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We have some special guests in the house. In addition to our loyal Login readers, today's newsletter is also going to members of MIT's Solve conference community. Please make the newbies feel welcome.

A cellist, a professor, a cabinet member and an entrepreneur walk into a bar

Adam Schultz

When MIT first asked me to moderate a session that included Yo-Yo Ma and former defense secretary Ash Carter, along with an economics professor and an Indian biotech entrepreneur, I wondered how on earth to tie everything together.

But the key was the question MIT asked four speakers at the Solve conference: Does technology still create more opportunity than it destroys?

It really is one of the defining questions of our era and one that must be answered by society as a whole, not just those who create technology, so having such a diverse group discuss the topic really makes sense.

Edited highlights from the conversation:

Yo-Yo Ma (cellist):

Whenever there is something new that is invented, it goes through lots of bumps. In order to figure out what the human condition will do. Is it bad? Is it good? It's not the technology that we need to worry about. It's us. How well do we understand ourselves? I'm 61, I'm still trying to figure it out. That's not about machines. We need to figure out what we're here for. Of course, it's great that we have robots, but the robots are not humans. They can do all these things, but they don't wonder. They don't necessarily suffer.

Erik Brynjolfsson (MIT-Sloan School of Management):

I view this as the biggest question for our society over the coming decade, the role of technology and the way it is going to reshape the economy and jobs. It's already having a huge effect. There's a lot of hype around it as well... We're not facing the end of work. It's not that robots are going to take all the jobs any time soon.

Ash Carter (former U.S. defense secretary)

Think about your responsibilities as an innovator... It's not a birthright that technology does only good things or only bad things. That's a choice that we make. Historically the [impact] has been overwhelmingly positive.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (chairperson, Biocon)

We forget about the under-resourced, under-skilled developing world. What we are looking for is technology to bridge a lot of these deficits. If you think about a country like India, India is very excited about a digital world. Just take for example Uber and its Indian counterpart, Ola. They've created a million jobs just because India today has 650 million mobile phones which have suddenly allowed people to have service on demand, which was never possible before. You couldn't even hail a taxi in most parts of the country. We look at technology as a huge job multiplier.

The discussion will continue over the next two days, with speakers to include Xerox chairman Ursula Burns and former U.S. CTO Megan Smith.

Zuckerberg is learning by listening, even if he never runs for office

Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Mark Zuckerberg's "I'm not running for president" cross-country campaign continues, though most of his travels have been closed to the press. As David reports, that gives the Facebook CEO the chance to get better at these sorts of appearances without the blinding glare of media attention. His recent Midwest outings have been tightly controlled, though some moments have leaked out and still others have been intentionally shared, such as Zuckerberg's first tractor ride. Here are some highlights:
  • Zuckerberg ate dinner with an unsuspecting Ohio family who didn't know Zuckerberg was their mystery guest until 15 minutes before he showed up. Business Insider reported that the CEO's staff set up catering for the dinner and told Zuckerberg's host that he wouldn't want to be seated at the head of the table.
  • He visited a farm where he fed a calf and drove a tractor for the first time.
  • He met with people affected by the opioid epidemic in private, even though such "listening tour" events are a classic way for politicians and executives to talk about an issue in front of the press.

The upshot: Even if he doesn't run for public office, the tour is helping boost his ability to handle a wide range of situations. Former Jeb Bush communications director Tim Miller told us "whether you're an executive or politician and you're put in these awkward staged situations where you have to have a discussion with regular people — if you don't have a lot of practice doing that, the result is awkward."

When Apple Pay really shines

In some cases Apple Pay really isn't that much different than using a credit card, especially for the minority of merchants that make you sign a receipt anyway. But there are two specific scenarios where it is a lifesaver and I have encountered both in the past week:

  1. When you have to replace your cards: We've all been there. You lose your wallet and then you have to call the credit card companies and wait for new cards to arrive. Even if they overnight them it can be a hassle. But, with Apple Pay, some magic happens. As soon as you report the card missing, your phone can be updated with the new card. My partner left his wallet on a plane, but as he cancelled the cards, the replacements showed up on my phone, while he had to wait for the physical counterpart to arrive in the mail.
  2. When you forget your wallet at home: This happened to me yesterday as I was jet-lagged from taking the red eye to Boston. Relying on Apple Pay limits your options (only a couple of the quick-serve restaurants in the food court accepted Apple Pay). But at least you have some options. Plus, the main reason I went to the mall was to get my make-up done for Solve, and Sephora takes Apple Pay.

