Sure, we admit it, we love technology. Technology fuels digital empowerment, it powers amazing experiences, connections, education, information, and change. Technology is a craft that must be forever practiced, fined tuned and evolved. So much is new and different, yet the patterns tend to remain the same.
Sure, we obsess about technology, the trends and advancements that cause tectonic shifts at the core of humankind. We hang out at the shallow left slope of the innovation curve. We look downhill with the excitement of Charlie Bucket as he unwraps his Wonka Bar. We lurk and wait, cherishing those moments of anticipation. We know that change is exponential, and that what is coming around the corner is as scary as it is exciting.
Sure, we were there to witness the rise of Agile, DevOps, Continuous Delivery, Microservices, Crypto and Blockchain. We helped break the silos between technology and design and business and purpose. We joined these movements before they became part of the hyped reality of the mainstream crowd.
And yet, we will place our human values, our users’ experiences and our desire to make the world a better place above any technological fundamentalism. Technology informs our vision, our design, and our language but is not limited by it. Our tech craft is used to sustain and elevate, to bring responsiveness, security, privacy and usability to all that we build.
Sure, we are clinically enthusiastic about technology; but, above all else, we are obsessed with freedom, privacy, and security, and we are inspired by meaningful and delightful connections between all partners in our ecosystem.
"ANY SUFFICIENTLY ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY IS INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM MAGIC." - ARTHUR C CLARKE
This article is part of a 5-part series that introduces the Blockchain technology and ecosystem. Read part one here.
In the engine rooms of Bitcoin and Ethereum, you will find the insanely smart people that are truly powering this tectonic shift. They sit behind large screens implementing the code that will run the world in 20 years’ time. With a few exceptions, these change makers and rule breakers are mostly young Caucasian males, idealistic young people that sometimes lean towards utopian fundamentalism.
When you spend your time representing the world in binary code, you tend to undermine the importance of human leadership, decision making and ethics in making sense of humanity’s shades of grey. The belief that code is law and that you can bypass humans altogether has been tested recently in one of the first implementations of a Decentralised Autonomous Organisation (DAO). Fortunately, common sense prevailed, mostly due to the leadership of the Ethereum Foundation and the response of the very human and intelligent community that, at the end of a hubris filled debate, chose pragmatism and ethics over utopian fundamentalism.
For this progressive, middle-aged, intersectional feminist, geek and business leader, someone who has roamed corporate boardrooms and led technology teams all her life, there is something very interesting in observing unguarded, unpolished and very public displays of hubris—the same hubris that lingers in the minds and actions of corporate executives, only this time it is not outwardly articulated.
When issues are discussed out in the open, they can be quickly called out and, sometimes, reasoned with; information flows freely, and education and progress occur faster. In this unmoderated, unsettling and enraging world, you quickly find out where you stand, and whether you want to waltz or to run for your life in the opposite direction.
What will happen now that Blockchain is swiftly moving from being a scrappy outsider to the mainstream darling? Can we prevent varnished politeness from taking over the battlefronts of progress?
“Bitcoin is not smooth jazz; bitcoin is punk rock. Deal with it.”
Diving into a Bitcoin or Ethereum Reddit forum is not for the fainthearted; there are plenty of opportunities to experience rage, frustration, fear and disbelief. But in and amongst the chaos, the hackers, the libertarian poker players, the opportunists, and the lack of inclusion and diversity, there is a community driving the most critical step toward global financial inclusion the world has ever experienced. So, look beyond the Silk Road, beyond the DAO drama, beyond dreams of building a Skynet, beyond the dry academic jargon, and beyond the hubris-fuelled discussions. Buy some Ether or Bitcoin, set up a wallet, read The Blockchain Revolution, and come and experience the messy and exciting birth of your future.
The outcome of this roller coaster ride will fall somewhere in between a corporate controlled Blockchain that loses some of its most socially-progressive qualities, and a Skynet-like Blockchain. Humanity loses in the edge cases. The question we should be asking is: in the space between extremities, where do we want to end up?
