Join Us | Print Page | Sign In
Emerging Fellows
Group HomeGroup Home Blog Home Group Blogs

The End of a (Virtual) Way of Life

Posted By Administration, Monday, May 21, 2018
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2019

Adam Cowart is one of our Emerging Fellows, and this is his fifth article written for the program. In it, he explores the virtual spaces where we currently base our economy.

10,000 years ago, our economies were largely mobile and borderless. We roamed, we hunted, we foraged. One of the earliest clashes of economic models was when land ownership and borders, spurred on by the Agricultural Revolution, disrupted the nomadic lives of a decreasing proportion of the population. From the earliest evolutionary days of humanity until now, hunting and gathering was the dominant societal and economic model for approximately 90% of our history. Today, nomadic peoples number around 40 million.

Parallels between nomadic hunter-gatherer societies and contemporary, Generation X knowledge workers were made in the late 90’s. But these observations were more often than not quirky, meant to emphasize a “new” way of working. Not to mention participate in a bit of generational bashing that has not evolved a whole lot now that it is being applied to millennials.

Foraging societies are typically characterized as not placing value on fixed resources (i.e. land), are collective, typically non-hierarchical societies with immediate-return economies. They derive benefits from their activities immediately, not in a delayed-return economy where benefits from activities occur over a period of time and are often associated with property rights of some sort.

Virtual foraging is such an innate activity that we do not even consider it as such – no different than our nomadic ancestors. We “search” the web for what we are looking for, we hunt, and we roam across countries and worlds. While traditionally this has meant searching for food, what real difference is there between finding food and finding information that can be utilized in such a way as to monetize that information and purchase food? Virtual foraging and knowledge work is not typically an immediate-return economic environment, but the other characteristics of a foraging society are evident in the form of non-hierarchical groups without fixed resources, exploring open spaces.

Much has been written about censorship and net neutrality. There is still a very strong assumption that the virtual world is an open, borderless world. But as we increasingly migrate – and colonize – virtual spaces, will this continue? The bulk of the conversation has been at the micro level. We typically point to Big Brother-type influencers. Nefarious government organizations monitoring and censoring us, or corporations manipulating us. The issue is never us – it’s someone else. At the macro level, we see echoes of our old ways of living and working. Vast open plains, forests, and oceans. A limitless world for us to wander and forage within. And the relatively brisk pace at which we have begun to colonize, divide, and weaponize this space.

We have an unnerving ability to replicate our collective behaviors across time and space. It took thousands of years to erect barriers and borders on earth, and less than 20 years to begin the process in the virtual world. This is our capitalist model in its truest form: find or create space, break it up into pieces, monetize those pieces, move on. Capitalist free “safe spaces” have been created, but the walls erected around them, like all walls, don’t last for long. That capitalism is a relatively recent phenomenon in human existence is both reassuring and frightening.

What else is left? Creating or finding more space. Making the intangible tangible. Taking the unreal and making it real. If it is unmonetized, monetize it. When the first group of settlers head for Mars, it should not surprise anyone if one of those settlers has already incorporated a new business. “Martian Fencing Ltd.” You know, just in case.

© Adam Cowart 2018

Tags:  economics  technology  virtual reality 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Virtual Reality Museum Tour in 2030

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2019

Below is Adam Cowart’s third Emerging Fellows post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

Ah, the entrepreneur. Nothing is more real, more visceral. 100 years ago, the image of the entrepreneur was a man with greased back hair, an impressive handlebar moustache, a three-piece suit, standing solemnly beside some heavy piece of blackened machinery. Fast-forward to the 90’s, and it was young, awkward white boys, doing their best to look cool but not quite pulling it off. And now today, a moderately more diversified group of men and women, usually not quite facing the camera, more turned to the side, as if the camera has just caught them in the act of doing something extraordinarily innovative, something just outside the frame. What’s consistent across all these images is a certain twinkle in the eye, as if communicating to the viewer across time and space, “Hey, I can see the future. Can you?”

The sustainment of a real economy requires not only the ongoing production and consumption of existing products but the creation of new products. These new products are developed and produced by both large and medium-sized companies, along with small and new businesses. Entrepreneurs are considered critical for a healthy and dynamic economy. They provide infusions of new ideas, disrupt old business models, and create new areas of growth and opportunity.

But are entrepreneurs going the way of the Dodo? While much has been written on how entrepreneurs and big business are, and will, use AI to change the world and the economy, less has been written on how AI will disrupt the disruptors. New business and product ideas are, after all, essentially the output of synthesizing insights, developing and testing prototypes, procuring capital for production and expansion, and then running the business. When will we start seeing entrepreneur bots? Autonomous product and service creation programs who generate business ideas and then go out and make the business a reality?

