The last 12 months have been a strange and confusing time in tech, especially for the giants housed mostly in Silicon Valley.
This is the year that the default public attitude to tech firms such as Google and Facebook became one of suspicion, resulting in greater scrutiny from politicians and media.
Business Insider has captured something of the changing spirit with a list of the 17 most jaw-dropping quotes from 2018.
The list is, perhaps unsurprisingly, jointly dominated by Facebook executives and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, both of whom had a trying year under the spotlight. Other figures include Steve Jobs, after the Apple cofounder’s daughter Lisa wrote a poetic and devastating memoir which showed her father in a new light.
“You’re getting nothing.”
It’s an open secret that Apple cofounder Steve Jobs was not only a visionary but an exceptionally difficult man.
A memoir published this year by his daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, lends further nuanced depth to that image and examines their often frosty relationship.
In one heartbreaking extract, told for the first time, Brennan-Jobs recalled that her father would replace every Porsche as soon as it got a scratch. She asked whether she could have one once he replaced it.
“You’re not getting anything,” she recalls him responding. “You understand? Nothing. You’re getting nothing.”
Elon Musk’s Twitter activity prompted great scrutiny of the Tesla CEO this year, but the tweet that bit back hardest was his infamous claim that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private.
The full tweet appeared to contain a marijuana reference. “Am considering taking Tesla private at $US420,” he wrote. “Funding secured.”
Ultimately, the tweet led to Musk being slapped with a $US20 million fine from the SEC after it became apparent that funding had not in fact been secured. Under the terms of the settlement, Musk also had to step down as chairman of Tesla.
“I saw him in the kitchen tucking his tail in between his legs scrounging for investors to cover his arse after that tweet.”
A surprising twist in the tale of Elon Musk’s “funding secured” debacle was when rapper Azealia Banks weighed in with her account of events.
Banks claimed that after being invited to Musk’s LA home to collaborate with Grimes, who was in a relationship with Musk at the time (it is unclear whether they are still a couple), she saw him scrambling for investors.
“They bring me out there on the premise that we would hang and make music,” Banks told Business Insider in a DM. “But his dumbass kept tweeting and tucked his dick in between his arse cheeks once shit hit the fan.
“I saw him in the kitchen tucking his tail in between his legs scrounging for investors to cover his arse after that tweet. He was stressed and red in the face.”
Banks later wrote an apology letter to Musk, saying “I feel terrible about everything.”
“I know tech better than anyone.”
In December, President Trump tweeted that he knows tech better than anyone else in response to criticism about his plans for a border wall with Mexico.
In two tweets Trump declared: “The Democrats are trying to belittle the concept of a Wall, calling it old fashioned. The fact is there is nothing else’s that will work, and that has been true for thousands of years. It’s like the wheel, there is nothing better.
“I know tech better than anyone, & technology …..on a Border is only effective in conjunction with a Wall. Properly designed and built Walls work, and the Democrats are lying when they say they don’t. In Israel the Wall is 99.9% successful. Will not be any different on our Southern Border! Hundreds of $Billions saved!”
There is considerable evidence to suggest Trump is not the foremost expert on technology, such as the fact he refers to an iPad as “the flat one.”
“Mr. Zuckerberg, would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was hauled before US lawmakers in April to explain the role the social network played in spreading misinformation.
Lawmakers used the session as an excuse to grill Facebook about privacy too, with Democratic senator Dick Durbin asking: “Mr. Zuckerberg, would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?”
The point was to illustrate Facebook’s uncanny ability to show people ads and friend recommendations based on their whereabouts.
Unsurprisingly, Zuckerberg said no.
“Senator, we run ads.”
When Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress in April, many were surprised at the senators’ lack of tech-savvy. Perhaps the best example of this was when 84-year-old Utah senator Orrin Hatch asked how Facebook can be a profitable business and yet remain a free service.
Zuckerberg responded, “Senator, we run ads.”
“I hope I am able to assist as a cat.”
Feeling, perhaps, that two Congressional appearances were enough, Zuckerberg snubbed similar grillings from other countries. He declined to appear in November before a group of representatives from nine countries hosted in Westminster.
Instead, Facebook sent VP and British peer Richard Allen in his place, and Belgian lawmaker Nele Lijnen flummoxed him with an unexpected question: “Do you know the expression ‘sending your cat’?”
Allen admitted he did not, and she explained it was a Flemish idiom meaning to not show up.
“I hope I am able to assist as a cat,” Allen responded.
