Steve LeVine
Featured

The coming earthquake

Sam Jayne / Axios

One feature of our time is the disruption du jour — the whiplash of yet another big surprise that promises to upset everything and everyone for years and perhaps decades to come:

  • Brexit, the Trump election, and the broader anti-establishment global uprising, springing from lost jobs, income, stature and community, and making many people ambivalent about the post-war system of collective diplomacy and open borders.
  • Robotization — the shift to hyper-automation and the potential that many of our jobs will be swallowed up by machines.
  • And now the new monopolists, a creeping change in how we view a few tech monoliths that have amassed colossal power — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

Connecting the dots: These three narratives are melding into a gigantic, compound earthquake. When we speak of the race to artificial intelligence and robotization, we mean research dominated by American big tech, along with its Chinese cousins — Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent. When the workplace is filled with intelligent machines some time in the future, their brains are likely to come from one or more of these companies.

In 2001, Goldman Sachs analyst Jim O'Neill published a paper that coined the term "BRIC." Brazil, Russia, India and China would power the next stage of global growth, O'Neill said. The acronym caught fire. The new powers in global growth are the major U.S. and Chinese tech companies, though they fit less comfortably into an acronym.

For that and other reasons, including the decimation of retail by Amazon, they are core to our unease and alienation, as Axios has reported, and they are facing increasing scrutiny.

Going deep: This week, we look at two forthcoming books and a much-discussed legal paper that explain this evolving mind shift, and point the way forward:

The Four, by NYU professor Scott Galloway; World Without Mind, by Atlantic magazine writer Franklin Foer; and Amazon's Antitrust Paradox, by New America fellow Lina Khan.

Here, three authors explore the far-reaching and the until-now little-examined collective impact of our big tech companies on society and the world.

Frank Foer: A surrender of free will

We are at the mercy of these companies, with billions of people outside China using Google to search the Internet, Facebook to follow their friends, Apple to talk to them, Amazon to buy stuff, and Microsoft for their office needs. Within China, the same can be said for the BAT companies. But that is more dangerous than seems apparent. Foer notes:
  • Amazon can kill or hobble a book, an author or an entire publisher, and did so to Hachette and Macmillan in 2014, delaying shipments and stripping sales links so books couldn't be bought at all.
  • Google worked to swing the 2012 U.S. presidential election for Barack Obama, boasting about the power of its analytics tool to help his campaign.
  • Facebook can also target and favor candidates of its choosing.
All of this troubles Foer, who delivers a passionate argument for the public to wake up and reconsider its tech idolatry. "Our faith in technology is no longer fully consistent with our belief in liberty," he writes. "We're nearing the moment when we will have to damage one of our revolutions to save the other. Privacy can't survive the present trajectory of technology."
His central message: We are at risk of authoritarianism, and a loss of ourselves — "a breaking point, a point at which our nature is no longer really human."

When Foer started this book, "it felt like I was engaging in a quixotic, esoteric venture," he told me. "The tech companies were held in such high esteem that the possibility that there was something fundamentally wrong with them didn't register with people. But the zeitgeist has started to shift, now in a fairly extreme way."

One of Foer's primary targets is Silicon Valley's war on individual genius in favor of the collaborative and populist crowd. This, he says, flies in the face of how big tech views itself, championing "the fearless entrepreneur, the alienated geek working in the garage" — Steve Jobs, Jack Ma, Bill Gates, Larry Page and Jeff Bezos.

"The titans of technology may be capable of breathtaking originality and solitary genius, but the rest of the world is not," he writes.

