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Who owns an automated society?

Posted By Tim Morgan, Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Tim Morgan published his seventh blog post in our Emerging Fellows program by inspecting the ownership of automated societies. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Ownership is not a single concept. We see the accumulated layers of different ownership modes in many societies across history. The possessive “MINE!” of a child is our earliest form of ownership. In turn, acceptance by those nearby transforms a claim to a personal possession into socially recognized ownership. Land and tax records written on clay, skins, paper, and even the ancient Inca’s “talking knots” created a recorded form of ownership. Later, printing made that form more complex and flexible, enabling ownership modes such as stock corporations and fiat money. Telegraphs and telephones made negotiation or sale of recorded assets even more dynamic, complex, and widespread. New forms of ownership always co-emerge with new communication modes, building on top of earlier modes.

 

We are now in the era of accelerating digital communications and automation. Ubiquitous information technologies have strained to breaking intellectual property concepts like copyright, trademark, and patents. Courts, legislatures, and media struggle every day with automation’s effects on ownership. What new ownership mode is emerging along with networked automation?

 

Online gamers sometimes use an early Internet slang term which rhymes with “owned” when they decisively win: pwned. Unskilled “script kiddy” hackers boast of “pwning” a website or computer using off the shelf hacker tools. To be pwned is to be dominated by someone online. This “leetspeak” term has softened over time to mean clear, decisive winning over a situation or person. Powerful online businesses operate with a similar dominance-as-owning-dynamic. Google overwhelmingly owns online search in the West with Baidu owning China’s search market. Amazon and Alibaba own online product sales worldwide. Facebook and WeChat respectively own social media. Pwning a market goes beyond mere monopoly. Businesses that successfully use automation to establish market dominance become a de facto infrastructure for other’s services and products. Automation platforms are creating a new layer of economic and social infrastructure.

 

Platforms create increasing automation dependence as capabilities increase. Doctors adopting new AR/VR surgical tools quickly find that they are owned by the supplier when they lose critical capabilities after an unexpected software update. A small company’s sales can disappear overnight if their search rankings drop to the second page on Google or Amazon for no apparent reason.

 

Platform-based businesses feel like they are pwning everyone. They are wrong. Networked elements within a long-marginalized Civic sector are beginning to connect to a growing Social Commons sector. Global green initiatives are reshaping popular sentiment, policy and infrastructure. Activists are using corporate-created social media to force social conscience back into corporate governance. Each sector is increasingly leveraging automation created by the Private sector to influence the social values of society. This in turn influences the services offered on Private sector platforms. The local Civic sector and the global Social Commons sector are beginning to team up via automation. They are slowly shifting the balance of values flowing through automation and into society.

 

Who owns an automated society? It is those who best exploit the potentials of automation and consciously shape them to change society. The Private sector currently controls the automations which are driving social change, but not for long. One thing the Internet era has taught us is that those who pwn everyone today are certain to be pwned tomorrow.

 

© Tim Morgan 2019

Tags:  automation  ownership  society 

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How selfish is self-interest?

Posted By Robin Jourdan, Friday, July 12, 2019

Robin Jourdan checks the possibility of replacing individual selfishness by global self-interest in her seventh blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Industrial Revolutions have been instrumental in changing the landscapes of the world for centuries, including social, economic and governance. The first through fourth industrial revolutions mark human history since the Middle Ages. Each era represents certain technological advances: from use of coal and electricity, to miniaturization and digitalization. But, what about tomorrow’s worlds? The quickly approaching 5th industrial revolution focuses on sustainability and humanity in equal proportion to technological advances.

 

Having a presence in the digital world has evolved rapidly in the past 20 or more years: 84% of people could have a digital presence by 2025. In our connected world, digital life is becoming linked to a person’s physical being. This digital representation sets up certain positive expectations. It will also bring along negative concerns like greater perceptions of self-importance.

