When we wrote about the Great Tech War of 2012—and pre­dicted that Ama­zon, Ap­ple, Face­book, and Google would drive broader change through the econ­omy—ai was still nascent.

Fast Company - - Contents - ROBERT SAFIAN ed­i­tor@fast­com­

Six years ago, Fast Com­pany’s ed­i­to­rial team had an in­sight: that Ama­zon, Ap­ple, Face­book, and Google were in­creas­ingly ex­pand­ing into con­tigu­ous busi­nesses. Their com­pe­ti­tion, we be­lieved, was push­ing all of them to be even more am­bi­tious— and push­ing ev­ery­one else to innovate at a faster rate. We called this “The Great Tech War of 2012” in a cover story that set the frame­work for how a new wave of busi­ness ac­tiv­ity would un­fold.

To­day, we are see­ing a sim­i­lar shift un­der way around ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence. As se­nior writer Harry Mccracken re­ports in what we’re call­ing “The Great AI War of 2018” (page 64), the in­vest­ment in and mo­ti­va­tion be­hind AI is set­ting in mo­tion yet an­other wave of change— one that spans all in­dus­tries and again fea­tures Ama­zon, Ap­ple, Face­book, and Google (now Al­pha­bet).

With AI poised to af­fect not only busi­nesses but also the ev­ery­day lives of peo­ple around the world, the in­ter­sec­tion be­tween tech and cul­ture has never been more in­tense or more sig­nif­i­cant. You can see it in Net­flix’s new clashes with Dis­ney (page 27), in how cruise be­he­moth Car­ni­val is ex­per­i­ment­ing with con­nected de­vices (page 56), in the in­tro­duc­tion of cloth­ing with con­duc­tive thread by Levi’s (page 32), and in Tar­get’s sup­port for a new prod­uct line in­spired by app games (page 44). When the world’s pre­mier bas­ket­ball player is look­ing to learn from a 6-year-old Youtu­ber (“Kevin Du­rant’s Killer Cross­over,” page 74) and a high-pro­file fash­ion de­signer is more ex­cited about syn­thetic bi­ol­ogy than style trends (“Stella Mc­cart­ney Weaves a New Way For­ward,” page 82), we can’t ig­nore that some­thing dif­fer­ent is go­ing on. Even in the geopo­lit­i­cal realm—or per­haps es­pe­cially there—the link be­tween tech and cul­ture has be­come in­escapable, with the fight against ISIS in­creas­ingly pur­sued via so­cial me­dia and search en­gines (“The Other Jared,” page 88).

In this age of flux, how these de­vel­op­ments evolve—from AI to en­ter­tain­ment—de­pend on myr­iad choices we make in de­sign and im­ple­men­ta­tion of new tools. In the Great Tech War of 2012, it was eas­ier to be op­ti­mistic about it all; as com­plex as things were, it seems the world was a sim­pler place. To­day, the stakes seem higher, yet the pace of change re­mains re­lent­lessly fast. This puts a pre­mium on the ethics we ap­ply, the bound­aries we set, the ex­am­ples we present. As pow­er­ful as tech alone may be, it is cul­ture that will ul­ti­mately de­fine our fu­ture. And it is we, not the ma­chines, who de­fine that cul­ture.

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