Jeff Bezos Prefers ‘Entrepreneur Jeff Bezos’ over ‘Richest Person in the World Jeff Bezos’

(p. B3) Mr. Bezos said his primary job each day as a senior executive is to make a small number of high-quality decisions.
. . .
The insight into Mr. Bezos’ philosophy on time management came as the Amazon founder Thursday [September 13, 2018] addressed a crowd of roughly 1,400 at an event held by the Economic Club of Washington, D.C.
He reminisced on the early days of Amazon and the lessons he has learned during decades of rapid change as he went from founding the online bookstore in his garage to overseeing a massive company with several business lines and offices around the world.
That explosive growth helped push Amazon last week to briefly become the second U.S. company to reach a $1 trillion market value, after Apple Inc., and has made Mr. Bezos the richest person in the world.
It is a title Mr. Bezos said he has never sought. “I would much rather if they said like, ‘inventor Jeff Bezos’ or ‘entrepreneur Jeff Bezos’ or ‘father Jeff Bezos.’ Those kinds of things are much more meaningful to me,” he told the audience.

For the full story, see:
Laura Stevens. “A Few Life Lessons from Bezos.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018): B3.
(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 14, 2018, and has the title “Leadership and Life Lessons from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.”)

Genetics Entrepreneur Compares FDA to DMV

(p. 1) MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — In 2007, Anne Wojcicki, then 33, lassoed the moon.
She was getting her new company, 23andMe, a mail-order genetics testing firm, off the ground with her “Party ’til you spit” celebrity get-togethers.
She married Sergey Brin, the cute co-founder of Google, also 33 and already one of the richest men in America, at a top-secret Esther Williams extravaganza in the Bahamas. The bride in a white bathing suit and the groom in a black one, they swam to a sandbar in the Bahamas and got hitched in the middle of the sparkling aquamarine ocean.
Soon after the marriage, as Mr. Brin accumulated more power, a yacht, and a fleet of jets, Ms. Wojcicki became pregnant with the first of their two children and Google invested millions in her start-up, named after the 23 paired chromosomes that consist of our DNA.
But six years later, the Silicon Valley fairy tale was shattered by two public humiliations: Mr. Brin got involved with a beautiful young Englishwoman named Amanda Ro-(p. 12)senberg, who provided a public face for Google Glass — an attachment that broke up his marriage. And the Food and Drug Administration shut down the primary function of Ms. Wojcicki’s business, calling her D.N.A. spit vial “an unapproved medical device” and imposing stricter rules for consumer genetic testing. Her business, once so ripe with promise to tackle health issues, was curtailed to its ancestry testing division.
. . .
“In some ways, when you have that many bad things happen, it’s a sense of disbelief,” she says. “This was one of those situations where there’s two aspects. A divorce and the F.D.A. There was no workaround in either. So it was one of the first times in my life where you have to accept, you have to actually change. Like, I need to come up with a different way of approaching both of these relationships.”
. . .
(p. 13) She’s focused for now on her children, her new Bengal cats and her company, which has more than three million customers and its own drug-development program. It started selling kits in CVS and Target, got the F.D.A.’s permission to resume giving consumers health reports on 10 conditions, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and the $99 ancestry kit won a spot as one of “Oprah’s favorite things” this year, with Oprah calling it “The Ultimate Selfie.” Fast Company portrayed Ms. Wojcicki as the Comeback Kid of tech.
She realized that she had a treasure trove of DNA data and began teaming with Genentech and Procter & Gamble, which started mining it to make breakthroughs in Parkinson’s, depression and skin care.
In many ways, her struggle with the F.D.A. was a microcosm of the increasingly tense battle between hidebound regulatory agencies and freewheeling tech companies.
Although some people thought Ms. Wojcicki would have to sell her company, she healed the breach with the F.D.A. the same way she healed the breach with Mr. Brin. She did not huff away and seethe and backbite. She “put one foot ahead of the other,” as her mother advises, hired the best regulatory experts and found a respectful new configuration for the relationship.
“We were not communicating in the right way,” she says of the period the F.D.A. felt it was being ignored. “We were not showing Silicon Valley arrogance. We just were running around with our shoes on in a Japanese house. We were not a cultural fit and we weren’t expressing what we were trying to do in the right way.
“Some companies are trying to circumvent the regulators. We weren’t. We just got caught in the cross hairs. We clearly pissed them off. It took us a long time to generate a lot of data to prove that our intentions actually were right. But I feel like we’re doing the right thing in terms of proving that the customer is capable of getting this information on their own.
“I see it from the F.D.A. perspective. It’s a new product. It’s genetics. It’s direct to consumer. It caused anxiety. So, you know, the onus was on us.”
She had to explain to her team: “Listen, when you go to the D.M.V., you don’t argue about the vision test. You don’t say, ‘Oh, I just had a vision test. I don’t need to do the vision test.’ Like, you just do it. The F.D.A. is in charge of public safety, and I have a respect for the job that they have to do. And we’re just going to do the job that they’re asking us to do.”

