As over a thousand Amazon employees prepared to walk off the job last September, CEO Jeff Bezos announced a series of lofty promises. Not about salary increases or more vacation time, but about climate change. Bezos said that Amazon would become carbon neutral by 2040, meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement 10 years early. It was an ambitious commitment, especially for a logistics giant that relies on planes and trucks to deliver packages right to customers’ doors.
The next day, Amazon workers still marched out of the company’s Seattle headquarters as part of a global climate strike led by teenage activist Greta Thunberg. But the walkout’s organizers, a group called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, said that Bezos’ Climate Pledge was a step in the right direction. Since then, Amazon has followed up the commitment with other efforts, including a $2 billion investment fund for companies working
At an appearance at a tech conference last September, Facebook’s Zuckerberg expressed his disgust. “The government blew it,” he said. But the consequences of the government’s actions—and the spectacular leak that informed the world about it—was now plopped into the problem set of Zuckerberg, Page, Tim Cook, Marissa Mayer, Steve Ballmer, and anyone else who worked for or invested in a company that held customer data on its servers.
Not just revenue was at stake. So were ideals that have sustained the tech world since the Internet exploded from a Department of Defense project into an interconnected global web that spurred promises of a new era of comity. The Snowden leaks called into question the Internet’s role as a symbol of free speech and empowerment. If the net were seen as a means of widespread surveillance, the resulting paranoia might affect the way people used it. Nations outraged at
When Amazon released the Echo smart speaker in 2014, people still marveled at the convenience of voice-controlled computing. Now that the novelty has worn off, they are more likely to grumble about how often Alexa gets confused.
Now, Amazon has a plan to make Alexa smarter—with you as the teacher.
For some commands, Alexa will soon seek clarification if it gets confused. Ask to set the lights to “reading mode,” for example, and the device will politely inquire what that means. You might specify that you want the lights set to 40 percent intensity. Alexa will then “learn” this preference and store it away for future reference. Amazon says the feature will be made available “in coming months.”
It might not seem like much, but figuring out when to seek clarification requires considerable artificial intelligence, and it’s a step towards having machines learn from humans on the fly.
What happens when you load more than 200 Tesla shareholders—increasingly rich shareholders—into a Fremont, California, parking lot, and set CEO Elon Musk loose in front of them to talk about the company’s upcoming battery tech? They honk. A lot.
The unusual shareholder meeting, courtesy of the Covid-19 pandemic, had a few big applause—or honk—lines. One: Tesla had begun to design and produce its own batteries, Musk said. The other: Tesla would produce a $25,000 electric vehicle “about three years from now,” according to Musk. The car, he said, would also be autonomous.
It’s no wonder that Musk’s ambitious announcement elicited such an ear-piercing response from shareholders. The design and manufacture of the battery inside an electric car is arguably its most important element. The battery determines how far the car can travel between charges, how quickly it tops up, and how fast it can accelerate. And the battery, which
When state senator Bob Hertzberg learned that an ambitious privacy initiative had gotten enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in California, he knew he had to act quickly.
“My objective,” he says, “was to get the damn thing off the ballot.”
It was the spring of 2018. Facebook’s emerging Cambridge Analytica scandal had cast a harsh light on the tech giants’ data-gathering practices, spurring calls for more consumer privacy protections. The initiative was the brainchild of Alastair Mactaggart, a wealthy San Francisco real estate developer, who had the idea in the shower in 2015 and funded the effort out of pocket. Mactaggart enlisted his neighbor, Rick Arney, and Mary Stone Ross, a former CIA analyst and lawyer, to help craft the ballot measure. None had any background in data privacy, or, for that matter, anything related to the tech industry.
“No one knew who Alastair was,” says