Wednesday, March 28, 2018 / Perth Australia / By Niekie Jooste
In this edition of "The WelderDestiny Compass":
In the past week or two there have been quite a number of emotionally charged news stories that intersect with topics that we have dealt with here in The WelderDestiny Compass. Stopping and studying these, seems like a worthwhile way to spend some of our time. Surely we could learn something that could assist us in our quest to predict how the machine age will unfold, which is after-all our main aim here.
The first news story is the Facebook scandal involving Cambridge Analytica. It came to light that 50 million Facebook users' data was accessed by a company called Cambridge Analytica, and used to influence the last presidential election in the USA. The repercussions have been rather severe, with Facebook loosing more than 100 million US dollars in market value, being branded a pariah in the press, and many people and companies closing their Facebook accounts.
I was amused to see that the Playboy magazine had apparently closed their Facebook accounts in protest. Things must be bad if Playboy has the high moral ground!
The second news story was that the first pedestrian was killed by a self driving car. The car was owned by ride sharing company UBER. In response, UBER has removed all their self driving cars from active trials, and there is a significant investigation underway to find out what went wrong. It did not take long for a lot of negative press, and predictions that this will totally derail the self driving car movement.
The third "trend", rather than a single news story, is that most of the social media giants have eliminated advertisements for cryptocurrencies and associated initial coin offerings. Notably these include Facebook and Google, the main on-line marketing channels.
It is however interesting to note that all the main social media companies, and other major internet platforms such as Amazon, have significant blockchain projects in the works. Amazon is apparently in the process of launching their own token.
We unpack these news stories and try to see if they help us in any way to understand the drivers that could change the future.
If you would like to add your ideas to this week’s discussion, then please send me an e-mail with your ideas, (Send your e-mails to: email@example.com) or complete the comment form on the page below.
Now let's get stuck into this week’s topics...
It should be no surprise to anybody that Facebook sells their personal data. How otherwise does it offer a free service while making huge profits? We have dealt with this issue just over a year ago, here at The WelderDestiny Compass, in an article entitled "Google is selling you".
The issue this time is that people feel manipulated because the information was used to affect an election result. The thing is that this was not the first election where social media platforms were used to affect a US presidential election. In fact, it was proudly announced by the Obama election campaign that their success was largely due to their very effective use of internet and social media platforms.
Admittedly the platforms and how the data was used would have been less sophisticated, given the speed at which these things progress, but there was no "blow-back" caused by those revelations for the previous two presidential elections.
In addition, we all know that the main political parties in the USA spend hundreds of millions on newspaper adds, television adds and internet adds to sway voters. So, why the big ructions?
While the UBER self driving accident was the first death of a pedestrian, it was not the first death caused by a car driven by an artificial intelligence. Some time back, a Tesla driver was killed while his car was on "autopilot". It could be argued that Tesla's autopilot is different, because it is not supposed to be an entirely autonomous vehicle. However, the UBER self driving car also had a driver behind the wheel to serve as a "plan B" if anything went wrong. In other words, the situation was actually very similar. So, why the big ructions?
The main answer to why the big ructions, is that people react differently when perceived heroes or villains are involved.
In the case of Facebook, the media have cast president trump very much in the role of villain. People who may have bought into the villain media picture feel that they were somehow complicit in something bad that happened. They feel manipulated and they feel like victims. On the other hand, president Obama was cast as a hero in the media. He even got a Nobel peace prize, so he must be a hero right?
So, when people that buy into the hero media picture, then they feel complicit in something good that happened. They feel like they are part of the winning team.
A similar dynamic played out with the UBER / Tesla accidents. Tesla, and its CEO Elon Musk, are portrayed as some kind of technological heroes that are trying to save the world. They are therefore not judged so harshly when things go wrong. UBER has been getting a lot of bad publicity lately due to the way they are constantly taking a bigger cut of the profits from their drivers, have cause hardship for regular taxi drivers, and the poor way they dealt with female employees. They are therefore judged harshly when things go wrong.