Another is tax dodgers: Amazon can offer low prices in large part because for years it paid no taxes, while brick-and-mortar stores forked over both that and rent — Walmart paid a 30% tax rate over the last decade and Home Depot 38%. Amazon's effective tax rate is 13%, and Apple and Alphabet's 16%.
Profits left abroad: Far from reaching their station fair and square, big tech squirrels away their profits overseas, and doesn't pay its fair share at home. Amazon dodges taxes by basing much of its operations in Luxembourg. As of 2015, Google had parked $58.3 billion in tax havens abroad including Ireland and Bermuda. In 2012, Facebook earned $1.1 billion in the U.S., on which it paid not a cent of federal or state tax. "The tech companies maintain every shred of data, yet seem to want to purge every bit of taxable earnings," he writes.
What should be done: Foer urges —
  • The creation of a Data Protection Authority to secure the sanctity of privacy, similar to former government oversight over telephone and TV.
  • The possible breakup of Facebook, Google and Amazon into smaller companies, or, Lina Khan writes (see below), forcing them to act as common carriers, and not predatory platforms for their singular corporate good.
  • "The Internet is amazing," Foer writes, "but we shouldn't treat it as if it exists outside history or is exempt from our moral structures, especially when the stakes are nothing less than the fate of individuality and the fitness of democracy."

Lina Khan: The new railroad barons

In January, the Yale Law Journal published a "note" that has since attracted remarkable attention — more than 50,000 hits — and made Amazon lawyers especially nervous.

  • It all goes back to 1911, and the U.S. Supreme Court decision to break up John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil. She does not name the old oil titan, but Khan renders Amazon's Jeff Bezos as the Rockefeller of our age. Like him, Bezos subjects lesser competitors to a "good sweating," predatory pressure designed to drive them out and leave the latest market to Amazon.
  • Amazon can afford this approach because it seeks no profit, but only to grow; and pays little taxes or rent.
  • Amazon's reach is breathtaking, Khan notes, comprising "a marketing platform, a delivery and logistics network, a payment service, a credit lender, an auction house, a major book publisher, a producer of television and films, a fashion designer, a hardware manufacturer, and a leading provider of cloud server space and computing power."

They are modern-day railroad barons: Amazon, Khan told me, should be viewed "as an infrastructure company." And as a group, big tech "are utilities on which other companies depend," equating to the 19th century railroads, which their owners exploited to outsized profit advantage because they could.

Khan's intellectual breakthrough: Her big splash is taking explicit and injurious aim at Robert Bork's landmark 1968 book, "The Antitrust Paradox," which carved the path to today's casual attitude toward corporate bigness, as Steven Pearlstein writes at the Washington Post.

  • Rather than judging anti-trust impact by pricing, supply and demand, Khan reasons, it should be examined through the lens of 21st century online business
  • The lens should be "whether a company's structure creates certain anticompetitive conflicts of interest; whether it can cross-leverage market advantages across distinct lines of business; and whether the structure of the market incentivizes and permits predatory conduct," Khan writes.

Scott Galloway: Power corrupts

Galloway takes the theme of bigness the next step into popular philosophy: Big tech's success, he writes, pivots on the human need for God (Google) love (Facebook), sex (Apple) and consumption (Amazon). Galloway has mixed success with carrying out the theme, but it's a showcase for a harder-edged message: Big tech's big success is "dangerous for society, and it shows no sign of slowing down. It hollows out the middle class, which leads to bankrupt towns, feeds the angry politics of those who feel cheated, and underpins the rise of demagogues."

Big money, small work force: Google employs 17,000 people, Galloway notes, fewer than a tenth of the 185,000 who work for Disney, which has a quarter of Google's $650 billion market cap.

  • As for the whole of big tech, when you include Microsoft, it employs about 660,000 people.
  • By comparison, with 3% of big tech's $3 trillion market cap, the three big American carmakers employ 940,000 workers.

In other words, says Galloway, the spoils of America's old corporate oligarchy was carved out more fairly among many more workers. "Investors and executives got rich, though not billionaires; and workers, many of them unionized, could buy homes and motorboats and send their kids to college," he writes.

  • "That's the America that millions of angry voters want back. They tend to blame global trade and immigrants; however, the tech economy, and its fetishization, is as much to blame."
  • And time will catch up with the companies: "Until now, it's been only sycophancy," Galloway told me. "Everyone wants to hang around the hot girl. They all want to seem young and hip and hold these companies to a different standard. I predict there is going to be a populist uprising. A politician is going to find that the fastest way up is to go after one or more of the companies."
  • He said, "We are already seeing it."
Featured

Future of Work

Welcome back. Please invite your friends and colleagues to join the conversation. Let me know what you think about what you are reading here and in the daily stream. Just reply to this email, or drop me an email at steve@axios.com. Let's start with our changing opinion about big tech.