“We must look to the distributive qualities of digital technologies for their ability to promote economic activity rather than usurp it. The beauty of networks – unlike industrial machines – is that they are biased toward distribution and circulation. Everything is moving. Things don’t travel from the top down or even the bottom up, but to and from everywhere at once.
Not since the dawn of the internet have the pundits been this excited about the world-changing possibilities of software. But, technology is just an enabler, humans continue to be in the driving seat.
The current participants in this internet of value don’t sound much different from a young Sergey, Larry, Steve, Mark or Bill. If we want different results we must work hard to practice inclusivity and to broaden the diversity of the community.
This article is part of a 5-part series that introduces the Blockchain technology and ecosystem. Read part one here.
“As long as it is cheaper to perform a transaction inside your firm, keep it there. But if it is cheaper to go to the marketplace, do not try to do it internally.” - Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams
Unfortunately, many of these initiatives seek to improve business models that will become irrelevant over time. It’s a bit like Blockbuster focusing on reducing rental costs and improving the quality of service within their brick and mortar business model. Large public enterprises will always lean towards incremental and efficiency led innovation, struggling to compete with startups when it comes to new and disruptive business models.
“The worst place to develop a new business model is from within your existing business model.” – Clayton Christensen
Change is coming, and the relationship between the old world and the new world will continue to be somewhat passive-aggressive. The old world is keen to use Blockchain to its advantage, seeking to control it and to contain the features that are most disruptive within their shareholder’s interests. And yet, the internet of value will still be unleashed with most of its potential; it’s not a question of ‘if’, but a question of ‘when’.
Timing is indeed the most interesting variable. The internet of value resembles the web pre-Google. Crypto-currency is simply not ready for mainstream adoption, and there are still many significant implementation challenges to be resolved.
The Ethereum Foundation, the creators of Ether, a cryptocurrency competitor to bitcoin, is focusing on building the platform that could become the ‘App store’ of Blockchain applications. This platform enables decentralised applications based on smart contracts. Microsoft and Deloitte are both investing in Blockchain partnerships and Ethereum based products and services.
Hyperledger, spearheaded by the Linux Foundation and by IBM, is attempting to standardise some of its infrastructure and services to make it more consumable across business applications.
Partnerships between startups and top-tier consulting firms bring pragmatism, integration expertise and access to large, global portfolios of clients to the Blockchain ecosystem. The big five can also help startups navigate through the regulatory landscape, although old paradigm regulation will limit the potential of the innovation.
Even faced with the disruptive nature of Blockchain to the global financial ecosystem, and with numerous examples of illicit exploitation, government regulators have not yet approached Blockchain with a heavy hand. State committees from around the world engage in Bitcoin and Blockchain briefings with a mix of curiosity and caution. The risk of a future stifling regulatory framework is still high, but in general, it is acknowledged that this technological advancement can help restore legitimacy to government, enabling state services to become cheaper, better, faster and more transparent.
The ecosystem is growing, the hype is high, and the communities are working to overcome current implementation challenges. Some are approaching it tactically, and others strategically; some wish to control it, others to unleash it. But the train has left the station, is moving full speed ahead, and nothing will stop it now.
Read the final post in this series: Pragmatic Idealism over Hubris, Utopia, and Fundamentalism – Blockchain Part 5
This article is part of a 5-part series that introduces the Blockchain technology and ecosystem. Read part one here.
When you use a credit card in store or purchase the digital copy of the same magazine on the internet, the transaction must be processed, verified and recorded by a number of intermediaries to ensure that you are unable to spend the funds twice. The brokers centralize the flow of capital, providing complex, slow and overly expensive services prone to hacking and exploitation.
The invention of Bitcoin resolved the double payment problem. The decentralized digital currency disintermediates banks and clearing houses, enabling cheap, peer to peer, borderless financial transactions over the internet. Bitcoin eliminated the need for identity verification or broker imposed pre-requisites, effectively mirroring physical cash transactions over the web.
Now free from costly brokered transaction fees, the cryptocurrency world can process micro-transactions and enable tiny exchanges of value so crucial in media and ecosystems that depend on digital rights management.