Oliver's take on net neutrality proves motivational

HBO, via YouTube

John Oliver has managed to do what dozens of public interest groups have struggled to do: Rally the public around the potential rollback of net neutrality rules.

So far the FCC has received almost 150,000 comments (though not all take Oliver's position) since his piece aired on Sunday. And that's despite claims of a denial-of-service attack.

You can watch the segment here.

Keeping tabs on Uber-Waymo

It's been more than two months since Alphabet's self-driving car unit, Waymo, accused Uber of stealing and using its trade secrets, and it can be tough to keep track of everything happening. Luckily, Kia has updated her timeline of the case to reflect the new developments that came out last week as a federal judge heard arguments from both parties on whether he should grant an injunction halting some of Uber's self-driving car efforts (a ruling on that is due soon).

Among the new details added to the timeline are: the stock grant that Uber gave Anthony Levandowski, effective two days after he left Google, and, the December 2015 internal Uber emails that show that it was considering acquiring Levandowski's yet-to-be-formed startup before he had even left Waymo.

What's at stake: Should the judge rule in Waymo's favor, Uber could find its autonomous driving program in jeopardy — a potentially expensive setback for the ride-hailing company. While Uber's present is all about matching drivers and riders, the company's future economics look a whole lot better if it can take drivers out of the equation.

Take note

On tap: MIT's Solve continues in Boston through Wednesday (sign up here for updates from the Solve team)...Nvidia reports earnings after the bell Tuesday.

Trading places: Stripe has hired noted security researcher Peiter "Mudge" Zatko as its new head of security.

ICYMI: Comcast and Charter confirmed they are exploring ways to work together on wireless service...Pandora has raised $150 million from KKR, but is also considering selling itself. Also of note, 70 percent of its members are into country music...Amazon may introduce a touchscreen version of its Echo speaker as early as today.

After you Login

Is all this talk of Boston making you hungry for some clam chowder or baked beans? Here are some recipes.

We'll be back tomorrow with more from MIT's Solve conference and the rest of the world in tech.


China fines social media services over banned content

Vincent Yu / AP

China's Cyberspace Administration said it has fined to the highest degree three social media services—Baidu's Tieba, Weibo, and Tencent's WeChat—for failing to censor banned content, according to CNBC. On Tuesday, it also appeared that Facebook-owned chat app WhatsApp was blocked, though some users report service has resumed.

Bigger picture: Chinese authorities said in January that they were planning to "clean up" online activities by March 2018. In June, a new cybersecurity law went into effect, though it's been criticized for not being clear enough as to how it will be implemented. China has also cracked down on VPNs (software that keeps online activity private and secure), forcing Apple to remove a number of them from its App Store in China, as well as certain cryptocurrency activities.


DOJ to file charges in college basketball corruption scandal

A Duke-North Carolina game at Madison Square Garden in March. Photo: Julie Jacobson / AP

The Justice Department will announce charges of fraud and corruption this afternoon against ten people in connection with a wide-ranging bribery scheme at some top college basketball programs, per the WSJ.

What's expected: The charges will be filed against coaches, managers, financial advisors, and some representatives of a major sportswear company. The investigation uncovered evidence that coaches from some schools had received kickbacks to steer their players toward receiving services from outside groups.

The coaches charged, according to NBC News' Tom Winter:

  • Tony Bland, USC, associate head coach
  • Lamont Evans, Oklahoma State, assistant coach
  • Chuck Person, Auburn, associate head coach
  • Emanuel Richardson, Arizona, assistant coach

What North Korea has labeled a declaration of war

North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho. Photo: Richard Drew/AP

On Monday, North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said President Trump had declared war on North Korea when he tweeted they wouldn't "be around much longer" if Ho echoed "thoughts of Little Rocket Man."

Isaac Stone Fish, senior fellow at the Asia Society, laid out other instances North Korea interpreted as declaration of war:


The history of singing the national anthem before NFL games

Michael Perez / AP

Football season is now at the center of a heated political debate over whether or not players should be allowed to sit or kneel during the national anthem. Some agree with President Trump and find the move offensive, claiming it is disrespectful to those who serve in the U.S. military; others argue that the protest is a form of patriotism, and the U.S. guarantees the right of players to protest however they choose.

Why it matters: While patriotism should not be conflated only with the military, the history of playing the national anthem before sports games does have strong ties with honoring the armed forces.