1. The coming earthquake

Sam Jayne / Axios

One feature of our time is the disruption du jour — the whiplash of yet another big surprise that promises to upset everything and everyone for years and perhaps decades to come:

  • Brexit, the Trump election, and the broader anti-establishment global uprising, springing from lost jobs, income, stature and community, and making many people ambivalent about the post-war system of collective diplomacy and open borders.
  • Robotization — the shift to hyper-automation and the potential that many of our jobs will be swallowed up by machines.
  • And now the new monopolists, a creeping change in how we view a few tech monoliths that have amassed colossal power — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

Connecting the dots: These three narratives are melding into a gigantic, compound earthquake. When we speak of the race to artificial intelligence and robotization, we mean research dominated by American big tech, along with its Chinese cousins — Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent. When the workplace is filled with intelligent machines some time in the future, their brains are likely to come from one or more of these companies.

For that and other reasons, including the decimation of retail by Amazon, they are core to our unease and alienation, as Axios has reported, and they are facing increasing scrutiny.

Going deep: This week, we look at two forthcoming books and a much-discussed legal paper that explain this evolving mind shift, and point the way forward:

The Four, by NYU professor Scott Galloway; World Without Mind, by Atlantic magazine writer Franklin Foer; and Amazon's Antitrust Paradox, by New America fellow Lina Khan.

Axios spoke with all three authors. Here is what they said.

2. An MIT scientist is lured back to China

Li speaks with Axios

Linsen Li is a Chinese-born, 30-year-old battery specialist — a postdoc in MIT's prestigious material science and engineering program. He received his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin, in all spending the last seven years in the U.S. His infant son, William, is an American citizen.

But he's reluctantly going home: Li tells Axios that, having received no teaching offers in the U.S., he's accepted a $65,000-a-year slot at Shanghai's Jiao Tong University, and $900,000 in research funding. The package comes with $250,000 to put a down payment on a home.

The program that grabbed him: Li is going back under China's Thousand Talents Plan, which, using government largesse, has lured back hundreds of under-40 Chinese students and professionals to bolster the country's research sector. "I just don't want to think about it," Li says. " … I still would like to stay here if I find an opportunity. … I did grow up and go to school, but I've never actually worked in China."

A U.S. brain drain: Without a stronger U.S. commitment to scientific research or immigration reform, the U.S. risks losing significant numbers of the foreign-born Ph.D.s at its best universities to other nations. And this brain drain has the potential to accelerate.

Read the rest of Shane Savitsky's post.

3. A non e-commerce juggernaut

Rebecca Zisser / Axios

The economic recovery is in its 7th year, and unemployment has sunk to levels rarely seen in a generation. Retail sales are picking up too, growing at their fastest pace in seven months. But you won't see these trends reflected in the performance of most big retailers, as department stores like Macy's close stores, and household names like Sports Authority go bankrupt altogether.

This raises a question: Where exactly are consumers spending their money if not at the shopping mall? My colleague Chris Matthews finds that many are at the mall, specifically patronizing LVMH, the French conglomerate whose brands include Louis Vuitton and Sephora. LVMH had a 15% rise in first-half 2017 revenue, and that did not come by running fire sales — profit was up 23%, too.

  • Teens are positively nutty about Sephora
  • And investors have piled in, sending up LVMH's shares by 20% this year, outperforming the retail and luxury sector indexes.

Why it matters: LVMH's success is a reason for traditional retailers to hope — if they can replicate its formula. LVHM's secret is near total control of products from conception through manufacturing and sales, the opposite strategy of traditional mass-market retailers that largely act as middlemen and little more.

Read the rest of Chris's post.

