Apple real estate VP who played integral role in Apple Park, other developments to retire

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Apple’s VP of real estate and development Dan Whisenhunt, who played an important role in the realization of Apple Park and the company’s expansion beyond Cupertino, is retiring after more than ten years of service.
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AI’s Role in Driving the Sales Experience

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Much has been made of AI’s role in serving customers, and AI-supported smart devices have invaded homes everywhere — Amazon’s Alexa was even used to order millions more Alexas as Christmas presents in 2017. Artificial intelligence is embedding itself in our technology-obsessed culture, but not every industry has taken advantage of AI’s utility.

Adam Honig and his co-founders at Spiro saw an opening to use AI to drive the sales experience. Businesses utilize CRMs to compile and track the data needed to support ongoing sales efforts and pinpoint new sales opportunities. But Honig, the CEO of Spiro, says that many companies aren’t getting the data they need from these platforms — they aren’t used correctly, fully, or consistently, meaning the information these sales teams are working from is skewed.

Spiro is an AI-driven CRM, complete with a conversational email interface, or an email bot, that utilizes existing data — from salespeople’s calendars, emails, and more — to lay out a schedule or to-do list for a salesperson and anticipate next moves. The AI function can process existing information more quickly than humans poring over spreadsheets can, empowering the CRM to predict how many follow-ups it may take — and what format will be most effective — to close a deal.

But that’s not where Spiro sees AI’s intersection with the sales experience ending.

How a People-Driven Industry Benefits From AI

It’s well-known that AI can process data better than humans can — a Massachusetts Institute of Technology startup’s software developed stronger predictive models than the majority of its human competitors did, and some predict that AI will be better than us at everything by 2060. But even then, there are limits: Eleni Vasilaki of the University of Sheffield says there’s “little evidence that AI with human-like versatility will appear any time soon.”

That’s what confounds many: How could an industry fueled by personal relationships, charisma, and camaraderie be driven by AI? Sales is surely a people-driven arena, but it’s already focused on tracking metrics and moving the needle by predicting human behavior. Honig and his co-founders realized, through their CRM work with more than 3,000 companies, that the problem lies in the data being gathered.

“To say that salespeople hate CRM is an understatement; most consider it a soul-sucking beast of burden that doesn’t add any value to their sales life,” Honig says. “We knew that salespeople desperately needed a CRM that would help them make more money, not give them more work. When I saw the movie ‘Her,’ I realized that the new AI technologies that were emerging would be perfect to automate non-sales tasks so they could focus on selling.”

Is This the End of Sales as We Know It?

Beyond increasing productivity and efficiency, automation can relieve salespeople from manual tasks, freeing them up for more high-level strategic efforts. Though many predict that AI will lead to mass unemployment as human beings are relieved of their duties, AI is designed to elevate the skill sets needed in each industry so complex, nuanced problems with big implications are solved by humans who will have to absorb those outcomes.

That’s why Honig believes AI will augment, not replace, salespeople. “In some ways, AI is already replacing salespeople at a fast pace,” he says. “’s AI algorithms make specific purchase recommendations and provide a high level of service that’s hard for retail salespeople to match.”

What that means is that to compete, salespeople selling to businesses have to be prepared to embrace solutions that make them more effective with customers. “In practice, this means using AI solutions to do things that technology can do better, like entering data, and let them focus on the things that people do better, like building rapport and really understanding the needs of a customer,” Honig explains.

The Productive Path Forward

The biggest benefit AI may offer to the sales process is its data-gathering capabilities. Whereas some salespeople operate from instinct or their “gut feeling” about a customer and his needs, sales is often now held to the same standard and expectation of ROI as most marketers and advertisers. Without numbers, it’s hard to maintain a budget, commission, or even a permanent position.

Despite this need for hard data, many sales departments track information haphazardly, failing to record final contract numbers in a database or neglecting to indicate how many touchpoints a lead went through before finding his way to the bottom of the sales funnel. That lack of information may not impact that specific sales process, but it can alter an entire team’s goals and predictions. AI-driven platforms like Spiro can grab the data where it’s buried and build their own reports, adding a layer of analysis and interpretation for human reviewers. Honig says Spiro’s reports have been shown to contain eight times more data than regular CRM reports, underscoring the power of AI.

