Google has always been an artificial intelligence company, so it really shouldn’t have been a surprise that Ray Kurzweil, one of the leading scientists in the field, joined the search giant late last year. Nonetheless, the hiring raised some eyebrows, since Kurzweil is perhaps the most prominent proselytizer of “hard AI,” which argues that it is possible to create consciousness in an artificial being. Add to this Google’s revelation that it is using techniques of deep learning to produce an artificial brain, and a subsequent hiring of the godfather of computer neural nets Geoffrey Hinton, and it would seem that Google is becoming the most daring developer of AI, a fact that some may consider thrilling and others deeply unsettling. Or both.
Over a specially prepared breakfast, the inventor and futurist details his plans to live for ever ... Kurzweil, who invented the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the flatbed scanner and a music synthesiser capable of reproducing the sound of a grand piano, has been thinking about artificial intelligence (AI) for 50 years. In The Age of Intelligent Machines (1990), he predicted the internet’s ubiquity and the rise of mobile devices. The Singularity is Near, his 2005 bestseller, focused on AI and the future of mankind. In 2012 he joined Google as a director of engineering to develop machine intelligence. ... Kurzweil’s supporters hail him as “the ultimate thinking machine” and “the rightful heir to Thomas Edison”. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has called him “the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence”. To his critics, he is “one of the greatest hucksters of the age”, and a “narcissistic crackpot obsessed with longevity”. ... His interest in health goes back to when he was 15 and his father, Fredric, had a heart attack. “He died when I was 22. He was 58.” Kurzweil realised he could inherit his father’s dispositions. In his thirties, he was diagnosed with type-two diabetes. Frustrated by conventional treatments, he “approached this as an inventor”. It has not returned. “You can overcome your genetic disposition. The common wisdom is it’s 80 per cent genes, 20 per cent lifestyle. If you’re diligent, it’s 90 per cent intervention and 10 per cent genes,” he claims.
Japan’s leader is basking in his economic plan’s initial gains but admits tough reforms lie ahead ... There is a confidence, almost a swagger, about Shinzo Abe. After 10 months in office, the good news just keeps coming. ... Since Japan’s prime minister launched his “Abenomics” plan to reflate the economy, inflation is up, the yen is down and share prices are higher by nearly two-thirds. In the first half of this year, Japan grew at a pace of roughly 4 per cent, making it the best performing Group of Seven economy by some way. Business confidence is at a seven-year high and Mr Abe’s popularity rating is above 60 per cent. Victory for his party in July’s Upper House elections means, barring the unexpected, he should be in power until at least 2016 – nothing to sniff at in a country where recent prime ministers have come and gone without trace. ... In an interview with the Financial Times on Friday, Mr Abe appeared to be basking in his new-found success. ... His willingness to gamble on bold – some say reckless – policy action marks a big shift from recent leaders who have appeared paralysed by Japan’s legendary economic problems.
A football star, he is one of the best strikers in the world. In the past 12 seasons his teams have been champions of their respective countries 10 times. He has won titles in the Netherlands with Ajax, in Italy with Juventus, Inter and AC Milan, in Spain with Barcelona and, most recently, in France with his current team, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). In clinching the French championship last year, he scored 30 goals in 34 games. His father came to Sweden from Bosnia; his mother from Croatia. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was born in Malmo and grew up in the city's tough Rosengard district. His autobiography, "I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic," was released in June in English and on Oct. 1 in German translation by publisher Malik Verlag. Some 675,000 copies have already been sold in Sweden. Ibrahimovic is arrogant, eccentric and unwieldy.
Ernest Hemingway writes in the bedroom of his house in the Havana suburb of San Francisco de Paula. He has a special workroom prepared for him in a square tower at the southwest corner of the house, but prefers to work in his bedroom, climbing to the tower room only when “characters” drive him up there. ... A working habit he has had from the beginning, Hemingway stands when he writes. He stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu—the typewriter and the reading board chest-high opposite him. ... He keeps track of his daily progress—“so as not to kid myself”—on a large chart made out of the side of a cardboard packing case and set up against the wall under the nose of a mounted gazelle head. The numbers on the chart showing the daily output of words differ from 450, 575, 462, 1250, back to 512, the higher figures on days Hemingway puts in extra work so he won’t feel guilty spending the following day fishing on the Gulf Stream. ... This dedication to his art may suggest a personality at odds with the rambunctious, carefree, world-wheeling Hemingway-at-play of popular conception. The fact is that Hemingway, while obviously enjoying life, brings an equivalent dedication to everything he does—an outlook that is essentially serious, with a horror of the inaccurate, the fraudulent, the deceptive, the half-baked.