4. Worthy of your attention

Chuck E. Cheese's Chef Pasqually (Darren Abate / AP)

How to convince VCs you're an AI expert (Unsupervised Methods' Robbie Allen)

A higher minimum wage leads to automation (Axios)

Chuck E. Cheese has fired its robot musicians (Pitchfork's Amanda Wicks)

A skeptical eye on AI and the crowdsourcing of medical diagnoses (Axios)

Starbucks has a lesson for retail — and Silicon Valley (Barron's Alex Eule)

Margorie Prime, AI and the limits of human memory (Endgadget's Cherlynn Low)

5. 1 prescient thing: Why you should invest in the singularity

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Peter Thiel has made some shrewd bets in his lifetime: a half-million dollar wager as Facebook's first outside investor, earning him roughly $1 billion when he cashed out in 2012; and, more recently, his contrarian political bet on Donald Trump.

Need more evidence to recommend Thiel's foresight? Check out this video from the 2007 Singularity Summit, in which Thiel suggests how to bet on the singularity, the inflection point when machines achieve super-human intelligence.

Read the rest of Chris' post.

Featured

Move over, Amazon, for Alibaba

Chairman Jack Ma (Kin Cheung / AP Photo)

Shares of Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce and mobile pay company, are up 85% this year, catapulting it alongside the big U.S.-based tech icons as a global juggernaut.

  • Led by its charismatic founder, Jack Ma, Alibaba is now worth $392 billion, moving up on Amazon, whose market value is about $475 billion and share price is up about 27% this year. Alibaba shares rose 2.7% on Thursday alone.
  • It's not quite Amazon: Alibaba commands an estimated three-quarters of on-line sales in China, but its $7.4 billion in second-quarter revenue was dwarfed by Amazon, which reported $38 billion, five times as much.
  • But why it still matters: Alibaba's quarterly revenue, reported Thursday, was up 56%, and profit increased by 94% — to $2.17 billion — from a year ago. Alibaba has more than 500 million monthly active users for its online shopping apps, per the NYT, 42% more than the entire U.S. population. Similar to Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, Ma is enormously ambitious, pushing into competition, for instance, with Amazon, Microsoft and Google for business in cloud services.
Featured

Where the robots are

Robots are coming, but, at least in the United States, they're landing in clusters. Most are in Michigan and Ohio, the base of the U.S. auto industry, and the home of one of every five robots in the U.S. In all, the auto industry accounts for nearly half of all industrial robots in use in the country, with Detroit alone having almost five times the number of any other major U.S. city (see the enormous red circle), per a new Brookings study.

Data: Brookings Institution; Graphic: Chris Canipe / Axios

Mark Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings, tells Axios that the data for this map came from the International Federation for Robotics. The resulting pattern is dense concentration in the industrial upper Midwest, Northeast and Upper South, along with the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas; vast parts of the country have none, while a few secondary cities, like Kokomo (auto parts) and Elkhart-Goshen (RVs) in Indiana, have 35 robots for every 1,000 people (even Detroit has just 8.5).

"They aren't everywhere," Muro said. "They are in industrial parts of the country associated with heightened social and labor market anxiety."

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Fears of a U.S.-North Korea war have dropped

KRT via AP

Investors have decided that, at least for now, war between the U.S. and North Korea is much less likely than it seemed last week, sending up stocks today with their greatest gains in at least two months.

  • The Dow Jones was up 0.6% and the S&P 500 by 1%. Closer to the theater of potential war, South Korean stocks rose 0.6%, and Hong Kong by 1.36%.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "is big on using coercive diplomacy to move closer to what he wants ... but he doesn't intend to fight," said James Lewis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, speaking to Axios last Friday.
  • "He'd like to split the United States and South Korea. But he doesn't want war. He knows what will happen as well as anyone."

Looking forward, GeoQuant, a AI-based firm, said its models show a leveling-off of risk of war through the end of the year as well. The "trend supports an analysis that North Korea remains ultimately under Chinese control, checking the risk of outright war on the Korean peninsula," GeoQuant said in a blog post.

The greatest threat is miscalculation: Neither the U.S. nor North Korea seems to want war, but history shows that war often happens by its own rhythm. "Someone will decode that the other side is going to do something and take action to block it," Lewis said. Hence, geostrategists are likely to remain on edge as the brinksmanship between the two countries continues.

Featured

Amazon retail work

On 34th Street in New York. (Karol Markowicz)

Before it devastated department stores and ran roughshod through apparel and electronics shops, Amazon vanquished brick-and-mortar booksellers.