Consider how advanced programs have disrupted market trading, in particular, the well-known story of high-frequency trading. Minute market fluctuations are exploited by advanced algorithms. Take this same rapid response approach to the real economy and AI bots, who could be perpetually scouring global markets for tiny opportunities and move rapidly to capitalize on those blips in the market to make a profit, before the blip disappears and the markets return to “normal”. Along with online sales, the concept of the “pop up shop” could become incredibly ubiquitous. An AI Entrepreneur identifies a local opportunity in, say, Winnipeg Canada. A generic pop up store is procured, a product is developed, rapidly prototyped, market tested in minutes by customer-composite bots, specs sent to other manufacturing bots, the product is created and on the shelf (and available online) within a day. Within a week, the opportunity has been exploited, and the store closes down. Perhaps inventory lingers online for a brief period of time.

In this Blog column, we have been considering whether the real economy will, in fact, be real in the future. A vertically integrated AI product and service creation network could function largely independently of humans. With the capability to generate and produce new products and services far faster than humans can possibly consume them, does this follow the conceptual trend of hypercapitalism? Will the speed and intensity of economic activity continue to accelerate? Forget about getting irritated by a new iPhone every year – with our entrepreneur and product-creation bots, we could have a new iPhone once a week. Perhaps even once a day.

Of course, the next logical step for humans, overwhelmed by choice and upgrades, is for us to outsource our consumer decision making to our own bots. B2B (Business to Business) models will gradually shift towards an AIB2B model, and then eventually to an AIB2AIB model (Artificial Intelligence Business to Artificial Intelligence Business). While most sci-fi movies imagine a dystopian future of nuclear wars caused by a “woke” robot, would the invasion be far less innocuous? Whoever controls the economy controls everything. But is this economy still real?




© Adam Cowart 2018

Tags:  entrepreneurship  technology  virtual reality 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Swift trust in virtual reality

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2019

Nichola Cooper is one of our Emerging Fellows. She and our other Emerging Fellows will be posting throughout the year. Her first article discusses the importance of trust and when implementing mixed reality technologies.

Is 2018 the year you advise on the business impact of mixed reality (MR) technology?

The enterprise potential for alternate reality products is growing, with an increasing number of use cases from technology companies that create immersive scenarios in gaming, social media and team collaboration that can potentially transform how we share culture, communicate and collaborate.

It is important we also consider the inherent risks in implementing MR into a business environment – one such risk is trust. As we design environments with a projected self, how do we not just protect the data within the environment, but also the outcome of the collaborative process too? Trust is a functional lubricant that enables effective feedback loops between people and systems. As our communication is advanced to include a non-human projection of ourselves, are there impacts to the psyche and the subsequent development of the trust process that might undermine the business impact of MR technology?

Social networking sites indicate our digital persona is a narrated composition of our authentic identity and our ideal self, customised for each channel. The narrated self is a defence mechanism the self-employs to manage the risk involved in issuing a faceless communication. Humans have evolved to instinctively discern from non-verbal cues whether someone is trustworthy or not; communicating online introduces uncertainty, which we manage by controlling the trust process. Unless digital communications are supported by offline personal relationships we distrust the other until evidence proves otherwise. Strategic mistrust is efficient, rational and functional, it may not, however, be the best way to organise our affairs.

The success of mixed reality for industry and educational use is predicated on creating trust in the virtual environment and the persons present to make the most of the technology. While cyber-security and risk practitioners concentrate on delivering trust in data integrity, it is incumbent on business to instil trust in the virtual space. Using principles of human-centred design and swift trust, business can customise existing operating principles to recognise the short-term nature of virtual engagement.

Establishing traditional forms of trust take time. Trust involves cognitive, behavioural and emotional factors in the assessment of another’s trustworthiness and the decision to make oneself vulnerable in commencing trusting relations. Interpersonal trust also assumes longevity: we trust to build relationships over time.

Swift trust, however, is cognitive and normative in development; trust is assumed as a condition of the gathering and is verified in the actions undertaken by participants. It is best employed in conjunction with traditional team-building strategies, for it is fragile. Deviations from group norms in a swift trust environment can produce volatile reactions that are unmitigated by trusting relationships.

Therefore, swift trust is a tactical approach to team dynamics which needs to be supported by strengthening offline relational trust in order to enhance its impact. Companies considering integrating the use of MR technology into their operating practices from 2018 could consider an MR playbook that outlines the principles and practices of applied swift trust, and then integrate expectations for virtual environments into codes of conduct. It is quite probable that team members engaging in virtual environments have not met before. It is essential they understand the rules of the game.



© Nichola Cooper 2018

Tags:  technology  trust  virtual reality 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)