 

Increased connections create a new kind-of nervous system across the planet. So much that we can experience the pain in other parts of the world. Increased is empathy that any population is more than a collection of workers as an input of capitalism. Instead, they are residents whose dignity, well-being, and health must be considered. Urbanization booms and new technologies introduce advanced engineering, design, and construction. They also contribute to new thinking about sustainability and health in a place. Results intend to support aspirations of humanity, perhaps replacing individual selfishness with worldwide self-interest.

 

The next half century may bring changes to institutions and rules that govern access to justice. Global technical inexperience may shift due to greater awareness of interference and other technology-based insecurities. Prized future technologies will help individuals maintain privacy, own and control their data, and decrease censorship into the latter half of this century. It is unmistakable that recent environmental turnarounds elevate China’s influence today. Beijing has shown that significant pollution reforms are possible and are providing a model for others to follow for decades.

 

Identity politics influence Western economics and policies today. Identity politics can influence social cohesion by giving greater voice to often marginalized populations. Such greater voice amplifies skepticism and dispassionate reasoning; key to strengthening decision-making. Democratic governance, often conflated with unfettered growth and exploitation, sets up unnecessary contention with sustainability. In the approaching 5th IR world, greater voice is given to sustainable systems than ever before. Incentivizing responsible actions that benefit all (including future generations) may help restore trust in both capitalism and democracy.

 

Out of necessity, deliberative and technocratic councils may declare water and air to be of strategic importance to protect them. Though competent, technocratic leadership can appear distant, and challenging to understand. It is further wounded by decisions made at the cost of slow, non-public debates. Gaps in public conversation, give and take can leave a perception of inaction. Coupled with distastefully polarized arguments may cause people to turn to private sector solutions. A danger of this leadership is that it offers a single-minded vision, often built by a charismatic mover-shaker and not by the self-interests of the community. There is a strength from the participation of a wide range of entities challenging perceptions of futures possible.

 

Thriving in a 5th Industrial Revolution world means that technology for its own sake isn’t the blanket nor disruptive answer anymore. New possibilities rely on thinking and communicating differently about futures. Traditional analyses centered on technology, business entrepreneurship, and growth-at-all-costs are incomplete to deliver future success. In a sense, this line of thinking is outdated. By contrast, understanding and articulating futures that include a vision of social justice, environmental and economic sustainability, and widespread cultural change is key. Understanding change maps to possible future outcomes. Impacts on people are why we ponder those outcomes. Though easier said than done — the result: Individual selfishness replaced by global self-interest.

 

© Robin Jourdan 2019

Tags:  democracy  selfishness  sustainability 

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Do companies of the future need shareholders?

Posted By Charlotte Aguilar-Millan, Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Charlotte Aguilar-Millan asks if companies of the future need shareholders in her seventh blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Shareholders are typically those who have made an investment into a company. This entitles them to a return. They also are entitled to vote on matters such as the composition of the Directors for the company. However, Shareholders have little control over how the Directors run the company.

 

When the views of the Shareholders and the governance of Directors do not coincide, this can lead to Shareholder frustration. This frustration can result in Shareholder protests or even the disposal of their investments. This result for the company can lead to bad press which can have a snowball effect, leading the company to fall out of favour with shareholders.  The market saw this with Woodford’s fund in 2019. The fund had become loss making, impervious to shareholder comment, on which the media then commented, leading to a mass sell off in the market. This resulted the fund being suspended.

 

The investment landscape is changing for companies seeking finance. There is a diminishing need for companies to seek equity or debt finance. This can provide an avenue for Companies to gain funding without the risk of Shareholder protests or mass share disposal. The therefore question arises, do companies of the future need shareholders?

 

One growing investment landscape is online crowdfunding. It is projected that by 2025 the crowdfunding industry will have raised over $300 billion. The vast majority of this is in the form of a contribution rather than in return for equity. It means that companies are able to raise finance without having shareholders entitled to vote on company operations. Platforms such as GoFundMe and Kickstarter are helping smaller companies grow through donations rather than taking on debt or new shareholders (equity). It is starting to disrupt traditional means. It enables smaller companies to have more control over their operations and direction of growth.