  • With the demise of Borders, B. Dalton and Waldenbooks, plus the closure of a bunch of Barnes & Nobles, swaths of densely populated U.S. cities are now without a single remaining bookstore.
  • In recent months, we've seen that Amazon has reconsidered its dissing of brick-and-mortar, and made the jarring decision to open its own, well-designed book shops, including the one above, on 34th Street near Madison, on New York's east side, spotted on Aug. 11 by New York Post columnist Karol Markowicz.
  • What is that "now hiring" sign all about? Two part-time positions. In all, Amazon Books has 47 open jobs at its current and coming shops, according to its website. Not quite a resurrection of traditional retail books, but a clue to where retail is headed.
Featured

Niche cuisine on wheels

Lao Noodles (Foodhini)

For those craving Laotian, Tibetan or Syrian meal home delivery, Washington, D.C. is the place, per the Washingtonian. To get his business going, Noobtsaa Philip Vang, the Georgetown graduate son of Hmong immigrants, hired creatively. He brought in international heavy hitters, refugees all of them:

  • Melissa "Mem" Frabotta, a chef of Chinese, Native American and Italian heritage, for Laotian delicacies (see photo above);
  • Majed Abdulraheem, a professionally trained chef from Damascus, for Syrian fare; and
  • Dorjee Tsering, a Tibetan native who prepares dishes from his Himalayan homeland.

Together, they make up Foodhini, Vang's startup in Washington, D.C. You choose $39 dinners-for-two from a fixed menu, and have to order the day before, but you can take delivery up till 9 p.m. Tip and delivery are included.

Why it matters: We are already seeing all manner of delivery to our doors — so many in fact that they seem to be becoming commoditized and plain Jane. Foodhini is an example of a lurch the other direction — toward intentionally niche artisanal fare, but without the sky-high price one might expect.

Featured

The 'digital paramilitary'

Isaac Brekken / AP

The saw is that sometimes you need a thief to catch a thief, and so it may be with the current crisis in cyberspace around intelligent bots, fake news and the hacking of multiple elections — a hacker army, paid or unpaid, could do a lot to stop the onslaught. Only, with some notable exceptions, the professionals possessing the skills to ferret out and combat the bad guys are hobbled by laws and held at arm's length by society, per the New York Times' Kevin Roose.

I spoke with a few professional hackers and cyber experts. Among the former is Eugene Dokukin, a Ukraine-based man who has run a one-man campaign against Russia since the 2014 Ukraine invasion. In an hour-long chat by Skype, he said the fight goes on — petitioning companies like PayPal, Twitter, Facebook and Google to shut down accounts that he thinks support Russia's cyber war, and hacking into them himself if that doesn't work. "I am a white hat. I am ethical, even if I use unethical methods against the Russians," he said. "It is war."

  • The bigger picture: On the front lines of an actual shooting war, Dokukin is an extreme example of a proud counter-culture that has existed since computers were invented — nerds who, when they are not working, gladly spend as much time as possible in gaming and cyber exploits. While by and large suspicious of the blanket assertion by American intelligence agencies that Russia is responsible for the 2016 U.S. election hack, many of them are eager to "stop it from happening in the future, whoever is doing it, to help us keep our democracy and move forward," said Veracode's Chris Wysopal.
  • But there is a labor shortage: In 2015, one estimate was that the U.S. had more than 200,000 open jobs in cyber security. The experts I spoke with said a massive shortage persists. SentinalOne's Jeremiah Grossman said the industry could easily absorb 200,000 new experts, and that the pay is considerable: $60,000 to $80,000 a year to start, to $120,000 to $140,000 for trained professionals. Elite experts can earn $300,000 a year, he said.
  • And there is a misunderstanding of who they are: Grossman, who said he started hacking when he was 12, said that when he's introduced to people, "I'll say I'm a professional hacker and they'll think I mean professional criminal." This carries over to government rules and attitudes that can block out talented hackers with a long-ago record for breaking into a system.
  • Meanwhile, the needed skills are rising: Both sides — the bad guys and good guys — have automated their exploits, attacking and defending with programmed responses. Security companies explicitly boast of their hacker culture and mentality, one built around the ethos of open information but also, "How do I break the rules?" Wysopal said. Think tanks have arisen around the cyber conflict, too, such as the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensics Research Lab, which promotes itself on Twitter with the hashtag #digitalsherlocks. "It's a useful branding tool," said lab deputy director Graham Brookie.

