Trump's State of the Union Is Silent on Key Tech Issues

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Trump promised legislation to invest in “the cutting edge industries of the future.” But the speech was characteristically backward-looking. Trump talked up gains in manufacturing jobs and oil and gas exports, but didn’t once mention the word “technology,” nor any other tech policy issue, such as privacy, broadband, or antitrust.

Aides filled in the blanks. “President Trump’s commitment to American leadership in artificial intelligence, 5G wireless, quantum science, and advanced manufacturing will ensure that these technologies serve to benefit the American people and that the American innovation ecosystem remains the envy of the world for generations to come,” Michael Kratsios, deputy assistant to the president for technology policy, said in a statement.

Still, some of the administration’s other signature policy positions, such as the trade war with China and its hardline position on immigration, may be holding back progress in these areas.

5G Wireless

Of these issues, the Trump administration has perhaps been most active on 5G, an umbrella term for “next generation” wireless technologies and standards that could one day enable download speeds of up to 10GB on your phone, or around 10 times the speed of Google Fiber’s standard home service. We’re still a long way from seeing those types of speeds in reality, even as carriers begin offering “5G” branded services in a few cities.

Politicians and pundits across the political spectrum warn that if the US falls behind China in deploying 5G, the next generation of mobile platforms could emerge in China, just as Android and iOS and their respective app stores emerged in the US during earlier wireless eras.

The Trump administration sees the race to 5G as a national security issue, as much as an economic issue. The US has long feared that Chinese telco giant Huawei could plant “backdoors” in its equipment that the Chinese government could use to spy on US citizens. US carriers like AT&T and Verizon are effectively banned from using Huawei gear in their networks; but the Trump administration fears that if China gets a leg up on 5G, there will be few if any alternatives to Huawei and other Chinese vendors to build the next generation wireless networks. That led to the unusual decision to block Singapore-based chipmaker Broadcom from buying US wireless chip giant Qualcomm, even though Broadcom offered to relocate to the US.

Beyond efforts to curb Huawei’s global reach, the White House hosted a summit on 5G last September, and Trump has encouraged federal agencies to accelerate the construction of 5G networks. Much of the focus is on opening up more wireless spectrum to carriers. The Federal Communications Commission, which is responsible for licensing access to the spectrum, has identified a few chunks of spectrum that can be repurposed for 5G. Its first 5G-related spectrum auction ended last month, and another is scheduled to begin March 14. But carriers say they need more.

In a comment filed last month with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which advises the president on telecommunications policy issues, the industry group CTIA complained that less than 6.5 gigahertz of spectrum is devoted to mobile wireless while nearly 30 gigahertz is dedicated to satellite communications.

Trump signed a memo last year calling for a national strategy to allocate more spectrum to 5G, but it was short on specifics. In 2017, Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) and Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire) introduced a more detailed plan called the Airwaves Act, which identifies several ranges of spectrum frequency that could be repurposed and auctioned off several years. The bill was reintroduced in the House last year but has yet to see a vote in either chamber.

Apart from auctioning spectrum, the government has been mostly focused on slashing telecom regulations on the theory that it will encourage more investment.

For example, the FCC repealed its Obama-era net neutrality protections, which banned broadband providers from blocking, throttling, or otherwise discriminating against lawful content. FCC Chair Ajit Pai argued, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that the change was necessary, in part, because the rules deterred investment in broadband infrastructure.


The WIRED Guide to 5G

A real national broadband policy needs to serve the needs of the public, not just the carriers. “The problem is that the wireless industry is very good at using this hype to blow through any sort of regulatory oversight that’s designed to protect consumers, and to ignore the problem of rural broadband,” says Harold Feld of the consumer group Public Knowledge. Without oversight, Feld says, the industry might not deploy the fastest 5G technologies in places they consider less profitable, like low-income areas.

Regulators would do well to keep that in mind when considering T-Mobile’s proposed acquisition of Sprint. The companies say the merger would enable them to build 5G networks faster. But it would also reduce competition for wireless services, and could lead to higher prices.

Meanwhile, there’s more the government could do to help the US stay competitive in 5G. Building 5G networks will be expensive. One of the main technologies that carriers hope to use takes advantage of what’s called “millimeter wave” spectrum. Using this part of the spectrum could enable the mind-boggling speeds 5G boosters promise, but blanketing cities and towns with millimeter wave signals would require a huge number of cellular towers. These could be as small as smoke detectors, but just like your home WiFi router, these “micro-cells” will need wired connections to the internet. That will mean a big investment in fiber-optic networks that hardly anyone is talking about.

Last year, leaked documents revealed a proposal for the government to build a 5G network to complement commercial networks. The idea was widely panned across the political spectrum, and the White House denied that the idea was ever seriously considered. But, as Harvard Law professor Susan Crawford wrote for WIRED last year, a national program to build more fiber optic networks isn’t a crazy idea.

Ironically, the Trump administration’s trade war with China may be hampering the US’s progress on 5G, says FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “There are new tariffs on Chinese imports on key network inputs like modems, routers, and antennas,” she tells WIRED in statement. “They raise the price of deployment of 5G domestically and make it harder for the United States to lead.”