 

The UK government demonstrated their support of alternative financing by introducing the Innovative Finance ISA in 2016. This enables the UK retail investor to invest directly into unlisted companies seeking finance through alternative means. The retail investor generates a tax-free return on their investment. While the company maintains autonomous control.

 

This does have an effect on public trust. Unlisted companies need to meet fewer legal regulations and are not required to be as transparent as listed companies. How can the public trust a company where they cannot cast a vote but can only observe the operations? The only regulation some unlisted companies will be subject to is a financial audit. However, trust in financial audits has been declining at a significant rate. Almost all audit firms have now been fined for inadequate audits. Yet, most Partners involved remain in the industry. The public no longer can trust fully that a company with a ‘clean’ audited opinion can be sufficiently trustworthy to invest in.

 

This is leading to Boards preferring to de-list and no longer suffer public scrutiny. Shareholders also are shying away from holding shares directly. Instead, they hold them through an intermediary such a fund. Shareholders simply cannot rely on the provided information of an individual company. The rise private equity investment has seen a significant global increase in the past 5 years.

 

This process is likely to continue into the future as public shareholdings are replaced by private equity. Boards will want to avoid public scrutiny by taking the company private and shareholders will want to invest privately through private equity. The future investor will use private equity as a vehicle in which to place trust.  It is likely that the need for companies to have individual shareholders will diminish. This will result in the company of the future having fewer, but larger institutional, shareholders.

 

© Charlotte Aguilar-Millan 2019

Tags:  company  private equity  shareholder 

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In a fully digital world will companies still need to account for the environment?

Posted By Paul Tero, Friday, July 5, 2019

Paul Tero a member of our Emerging Fellows program inspects the structure of business and the changing environment in a digital economy. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

There are a number of ways in which companies account for the environment. It could be a seasonal perspective in terms of the variations in goods and services brought to market, another is from an environmental perspective in terms of energy usage as well as production and packaging materials, and a third is from a shareholder and stakeholder perspective in terms of statutory requirements. In recent years the triple bottom line reporting framework has made its way into corporate practices. Where companies, for reasons due either to regulatory compliance or enlightened executives, report on profit, people and planet. That is in addition to their standard financial statements. Organizations are reporting on metrics related to their staff and their impact upon the environment.

 

Building on the acceptance of reporting on more than one performance parameter, there is a nascent movement to embrace the quadruple bottom line. Where this fourth performance parameter is "purpose". Defined as the ethics, culture and desires of the organization. The administrative policies and processes that are established by government bodies, and are used to govern companies and organisations, change over time. Long gone is the notion that business reputation is solely built on a profit and loss statement.

 

Into this governance implication let us now draw two threads of previous thought: the structure of business and the changing environment. First, we know that the process business engages in to make a profit will change in the decades ahead. Pervasive digitisation will drive an increasingly ubiquitous phenomena of process automation and forms of cognitive processing. Limiting the typical set of tasks available for the human workforce to those requiring people skills and/or thinking skills. Secondly, while this trend of digitisation gathers apace the climate and natural environment in which business and the digital economy is beholden to will still be changing. There are two responses to these macro changes. The first, described as a pathway of current and common ambition, is to succeed in humanity having a light footprint on the environment. On the other hand, the pathway of lackluster ambition necessarily leads to outcomes that are less than optimal for all life forms.

 

There is currently a broad acceptance of the concept of a global carbon budget. Therefore, one can envisage that, over the course of the time horizon we are concerned with, this principle of a global budget being established in corporate governance practices. Where economic entities are given a "profile" to work within. Thus, realising a transition from triple bottom line reporting through quadruple to quintuple. That is adding "profile" to the currently recognised profit, people, planet and purpose.

 

With respect to the triple and quadruple bottom line reporting the sense is that these governance outcomes are the result of internal motivations. The result of what the business decides to do. With the "profile" metric, the sense is that the reporting is on the outcomes with respect to the environmental budget that any business is given to work within. This "profile" metric, a response to a set of imposed environmental limits, is relevant to both climate outcomes. Through either an enforced collaboration upon all businesses to ensure a continued light footprint, or a set of rules to limit the damage upon our common habitat.