Long-haul trucker Josh Giesbrecht lives a strange and solitary life, spending weeks on the road at a time while hauling cargo from point A to point B, covering vast distances on seemingly endless stretches of pavement. The 27-year-old native of Manitoba, Canada documents his trials and tribulations on YouTube, showing off his adorable dogs (Diesel and Sergeant) and his long and lonely hours on the road. Giesbrecht spoke with us via Skype from somewhere in the middle of North Dakota while en route to Iowa. He couldn't talk about what he was delivering — oddly, that's verboten — but he was happy to discuss getting paid by the mile, why Canadian fuel is superior to the stuff sold in the United States, and how not to plunge over an icy cliff in the depths of winter.
This is not the typical office of an oil-industry executive: No Remington bronzes, no autographed Super Bowl footballs. A Picasso-esque painting of a figure in red hangs on one wall, the precocious work of his daughter Elizabeth, now a publisher in L.A., when she was 16. A portrait of Koch’s father, Fred, hangs on a wall to the right of his desk. On another wall hangs a framed letter Koch found in his father’s safe deposit box after Fred’s death in 1967. Written in 1936, the letter expresses concern about the life insurance policies Fred had purchased to pay for his children’s education in case he died. “If you choose to let this money destroy your initiative and independence,” Fred wrote, “then it will be a curse to you and my action in giving it to you will have been a mistake.” ... “We’re destroying opportunities for the disadvantaged and creating welfare for the rich. This is coming about by misguided policies creating a permanent underclass, it’s crippling the economy and corrupting the business community.” ... “... the idea that we believe that people are going to be better off when they control their own lives rather than have somebody in power have what Hayek called the “Fatal Conceit,” and Easterly called the “Tyranny of Experts,” think they can tell people, force people to run their lives the way those in power think they should. So this threatens people in power, or people who believe the opposite have a different vision on how society can best function.” ... "What all this comes down to is you need an experimental discovery culture and model. You can study these things ‘till the end of time and not know because the future is unknown and unknowable. We try to do experiments at a level that we can afford to lose."
It’s clear that in addition to being one of the most gifted movie directors in the world, somehow the heir apparent to both Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, Abrams is also a superfan. ... That puts him in a precarious situation. He has inherited the one megafranchise to rule them all. Sure, this won’t be the first time Abrams resurrects a beloved Enterprise. But … this is the saga. It’s one of the things that invented modern superfandom. And this is no reboot. With The Force Awakens, Abrams is marshaling the same actors, writers, designers, and even the same composer to reanimate the characters and themes that made the original Star Wars into, well, Star Wars. He loves those movies as much as you or any of your laser-brained friends do. But when he first met those movies he was just an apprentice. Now he must become the master. ... the stakes are merely the future of the franchise that made Abrams a filmmaker; a mythology held precious by millions of people for four decades; and, oh, right, billions and billions of dollars in movies and merch over the next half century (at least). ... “More than anything, I drew on personal experiences as cautionary tales, things that I didn’t want to do again. ... I tried to not forget the mistakes I’d made, but I also tried to focus on things that I find inspiring about cinema.”
No one gets to 55 without having made some decisions about their appearance. And Clarkson’s makes it clear he has decided to tell the world to piss off. In a medium obsessed with what you look like, he has chosen to dress as the understudy for Worzel Gummidge in a production at the Wimbledon theatre. In a wardrobe at home he has dozens of pairs of identical old jeans. Everyone on telly is a show-off, but Clarkson shows off by seeming to be normal. ... His lifetime behind the wheel began when, as a young reporter on the local newspaper in Rotherham, he met a contemporary from the Harrogate Advertiser behind the wheel of a car that cost as much as Rotherham council’s entire annual budget. The Harrogate lad explained how the racket worked: you said you wanted to review a car and, lo and behold, the manufacturers would deliver it to you, insured and full of fuel, for you to use, free, gratis and for nothing, for a week or two. All for a couple of paragraphs of copy.
Diller was born in San Francisco in 1942 but his parents moved to southern California and he spent his childhood in Beverly Hills. His father worked in construction. “He was lucky,” he says, “to be in that business at that time after the second world war when all the veterans were coming home.” His father’s company “essentially built the San Fernando Valley,” on the other side of the hill from Los Angeles. “All those lovely tract homes,” he says, grimacing, slightly. ... Los Angeles, he says, “has utterly no stimulus of any kind” and as a young man it took him a while to work out what he wanted to do in life. “The truth is I was kind of in hibernation until I was 19. I was cosseted [and] would have stayed with [my parents] until now, if I could have.” He went to UCLA where he lasted “literally, three weeks” before dropping out. “I wasn’t interested or stimulated . . . I was just a dope.” ... Then an actor who was the father of a friend set him up with a job in the mailroom at William Morris, the talent agency where Diller’s fellow media mogul David Geffen also got his break. “I woke up,” Diller says. “It was the first time I’d been curious about anything.” ... He immersed himself in the industry. “I spent three years reading the file room. I basically read the history of the entertainment business from A-Z.” He became a junior agent but a serendipitous turn of events took him to the east coast when he landed a job working for a mid-level executive at ABC. “The day I got the job, they fired the tsar of all ABC programming, reached down and picked my guy. So, instead of being the assistant to a mid-level person in Los Angeles, I moved to New York.” Within six months Diller was running the programming department.
