that what brews behind headlines about Huawei, ZTE, and Western efforts to limit the spread of Chinese technology? Whatever the case, China’s sphere of influence expands with its growing digital footprint, says detailed reporting that questions how the Digital Silk Road impacts free society. Bloomberg offers a look inside Zambia, one of 20 countries where China finances and builds digital infrastructure projects, such as surveillance systems, fiber-optics, and telecommunications:

Discussions with government officials in Lusaka often begin with a history lesson. First comes the what-did-the-West-ever-do-besides-exploit-us part, followed by a version of the China-has-always-been-our-friend speech. It’s a convenient way to defend the growing reliance on Chinese projects that’s raised Zambia’s debt to that country to $3.1 billion, about one-third of its total foreign debt, according to government estimates.

What this means for national security and market stability is not lost on the Department of Defense. Their recent assessment officially acknowledges a “greater strategic purpose” of the Digital Silk Road:

Chinese state-owned or state-affiliated enterprises, including China Telecom, China Unicom, China Mobile, Huawei, and ZTE, have invested or submitted bids globally in areas such as 5G mobile technology, fiber optic links, undersea cables, remote sensing infrastructure connected to China’s Beidou satellite navigation system, and other information and communications technology infrastructure. While providing benefits to host countries, these projects will also facilitate China’s efforts to expand science and technology cooperation, promote its unique national technical standards, further its objectives for technology transfer, and potentially enable politically-motivated censorship. Data legally acquired via some of these projects may also contribute to China’s own technological development in areas such as artificial intelligence.

“The Golden Age of Robotics”

Admittedly, we are not there yet. In 10-15 years, however, Vicarious CEO Scott Phoenix expects robots will be as ubiquitous as cellphones today. What does this mean for business and labor across industries? Phoenix, whose company builds AI for factory robots, explains in this video:

We pay people billions of dollars a year, maybe trillions, to do tasks that robots have been able physically to accomplish for decades. …  Functionally, we are already living in a Jetson’s society. We are just missing the AI layer, the brain, necessary to make robots useful and universal.

At our joint meeting of G100 and Talent Consortium in May, when we invite CEO members to bring their heads of HR, Scott Phoenix will join us for a deep dive on the future of robotics in business.

Design as a Business Differentiator

A candid interview with Ford CEO Jim Hackett discusses competing with Tesla, how design thinking informs his leadership, and lessons learned a year-and-a-half into the transformation. An excerpt:

Being competitive now is about a lot of factors. How long does it take an order to be delivered? How many products does a company offer? Do you have the right or the wrong people? Businesses win by having a combination of the right people and the right design.

The Overlooked Lesson from Equifax

Organizational structure matters to cybersecurity, yet too many large organizations appear to silo executive teams and the board from risk, warns a recent analysis of executive reporting structures. Part of the problem? A common tendency for business to prioritize traditional drivers of top-line growth over cost centers, such as data loss prevention and cybersecurity.

Considering how much marketing (think consumer/customer data) and human resources (think employee personal/financial data) are impacted by your average data breach, it’s somewhat remarkable that more companies don’t list their chief security personnel among their top ranks.

Melissa Hathaway, a cybersecurity advisor to US presidents and Fortune 500 companies, goes one step further. In my recent interview with Melissa, who will co-host our April meeting of Leadership in the Digital Age, she argued that the entire executive team is responsible for building cyber readiness:

Business needs well-written service level agreements for cloud and third-party providers, which means the General Counsel or contract shop must understand what the business is considering. CFOs ought to understand the interconnectivity or risks associated with how money moves in the organization because W2s, financial data, and how we pay companies, our third-party suppliers, and employees are ripe targets for monetizable information on the internet.