 

The image of this future for business, the government and the economy is where the operational milieu of business is characterised as an expanse of intensely interconnected entities that are data and computationally rich. Where the description has morphed from being called a digital economy into an intelligence economy. Where the wisdom of the quintuple bottom line enforces the boundaries of all behaviour.

 

In a fully digital world companies will not only need to account for the environment. They will be required to.

 

© Paul Tero 2019

Tags:  digital economy  economics  environment 

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March 13, 2030

Posted By E. Alex Floate, Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Alex Floate, a member of our Emerging Fellows program travels into the future and envisions the coming finance system his sixth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Late in the last century, the movie “Wall Street” introduced us to a world of men in three-piece suits vying for domination in the world of finance. ‘Greed is good’ was their motto and Wall Street was the magnet for the unending supply of MBA’s from elite American universities. With financial knowledge and a thirst for success, they became corporate raiders and white knights keen on dismantling what was left of American industry. They spawned dramatizations in the personas of Gordon Gecko and Edward Lewis in the movies “Wall Street” and “Pretty Woman”. Just like Hollywood at the height of the silver screen, this was a place where dreams come true, even if it was at the expense of blue-collar workers or lesser investors.

 

By the late 1990’s however, magazines were asking ‘where have the raiders gone’, and the internet was the new kid in town. Tech stocks were the rage and most of the action had moved west to Silicon Valley. It was inevitable, but not widely acknowledged that much of Wall Street would soon be run by computers and algorithms, and the big personalities that formerly would have been leading raids would diminish in size and importance.

 

MBA mills multiplied during the early part of the 21st Century, but the real action by 2020 was with quantitative analysts, or “quants” as they were called. Blending an understanding of finance with deep knowledge of mathematics and computer science, they were the minds behind the complex models that drove most of the pricing and trading of securities. Even though the suits with MBAs still held the top jobs, the people in white collars felt them slowly tightening around their necks.

 

The new digital collar belonged to a Millennial or GenWebster (someone born after the internet became widespread) wearing a t-shirt or hoodie, but fully versed in the internet and its ever-evolving abilities and culture. They were quants, cybersecurity experts, app developers, data specialists, and refugees from the banking industry. They had connections and financial knowledge to take on the task before them; bring financial applications and products to their generations without the costs of brokers, agents or physical storefronts.

 

New words describing finance were entering the lexicon – fintech, blockchain, appification and others that this time did not originate from Wall Street. Finance technology start-ups began popping up in areas such as the Silicon Fen in the U.K., Israeli’s Silicon Wadi, Bangalore India, and Shenzhen in China. Some were being bought up by larger traditional finance and bank companies as they wanted to position themselves for the digital future everyone was predicting. Usually the business siphoned some of the best ideas but neglected to further the primary idea behind it; lower cost, easy access with speed and efficiency.

 

At first the conventional finance organizations counted on their position in finance system as storehouses of money and trust, with the emphasis on Trust. The men and women with the digital collars kept at it though and advanced the technologies of blockchain and cryptocurrency. As the GenWebsters began to gain in financial clout they embraced the new finance products and eschewed traditional banks, brokerages and insurance companies. The white collars tightened again.

 

© 2019 E Alex Floate

Tags:  banking  economics  finance 

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Could a different form of capital be accumulated?

Posted By Esmee Wilcox, Friday, June 28, 2019

Esmee Wilcox publishes her sixth blog post in our Emerging Fellows program. In her view, a paradigm shift can be made if social capital looks more valuable than traditional capital. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

If what we say we want and need in society can’t be created within current parameters, then at some point we ought to rethink those parameters.  The second half of this century is far enough away for us to imagine changes in the organising units of society, and how value flows through the economy. We can step into the imagination of creating social value without the limitations of how we currently translate it into capital value. In this world, what might influence how we create value in the economy?  What might the reciprocal relationships be between corporations, communities and social entrepreneurs?  Would these create the conditions where a different form of capital can be accumulated?