Here's a timeline of how the national anthem became a sports tradition in the first place:

  • 1814: Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner, while watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore.
  • 1889: Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy called for the song to be played whenever the American flag was raised.
  • 1916: President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive order declaring the "Star Spangled Banner" the American national anthem.
  • 1918: The song was played spontaneously during the seventh-inning stretch of game one of the World Series between the Cubs and Red Sox, while the country had been in World War I for a year and half. After this, the song was often played on holidays or special occasions in many baseball parks.
  • 1931: Congress passed an act officially confirming the "Star Spangled Banner" as the national anthem, and President Hebert Hoover signed it into law.
  • 1941-42: Playing the national anthem before the start of regular season baseball games became the standard. And with the U.S. in World War II now, the National Football League also included the playing of the anthem before games.
  • 1945: NFL commissioner Elmer Layden said, "The playing of the national anthem should be as much a part of every game as the kickoff. We must not drop it simply because the war is over. We should never forget what it stands for."
  • 2009: NFL players began standing on the field for the national anthem before the start of primetime games. Before this, players would stay in their locker rooms except during the Super Bowl and after 9/11.
  • 2015: Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake released a report revealing that the Department of Defense had spent $6.8 million of between 2012 and 2015 on what the senators called "paid patriotism" events before professional sports games, including American flag displays, honoring of military members, reenlistment ceremonies, etc. The DoD justified the money paid to 50 professional sports teams by calling it part of their recruiting strategy. However, many teams had these ceremonies without compensation from the military, and there was nothing found in the contracts that mandated that players stand during the anthem.

The states spending the most out-of-pocket on health care

Data: JPMorgan Chase Institute; Chart: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Colorado's full of healthy hikers and mountain bikers, right? Well, it also has some of the highest out-of-pocket health care spending in the country. That's according to a report being released today by the JPMorgan Chase Institute, a new initiative that's using banking data to study spending trends and the financial pressures in people's lives.

Report details: The report looks at health care spending trends in 23 states where Chase has retail branches, and it found a lot of variation, even after controlling for age and income differences:

  • Highest average out-of-pocket spending: Colorado ($916), Utah ($906)
  • Lowest average: California ($596), Michigan ($601)
  • Highest average spending compared to income: Oklahoma (1.7%), Louisiana (1.7%)
  • Lowest average: New Jersey (1%), New York (1%)

Why it's happening: The report says it's likely due to differences in health care prices, insurance coverage, and how much people are using medical care — but demographics didn't matter.

Go deeper: Check out the report here, and more data visuals here.


Equifax CEO retires after security breach

Equifax headquarters in Atlanta, Photo: Mike Stewart / AP

Equifax chairman and CEO Richard Smith retired today after his company suffered a major security breach earlier this month that exposed personal financial information for approximately 143 million Americans.

The details: The information accessed in the three-month-long hack included customers' names, birth dates, addresses, social security numbers, and driver's license numbers. Close to 209,000 consumers' credit card information was accessed. Smith's exit follows two others. Equifax's chief information officer and chief security officer stepped down earlier this month.

From the company's statement: "The cybersecurity incident has affected millions of consumers, and I have been completely dedicated to making this right. At this critical juncture, I believe it is in the best interests of the company to have new leadership to move the company forward," Smith said

What's next: President of Equifax's Asia-Pacific division, Paulino do Rego Barros, Jr., will serve as interim CEO. Board member Mark Feidler has been appointed non-executive chairman.


Merkel's drift left allowed the far-right to grow

Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday. Photo: Michael Kappeler / dpa via AP

Angela Merkel's leftward drift over her years in office, especially on issues like the European Union and migration, has made her more palatable to left-leaning voters, but it has created an opportunity for the far-right to proliferate, per the NYT.

Why it matters: Last weekend's election saw a strong showing for Alternative for Germany (AfD), the far-right populist party, that attracted voters from Merkel's right-leaning base and mobilized those who usually didn't vote via non-traditional campaigning. It illustrates how the far-right can continue to prosper across Europe even without the flashpoint issues, like last year's migration crisis, at the forefront of the news cycle.


The rebirth of Quirky

Quirky once was one of the tech world's most-watched startups, raising around $200 million to build a platform whereby inventors could submit ideas that Quirky might then manufacture and distribute via major retail channels. Even more exciting was that other users who contributed valuable feedback could receive royalties. More than 150 products came to market.

But then, two years ago, the whole thing went bust, filing for bankruptcy and selling off its Wink home automation hub product to Flextronics for $15 million. Company founder and CEO Ben Kaufman moved on to an e-commerce role with Buzzfeed.

Today, Quirky is back.