But during Tuesday’s address, Trump doubled down on tariffs.

AI and Quantum Computing

Although Trump didn’t mention the technology specifically Tuesday night, the White House had already signalled it would take a stronger interest in artificial technology in 2019.

National AI strategies are becoming quite popular—outside the US. A Canadian report from December noted 18 national or pan-national AI plans, including those from China, France, and the European Union.

The US should join that roll in the next few months. In December the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s lead on AI said that the US would have a new AI research strategy this spring.

The OSTP statement released Tuesday name-checked AI but didn’t offer any specifics on what new support Trump might offer people or companies working on the technology. In its limited AI engagement so far, the administration has portrayed AI primarily as a way to exert dominance over other nations. The Pentagon has established a Joint AI Center to speed adoption of the technology by US forces. A one-day White House summit on AI last year focused on how it gives the US an economic advantage. And the Department of Commerce is considering whether to use arms-control rules to restrict US companies from exporting some AI technologies, in areas such as image recognition or machine translation.

Chris Meserole, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, hopes the Trump administration can broaden its view of AI. The government needs to pay close attention to the technology’s effects on society as it is adopted in areas such as finance, education, law enforcement, and moderating online speech, he says.

Trump will also need to consider how his tough stance on immigration could undermine what OSTP’s Kratsios called his “commitment to American leadership in artificial intelligence.” That leadership is built on the diverse talent at American research institutions and tech companies. “It’s a small pool of folks, maybe ten to twenty thousand people, and a lot of those are foreign born Americans,” Meserole says. “We’re going to need a sensible immigration policy to maintain our lead in AI.”

Talent is also an area of concern for quantum computing, another emerging technology in which the US has a lead Trump says he wants to maintain. In December, he signed a bill that authorizes more than $1.2 billion of spending in support of quantum R&D and talent development over five years.

But new funds have not yet been appropriated for the program. Backers of the bill like Chris Monroe, a professor at the University of Maryland and CEO of quantum computing startup IonQ, say that Trump’s immigration policies are undermining efforts to expand America’s pool of quantum engineers. “The scientific community is aligned on that we want to keep these people here, and encourage more people to come,” he says.

As expected, Trump talked up his dream of a border wall. But he had nothing to say about attracting the sort of talent the US will need to lead in the cutting edge industries of the future. Let’s hope the actual legislation has more substance.

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Tom Brady Kept Saying 1 Simple Word Over and Over After the Super Bowl. (And Taught an Amazing Lesson in Leadership)

Tom Brady has now won more Super Bowls than any other player in NFL history.

And in the minutes after the game, we got a small insight into why he’s so successful — after he kept using the same single word over and over and over.

You probably saw this unfold if you watched the game to the end: the giant scrum that erupted at midfield afterward, as CBS journalist Tracy Wolfson tried to get an interview with Brady, but he kept eluding her to embrace and congratulate other players.

It was fascinating in that we could hear snippets of the private conversations he was having on the field. The first player he rushed to embrace was Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

“Cookie!” Brady yelled, as he pushed through the crowd on national television, to hug Cooks. “Love you man. Love you. You had an unbelievable year.”

Then, Rams running back C.J. Anderson (it was tough to hear what they said), but then Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman. It’s an emotional, but we can hear what Brady says at the end of their embrace: “I love you dude. I love you dude.”

Brady also has a long embrace with Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Again, it’s a scrum, and you can’t make out much of what’s being said. But at the very end: “I love you.”

Let’s talk a bit about that word: love.

Some of us are afraid of it. Others probably use it too quickly, maybe too often. But we all know that it’s probably the most powerful emotion and feeling. 

As I saw Brady telling player after player (and an owner) that he loved them, I thought of an Army officer I interviewed in Iraq back in 2007. He had a family back home, and the separation of multiple combat tours was taking its toll.

He was starting to wonder whether he should get out of the military — but every time he thought of it, he stopped. Why did he stay? 

“I love Joe,” he told me. (“Joe” being slang for soldiers). 

To hear Brady saying that word over and over: “Love you.” “Love you dude.” “I love you.” 

It was striking. It’s part of the key to true leadership. I know of course that after winning a sixth Super Bowl, it was an emotional time for everyone on that field. 

But even so, it was notable. How often do you profess love for your work colleagues? For the people who work for you? 

I wrote recently about how Brady says the same simple four-word phrase to every new player on the Patriots when he meets them: “Hi, I’m Tom Brady.”

It’s obvious, right? Except that it’s not necessary.

Everybody who joins the Patriots knows who Tom Brady does. But besides being nice, and friendly, it sort of bridges the gap with new players who haven’t proven themselves yet.

This four letter word, “love,” does something very similar.

If you truly want to be a leader, and you want the people you’re leading to trust you implicitly, I think you have to be willing to let yourself love them.

Sometimes, you have to make sure that they know it. And sometimes, it means being willing to say it.

The Real Reason Apple Is Screwing Up So Badly

Why Software Rots

When looking at issues of operating system stability and maintainability, the most important thing to understand about software is that as it gets more complex, it becomes more difficult to maintain. (If you don’t believe me, search Google Scholar for “software complexity and maintainability.”)