 

We might think now of social entrepreneurs operating on the margins of power, seeking to make changes in social policies not through established political or corporate structures but through consumer behaviour, through mobilising latent community activism, by identifying and organising around emerging issues that matter but aren’t yet reflected in societal behaviour.  Digitally-enabled social influencers create followers and change without the prerequisite of access to capital or political power.  We might see well-funded campaigns to influence democratic and political processes.  But – much to the chagrin of institutional power – some of the recent transformative social movements haven’t been predicted or backed by external funders. 

 

These social movements exemplify the power of networks and help us imagine an economy where value flows not from the exchange of capital but from the collective ability to self-organise and create.  Presently we are limited by a capital system that creates friction in order to protect existing financial interests. The power of gatekeepers. The problem of entryism.   Might future digital currencies operating under ‘The Commons’ solve these problems?  If they were pinned to environmental and social resources, would they drive different patterns of behaviour?

 

We would also need to imagine a different relationship between communities, corporates, and social enterprises.  Presently, we can see that reciprocity is loosely based on commodifiable associated value.  Social entrepreneurs can have an enormous influence on the flow of capital from the trust that consumers and communities place in them.  Trust is hugely important as we wrestle with global technology enabled networks.  Corporations need trusted ‘network nodes’ and will readily trade their influence for capital.  There is much that social entrepreneurs can work to their advantage.  But in this scenario the balance of power still rests with traditional capital.

 

If we might imagine a reciprocal relationship that moves beyond this power imbalance. We may see agents of social change being essential to creating value in the economy, where new value is based on collective use.  The value of capital resources in infrastructure projects – 4D printers, bio-tech networks, trains – rests in the myriad of impacts experienced by communities that is dependent on being amplified by the communities themselves.  In the latter half of this century the scarcity of environmental resources, with a high ‘old’ value, may make this redefinition of value, based upon the impact of collective usage instead of individual ownership, more likely.

 

Social entrepreneurs may be able to position themselves as progressing this movement away from underlying atomised behaviour and binary commodification of social influence, by promoting the value of what we create together as increasingly important for the society we want.  Straddling both the realities of our present systems and the need to trade social influence for capital, whilst foreseeing the greater net future value of social capital, is no easy task.  However, social influencers are already operating in this way to create the society we want whilst disrupting the current parameters of capitalist systems.

 

A system where social capital is more valuable than traditional capital would represent a paradigm shift from our present system.  A plausible version might be the greater valuing of social capital as an essential prerequisite for achieving value from traditional capital.  In this imagination of the future, social entrepreneurs might have far greater influence.   Accumulation would be imagined differently as flow and impact would displace ownership, with influence – the version of accumulation – manifesting in the ability to create and catalyse self-organisation.    Public institutions that are theoretically able to take a long-term view on investment ought to be similarly considering this net future value of social capital.  Where they are, the accumulation of social capital ought to be an opportunity they can grasp.   As with corporations, there are opportunities for social entrepreneurs to consider their future relationships with public institutions.

 

© Esmee Wilcox 2019

Tags:  capital  economics  social capital 

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Can human rights preserve liberty?

Posted By Ruth Lewis, Monday, June 24, 2019

Ruth Lewis a member of our Emerging Fellows program asks if human rights can preserve liberty in her sixth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

How do we regard human rights and liberty now and in the future? Can our current understanding of human rights and values guide us toward a better understanding of the challenges that we face every day to our free choice and will, preventing harm to society?

 

Our current notions of individual liberty and human rights were developed through the Enlightenment in response to the separation of church and state, and in the mid-20th Century, in response to the terrible atrocities committed during World War 2 and beyond.  They reflect our growing awareness and action to remedy our appalling treatment of minority ethnicity, disabilities, women, refugees, and children, to prevent acts such as torture, unlawful incarceration and genocide. These principles were laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), and in regional instruments like the European Convention on Human Rights (1950).  They lay the foundation of minimum protection of individuals and groups from the worst of humanity’s barbarism and to promote human life with freedom and dignity that is conducive to our physical, mental, social and spiritual welfare.