“No, no, you are sitting next to the cat,” Lijnen explained.
“I choose to go to the moon, with artists.”
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed in September that Japanese billionaire and art collector Yusaku Maezawa would be the first person to fly to the moon as a private passenger aboard the Big Falcon Rocket.
Maezawa in turn announced he would be taking six to eight artists along for the ride.
“We have taken down another great icon.”
This year the rise and fall of disgraced blood-analysis startup Theranos was deliciously chronicled in the book “Bad Blood.”
But despite the fact that the SEC went on to charge Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes with fraud, some of its supporters remained loyal to the end.
Venture capital investor Tim Draper defended Holmes in an interview with CNBC. He also wore a Bitcoin-patterned tie.
“I feel that we have taken down another great icon,” he said. “This woman came to me when she was 19 years old and she said I’m going to transform health care as we know it and she got bullied into submission. And this is not what America is made of.”
Holmes stepped down as CEO a month later.
“I predict one day Amazon will fail. Amazon will go bankrupt.”
In a recording of an internal Amazon all-hands meeting heard by CNBC in November, CEO Jeff Bezos said in response to a question from a staffer: “Amazon is not too big to fail … In fact, I predict one day Amazon will fail.”
“Amazon will go bankrupt. If you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not a hundred-plus years,” he added.
The quote was eye-catching because Amazon has made Bezos is the richest man in the world.
This isn’t the first time Bezos has alluded to Amazon’s inevitable demise either.
“If you Google the word ‘idiot,’ under images, a picture of Donald Trump comes up.”
Google CEO Sundar Pichai was, like Zuckerberg, hauled before US Congress this year.
Pichai was questioned about alleged anti-conservative bias at the company, and Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren gave Pichai the chance to explain how Google search works.
“Right now, if you Google the word ‘idiot,’ under images, a picture of Donald Trump comes up. I just did that. How would that happen? How does search work so that that would occur?”
Pichai responded that Google employees cannot manually interfere in any search results.
“Facebook has a black people problem.”
Facebook employee Mark S. Luckie published a scathing goodbye note criticising racial discrimination at the company in November, asserting that Facebook has a “black people problem.”
“Facebook’s disenfranchisement of black people on the platform mirrors the marginalization of its black employees,” he wrote.
Trump’s trade war with China is the “stupidest thing in the world.”
Numerous business leaders have spoken out about Trump’s trade war with China, but perhaps none so bluntly as Jack Ma.
China’s richest man and founder of ecommerce giant Alibaba simply said in November it was “the most stupidest thing in this world.”
“People just peed in bottles because they lived in fear of being disciplined over ‘idle time’ and losing their jobs just because they needed the loo.”
This was the quote that reignited global outrage at conditions in Amazon’s warehouses.
Reporter James Bloodworth went undercover as a worker in an Amazon warehouse (or “fulfillment centre”) as research for a book on low-wage jobs in Britain.
He claims to have found a bottle of urine while working there, and told The Sun that people urinated in bottles so as not to be disciplined for taking the time to walk to the toilet.
Amazon has categorically denied this, and dismissed Bloodworth’s reporting.
“Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools. And still we connect people.”
In March of this year, Buzzfeed obtained a 2016 memo from Facebook executive Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, seemingly justifying growth at all costs.
“So we connect more people,” Boz wrote. “That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools. And still we connect people.”
Mark Zuckerberg subsequently condemned the memo, saying Facebook has, “never believed the ends justified the means.”
Bosworth himself claimed in a statement that he didn’t agree with the memo when he wrote, but rather he wanted to “surface issues” he felt warranted more discussion.
“I’ll be holding your hands with your dying business like in a hospice.”
Facebook’s head of news partnerships, Campbell Brown, detonated a media bomb after reportedly telling news organisations that they’d end up “in a hospice” if they didn’t work with the social and ads giant.
Brown met with Australian news organisations and plugged the benefits of working with Facebook, but then shocked executives by saying: “We will help you revitalise journalism … in a few years the reverse looks like I’ll be holding your hands with your dying business like in a hospice.”
“I f—ing hope he sues me.”
Musk got in hot water after he accused British rescue diver Vernon Unsworth of being a pedophile, after Unsworth criticised Musk’s idea of rescuing the 12 boys who became stranded in a Thai cave using a miniature submarine.
Even more surprising was when Musk doubled down on the claim in an email to a Buzzfeed reporter.
Unsworth did file a lawsuit against Musk in the US, and is planning legal action in the UK.
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