Operating systems are inherently complex, especially when running multiple program atop hardware with multiple CPUs, so complex, in fact, that they become, for all intents and purposes, “non-deterministic” in the sense that when an error occurs it may be impossible to figure out exactly what went wrong.

Adding features to an operating system (or any complex program) makes it more complex and thus less deterministic in its behavior and thus increasingly difficult to maintain. The only way out of the cycle is to stop adding features, in which case the program will eventually enter a “steady state” where fixing bug A creates bug B.

Depending upon the prescience of the designers and the skill of the implementors, this steady state can be tolerable (as with Windows 10 and MacOS) or intolerable, as with Intuit’s Quicken, which was so poorly designed and implemented that each successive release was a bigger disaster than the previous release.

There are development techniques, like Object Oriented Programming (OOP), that some people believe can help a programming team handle greater complexity without creating so many stability problems. However, there’s no indication that I can find that OOP completely transcends the complexity/maintainability problem.

Even if OOP does improve maintainability (the jury is out on this), there are other factors inside most software development groups that make the problem much worse.

Chief among these is developer turnover. The person who writes a piece of code can always maintain it more effectively than somebody brought on board later. Software that’s around for a long time (like an OS) can often end up being maintained (and extended and updated) by a completely different group of programmers than those who originally built it.

Such personnel changes vastly decrease maintainability, especially if the new programming crew comes from a different programming culture or, even worse, a geographical culture that speaks an entirely different language, a non-uncommon event in a business world where outsourcing is the norm.

Developer hubris is another problem. When programmers (especially young ones) join a team mandated to maintain a complex program, they’re often motivated by their own pride to change something simply to “make their mark” upon the project. A good example of this was when Windows 8 idiotically removed the Start button.

Now, take all of the above and think, not just of an operating system, but of the entire ecosystem that includes the OS and all the applications that access it. Insofar as the applications running atop the OS can alter the behavior of the OS, the combination of the OS and all running apps creates a higher level of complexity.

The Canary

Apple is well known for its ability to create operating systems that are stable and secure. However, that ability is always contrasted with Microsoft, which is well-known for taking decades to create Windows 10, which is secure and stable only when compared to its truly dreadful predecessors.

The fact that Apple has previously released fairly stable operating systems makes the FaceTime bug all the more troubling. Not to put too fine a point on it, Apple’s development team must be overwhelmed and confused for such an obvious and destructive bug would pass through to system release and for Apple to ignore the problem for nearly a month.

Similarly, Apple’s most recent release of MacOS, Mojave, appears to have had more than its share of stability problems, not to mention some clear indications of programmer hubris, such as the egregious and unnecessary removal of Cover Flow from the Finder application.

In addition, rotting software is a problem even when everybody involved has a clear sense of purpose and direction. But today’s Internet environment is full of bad actors, which range from hackers to predatory companies like Facebook and Google, who are determined to subvert Apple’s controls in order to pursue their own monetization.

Apple has slapped Facebook’s and Google’s wrists, but the very notion of providing these companies with the tools they’ve abused illustrates a conflict of interest in Apple’s software development. It’s not possible on the one hand to build secure systems and at the same time have an architecture open enough to be so blithely abused.

Whatever the root source, Apple’s operating software is well on the way to the kind of feature-creep/architectural rot that’s plagued every complex system. Flakey mistakes like the FaceTime bug will become increasingly common as the company attempts to extend functionality for programs that are already beyond the complexity level where effective maintenance is possible.

So expect more and worse blunders from Apple until such time as they cap new features and put their OSes into maintenance mode, at which case, if we’re luckly, the result will be a tolerable steady state similar to that “enjoyed” by Windows 10. 

I find all of this incredibly sad, because while I use a huge Windows machine for animation, I do all my business-oriented work on an iMac and use my iPhone all the time. I have always looked upon Apple as a haven from the instability and insecurity of Windows but with the FaceTime bug can no longer ignore the obvious: Apple is losing it. Badly.

Tech Companies Have a Brand Image Problem: Here's How to Solve It

Tech companies everywhere, but especially those in Silicon Valley, have a serious brand image problem. Over the past few years, major tech companies have drawn ire from the public for their lack of diversity, apathy toward privacy issues, as well as their accumulation of wealth.

This isn’t exactly stopping people from using the tech products we’ve come to rely on so heavily, but it is having an effect on share prices–and it’s attracting stricter regulations from governments all over the world. If these corporate juggernauts are going to earn back the trust of consumers, shareholders, and policymakers, they need to take serious strides to change how they’re publicly perceived. There are several ways to accomplish this, but it’s going to take a concentrated effort.

Diversity and Representation

First, Silicon Valley has a major diversity problem–and has had one for many years. The overwhelming majority of tech CEOs (and even tech employees) are white men. This is problematic both for the vision and products of the companies and for the reputation of those companies in the general public. Having a leadership team without representation from women and minority groups means your company is less likely to consider the wants, needs, and perspectives of those groups; it’s why we end up with algorithms that discriminate against women and minorities.

There is a fix, though it’s not necessarily a simple one. The most obvious solution is to hire more people from underrepresented groups, but tech companies don’t always have the luxury of having equal or proportional quantities of applicants from each of those groups; in other words, you can’t hire more women if there aren’t many qualified women applying.