 

Our personal liberty is to be bounded only by these international and regional agreements for the purpose of respecting other people’s right to freedom, civil order and the welfare of society. This includes of the right to privacy, protection of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, opinion and expression. These agreements prohibit any propaganda for war, or advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that provides incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. 

 

The International Declarations and Covenants protections came into force in 1976, ensuring legal enforcement by all signatory parties. Together with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 (2015), these agreements show the most noble aspect of human values that we aspire to uphold and promote for current and future generations’ rights and liberty. In this context, this includes the right to economic, civil, cultural, political and social development.

 

Yet despite these intentions, in today’s society we see outcomes of commercial or State enterprise that undermine the intentions of our human rights.  These outcomes subvert the free will of the individual and promote hatred, racism and violence within society.

 

For regular Internet users, our access to vast amounts of information promotes our sense of liberty, and amplifies the reach of our free speech and commercial opportunities.  However, covertly our online presence is tracked and inundated with incentives to buy products, and to think or behave in a certain way. These incentives are curated through computer algorithms that follow our online entries, forming a profile as a basis of commercial business models that look to inform or change the way we would otherwise entertain our free will or action.  Through lack of active prevention, these algorithms also foster online prejudice, racism and hate, drawing followers of like mind toward vilification, creating bullying, intimidation and racist propaganda which spreads throughout the online and physical world.

 

Human rights and values are supplanted with short-term exploitation of human liberty for profit gain, for manipulation and misuse.  Our freedom to make personal choice and lifestyle is eroded or falsified, and those who may do harm seem incentivised.

 

Our Human Rights of the present and future must be based on custodial governance over our present liberty and resources in order to preserve our humane society for current and future generations. We must govern our commercial and State enterprises for social benefit as well as profit, and protect the community and individual in accordance with our Human Rights and societal values. 

 

Global Human Rights commissions and various standards associations are now beginning to recognise these online violations, and seek to redress this gap by defining emerging codes of conduct for our online service providers and developers. These new conventions seek to make the latter accountable for the ‘unintended’ consequences of their business models, and to include human values in the design of online innovations.

 

Commercial enterprise innovation and growth is now being incentivised by global standards towards developing long-term commercial goals and non-financial societal measures for which they may be held accountable and protects Human Rights. Society is endorsing through positive investments in sustainable enterprises. This facilitates the path toward liberty in the face of challenges brought about by our modern world. But how will our governance and policy mechanisms evolve in the future to ensure liberty?

 

© Ruth Lewis 2019

Tags:  liberty  rights  society 

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Who authors the automation?

Posted By Tim Morgan, Thursday, June 20, 2019

Tim Morgan published his sixth blog post in our Emerging Fellows program by checking the possibility of building intended and unintended governance into automation. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who watches the watchers? This question penned by the ancient poet Juvenal may have more urgency in the current automation age than it did two thousand years ago in the palaces of Rome.

 

Our money is stored as data and flows digitally at the speed of light. We socialize online. We play online games and stream movies. Apps record our exercise, sleep, and heartbeats. News comes via feeds customized based on our observed interests. Search engines return ranked results based on more than just the keywords. All of it is done via algorithms written by someone for a specific reason. Even self-learning AIs are ultimately built to fulfill a human desire or need. Automations are systems which embody someone’s values.

 

What values are being intentionally and unintentionally encoded into the automated backbone of current society? What intended and unintended governance is being built into automation? As automation advances and becomes ubiquitous, what we develop and how we apply it becomes critical.

 

Most automation is developed to meet specific requirements. Quality Assurance professionals analyze and validate software via requirements-based testing and analysis. Automations are systems, be they games or banking apps or robots.

 

Complex systems have complex behaviors. Complex systems create and reinforce values consistent with that system. Systems promote the values embedded into the software, whether or not the developer intended to embed them. Testing rarely goes beyond the mere functional requirements to measure the systemic impacts of automation against the larger world. The current Institutional and Market watchers are insufficient to that task.