The bottom line: When the other side is Moscow, it can be a whack-a-mole effort given that Russia has some of the best hackers in the world, that there appear to be a lot of them, and that they are backed by the Kremlin. But whoever is hacking the West's computer systems, there is an eagerness to try. "Some people see themselves as an extension of the war that is going on, as a sort of digital paramilitary group," said Arik Toler, who works on contract for Bellingcat and the Atlantic Council. "They are fighting the good fight the way they can."

Featured

Future of Work

Welcome back. Please invite your friends and colleagues to join the conversation. Let me know what you think about what you are reading here and in the daily stream. Just reply to this email, or drop me an email at steve@axios.com. Let's start with a problem vexing Americans across the country:

1 big thing: The great U.S. home shortage

Rebecca Zisser / Axios

My colleague Chris Matthews plumbs one of the great mysteries of the U.S. real-estate recovery: buyers are scrambling to grab what they can during a 30-year trough for housing inventory, driving up home prices to all-time highs in many markets.

Yet builders are slow to react, breaking ground on just 849,000 new single-family homes per year, well below the 2007 rate of 1,036,000.

  • By and large, builders blame a skilled labor shortage, and it's true that just 767,000 people are employed in residential-construction in the U.S., 20% below the figure a decade ago.
  • But when adjusted for inflation, construction workers on average are earning the same as they did in 2006.
  • If builders really want more workers, why don't they pay more and attract back the folks who left the industry after the housing crisis? When asked, they say that if they did, home prices would rise even higher than they already are.

Why it matters: During past recoveries, the housing industry has jumpstarted the rest of the economy. If we were following historical trends, the number of homes under construction per month would be 30% greater — along with the jobs that go with them. "New construction is a solid source of middle-class jobs historically," says Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist for Trulia, a real estate data firm. But this time, construction is lagging the rest of the labor market. "We're massively under-building in this country," he said.

Go deeper: Read the rest of Chris's post, and how regulations and financing may be contributing to the housing shortage.

2. The cyber paramilitary

Isaac Brekken / AP

The saw is that sometimes you need a thief to catch a thief, and so it may be with the current crisis in cyberspace around intelligent bots, fake news and the hacking of multiple elections — a hacker army, paid or unpaid, could do a lot to stop the onslaught. Only, with some notable exceptions, the professionals possessing the skills to ferret out and combat the bad guys are hobbled by laws and held at arm's length by society, per the New York Times' Kevin Roose.

I spoke with a few professional hackers and cyber experts. Among the former is Eugene Dokukin, a Ukraine-based man who has run a campaign against Russia since the 2014 invasion. In an hour-long chat by Skype, he said the fight goes on — petitioning companies like PayPal, Twitter, Facebook and Google to shut down accounts that he thinks support Russia's cyber war, and hacking into them himself if that doesn't work. "I am a white hat. I am ethical, even if I use unethical methods against the Russians," he said. "It is war."

The bigger picture: On the front lines of an actual shooting war, Dokukin is an extreme example of a proud counter-culture that has existed since computers were invented — nerds who, when they are not working, gladly spend as much time as possible in gaming and cyber exploits. While by and large suspicious of the blanket assertion by American intelligence agencies that Russia is responsible for the hacking surrounding the 2016 U.S. election, many of them are eager to "stop it from happening in the future, whoever is doing it, to help us keep our democracy and move forward," said Veracode's Chris Wysopal.

Go deeper: Read the rest of the post.

3. One spotted thing — Amazon retail work

Karol Markowicz / Twitter

Before it devastated department stores and ran roughshod through apparel and electronics shops, Amazon vanquished brick-and-mortar booksellers. With the demise of Borders, B. Dalton and Waldenbooks, plus the closure of a bunch of Barnes & Nobles, swaths of densely populated U.S. cities — like most of the packed San Fernando Valley, where my mom and brother live — are now without a single remaining bookstore. Twenty-three years after its launch, Amazon is the central actor in this bloodletting.

