So even though it’s only happening in Arizona, this is a big deal. Waymo is clearly leading the pack in the race to produce self-driving cars, which makes sense because of Google’s multiyear head start in the space.
Would you be comfortable being carted around in a self-driving car? I was, but perhaps I’m just used to it since it’s one of the main topics I write about.
Farhad: Because I live right near Waymo’s headquarters, this is all old hat for me. I see the company’s cars — including the old panda-shaped ones that lack a steering wheel — every morning during my commute. I’d have no problem riding in one, but I hope Arizonans know that it’s very annoying to share the road with these robot cars.
They’re slow! They follow the speed limit, they take ages changing lanes and they have a frustrating habit of obeying every single rule of the road. Ugh, live a little, robot car — STOP is just a suggestion, not some kind of law.
Mike: Yes, well, don’t throw away your driver’s license quite yet. Or maybe do.
AT&T’s Megadeal Hits a Political Bump
Mike: Moving on, a bigger piece of telecom and media news. This week, our DealBook team scooped that the Department of Justice under the Trump administration is pushing Time Warner and AT&T to sell off Turner Broadcasting Company, which owns CNN, or DirecTV as a condition of a negotiated merger that has long been in the works.
It’s a huge ask, and hard to see how it’s not politically motivated. As we all well know, President Trump is no fan of CNN. Also, I’m curious to know what legal grounds the D.O.J. would use to block a merger of this size.
Farhad: The move makes for complicated politics. On the one hand, many liberals who are growing wary of ever-larger corporations might agree with the federal government putting stringent conditions on this deal. And yet it’s hard to tell if these conditions are legitimate, or if they’re being imposed to please a president who has repeatedly vowed to go after businesses that haven’t toed his line.
I wonder how this sort of thing affects liberals’ efforts to police big tech. In a speech this week, Senator Al Franken called for greater regulations on tech giants. Trump has suggested some affinity for that stance; during the campaign, Trump often said that The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon’s C.E.O., Jeff Bezos, was covering him critically because Amazon was worried that Trump would start antitrust proceedings against the company.
Now, imagine if something like that happens — would the left cheer Trump, or would they side with Amazon? I truly wonder.
Mike: Right, well, we all saw how well the last huge Time Warner merger went, so let’s hope this one goes better!
Oh, I wanted to note a fantastic story from The New York Times Magazine this week, basically on the opacity of Facebook’s algorithms and how its advertising can be so effective at targeting small groups of users that some start-ups are spending all their cash there and nowhere else. It’s like Russia and the 2016 election, but for brands!
Is Facebook Ruining Our Lives?
Farhad: Speaking of Facebook, there was a startling admission this week by Sean Parker, the Napster co-founder and former Facebook executive (played by Justin Timberlake in “The Social Network”). In an interview with Axios’s Mike Allen, Parker said that he’d become a “conscientious objector” on social media, which he said had been built to addict us all.
“It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways,” he said. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
Watch for more of this. More and more people both in and out of Silicon Valley are worried about the long-term psychological effects of our digital age. I worry about you especially, Mike.
Mike: Too busy looking at Twitter.
Actually, the last thing I wanted to note: Will.i.am, the hip-hop artist and self-styled tech evangelist, has raised another $ 100 million in venture capital. He started on wearables and gadgets, and has pivoted to work on chatbots and devices like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home.
So what do you think? Is Will.i.am the next Steve Jobs? Does raising venture capital actually require anything more than a hodgepodge of vague ideas and a series of pivots? What even is capitalism anymore?
Farhad: I really don’t get it. We live in a world where anyone who’s made it constantly gets showered with more and more money regardless of whether they’re doing anything useful. Mike, when do we get to cash in?
Mike: Never. Anyway, see you next week!