For the full story, see:
Maureen Dowd. “‘Adapt and Evolve.” The New York Times, SundayStyles Section (Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017): 1 & 12-13.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 18, 2017, and has the title “‘The Doyenne of DNA Says: Just Chillax With Your Ex.”)

Long Lines at California DMV’s Fumbling Bureaucracy

(p. 12) LOS ANGELES — They were lined up by the dozens clear down the street on a recent afternoon — hot and frustrated in the sun, trying to attend to the most routine (and unavoidable) encounters with local government: renewing a driver’s license.
Inside the Hollywood office of the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the wait was close to two hours. Folding chairs, all filled, were set up three-deep against three walls.
“There’s a six-week wait just to get an appointment,” said Alfred Kendrick, a fitness trainer from West Hollywood who, like many people here, showed up without one. “Come on. This is 2018. I can order a bowl from China in less time than it takes to get a driver’s license in California.”
Few states have embraced the idea of an expansive government as fervently as California, with its vast public university system, $100 billion high-speed rail project and even, the other day, the passage of legislation outlawing plastic straws. California’s leaders are on the forefront of global efforts to combat climate change and the Democratic challenge to President Trump.
But these days, to the embarrassment of Democrats who control the state government, California is fumbling one of its most basic tasks. Waiting times at motor vehicle offices have increased as much as 46 percent from a year ago, spotlighting a departmental bureaucracy marked by green computer screens and computers that still run on DOS.
California is by no means the only state where motorists have had to endure long lines. Complaints could be heard this summer from Texas to North Carolina to Connecticut. But the breakdown is particularly striking here in a state whose identity is defined in no small part by the automobile and by a sprawling view of government.

For the full story, see:
Adam Nagourney. “‘To Get on Road, California Drivers Spend Hours on Sidewalk.” The New York Times (Monday, Sept. 10, 2018): A12.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 9, 2018, and has the title “‘A Scourge for California Drivers: Hours on a Sidewalk to Renew a License.”)

“Machines Are Not Capable of Creativity”

(p. A11) New York
“I rarely have an urge to whisper,” says George Gilder–loudly–as he settles onto a divan by the window of his Times Square hotel room. I’d asked him to speak as audibly as possible into my recording device, and his response, while literal, could also serve as a metaphor: Nothing Mr. Gilder says or writes is ever delivered at anything less than the fullest philosophical decibel.
. . .
Citing Claude Shannon, the American mathematician acknowledged as the father of information theory, Mr. Gilder says that “information is surprise. Creativity always comes as a surprise to us. If it wasn’t surprising, we wouldn’t need it.” However useful they may be, “machines are not capable of creativity.” Human minds can generate counterfactuals, imaginative flights, dreams. By contrast, “a surprise in a machine is a breakdown. You don’t want your machines to have surprising outcomes!”
The narrative of human obsolescence, Mr. Gilder says, is giving rise to a belief that the only way forward is to provide redundant citizens with some sort of “guaranteed annual income,” which would mean the end of the market economy: . . .
. . .
For all the gloom about Silicon Valley that appears to suffuse his new book, Mr. Gilder insists that he’s not a tech-pessimist. “I think technology has fabulous promise,” he says, as he describes blockchain and cryptocurrency as “a new technological revolution that is rising up as we speak.” He says it has generated “a huge efflorescence of peer-to-peer technology and creativity, and new companies.” The decline of initial public offerings in the U.S., he adds, has been “redressed already by the rise of the ICO, the ‘initial coin offering,’ which has raised some $12 billion for several thousand companies in the last year.”
It is clear that Mr. Gilder is smitten with what he calls “this cryptographic revolution,” and believes that it will heal some of the damage to humanity that has been inflicted by the “machine obsessed” denizens of Silicon Valley. Blockchain “endows individuals with control of their data, their identity, the truths that they want to assert, their transactions, their visions, their content and their security.” Here Mr. Gilder sounds less like a tech guru than a poet, and his words tumble out in a romantic cascade.

For the full interview, see:
Tunku Varadarajan, interviewer. “Sage Against the Machine; A leading Google critic on why he thinks the era of ‘big data’ is done, why he opposes Trump’s talk of regulation, and the promise of blockchain.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018): A11.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the interview has the date Aug. 31, 2018.)

The “new book” by Gilder, mentioned above, is:
Gilder, George. Life after Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 2018.