So instead of simply adjusting HR practices to hire more applicants who belong to underrepresented demographics, companies need to take part in programs designed to incentivize people from minority groups to pursue careers in tech. As an example, Women in Technology (WiT) programs are becoming more popular, offering mentorship and guidance for young women looking for careers in fields like software engineering, mechanical engineering, or signal processing. Given a few years of development, enough early-stage outreach programs like these could fill the pipelines with more appliances from diverse groups, and slowly change the overall composition of these companies.

Consumer Privacy and Corporate Transparency

Tech companies have also taken a hit on the consumer privacy front, with Facebook showing up in the headlines many times in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when it was a London-based political consulting firm was capable of harvesting the personal data of millions of Facebook users for political manipulation purposes. Apple, Amazon, Google, and other companies have also been called to testify in front of a Senate Committee on consumer privacy protections.

We use devices, software, and digital products capable of collecting and storing ridiculous quantities of data on our lives, from where we are at any given time to what we’re talking about in our homes. With opaque and hard-to-understand terms of service agreements and an increasing diversity of connected devices, consumers and policymakers are more concerned than ever that data could be used for nefarious purposes–and tech brands are getting labeled as malicious, data-hungry consumer manipulators, working in darkness to take advantage of us.

There’s no quick fix to this dilemma, but offering more transparency is a good start. Giving users more options when it comes to their privacy, giving them simpler tools so they can truly understand what’s at stake when they use a product or service, and taking accountability when breaches do occur are the only path to restore trust.

Leadership and a Company “Face”

Tech brands also suffer from being faceless, corporate conglomerates. They’re either so massive they don’t have a public face, or their public face seems too detached from reality to seem relatable. Take, for example, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg; this man serves as the “face” of Facebook, but has become generally disliked and distrusted due to his reclusiveness and seemingly robotic disposition when testifying before Congress. Or take Jeff Bezos, who is periodically caricatured as a cartoonish supervillain due to his similarly reclusive nature, his ambition for growth, and his access to practically unlimited resources.

Having a stronger, more trustworthy public face isn’t going to fix everything, but it would give the public someone more relatable to associate with the brand. And it doesn’t have to be a charismatic, charming CEO either–it can be a handful of PR reps or even customer representatives who make consumers feel like there are “real” people behind these companies, instead of just automated tech and reclusive billionaires. It would be a massive investment, to be sure, but it’s one of the only reliable ways to rebuild public trust.

SoftBank's Vision Fund in talks to invest $1.5 billion in Chinese used car platform: sources

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) – The SoftBank-led Vision Fund is in talks to invest up to $1.5 billion in Chinese used car trading platform, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

That would mark the latest Chinese deal by the mammoth $100 billion investment fund as it looks to expand in the world’s No.2 economy, and would come after it invested 460 million euros in German used car dealing platform Auto1.

The fund is likely to invest up to $1.5 billion in Guazi in a deal that would value the firm at $8.5 billion before the investment, according to one of the sources, who had direct knowledge of the situation.

The two sources, who were not authorized to speak to media, also said the Vision Fund had in the past few months held talks with Guazi’s direct rival, Renrenche, which is backed by Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing.

Guazi, a consumer-to-consumer used car trading platform founded in 2014, is backed by Chinese internet giant Tencent and Sequoia Capital China. Its talks with Softbank were first reported by the Financial Times late on Friday.

The Vision Fund and Renrenche declined to comment. Guazi did not respond to a request for comment. Japan’s Softbank was not immediately available for comment.

The Vision Fund, the world’s largest private equity fund after raising more than $93 billion in 2017, has previously made investments in firms such as ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc and shared-office space firm WeWork.

China’s used car market has continued to grow even as overall auto sales declined last year for the first time since the 1990s.

Used sales rose 11.5 percent in 2018 from the year before to 13.82 million vehicles. The total value of these transactions was 860.4 billion yuan ($127.61 billion), according to the China Automobile Dealers Association.

China’s state planner has said the country would aim to loosen restrictions on the second-hand auto market, with “appropriate” subsidies provided to boost rural sales of some vehicles.

Reporting by Julie Zhu in Hong Kong and Yilei Sun in Beijing, additional reporting by Junko Fujita in Tokyo; Editing by Joseph Radford

1 Simple Way to Increase Employee Participation

Engagement experts know that if employees are sitting in the bleachers, they’re not in the game.

That’s why smart leaders work hard to involve employees in strategy development, change management and problem solving. Doing so is time-consuming and sometimes challenging, but the result–motivated employees who feel valued–is worth the effort.

You should continue to do the heavy lifting to encourage employee participation. But also consider another way to involve employees–a communication method that’s easy, effective and even fun.

The concept: invite employees to express themselves about an important topic through photography. 

Yes, that means holding a contest and inviting employees to submit their work. But this is not about vacation photos or snaps of puppies. To make these experiences meaningful, focus on a subject–like this year’s strategy or a core initiative such as improving customer service–that matters to the organization. 

