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July 28, 2017

TGIF. That is a real thing. Especially this week.

A look at Mark Zuckerberg's philanthropy push

Mark Zuckerberg attracted a fair bit of attention when he and his wife, physician Priscilla Chan, announced the philanthropic Chan Zuckerberg Initiative back in 2015. However, given that it is a limited liability company, rather than a pure charitable foundation, it has been a bit tough to track the effort's progress since it isn't required to disclose its donations or the value of the grants.

Axios analysis: David McCabe has spent considerable time analyzing public disclosures, press reports and statements provided by grantees of the Initiative to analyze its work in contentious areas like education, affordable housing, and criminal justice.

Some key findings:

  • Education is the signature issue so far. (Its biggest single donation, though, was $600 million towards scientific research — part of a much larger commitment.)
  • The Initiative likes projects that use tech or take a startup approach to solving a problem.
  • It has also built up a big footprint in the Bay Area.

Why it matters: Zuckerberg became rich by creating a product that has defined the last decade. But he and Chan are trying to define the next century by giving that money away. The Initiative is on track to be this generation's Gates Foundation. With an initial pledge of more than $45 billion in stock that has since grown in value it could be more influential than anything else Zuckerberg has ever done. Yes, including Facebook.

David has more here.

The role AI could play in writing laws

Warning to our D.C. readers: This item could be a little disturbing.

What if artificial intelligence could be used to help lawmakers craft legislation and make policy? The question was raised at TechFreedom's Back to the Future of Policy Summit that David attended earlier this week. After all, AI has already been seen replacing lawyers and journalists for low-level tasks. So why not take a few jobs on Capitol Hill?

"I'm not saying it's ten years from now, maybe it's 20 years from now," House Oversight Committee counsel Mike Flynn said. "But at some point I would imagine there's going to be a role for that in policy making."

Lawmakers' response: We asked some lawmakers if they would trust a virtual legislative staffer. Reactions were mixed:

  • "You definitely don't want to, especially being a former legislative aide, you don't want to throw the staff under the bus. So I guess I would want human supervision, so that we at least still had for better or worse all the elements of what comes with a human decision making process," said Sen. John Thune, who added that "there's a certain amount of this that's still intuitive."
  • Sen. Steve Daines, a former tech exec, said that he's "always intrigued by technology, and having spent much of my life in technology I think you always want to keep an open mind about what could be in the future."
  • "You can get a lot of research being done through technology," said Rep. Ro Khanna, who represents part of Silicon Valley, "but ultimately the art of being a legislator requires judgement and I don't think you can ever train a robot to have compassion or to have empathy or to think about issues of justice."

Takeaway: It's just another reminder that the conversation about automation and the workforce may be even broader than first expected.

Scoop: The Information launches its own accelerator

For the past several years former Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Lessin has been running The Information, a subscription-based news business. Now she wants to help others do the same, Sara Fischer reports.

What it is: The Information Accelerator is an incubator that will advise up-and-coming subscription news startups by offering expertise, distribution, and capital. Startups from anywhere around the globe will get $25,000 to build a subscription-based news publication (on any topic) that features original reporting. As part of the program, participants will travel to San Francisco to work with Lessin's team at The Information.

Why it matters: Quality news content needs to be aligned with readers over advertisers, Lessin says, and this is designed to provide business know-how to those with ideas on how to do that. "This is about de-risking the decision and helping reporters build real businesses faster." Lessin tells Axios.

Note: Axios CEO and co-founder Jim VandeHei is a member of The Information's Board of Advisors.

Amazon's roller coaster day

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' brief stint as the world's richest man ended yesterday as the company posted mixed results for its quarterly earnings. It beat revenue expectations by a few hundred millions dollars, but badly missed on earnings by more than a dollar per share. After hours, company shares slid more than 3%.

Cloud engine: Amazon Web Services continues to be the company's profit engine, posting $4.1 billion in revenue, a 42% year-over-year growth. AWS is also one of the units the company is staffing up very quickly (and spending money to do so), as Recode notes.

Whole Foods: Six weeks after Amazon announced a $14 billion acquisition of Whole Foods, not much is yet known about how the two will work together. Amazon is still experimenting with its various entities providing groceries to customers, including Amazon Fresh and Amazon Go, and doesn't believe it will have pick just one, according to CFO Brian Olsavsky.

Take note

On tap: Def Con continues in Las Vegas.

Trading places: Meg Whitman, seen as the frontrunner for the Uber CEO spot, said on Twitter Thursday night that she was out of the running. Dan Primack reported earlier in the day that the board wasn't yet sold on Whitman...Google has hired Liron Damir, who most recently was head of UX at Essential, Andy Rubin's startup. Before that he worked at Pebble and on Palm's WebOS.

ICYMI: Intel shares rose after the chipmaker beat expectations and raised its financial outlook for the year. It also said it expects to close its Mobileye purchase this quarter, several months ahead of earlier expectations...Apple discontinued its iPod nano and iPod shuffle, leaving the iPhone-like iPod touch as the only model in the music player line that debuted in 2001...VR startup Altspace says it is shutting down after its latest funding didn't come through...Tech-infused real estate startup Redfin priced shares at $15 in its IPO, above its expected range.

After you Login

Bill Gates' resume, circa 1974, when he was making about $15,000 a year.