Another day, another gathering focused on the evolution of technology at Code Conference. Big names, big ideas, and a lot to think about. Executives and activists. IBM, Google, Facebook, Gates Foundation, Twitter, Cisco, Musk… It’s too much for one post, but here are some highlights.

Internet Trends with Mary Meeker
KPCB’s Mary Meeker set the stage for the day with an overview of her annual Internet Trends report. She covered a lot of territory from the report, which – as she describes it – is really designed to read at your leisure on the device of your choice. And honestly, trying to keep up with her to tweet and take notes? Close to impossible. In part because she’s sharing so much so quickly, but also because the information is so good that you don’t want to pause to type. I’m a data geek and a word geek. So when you can integrate Candace Payne of YouTube Chewbacca mask fame into your fine-detail data, you get my vote. Meeker manages to dig into the real data in the world without losing track of the real world. So, here’s Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2016 report to peruse at your leisure.

Bill and Melinda Gates on Philanthropy
The Giving Pledge is an interesting example of a different way people are collaborating. Specifically, it’s a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

“We’re finding places where innovation makes an enormous difference,” says Melinda Gates. “Sometimes people underestimate how what they’ve done in their business can be applied to philanthropy.” In fact, more than $2 billion of the money distributed by the Gates Foundation goes toward pure R&D.

The Gates Foundation is focusing on issues including women’s health issues, polio eradication, education, and vaccines. According to Bill Gates, “negative rumors about vaccines have killed literally millions of people.”

How do technologists rate as philanthropists? “Compared to other industries, the successful people in technology are the most generous,” said Bill Gates. ”There’s no other industry area that’s this generous. Most leaders in the industry – not all – have made the commitment and are getting involved in philanthropy, even at a young age.”

For good measure, here’s a book recommendation from Bill Gates:
The Master Algorithm by Pedros Domingos.

Cisco’s Chuck Robbins and Customer Focus
In his first visit to the infamous Code Conference red chairs, Chuck Robbins sat down with Kara Swisher to talk about his focus at Cisco. While there’s always focus on Cisco’s networking hardware, Robbins pointed out that the majority of engineers at Cisco are actually software engineers – 23,000 of them. Hardware or software aside, he stressed that the real focus is to deliver what customers want and need to achieve. And partnerships follow the same thread, stressing that the real anchor of successful partnerships is coming together to create better value for customers.

Chuck Robbins at CODE Conf
Chuck Robbins and Kara Swisher at #CodeCon.

Swisher isn’t known for pampering anyone with fluffy questions, so she asked Robbins for his perspective on competitors, especially in the collaboration space. “Whenever you see competition in the market, you know you’re in a good market,” he said. “There’s always going to be good competition, but we have to focus on serving the customer.”

He talked about how Cisco Spark fits into our overall collaboration architecture and how we look at development overall, explaining that “In everything we build there are 2 fundamental requirements: It has to scale and it has to have inherent security.” He also talked about Spark’s open APIs, the developer community, and the $150 million Cisco Spark Innovation Fund.

When it came to identifying a “killer app” for IoT, Robbins pointed to the emerging need for preventative maintenance of connected devices. Likewise, he believes “our collaboration architecture will be an element of how #IoT use cases are realized by our customers.”

When it comes to innovation, Robbins acknowledges that we’ve made mistakes. Is that a bad thing? “If you don’t have things that are failing, then you’re not trying hard enough to innovate,” said Robbins.

Elon Musk Lands on Stage
Artificial intelligence has been a common thread throughout the day. Instead of theoretical “what-if” discussions, the conversations are much more about the actual application of AI in real-world business. And beyond that, the changes it involves – both what it requires to succeed and how it will impact us going forward.

The commentary was pro-AI, for the most part. And then Elon Musk shared his perspective, most easily explained as “not all AI futures are benign.” For Musk, it’s less about AI as a concept but more about the people who may control the systems. Honestly, I think he melted my brain for the first segment of the interview with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. At one point I found myself attempting to figure out whether hypersonic velocity and grid fins were somehow related to a really fast shark that’s kinda square. (I’m pretty sure I was off base…)

Overall, Musk covered a lot of territory. But don’t take my word for it, check Recode’s Facebook page for the video. A few soundbites on topics covered in his talk.

  • Mars:
    • “If you’re going to choose a place to die, then Mars probably isn’t such a bad place.”
    • Musk: “We should be able to launch people in 2024 with arrival in 2025.”
      Mossberg: “Is that more a certain schedule than United Airlines?”
    • “Why would we abandon earth? It’s nice here.”
  • Batteries: “There’s so much nonsense out there about batteries that you can believe about half of what you read.”
  • The election: “I’m glad the Constitution saw it fit to make sure the president is a captain of a large ship, but with a small rudder.”
  • Hyperloop: “I kind of have my plate full running Tesla and SpaceX.”
  • Innovation: “40 years ago we had Pong – two rectangles and a dot.”

But before I go, I leave you with “Meeker for Millennials,” released yesterday in anticipation of today’s release of the Internet Trends report:

Mic drop.

Photo credit: Asa Mathat for Vox Media

Follow Recode’s own coverage, including posted and live video, on Recode’s Facebook page.


Kim Austin

No Longer with Cisco