The other side of AI’s productivity can be seen in its ability to look at an overview of a person’s behavior, add context, and predict future actions. “Imagine if your CRM could advise you who you should call and follow up with to drive all your leads and deals forward,” Honig says. “That’s what we do. Spiro uses a machine learning algorithm that was trained by more than 15,000 salespeople to identify the best times for follow-up, the best email templates to be used, and the best contacts to focus on.”

Thanks to these insights, Spiro’s customers have indicated they reach up to 47 percent more prospects each week. A big factor in reaching more customers is having the AI predict which prospects won’t close so salespeople can focus on others. Human hope makes it hard for sales professionals to shut down a potential source of income when they can’t see where the road ends.

“Artificial intelligence will do more and more for salespeople,” Honig says. “Beyond advising them who to call and follow up with, it will automatically identify similar prospects and suggest that salespeople call them. It will listen in on sales calls and provide real-time feedback to help make the pitch even better. It will learn from emails, calendar appointments, and phone calls to craft specific proposals based on what’s already happened.”

In other words, Honig predicts AI will become salespeople’s constant companion, designed to help them make more money. Sales may be a people-driven industry, but AI is on a path to ensure it values data as much as instincts.

The post AI’s Role in Driving the Sales Experience appeared first on ReadWrite.


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Mind over matter? Alex Hutchinson explains the role of the brain when it comes to the limits of human endurance

Once, we believed that the body was a machine, and the secret to optimal performance came from the muscles, the lungs, the heart. Then, we were told that it’s all in our head, and we just need to push through the pain. The truth is that “the brain and the body are fundamentally intertwined,” writes Alex Hutchinson, a fitness journalist (with a doctorate in physics) who competed for the Canadian national team as a runner. To understand the limits of the human body, you have to consider them together.

Hutchinson is the author of Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, out this month from HarperCollins. In the eight years he worked on the book, he traveled to labs all over the world and spoke to hundreds…

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Eric Schmidt stepping down from Executive Chairman role at Alphabet

Eric Schmidt Executive Chairman Alphabet Google

Eric Schmidt as been at Google a long time, having become the company’s CEO way back in 2001. More recently he served as the Executive Chairman of Alphabet, but today Schmidt announced a major change.

Eric Schmidt is leaving his position as Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors at Alphabet. The change will be effective as of Alphabet’s next regular board meeting, which is happening in January 2018.

Schmidt isn’t completely leaving Alphabet, though, as the company says that he’ll become a “technical advisor”. He’ll also continue to serve on Alphabet’s Board of Directors.

“Larry, Sergey, Sundar and I all believe that the time is right in Alphabet’s evolution for this transition,” Schmidt said in a statement. “The Alphabet structure is working well, and Google and the Other Bets are thriving.”

In addition to serving as a technical advisor and board member to Alphabet, Schmidt plans to focus more on science and technology issues as well as philanthropy. – Latest videos, reviews, articles, news and posts

Eric Schmidt stepping down from role as Alphabet’s executive chairman

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Long-time Google and Alphabet executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has announced his intention to transition to a "technical advisor" role — but will keep a seat on the board of directors.
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Mature Cells May Play an Important Role in the Onset of Cancer

Reverting Back

A new study has found that mature cells, as well as rapidly dividing stem cells, might play a role in the onset of cancer in the human body.

A team of researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis observed mature cells displaying behavior more commonly associated with rapidly dividing stem cells. Even as they reverted back, they maintained the mutations that had developed over the course of their lifespan, which could increase the chances that these cells develop into precancerous lesions.

The study looked at mice who had suffered injuries affecting their stomach lining, whose ability to call on stem cells to fix the problem had been blocked. The stomach was chosen as the focus because it’s easier to distinguish stem cells and mature cells in that environment.