 

Proactive policing software promotes racially biased patrolling patterns when systemic biases have been unintentionally embedded into data and code based on existing policing practices. Voting rolls are purged of legal voters because of erroneous, and sometimes intentional, partial name matches with convicted criminals. Traffic light cameras are used more for automated revenue enhancement than for protecting public safety. Social media and news media both use dynamic consumer metrics to automatically amplify attention-getting divisive stories ahead of socially uplifting ones. Successful games exploit known psychological triggers to promote compulsive game-play, even when embedding those triggers were not a conscious programming choice. Successful games, news, and social media have quickly evolved into attention predators via market selection. Automation is evolving, but market and institutional selection mechanisms are not necessarily socially benign.

 

The future holds some interesting values questions around advanced automation. Could we go beyond normal Don’t-Hit-A-Pedestrian safety programming in self-driving cars, adding in Good Samaritan assistance behaviors for the roadside stranded or injured? Will consumers ever get a Make-My-Life-Better setting on their social media? Will we find ways to create new Social Awareness algorithms and new Social Quality Assurance testing standards for commercial and institutional automation?

 

Failure to anticipate the untested social impacts of new automation before it is deployed turns the entire world into an increasingly bug-filled, chaotic, free-for-all of externalized impacts and socialized costs. How technology is applied is a choice. How to encourage development of future automation which balances profit or control with social good is an epic challenge of our current era for both developers and users alike.  Who authors the automation? Who watches the watchers? Ultimately, we all do if we want a better world.

 

© Tim Morgan 2019

Tags:  automation  governance  technology 

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Have we had enough of experts?

Posted By Robin Jourdan, Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Robin Jourdan examines the issue of expertise in our world today through her sixth blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Sage advice; knowledge is power; Plato's Noble Lie; the 10,000 hours’ goal. Such phrases describe experts and expertise since the 1300s. Often citizens reject experts as an objection to power that has become centralized in government or among distant leaders. Over decades there has been an idea that the people in charge, whether they're railroad barons or the government, ignore ordinary folks. Additionally, some further confuse rejecting expertise for showing their independence of thought. Is this a pre-emptive rejection of anything that implies their own opinion may be flawed?

 

Certain societies have romanticized grassroots efforts or the plain nerve to get the job done. Thus, the confidence of the dumb. This aspect of human nature is called Dunning-Kruger. When taken to the extreme, it can show itself through demonizing experts who disagree with our ideological views. Who is the expert? What gives him/her the right to speak on this matter? Is the expert using wiggle-words? These are words that skirt the truth by bending language against the listener. As we hear them, we feel twinges. Learned heuristics can cause even the most open minded to shut down. This lays the foundation of why political discourse is currently so distasteful.

 

This is different from skepticism. Skeptical but level-headed people are why nations achieve great heights in science, diplomacy, the arts and more. They never displace ordinary voters as the deciding voice in affairs of state. Skepticism does not rely on continual assurance that popular views, no matter how nutty, are virtuous and right.

 

These aspects combat today's "Expert Revolution" with economic value correlating to expertise. The democratization of knowledge and broader spheres of open conversations muddle the thinking. Expertise is further complicated by the myth that every opinion is equal. Regardless, it's essential that open discussions continue, as an ingredient for stable governance.

 

What happens when expertise is politicized? Use of leaded gasoline, IQ tests, smoking tobacco, and others show links between experts and political decisions. Such fuel counter-expertise controversies. It's essential in democratic decision making for the people to understand the issues of the day. What's needed is especially deep understanding to address approaching wicked and complex problems. As such, counselors rely on the evidence of expert analysis. Biased experts undermine public confidence in technocratic evidence. When trust in expert advice is damaged, decisions made are less optimal.

 

Experts in any government model must remain servants not masters to the system. Such distinction is needed as non-biological entities are becoming containers for expertise. Machine expertise, AI, and deep learning will increasingly factor in our decision making. Some say the rise of artificial intelligence will make most people better off toward the end of this century. Still, many have concerns about how AI will affect what it means to be human, to be productive and more.

 

Going forward we will struggle with ever more complex wicked problems never seen before needing more intelligence than ever. Today, innovation success tends to come from generalists, not only from specialized experts. What if we look at experts by the relative strength of their expertise? A proposed range of possibilities follows, each critical in light of the world's challenges.