E-Commerce Creates “More and Better Jobs than It Destroys”

(p. A17) . . . , the men and women who go to work each day in e-commerce fulfillment centers are much better-equipped with information technology–and therefore more productive and better-paid. Our research shows that fulfillment center weekly wages are 31% higher on average than brick-and-mortar retail in the same area.
. . .
But does e-commerce destroy more jobs than it creates? So far the answer seems to be no. From the third quarter of 2015 to the third quarter of 2017, brick-and-mortar retail full-time-equivalent jobs fell by roughly 123,000, or about 1%, according to my think tank’s analysis of the latest Labor Department data.
Over the same two-year stretch, the e-commerce industry has added some 178,000 jobs in fulfillment centers and electronic shopping firms. In addition, express delivery companies and other local couriers boosted their full-time-equivalent workers by another 58,000.
. . .
The Internet of Goods–our term for the fast-growing digitization of the production, sorting and movement of physical products–will be the next major step in the internet’s evolution.
If e-commerce is any guide, the jobs created for the Internet of Goods will require workers who have a good mix of physical and cognitive skills, just like the industrial jobs of the early-20th century. Moreover, they will be more evenly spread around the country, boosting growth in America’s heartland as well as the coasts.

For the full commentary, see:
Michael Mandel. “Get Ready for the Internet of Goods; Already, e-commerce has been creating more and better jobs than it destroys.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Oct. 15, 2017): A17.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Oct. 15, 2017.)

Drones Reduce Worker Danger of Many Tasks

(p. B3) Small, swift and agile, drones have all but replaced the more costly and less nimble helicopter for tasks that involve inspections, measurements and marketing images.
. . .
On building sites, drones are saving money and time by providing digital images, maps and other files that can be shared in a matter of minutes, said Mike Winn, the chief executive of DroneDeploy, a company founded five years ago in San Francisco that creates software for, among other uses, operating drones with mobile apps.
Drones are reducing the travel time for busy executives, Mr. Winn said. “The head office can see what’s going on, and the safety team, the costing team, the designers — all of them can contribute to the project, share data and comment on it, without actually going to the job.”
They could also improve safety. In the days before drones, Mr. Winn said, measuring the roof of a house for solar panels would require “a guy with a tape measure to climb up there,” which often produced inaccurate results and, like anything involving heights, was dangerous.
Such peril is magnified in the construction of skyscrapers, said John Murphy Jr., a contractor on the Paramount Miami Worldcenter, a 58-story condominium tower being built in downtown Miami. Before drones, Mr. Murphy said, workers seeking access to the exterior of a high-rise were “dropped over the side” in so-called swing stages, small platforms that hang from cables. Often used by window cleaners, swing stages are precarious in high winds.
“No one wants to go out there,” he said. “It’s scary.”

For the full story, see:
Nick Madigan. “‘It Can Leap Tall Buildings and Save Money and Lives.” The New York Times (Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018): B3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 14, 2018, and has the title “‘Need a Quick Inspection of a 58-Story Tower? Send a Drone.”)

N.Y.C. Regulation of Uber and Lyft Hurts Poor Blacks and Hispanics

(p. A1) Jenine James no longer worries about getting stranded when the subways and buses are unreliable — a constant frustration these days — or cannot take her to where she needs to go. Her Plan B: Uber.
So Ms. James, 20, a barista in Brooklyn, sees New York’s move to restrict ride-hail services as not just a threat to her own convenience and comfort but also to the alternative transportation system that has sprung up to fill in the gaps left by the city’s failing subways and buses. She does not even want to think about going back to a time when a train was her only option, as unlikely as that might be.
“It was bad, so imagining going back, it’s terrible,” she said.
The ride-hail cars that critics say are choking New York City’s streets have also brought much-needed relief to far corners of the city where just getting to work is a daily chore requiring long rides and multiple transfers, often squeezed into packed trains and buses. The black cars that crisscross transit deserts in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island have become staples in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods where residents complain that yellow taxis often refuse to pick them up. They come to the rescue in the rain, and during taxi shift changes, when rides are notoriously hard to find even (p. A19) in the heart of Manhattan.
New York became the first major American city on Wednesday [Aug. 8, 2018] to put a halt on issuing new vehicle licenses for Uber, Lyft and other ride-hail services amid growing concerns around the world about the impact they are having on cities.
The legislation calls for a one-year moratorium while the city studies the booming industry and also establishes pay rules for drivers. It was passed overwhelmingly by the City Council and is expected to be signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, who attempted to adopt a similar cap in 2015 but abandoned the effort after Uber waged a fierce campaign against him.

For the full story, see:
Winnie Hu and Mariana Alfaro. “‘At End of Line, A Cap on Uber Causes Distress.” The New York Times (Friday, Aug. 10, 2018): A1 & A19.
(Note: bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 9, 2018, and has the title “‘Riders Wonder: With Uber as New York’s Plan B, Is There a Plan C?”)