Although stem cells were not present, the mice still developed a precancerous condition when the mature cells reverted back to a state resembling stem cells in order to address the injury. The team also looked at tissue samples from ten people with stomach cancer and found that the same mature cells had undergone a similar process, rapidly changing and dividing as a result.

Divide and Conquer

These findings could prompt additional investigations into our current methods of treating cancer; many of which attempt to slow or halt the growth of cancer by preventing cells from rapidly dividing. These methods typically set their sights on stem cells but have tended to overlook the possibility of mature cells reverting back.

“Cancer therapies target stem cells because they divide a lot, but if mature cells are being recruited to treat injuries, then those therapies won’t touch the real problem,” said Megan Radyk, first author on the paper, in a press release. “If cancer recurs, it may be because the therapy didn’t hit key mature cells that take on stem cell-like behavior.”

The next step for researchers will be to identify drugs that could prevent a precancerous condition from arising by ensuring mature cells don’t take on stem cell-like behavior. Given the evidence that these cells can contribute to an increased risk of cancer, making sure that they can’t divide and multiply would be a good starting point. If such a treatment could be developed, it could potentially be used beyond the stomach and the gastrointestinal tract in order to treat cancers affecting other parts of the body.

Cancer is hardly a new threat to human health, but advances in medical technology and increased research has allowed us to learn much more about the disease in recent years. From insights into the make-up of the disease to better means of detection, our ability to diagnose, treat, and even prevent cancers continues to improve.

Of course, we’re always on the lookout for new forms of treatment – and one day, maybe even cures. Cancer remains one of the most deadly diseases we face, with 1,685,210 new diagnoses and 595,690 deaths estimated to have taken place in the United States alone in 2016. Fortunately, there’s plenty of work being done to improve those statistics.

The post Mature Cells May Play an Important Role in the Onset of Cancer appeared first on Futurism.


Apple’s Jony Ive will return to his design management role

Apple's chief design officer, Jony Ive, is picking his old management duties back up again, 9to5Mac reports. Back in 2015, Ive was upgraded to chief design officer from senior VP and day-to-day management was taken over by Alan Dye and Richard Howart…
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Jony Ive is retaking control of Apple’s design team after two years in hands-off role

Jony Ive, technically Apple’s design chief since 2015, is once again assuming management control of the iPhone maker’s design team after two years in a largely hands-off role, according to a report from Bloomberg. Ive, responsible for the look and feel of Apple hardware throughout a majority of former CEO Steve Jobs’ revolutionary second run at the helm of the company in the late ‘90s and 2000s, was freed from much of his day-to-day management responsibilities in 2015, when he took on the chief design officer title. He still oversaw design, but other executives and employees on the team no longer reported to him.

At the time, the move was viewed as Ive, who is 50 years old, laying the groundwork to retire from his intensive position at…

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VW executive given the maximum prison sentence for his role in Dieselgate

The man who was in charge of Volkswagen’s US environmental and engineering office before the Dieselgate scandal has been sentenced to seven years in prison. Oliver Schmidt had previously pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Air Act and conspiracy to defraud the US government in August for his role in Dieselgate, where VW was found to have used hidden software to hide the fact that many of its cars weren’t meeting emissions standards.

The prison term and an accompanying $ 400,000 fine were announced at a sentencing hearing today in a US District Court in Detroit. They represent the maximum penalties for those charges.

Schmidt originally faced up to 169 years in prison on 11 felony counts before he entered his guilty plea. He is the…

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Rose McGowan’s role in Grindhouse was revenge on Harvey Weinstein

When filmmaker Robert Rodriguez cast actress Rose McGowan in the B-movie exploitation flick Grindhouse, it was more than finding the right actor for the right role: it was a defiant middle finger to disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

In a statement to Variety, Rodriguez explains that he met the actress at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, where she told him that she had been raped by Weinstein eight years prior. In the aftermath of the assault, the actress found herself blacklisted from appearing in any films connected to Weinstein or his influential studio.

“I then revealed to Rose right then and there that I was about to start writing a movie with Quentin Tarantino, a double-feature throwback to ‘70s exploitation movies, and…

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