For example, Terracon, a consulting and engineering firm with 4,000 employees, holds a photo contest that “highlights our employee owners’ passion, creativity, and dedication to the diverse work we do.” The images represent Terracon’s service lines (including geotechnical, environmental and materials) and the unique project locations the company serves. 

Some of the winning photos were not artistic or even pretty. But that wasn’t the point: The idea was to give participants the chance to show where they work and what they do. And the result was that all employees had the opportunity to see Terracon in action.

How do you organize a photo contest? Here are a few guidelines:

Set parameters. If the contest is too open-ended, it’s harder for employees to understand what to do–and makes judging difficult. Create an overall theme (like How We’re Meeting Our Customers’ Needs) and consider establishing subcategories like:

  • All about people. Colleagues doing great work.
  • Go big or go small. Capture a (literally) big-picture view of the topic . . . or something very small (but still significant).
  • Just a metaphor. Instead of taking a photo of something specific, use a metaphor (water? fire? wind?) to convey an idea.
  • Black and white. Go retro.
  • Selfie. All about you (doing something awesome).
  • Taking action. We move fast, so capture us in action.
  • Instagram-worthy. Use effects and filters to put fun in your photo.

Decide on prizes. You want to find the right balance here–the prize should be significant enough to invite participation, but you don’t have to break the bank. After all, employees will be motivated by the chance to win the contest and to be recognized.

Make the rules clear, but not too technical. Try not to get the lawyers involved; this is supposed to be a friendly competition.

Recruit judges. Assemble a team of employees from various functions and locations to serve as judges. (After all, judging is another opportunity to encourage participation.)

Follow best practices in communicating about the contest–and make a big splash when the winners are announced. I think it’s great that Terracon posted winners on YouTube; after all, why shouldn’t you recognize employees publicly for sharing their work?

If You Want to Change the World, You First Must Transform Your Organization

When Mohandas Gandhi was a young lawyer he was so shy that he couldn’t even bring himself to speak in an open courtroom. He was also impulsive and had a nasty temper. Nelson Mandela was an angry nationalist, who argued vigorously about joining forces with other racial groups in a coalition to fight against Apartheid.

Yet as I explain in my book Cascades, both men learned to conquer themselves and evolved into inspirational leaders that led transformational change. Movements, as the name implies, must be kinetic to be successful. They need to start in one place and end up somewhere else, evolving and changing along the way.

The same is true for an organization. To create a real impact on the world, you first must drive change internally. Any true transformation has to start with values because values are how an enterprise honors its mission. That takes commitment because values, if they are to be more than platitudes, always cost something. Great companies, however, make that commitment.

Building a Genome of Values

When Lou Gerstner took over as CEO of IBM in 1993, the company was near bankruptcy. Many thought it was a dinosaur and should be broken up. Yet Gerstner saw that its customers needed it to help them run their mission-critical systems and the death of IBM was the last thing they wanted. He knew that to save the company, he would have transform it and he started with its values.

“At IBM we had lost sight of our values,” Irving Wladawsky-Berger, one of Gerstner’s chief lieutenants, told me. “IBM had always valued competitiveness, but we had started to compete with each other internally rather than working together to beat the competition. Lou put a stop to that and even let go some senior executives who were known for infighting.”

Pushing top executives out the door is never easy. Most are hard working, ambitious and smart, which is how they got to be top executives in the first place. Yet sometimes you have to fire nasty people, even if they outwardly seem like good performers. That’s how you change the culture and build a collaborative workplace.

In doing so, Gerstner led one of the great turnarounds in corporate history. By the late 90s, his company was thriving again and continues to be profitable to this day. That would have never been true if he saw the problem as one of merely strategy and tactics. IBM had to change from the inside first.

Forging Shared Purpose and Shared Consciousness

When General Stanley McChrystal first took over Special Forces in Iraq, he knew he had a magnificently engineered military machine. No force in the world could match their efficiency, expertise and effectiveness. Yet, although they won every battle, they were losing the war.

The problem, as he explained in his book, Team of Teams, wasn’t one of capability, but interoperability. His forces would kill or capture Al Qaeda operatives and collect valuable intelligence. Yet it often took weeks for the prisoners to be questioned and the data to be analyzed. By that time, the information was often no longer relevant or actionable.

What McChrystal realized was that if his forces were going to defeat a network, they had to become a network and he set out to build connections within his organization to improve trust and interoperability. He upgraded liaison officer positions to only include the best operators and embedded commandos into intelligence teams and vice versa.

While formal structure and traditional lines of authority stayed very much in place, operating principles changed markedly. The transformation wasn’t immediate, but soon personal relationships and shared purpose replaced archaic customs, procedures and internal rivalries. Even those resistant to change found themselves outnumbered and began alter their views.

That allowed McChrystal to also change the way he led.  While in traditional organizations information is passed up through the chain of command and decisions are made at the top, McChrystal saw that model could be flipped. Now, he helped information get to the right place and decisions could be made lower down. As a result, operating efficiency increased by a factor of seventeen and soon the terrorists were on the run.

Creating Cultural Awareness

As one of the largest credit bureaus in the world, Experian’s customers depend on it to help determine which customers are good risks and which aren’t. If its standards are too lax, lending organizations lose money from making bad loans. However, the opposite is also true. There are also consequences if it fails to identify good credit risks.