In recent months, we've seen that Amazon has reconsidered its dissing of brick-and-mortar, and made the jarring decision to open its own, well-designed book shops, including the one above, on 34th Street near Madison, on New York's east side, spotted Friday by New York Post columnist Karol Markowicz.

What is that "now hiring" sign all about? Two part-time positions. In all, Amazon Books has 47 open jobs at its current and coming shops, according to its website.

4. Worthy of your time

Sam Jayne / Axios

  1. Tech is at war with the world (Axios)
  2. The Google robot who says humans are unfit for tech jobs (McSweeney's Ben Kronengold)
  3. The chatbots in our future (Axios)
  4. Power rests in the hands of the controllers of AI (FT letter to the editor)

5. 1 fun thing: Exotic food delivery

Laotian noodes (Foodhini)

For those craving Laotian, Tibetan or Syrian cuisine, home delivery of course, Washington, D.C. is the place, per the Washingtonian. To get his business going, Noobtsaa Philip Vang, the Georgetown graduate son of Hmong immigrants, hired creatively. He brought in international heavy hitters:

  • Melissa "Mem" Frabotta, a chef of Chinese, Native American and Italian heritage, for Laotian delicacies (see photo above);
  • Majed Abdulraheem, a professionally trained chef from Damascus, for Syrian fare; and
  • Dorjee Tsering, a Tibetan native who prepares dishes from his Himalayan homeland.

Together, they make up Foodhini, Vang's startup in Washington, D.C. You choose $39 dinners-for-two from a fixed menu, and have to order the day before, but you can take delivery up till 9 p.m. Tip and delivery are included.

Why it matters: We are already seeing all manner of delivery to our doors — so many in fact that they seem to be becoming commoditized and plain Jane. Foodhini is an example of a lurch the other direction — toward intentionally niche artisanal fare, but without the sky-high price one might expect.

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Toyota, Intel and Ericsson in a self-driving consortium

Lexus autonomous prototype (Toyota Research Institute)

Toyota and Intel — in a tense race to own what they see as a gigantic future self-driving industry — have announced yet another new international consortium in order to beat their rivals to the perceived prize.

The new group — which also includes Swiss telecoms company Ericsson and Japanese auto parts maker Denso — seeks to standardize a system to handle an extraordinary expected leap in data created by self-driving vehicles and services like realtime mapping apps, and stored in the cloud.

In a statement yesterday, Toyota forecast that the volume of data to be transmitted between vehicles and the cloud will grow by 10,000 times over the next eight years — to 10 exabytes per month, equal to 10 billion gigabytes.

Why it matters: The announcement is yet another sign of a frenzy around an uncertain yet broadly accepted forecast: that the world's roads will soon be zooming with autonomously driven vehicles. It is a given that light autonomous vehicles — able to stay in freeway lanes, warn of impending accidents, and park themselves — will be here soon. What is not knowable is when fully autonomous cars will be here — in five years, or more like two decades or longer. Until they are, such partnerships may be premature.

Who's ahead now: Among chipmakers, Nvidia is far ahead of anyone; its platform seems to be the go-to technology for all the carmakers in the race. In terms of car companies, Tesla and GM have seized the lead commercially, with Google right there in terms of research. But Apple, Microsoft and every carmaker on the planet are furiously competing, too, and no one can be sure who will dominate self-driving in the end.

Hence the partnerships. The consortium is just the latest move for:

  • Intel, which, attempting to remake itself as a powerhouse in autonomous driving technology, has spent $15.3 billion to buy self-driving sensor-maker Mobileye, said on Aug. 9 that it will put 100 test self-driving cars on the road over the next year or so; and
  • Toyota, which began a big push into autonomous vehicles last year. It began sprinkling $25 million grants around U.S. universities like MIT, Stanford and the University of Michigan, and spent $1 billion on a research institute with campuses in the invention hotbeds of Silicon Valley and Cambridge, Massachusetts. In March, Toyota's institute announced its first self-driving prototype vehicle (pictured above). And two months later, it announced a partnership with MIT and five companies to develop blockchain technology for self-driving cars.