 

First up, "Armchair Experts" can be convincing, but conversational. This jack of all trades is a master of none, but generalists have a role. The ability to cross-boundaries is often an ingredient for economic innovation. Next in the continuum: "Appliers" meet their curiosities by tinkering with new ideas, technologies, and other skills. Shortages of these educated workers result in higher demand. "Authorities" add experience to the equation and carry responsibility for the growth of an idea, technology, or other skill. Inclusion and innovation spur economic growth, including new jobs for this persona. Such people are held responsible for long-term systemic solutions. The final level adds accountability, real subject depth is met by the "Ace."  The Ace is a master of independence, capability, and invention.  They have the longest-view of approaching issues and are the fewest in the population.

 

Have we had enough of experts in the world? The simple answer is no. While the use of experts can be exploited and admonished, there is a role for experts that cannot be denied. Inclusion and diversity often make for successful enterprises throughout human history. What's needed is a greater understanding of the degrees of expertise, accountability, and the value of each. Wicked problems march forward whether experts are available or not. All things considered, the best approach to solve wicked problems is to create equally wicked but wise solutions.

 

© Robin Jourdan 2019

Tags:  expertise  professionalism  professionalization 

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Is globalization fuelling inequality?

Posted By Felistus Mbole, Friday, June 14, 2019

Felistus Mbole a member of our Emerging Fellows program investigates the impact of globalization on inequality in her fifth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

The wind of globalization has been blowing for decades and digital technology is fuelling it. The world is more interconnected today than at any other point in history. There has been a significant increase in free trade and cultural exchange. Cross-border trade deals between both private sector players and national governments form part of everyday news. What are the economic implications of this massive level of interconnectedness? What does globalization mean for inequality?

 

Technology has created a connected world where opportunities are shared. Globalization is the integration of markets. National boundaries have become more porous to goods, services, capital, and people. While some boundaries remain physically closed, this does not hinder flow of capital, services, and data. Social media applications like Twitter has particularly accelerated movement of information. The last couple of decades have especially seen a marked growth in cross-border exchange of human capital. The increasing use of sophisticated technology has generated need for specialised skills which are globally limited. Organisations are able to hire such technical services globally. Supported by internet connectivity, technical service providers do not need permits to work in particular countries. They can permeate national boundaries by providing their services virtually.

 

Who are the winners and losers from globalization? Globalization doesn’t seem to be benefitting everyone. Currently, there are an anti-globalization campaigns and policies in countries that view themselves as benefiting the world at the expense of their national interests. Offshoring of certain aspects of business to developing countries has enabled them to participate in global supply chains, positively contributing to their economic growth. On the other hand, labour has tended to flow from the less developed to developed countries and capital in the opposite direction. Developing countries have therefore benefitted most from globalization compared to the more developed ones. The effect has been decreased inequality between the global north and south.

 

Nevertheless, it is only the economically productive developing countries that benefit from joining global supply chain. The less productive ones that are simply an end market for goods manufactured in other countries. For instance, India and China are big beneficiaries of globalization currently. However, many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa continue to lag. The less skilled segments of the population, both locally and globally, are being left behind economically, widening the inequality divergence. Globalization is clearly a tide that is not lifting all boats.

 

What does this mean? The perceived inability of globalization to create mutual benefits could lead to political tensions between countries as seen currently between the United States of America and China. Trade wars and related conflicts could emerge if these perceived imbalances are sustained.  Trade has been shown to be the greatest driver of economic success and thus the convergence between developing and developed economies. Policies aimed at enhancing human capital through broadened access to quality education and healthcare, and reducing barriers to trade could reduce global inequality.

 

Globalization is a good thing. As the ageing economies such as Japan and parts of Europe start to fall short of the labour that is needed to drive their economies, Africa will be experiencing its demographic dividend. The world’s labour can be developed and effectively harnessed and distributed to benefit everyone. This is only possible if the wind of globalization continues to blow unabatedly.  

 

© Felistus Mbole 2019

Tags:  economics  globalization  inequality 

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