“One of the things that made the US so successful throughout its history is the principle that everybody can participate in the American dream,” Alexander Lintner, Group President at Experian told me. “Yet today, if you don’t have access to credit, it is very hard to live that dream. You can’t buy a house or a new car or do many other things most people want to do.”

“If we rely solely on traditional credit scores about 26 million working age adults are left out of the credit system,” he continued. “That means our clients are missing out on as many as 26 million potential customers. So at Experian, we’ve been working on extended scores based on alternative data, such as rent and utility bills, to help establish a credit history.”

As a fairly recent immigrant to the country, Lintner knows the problems that having a lack of a formal credit history can cause. He credits his company’s efforts to promote cultural awareness programs internally through Employee Resource Groups for driving a passion to solve problems for customers and the public at large, especially related to financial inclusion.

Transformation is Always a Journey, Never a Destination

Clearly, Experian didn’t start its Employee Resource Groups as a product development strategy, but to improve the lives of its employees. “We strive to make a very diverse group of people feel that Experian is their home,” Lintner says. Nevertheless, Its internal commitment helped create empathy for those who are excluded from the financial system and helped lead to a solution.

Chances are, that won’t end with using alternative data to improve credit scores, but will affect many other facets of its business. To drive a true desire to solve problems, it must be genuine. Much like Gandhi and Mandela, you have to first drive change internally if you hope to create a real impact on the world.

Wladawsky-Berger talks about IBM’s earlier transformation in similar terms. “Because the transformation was about values first and technology second, we were able to continue to embrace those values as the technology and marketplace continued to evolve,” he told me and credits that transformation in values with the company’s continued profitability. While IBM has still had its challenges over the years, nobody talks about breaking it up anymore.

What most organizations fail to understand and internalize is that transformation is always a journey, never a destination. There is no immediate return on investment from cultural change. Investors won’t cheer you on for firing top employees who are disruptive or creating Employee Resource Groups. Yet great companies understand that transformation always starts at home.

Space Photos of the Week: Jupiter Is a Storm-Eat-Storm World

Jupiter is not just the king of the planets, it is king of the storms. Just when you think Jupiter has enough freakish weather, another front moves in. NASA’s Juno spacecraft witnessed two storms in December during its most recent flyby. You can’t miss the Great Red Spot, but look to its right at a massive tempest called Oval BA, which formed in the year 2000 when three smaller storms merged together. Scientists think this is how the Great Red Spot may have formed as well.

The Cassini spacecraft spent 13 years orbiting Saturn, and now thanks to data from its epic mission, we know exactly how long a day is on Saturn: It’s 10 hours, 33 minutes, and 38 seconds. Because Saturn doesn’t have regular features on its surface, it was hard for scientists to track the spin of the planet. The key to solving the mystery was hiding in wave patterns in the rings: The spin of the planet sets off very small waves there, and Cassini was able to measure those telltale ring patterns, giving us the exact length of a Saturnine day.

Inside this blue and purple vision, the planetary nebula ESO 577-24, is the bright beacon of a dying star. The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope captured this star’s last breaths as the gas from the nebula is pushed out into space. This stunning cloud will only exist for a short time, around 10,000 years, which on the cosmic scale is barely a blip. As for all those yellow point of light, those are galaxies.

On January 21 many across the US and Europe were treated to a total lunar eclipse— where the Earth passed directly between the moon and the Sun. The resulting “blood moons,” as they’re often called, stem from the effect of sunlight passing through our atmosphere; what is able to creep around the curvature of the Earth reaches the moon and makes it look red. This photo, from the European Space Agency, was taken over Lake Maggiore in the Alps while the eclipse was at totality.

In this photo taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, you can see two craters, both around 1,600 feet in diameter. But one is pretty smooth while the other is strewn with boulders. This difference is likely due to the different ages of the craters. Scientists have long relied on the pockmarked surface of the moon to learn about the formation of the solar system from the impacts absorbed by the Earth and the moon in its early days, billions of years ago.

This Martian surface feature looks like blue snakeskin. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and its HiRISE camera capture the surface of the planet in unprecedented detail, and that includes dunes like the ones seen here. Such images appear blue because the material in the photo is very fine; we are looking at small grains of sand and dust. Dunes like these are formed by wind and water, but given that water is no longer present on Mars, the winds around the planet are actively shifting these tiny morsels of sand into gloriously organic shapes.

GE urges speedy fix for power turbine blades, says blade broke in 2015: sources

NEW YORK (Reuters) – General Electric Co is advising some buyers of its big power turbines to switch out faulty blades sooner than expected and has disclosed that a blade broke in 2015, according to a presentation reviewed by Reuters and people briefed on the matter.

FILE PHOTO: A pedestrian walks past a General Electric (GE) facility in Medford, Massachusetts, U.S., April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

The second blade break, which has not been previously reported, involved an earlier turbine model and was similar to a break last September that severely damaged a turbine in Texas and shut it down for two months of repairs.

The defective blade issue affects GE’s newest turbine technology, which cost billions of dollars to develop, and is among the challenges facing new Chief Executive Larry Culp as he tries to revive the profits and share price of the 127-year-old conglomerate.