Something new, something old, something borrowed: The new Quirky is still an innovation platform focused on consumer products in the electronics, toys and home goods verticals. And the fractional royalties system remains in place. But the company no longer plans to manufacture "winning" inventions, instead employing a licensing model through which it will partner with companies like HSN, Vanderbilt Home, Atomi, Shopify and Viatek. This is a bit similar to the pivot Quirky attempted before its bankruptcy filing, but by that point it was too little too late.

While in limbo: Quirky's website received over 50,000 invention submissions during its reorganization, including around 3,000 per month over the past year, according to new company president Gina Waldhorn. "You'd have thought most of the traffic would disappear since we weren't picking new products, but the community just wouldn't quit," she says. Waldhorn adds that while Quirky is originally relaunching today, it has quietly helped launch 12 products in 2017 — including relaunches of some previously-successful ones — has another 10 offerings in production and over 40 in development.

Answering critics: Quirky's terms of service since the reorg gave the company all IP rights to a submitted product, in perpetuity, no matter if Quirky actually picked it for development. The company says it is introducing new terms that give Quirky exclusive IP rights for 12 months, but that they then revert back to the inventor if the product is not picked.

Reputational damage: Waldhorn acknowledges that while the bankruptcy hurt Quirky within the company's home market of New York -- where it received the most media coverage — most of its users didn't care. "There was an opportunity to represent open innovation for inventors, but no one else came around to do it."

Financing: The original iteration of Quirky raised around $200 million from investors like General Electric, Kleiner Perkins and Andreessen Horowitz. But its current owners, who purchased the company's non-Wink assets out of bankruptcy, have no plans to raise outside capital. But they have been investing in restaffing, including a development team based on Poland.

Well wishes: Quirky founder Ben Kaufman tells Axios that he "hopes it works out" for the new team. "I'd glad to see someone try, but it'll be hard."


Trump bullish on tax reform at dinner with conservative leaders

Trump speaks at a dinner with conservative grassroots leaders in the Blue Room of the White House. Photo: Shealah Craighead / White House

President Trump was in an unapologetic mood last night, dining on beef Wellington with conservative grassroots leaders in the Blue Room, joined by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and White House aides Marc Short, Kellyanne Conway and Nick Ayers.

A source in the room told all-terrain Jonathan Swan: "He was very juiced up about tax cuts... very bullish on passing tax reform, and he was specifically calling it a tax cut."

  • Trump — who was still equivocating on the Republican tax plan as recently as yesterday morning — told the group it's going to be "great, we're going to do tax cuts for everyone," said the source, paraphrasing the president. Trump said he's going to lower the corporate tax rate, "and that he wanted it to be lower but it's going to be great ... There were a lot of 'greats' in there."
  • Trump wasn't worried about NFL blowback, and gushed over Alejandro Villanueva — the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle and Afghanistan veteran — who stood alone with his hand over his heart while the rest of his team stayed in the locker room. (His gear was the NFL's best seller yesterday.)
  • Who's who — The White House released this list of attendees: Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America; Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity; Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union; Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the The Federalist Society; Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition; Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List; Ed Feulner, founder and acting president of the Heritage Foundation; Tim Goeglein of Focus on the Family; and Bob McEwen, former congressman and executive director of the Council for National Policy.

Bannon’s last-minute, anti-establishment plea to Alabama voters

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon speaks at a rally for U.S. Senate hopeful Roy Moore. Photo: Brynn Anderson / AP

Steve Bannon went — as Steve Bannon might say — "buck wild" inside a barn in Fairhope, Alabama, last night. He was there to rally support for Roy Moore, who faces incumbent Republican Senator Luther Strange in today's special election. Trump was in Alabama last week hosting a rally for Strange (the same rally at which he began his tirade against the NFL), but that didn't change Bannon's mind on which candidate to support.

The recently departed White House chief strategist was unshaved, unkempt, dressed in a green military jacket and came out onto stage to "Street Fighting Man," by the Rolling Stones. He name-dropped Plutarch and Shakespeare, and described today's Republican Senate primary run-off in Alabama in typically hyperbolic terms.

  • "Tomorrow's going to decide who has sovereignty in the United States of America," said Bannon, who was stumping for the anti-establishment candidate Roy Moore, who leads incumbent Sen. Luther Strange, the favored candidate of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump, by eight or so points in the polls.
  • Things only escalated from there. "Mitch McConnell and this permanent political class is the most corrupt and incompetent group of individuals in this country," Bannon shouted. "They think you're a pack of morons. They think you're nothing but rubes. They have no interest at all in what you have to say, what you have to think or what you want to do."
  • Amazing to think that a little over a month ago, Bannon was working in a White House that was trying to pass health care in cooperation with Republican leadership.