Patrick Soon-Shiong wants to turn cancer treatment upside down. On January 12, Soon-Shiong and a consortium of industry, government, and academia announced the launch of the Cancer MoonShot 2020, an ambitious program aiming to replace a long history of blunt trial-and-error treatment with what amounts to a training regimen for the body’s own immune system. That system, Soon-Shiong argues, is perfectly adept at finding and eliminating cancer with exquisite precision—if it can recognize the mutated cells in the first place. Helping it to do so could represent a powerful new treatment for the disease, akin to a flu vaccine. ... Soon-Shiong has hit home runs before. This past July, one of his firms underwent the highest-value biotech IPO in history. A cancer drug he developed, called Abraxane, is approved to fight breast, lung, and pancreatic cancers in more than 40 countries. Soon-Shiong’s path from medical school in South Africa through residency in Canada, to UCLA professor, NASA researcher and corporate CEO has given him the bird’s-eye view necessary to take on a project this ambitious, as well as the resources to marshal the world-class computing and genome-sequencing facilities that it requires.
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What is the future of finance? Will Silicon Valley challenge Wall Street? Can China build global banks? ... There are few better places to contemplate such questions than Jamie Dimon’s office, high in JPMorgan Chase’s headquarters in New York City above Park Avenue. It’s now more than three decades since Dimon, the son and grandson of stockbrokers, teamed with Sandy Weill at American Express. Together they helped transform the financial industry—first at Travelers and then with Citigroup. Ousted by his mentor, Dimon became chief executive officer of Bank One, which he later sold to JPMorgan. In Dimon’s 10 years as CEO, JPMorgan Chase has delivered a higher total return than every major American bank except Wells Fargo. Dimon has also endured setbacks, such as the huge trading losses run up by the “London Whale” and more than $36 billion in settlements and fines since the financial crisis. ... In this interview, Dimon reflects on the arc of his career, names his biggest mistakes, argues that banks are more moral than markets, and looks to the future—one in which he expects to compete with fintech companies as well as the Chinese, but where he also expects banks like his own to flourish.
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They delved deeply into Catmull’s rules for embracing the messiness that often accompanies great creative output, sending subtle signals, taking smart risks, experimenting to stay ahead of uncertainty, counteracting fear, and taking charge in a new environment—as Catmull did when he became the president of Disney Animation Studios. ... The fundamental tension is that people want clear leadership, but what we’re doing is inherently messy. We know, intellectually, that if we want to do something new, there will be some unpredictable problems. But if it gets too messy, it actually does fall apart. And adhering to the pure, original plan falls apart, too, because it doesn’t represent reality. So you are always in this balance between clear leadership and chaos; in fact that’s where you’re supposed to be. Rather than thinking, “OK, my job is to prevent or avoid all the messes,” I just try to say, “well, let’s make sure it doesn’t get too messy.” ... Most of our people have learned that it isn’t helpful to ask for absolute clarity. They know absolute clarity is damaging because it means that we aren’t responding to problems and that we will stop short of excellence. They also don’t want chaos; if it gets too messy, they can’t do their jobs. If we pull the plug on a film that isn’t working, it causes a great deal of angst and pain. But it also sends a major signal to the organization—that we’re not going to let something bad out. And they really value that. The rule is, we can’t produce a crappy film.
As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions — sights, sounds, textures, tastes — are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it — or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion — we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like. ... Not so, says Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. Hoffman has spent the past three decades studying perception, artificial intelligence, evolutionary game theory and the brain, and his conclusion is a dramatic one: The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality. What’s more, he says, we have evolution itself to thank for this magnificent illusion, as it maximizes evolutionary fitness by driving truth to extinction.
On Sept. 1, in the Siberian port city of Vladivostok, Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed a wide array of issues with Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait. The two-hour interview ranged from islands disputed with Japan to the price of petroleum and the vicissitudes of Gazprom, the immense state-owned enterprise that supplies natural gas not only to his country but to much of Europe. Putin, the longest-ruling Russian leader since Leonid Brezhnev, weighed in on the U.S. election, as well as his relationship with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Here are excerpts from their conversation.