GE’s advice for fixing the problem can curb turbine use by utilities, according to the sources and utilities that use GE turbines, potentially threatening the revenue streams at the power plants.

At private meetings in Florida and London last month, GE executives said the company is offering extended warranty coverage and making spare parts available to ease concerns of insurers, lenders and utilities interested in buying turbines, according to a GE executive’s slideshow presentation and three people who attended the meetings. Some said they signed non-disclosure agreements.

GE told participants that turbines with at-risk blades should run for fewer than about 7,000 hours depending on individual plant circumstances, before shutting down for blade replacement, according to two people who attended the meetings. GE said it had advised customers of the change. GE’s previous guidance for blades was after 25,000 hours.

The executives also said in the meetings that the blade that broke in 2015 at an undisclosed power plant was in a GE 9FB turbine, which has similar technology to the HA turbine that broke in Texas. The 2015 break prompted GE to work on new protective coatings and alter a heat treatment process for the parts, a second presentation showed.

(GE turbine outage data:

GE told Reuters that after the blade broke in 2015, GE did not know at first that the problem would also afflict its HA models.

“The HA components were in development before the initial 9FB issue occurred, and the HA units began to ship while the root-cause analysis was in process and before it was determined that it was a component issue that impacted the 9FB fleet and the HA,” GE said in a statement to Reuters.

GE declined to provide more detail about the 2015 blade break or usage restrictions, saying some of the information is proprietary.

“We are executing the plan we laid out to fix the (blade) issue,” GE said in a statement to Reuters. “The feedback from customers has been positive, and they continue to choose the HA, which remains the fastest-growing fleet of advanced technology turbines in the world today.”

The details from GE’s meetings come as GE is installing new blades in about 50 9FB and 52 HA turbines, according to a person familiar with the matter, fewer than the 130 estimated after the blade break in Texas prompted it to warn that other turbines are at risk for blade failure.

Reuters previously reported that GE found an oxidation problem, not a break, in 2015 and developed a fix before the failure in Texas.

Scaling back use of GE turbines reduces how much electricity they produce, a threat to revenues and profits for Exelon Corp, PSEG Power LLC, Chubu Electric Power Co Inc and others with the 400-ton GE machines that form the core of modern gas-fired power plants, according to utilities and industry experts.

Japan’s Chubu Electric said it learned about the blade problem with its six new GE turbines last October. It is restricting operation time at one of the two plants that use GE’s HA turbines, but expects to have “enough reserve capacity to generate sufficient electricity to meet demand during this winter,” a spokesman told Reuters. He said Chubu will tally the financial impact “depending on how long the plants would be shut down” to replace blades. It expects repairs to be completed by the end of February.

PSEG Power and Exelon, based in the United States, declined to comment on how restrictions would affect them.

GE is continuing to sell turbines in a slumping market for big power plants, where it has lost share to rivals Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems and Siemens AG. GE has said it booked orders for three large turbines last month.

GE’s share price fell after GE revealed a blade issue in Texas on September 19, saying such “teething problems” are not uncommon with new technology and would require “minor adjustments” to fix. GE has said it would set aside $480 million for repairs and warranty claims.

Three days after the break in Texas became known, Electricite de France SA shut down its HA turbine to replace blades. EDF did not respond to requests for comment.

At the London meeting, about 100 insurance industry people gathered in the oak-paneled Old Library room of Lloyd’s of London on December 13, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential information.

Slideshow (2 Images)

GE power executives Marcus Scholz and Tom Dreisbach gave presentations about GE’s turbine technology. In its turbine documentation, GE has advised its power customers to inspect turbines with so-called “Generation 1” blades after 25,000 hours of use. GE said its improved blades, known as “Generation 2,” are designed to last 25,000 hours or more before being replaced.

According to page 11 of his presentation, Dreisbach said the Generation 1 blade that broke in 2015 failed after 22,000 hours. New parts treated with a special coating were inspected by technicians after about 12,000 and 16,000 hours and “cracking (was) still observed,” the presentation said.

GE inspected other turbines at about 7,000 hours and “early stages of cracking (were) observed,” the presentation said.

Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Additional reporting by Yuka Obayashi in Tokyo; Editing by Joe White and Edward Tobin

U.S. universities unplug from China's Huawei under pressure from Trump

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Top U.S. universities are ditching telecom equipment made by Huawei Technologies and other Chinese companies to avoid losing federal funding under a new national security law backed by the Trump administration.

FILE PHOTO: Graduates attend commencement at University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley May 16, 2015. REUTERS/Noah Berger/File Photo

U.S. officials allege Chinese telecom manufacturers are producing equipment that allows their government to spy on users abroad, including Western researchers working on leading-edge technologies. Beijing and the Chinese companies have repeatedly denied such claims.

The University of California at Berkeley has removed a Huawei video-conferencing system, a university official said, while the UC campus in Irvine is working to replace five pieces of Chinese-made audio-video equipment. Other schools, such as the University of Wisconsin, are in the process of reviewing their suppliers.

