Philip Ellis
News & Views
5 takeaways from Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit

This week saw leaders from the worlds of technology and entertainment flock to Los Angeles, California for Vanity Fair’s annual New Establishment Summit, to discuss the evolving media landscape and deliver the occasional sneak peek behind the curtain of Silicon Valley. Here are five key moments from this year’s conversations.

Satya Nadella: AI won’t just take jobs, it will make us more productive

While fear of displacement seems to go hand in hand with discussions of AI and automation, there is at least one person at the New Establishment Summit who is choosing to take a more optimistic view.

“We should have a very clear view of what automation does to displacement and we should get to it, but one of the things I also hope is we can take advantage of AI to get more people into the workforce,” says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, citing the very specific example of Seeing, an app which uses the smartphone camera to describe its surroundings to a visually impaired users. “This is enabling someone who works at Microsoft today to more fully participate. There are a lot of things we can do like that that are empowering people.”

Evan Speigel: Modern art is coming to Snapchat via AR

In conversation with the Aspen Institute’s Walter Isaacson, Snap CEO Evan Speigel announced the company’s partnership with a number of modern artists, including Jeff Koons, whose works will start appearing in unexpected places, thanks to augmented reality features in the Snapchat app. Think of it as Pokemon Go, for art lovers.

“Cameras inspire curiosity,” says Speigel. “If you look at the Snapchat camera, layering this expression on top of your experience encourages anyone to be creative.”

Shonda Rhimes: Netflix is a “clear landscape” for creators

Following the news that Shonda Rhimes has signed a multi-year production deal with Netflix, it’s to be expected that Recode’s Kara Swisher had some questions on the subject during their fireside chat on Wednesday.  “There’s a totally open road [at Netflix],” says Rhimes, who created popular TV dramas Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder. “There’s a clear landscape to do whatever I want.”

In a separate panel, filmmaker Ava DuVernay acknowledges that Netflix doesn’t reveal its ratings, but that she doesn’t necessarily see that as a problem. “It’s not about hard numbers, it’s a vibe,” she says. “I don’t need the numbers, it’s fantastic to be able to make something and present it in an elevated manner, to an audience that’s going to be targeted and well-marketed to.”

Randall Stephenson: Leadership of CNN will stay the same… probably

Following AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner and all of its subsidiaries, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson spent his panel being grilled on the future of CNN — and in particular its Trump-baiting president, Jeff Zucker. Stephenson declined to give a direct answer, but praised the overall leadership at CNN. “We’re paying a premium to get Time Warner, and when you pay a big premium, the priority is to not screw it up,” he says. “CNN’s doing quite well, and the priority is to keep management teams in place.” He added, though, that “there will invariably be changes.”

Daniella Vitale: Barneys is no longer just for retail

 Far from mourning the so-called “retail apocalypse,” Daniella Vitale, CEO of Barneys New York, sees the retail sector’s current challenges as opportunities to diversify. We’re actually not in the business just of retail anymore,” she says. “We’re in the business of entertainment, we’re in the business of service, hospitality, personalisation, and even food… It really needs to be a different kind of experience now. And I think that’s something that is lost on our entire industry, unfortunately — it really is not just about the product any more.”

She adds: “I can assure you, the physical retail store is not dead. It is quite alive and there’s plenty of opportunity, but you have to give them a reason to cross that threshold!”

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