Over the past several months, I’ve interviewed Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, numerous times on the subject of America’s role in the world. Our conversations took place before this week’s election, but were informed by the foreign-policy differences between the candidates. ... There is obviously a gap between the public’s perception of the role of U.S. foreign policy and the elite’s perception. I think the new president has an opportunity to reconcile the two. He has an opportunity, but it is up to him to seize it. ... I’m fairly confident that China’s reaction will be to study its options. I suspect that will be Russia’s reaction as well. ... I think most of the world’s foreign policy has been in suspense for six to nine months, waiting for the outcome of our election. They have just watched us undergo a domestic revolution. They will want to study it for some period. But at some point, events will necessitate decision making once more. The only exception to this rule may be nonstate groups; they may have an incentive to provoke an American reaction that undermines our global position. ... Universities, he said, “like to teach history as a series of discrete problems. And they above all don’t want to teach Western history. They believe that the West has committed so many crimes that they are not entitled to single it out. That is a thought that would never occur to a Chinese. To return genuine pluralism to the campuses—to examine even ideas conventional wisdom rejects—has become a major national challenge.” ... What most annoyed Kissinger was the manner in which Obama talked about some other world leaders.
In the industries where there’s rapid productivity growth, everybody is freaked out, because what are people going to do after everything gets automated? In the other part of the economy, that second part, health care and education, people are freaked out about, "Oh my God, it’s going to eat the entire budget! It’s going to eat my personal budget. Health care and education is going to be every dollar I make as income, and it’s going to eat the national budget and drive the United States bankrupt!" And everybody in the economy is going to become either a nurse or teacher. It’s really funny, both sides of the economy get polar opposite emotional reactions. ... We are very much not present, in what we would consider to be a healthy way, in education, health care, construction, childcare, senior care. The great twist on that is that second category — that’s most of the GDP. Most of the spending is most of the GDP, and these are the areas where we have not yet been able to crack the code. ... How audacious or insane is it to think that you could bring tech to health care or education? It’s probably 50/50. ... What’s interesting is there are probably more new computer companies in the valley today than there were probably since 1982 — it’s just that the products are all these different shapes, sizes, and descriptions. ... Basically, the entire way we live today is a consequence of the invention of the automobile. Because, before that, people just never went anywhere. Therefore, everything that you travel to is a consequence of the automobile.
Becoming a rapper today might seem as easy as signing up for SoundCloud and visiting your neighborhood face-tattoo parlor, but only a few artists get to travel the country playing to sold-out arenas. Whichever end of this vast spectrum you find yourself on, it helps to be young and unattached, and able to tour constantly. E-40 is none of those things: he is 49, happily married with two sons. His rap career began when cassette tapes still seemed pretty novel, and now that many of us don’t even have a way of listening to CDs, he’s returned to making music the way he did back in the late ’80s: completely independently, selling his raps more or less directly to his fans.
A mathematical prodigy, he worked out how to “beat the dealer” at blackjack while a postdoctoral student at MIT. After he published a book in 1962 revealing how to count cards, he became so famous that casinos banned him from playing — he says one even resorted to drugging him. Many changed their rules to thwart people using his counting system. ... Next came an attempt to beat roulette, using a contraption tied to his foot that is now described as the world’s first wearable computer; after that, an expedition into Wall Street that netted hundreds of millions of dollars. ... Thorp’s then revolutionary use of mathematics, options-pricing and computers gave him a huge advantage. ... “Adam Smith’s market is a whole lot different from our markets. He imagined a market with lots of buyers and sellers of things, nobody had market dominance or could impose things on the market, and there was a lot of competition. The market we have now is nothing like that. The players are so big that they control the levers of financial policy.” ... “One of the things that’s served me very well in life is having an extraordinary bullsh*t detector.”
Zimbardo rose to fame in 1971 with his Stanford Prison Experiment, in which students role-played guards and prisoners. The experiment was scheduled to last two weeks, but ended within six days after the guards began to abuse the prisoners, some of whom experienced mental breakdowns. ... Even Zimbardo himself played a key role in the power structure. “In the experiment, I had ultimate power,” Zimbardo tells me. “I was the one ultimately that intervened and stopped it, [but] I could have intervened, and I should have intervened earlier.” The temptations of power can change an individual, he said ... In the years since the experiment, Zimbardo has become increasingly interested in positive psychology, and founded a non-profit organization that promotes everyday heroism and kindness. ... Power is the force that makes things happen, for good or for evil.
In this interview, Fink relives the decisive moments that shaped his company, sets a limit on his tenure as CEO, explains the reasoning—and risks—in his succession strategy, and shares his plans for a life after BlackRock. ... When you talk about revolutions, it’s always with the benefit of hindsight. When you’re in the moment, you’re working toward an objective. Even back in the infancy of the mortgage business and asset-based finance, it was very clear we were changing finance, but I don’t think we were very clear on where this was going to go and how far this was going to get. When we bought BGI [Barclays Global Investors], iShares had $385 billion in assets; today iShares has $1.3 trillion. If you’d asked me if I had expected that when I acquired BGI in 2009, I would have said no. But if you’d asked if I’d known ETFs would change the investment management business, yes.