UC San Diego, meanwhile, has gone a step further. The university in August said that, for at least six months, it would not accept funding from or enter into agreements with Huawei, ZTE Corporation (000063.SZ) and other Chinese audio-video equipment providers, according to an internal memo. The document, reviewed by Reuters, said the moratorium would last through February 12, when the university would revisit its options.

“Out of an abundance of caution UC San Diego enacted the six-month moratorium to ensure we had adequate time to begin our assessment of the equipment on campus and to prevent the campus from entering into any agreements that could later be viewed as inconsistent with the NDAA,” UC San Diego spokeswoman Michelle Franklin said in response to Reuters’ questions about the memo.

These actions, not previously reported, signal universities’ efforts to distance themselves from Chinese companies that for years have supplied them with technical equipment and sponsored academic research, but which are now in the crosshairs of the Trump administration.

The moves are a response to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which President Donald Trump signed into law in August. A provision of that legislation bans recipients of federal funding from using telecommunications equipment, video recording services and networking components made by Huawei or ZTE. Also on the blacklist are Chinese audio-video equipment providers Hikvision, Hytera, Dahua Technology and their affiliates.

U.S. authorities fear the equipment makers will leave a back door open to Chinese military and government agents seeking information. U.S. universities that fail to comply with the NDAA by August 2020 risk losing federal research grants and other government funding.

That would be a blow to public institutions such as the sprawling University of California system, whose state funding has been slashed repeatedly over the last decade. In the 2016-2017 academic year, the UC system received $9.8 billion in federal money. Nearly $3 billion of that went to research, accounting for about half of all the university’s research expenditures that year, according to UC budget documents.


The new law is part of a broader Trump administration strategy to counter what it sees as China’s growing threat to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.

The president has slapped tariffs on a slew of Chinese goods and made it tougher for foreign companies to purchase minority stakes in U.S. tech companies, causing Chinese investment in Silicon Valley to plunge.

In addition, Trump last year signed legislation prohibiting the U.S. government from buying certain telecom and surveillance equipment from Huawei and ZTE. And he is considering a similar ban on Chinese equipment purchases by U.S. companies.

At the center of the storm is Huawei, a global behemoth in smartphones and telecom networking equipment. The company’s chief financial officer has been under house arrest in Canada since December for allegedly lying about Huawei’s ties to Iran. Another Huawei employee was arrested this month in Poland on espionage allegations.

Huawei did not respond to a request for comment.

U.S. universities have already felt the sting of Trump’s China policies. The State Department shortened the length of visas for certain Chinese graduate students. And the administration is considering new restrictions on Chinese students entering the United States. Chinese students are by far the largest group of international students in the United States and provide a lucrative source of revenue for universities.

Pressure to dump Huawei and other Chinese telecom suppliers is adding to the strain.

In addition to the University of Wisconsin, a half dozen institutions, including UC Los Angeles, UC Davis and the University of Texas at Austin, told Reuters they were in the process of reviewing their telecommunications equipment, or had already done so and determined they were NDAA compliant.

At Stanford University, Steve Eisner, the director of export compliance, told Reuters the school did a “scrub” of the campus, but “luckily” did not find any equipment that needed to be removed.

But for Stanford and other academic institutions, Huawei is more than an equipment vendor. Huawei participates in research programs, often as a sponsor, at dozens of schools, including UC San Diego, the University of Texas, the University of Maryland and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

In addition to an explicit equipment ban, the NDAA calls for creating regulations that would limit research partnerships and other agreements universities have with China. The law requires the Secretary of Defense to work with universities on ways to guard against intellectual property theft and create new regulations aimed at protecting academics from exploitation by foreign countries. Universities that fail to comply with those rules risk losing Defense Department funding.

UC San Diego highlighted this section of the law in a campus newsletter in September.

Fears of a more rigorous crackdown from Washington would seem to be justified. In June, 26 members of Congress sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, sounding an alarm over Huawei’s research partnerships with more than 50 U.S. universities that “may pose a significant threat to national security.”

The lawmakers called on DeVos to require universities to turn over information on those agreements.

Separately, a White House report from June points to a research partnership on artificial intelligence between UC Berkeley and Huawei as a potential opening for China to gather intelligence that could serve Beijing’s military and strategic ambitions. That partnership started in 2016.


UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said the university does not participate in research involving trade secrets. He said the school only enters research partnerships whose findings can be published publicly. Such open-source research is not subject to federal regulations.

Mogulof said UC Berkeley has no plans to change any of the research partnerships it has with Huawei. The company is involved in at least five UC Berkeley research initiatives, including autonomous driving, augmented reality and wireless technology, in addition to artificial intelligence.

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Still, a person with knowledge of the matter said the university’s relationship with Huawei had “cooled,” and that some Berkeley researchers are choosing not to proceed with their research agreements with the company to avoid scrutiny from university and government officials.

The chill is spreading. The United Kingdom’s Oxford University this month cut ties with Huawei, announcing it would no longer accept funding for research or philanthropic donations.

“The decision has been taken in the light of public concerns raised in recent months surrounding UK partnerships with Huawei,” a university spokesman said in a statement.

Reporting by Heather Somerville and Jane Lanhee Lee; Editing by Greg Mitchell and Marla Dickerson