What is important is to notice that the hero and villain personas are created largely by the media. This is not to say that the individuals and companies involved have no role to play in their own images, but it is clear that as humans we are emotional, and are therefore easily influenced by emotional stories. It is the job of the media to pluck the strings of our emotions, so they are usually pretty good at that sort of thing.
How the future plays out, is clearly influenced by how well the media is able to "manage" our emotions. The technologies that can win the high ground will find a more ready acceptance by society. Just because something is possible does not mean that it will be widely adopted. It will only be widely adopted if it is accepted by society, hence the importance of trying to anticipate which technology will be winning hearts and minds.
The Facebook scandal gives us another very important lesson: Data is valuable. Once broader society starts to understand this, they will want to gain control of as much of their own data as possible, and only share it when they have something to gain personally, or as a society.
Not only is data useful for marketing and advertising purposes, but it is also useful for scientific research, and psychological research. Once we get to the psychological aspect, then the data can also be used to shape our opinions and manipulate our emotions on an individual level.
Once this value in personal data is more widely understood, people will be more willing to leave the "free" environment of central platforms, and dive into the world of decentralized autonomous organizations. It is in this environment where each user can have total control of their own data, and who has access to it. They will then be free to trade this data for financial gain.
More and more individuals will start to think in terms of collecting a data hoard to use as a means of income. This movement will be enabled by decentralized data platforms such as MaidSafe. These platform provide the ability to store huge amounts of data in a decentralized, safe and secure manner. No central cloud server to be hacked, so the data will be much more secure.
While the crypto space is very quiet in the media, and depressed in price at the moment, there is a lot of very smart developers making good progress. Eventually some of these crypto projects will be the next Facebook or Amazon.
In the second issue of The WelderDestiny Compass, published in January 2017, we discussed how self interest shapes the future. In all the news stories we are looking at today, we can see the hands of self interest at work.
There has been a lot of negative publicity against the large internet companies. They are portrayed as behemoths that enrich a small group of individuals at the expense of everyday people. They are also portrayed as big time tax dodgers.
Then the social media companies were portrayed as instruments of foreign powers, such as the Russians, to influence American and European elections.
Now Facebook is being depicted as being complicit in manipulating voters through use of their own data.
Clearly there are powerful people and organisations that want to reign in the power of these trans-national internet companies. We can only guess who they are, but the fact that they have pretty much gutted the traditional media companies' business model, and stolen their main revenue stream, would suggest that they are not exactly popular in the eyes of mainstream media companies.
Technology causes human deaths the whole time. There are car accidents, airplane accidents, train accidents, boat accidents and many more industrial accidents. Heck, when people were reliant on horses as a main means of transport, there were many deaths due to horses as well.
Despite this, society is willing to make a risk verses reward assessment and decide for themselves if they are prepared to accept the risk when compared to the advantages on offer. Society works on self interest too.
While there will always be accidents involving autonomous vehicles, if the casualties are much lower than is the case with human drivers, then societies' self interest will kick in and they will demand the use of such vehicles.
In the mean time, those parties that feel threatened by these advances will do their best to slow down the progress.
In the same way, the incumbent internet platforms such as Facebook and Google are actually threatened by the DAO model for the new platforms. They are therefore doing their best to slow down the progress of these new platforms, while they are themselves doing their best to get to grips with the new technology.
So, how can we have a reasonable certainty that some technology will prevail? One of the surest ways is to see who the winners and losers will be if the technology is introduced. In the case of advances like autonomous vehicles and distributed ledger technology, (e.g. blockchain) there are so many really smart people working on sorting out the problems and getting it operational. In addition there is a lot of money and big companies invested in getting it operational. In other words, there is a lot of self interest associated with making it work. Chances are good that it will prevail!
In terms of self interest for everyday people trying to survive in the machine era, business models that allow them to turn their data into an income will be a strong driver. Not only our own data, but the data generated by all our connected devices. This has the potential to become the saving grace for many a person that would otherwise struggle to make a living in the machine era.
Technical personnel, including welders, will be able to generate huge amounts of data during their day to day jobs.
Start thinking of all this data as potential sources of future income, and start collecting it as soon as the necessary DAO platforms are available.
Yours in welding
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