Each transaction is replicated across the network, making it immutable and impossible to be tampered with. Transactions and smart contracts are open, transparent and available to anyone with a computer or smartphone.
“Consumers care about identity theft, which has become a plague upon the industry. And, the reason it has become a plague upon the industry is because personally identifiable information must be collected by every intermediary on every transaction, and hoarded, creating these giant honeypots that attract hackers like flies. And you can’t protect that information, if you are realistic about it, no one can protect that information. The banks, retailers, credit card companies, and NSA can’t protect that information. The only way to protect that information is not to collect it.” – Andreas Antonopoulos
The ledger keeps the details and history of each transaction, but does not know the identity of the parties involved. As a result, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies allow relatively anonymous digital exchanges of currency, and illicit black market entities tend to exploit this feature. Fortunately, some of these perpetrators find out the hard way that there is a difference between privacy and complete anonymity.
Some challenges remain, operating in a stateless and borderless parallel universe, cryptocurrencies struggle to achieve relative value stability, a requirement for mainstream adoption.
The emergence of Bitcoin is an important and groundbreaking innovation, but its underlying software and infrastructure can support much more than just digital currency. The convergence of this distributed mass collaboration network, smart contracts and cryptography enable the processing and recording of exchanges of value involving not only money, but also goods, property, work and votes.
This concept, mostly known as Blockchain, is as revolutionary as the invention of the internet, and it has tremendous power to disrupt and drive positive social change.
Blockchain brings transparency to all market participants. New intermediaries will emerge, but they will have a harder time extracting more value than they produce.
Read the next post in this series: Hype, Fear, Investment and Regulation – Blockchain Part 4
9/11 and subsequent terror attacks around the world escalated the rise of surveillance states and undermined the right to online privacy in Western nations. Paralysed by fear over the security threats coming from Islamic terrorism, citizens prioritised state intelligence over privacy concerns. The illusion of safety under an all-seeing eye provided some reassurance in unsettling times.
Snowden’s leaks and the rise of extreme right fundamentalism in Western nations challenged claims of an adversarial relationship between privacy and security. There is nothing secure about Trump, Farage or Hanson having access to personal data. The all seeing eye is looking a lot like the eye of Sauron.
These days, the fight for online privacy is increasingly lost on corporate battlefields. Yesterday’s freedom fighting geeks have grown up to build today’s global tech monopolies—the public companies that maximise shareholder value at the expense of consumers' online privacy. Government regulators, now acting as protectors of privacy, are unable to keep up with the speed of technical innovation. The cloud, the internet of things, mobility, artificial intelligence, robotics and drones, virtual reality, and biotech are just a few tectonic shifts to human lives and behaviours that we are experiencing today.
Governments and corporations continue to ramp up the personal data ‘gold rush’, storing our information in unsafe systems vulnerable to hacking and fraud. To date, they have struggled to make sense of it all. Overwhelmed by too much data they fail to spot the signal through the deafening noise. And yet, Machine Learning will quickly overcome any analytics challenges.
As encryption becomes stronger and more complex, so too does the computational power available to crack it. Quantum computing may become the “next” Bombe machine used to decipher the war messages from a future Enigma-like gadget. And yet, encryption is undoubtedly the most important defence for digital security and privacy.
It’s hard to identify the villains and the heroes in this unfolding tale. But, there should be no doubt that our privacy, security, and freedom are at risk in the digital realm, that we should remain actively involved in the ongoing debates, and that we should adopt solutions that enable us to protect our rights.
It’s not all doom and gloom, the marriage between cryptography and smart contracts is leading to the rise of digital democracy 2.0. Until recently, most cipher tools focused on point to point communication between two parties such as encrypted messaging. The emergence of smart contracts is shifting this paradigm, effectively enabling the encryption of group interactions and decisions. This critical technological advancement will yield significant benefits to digital democracy, enabling governance structures to remain private and secure while also open and transparent.
Read the next post in this series: The Internet of Value – Blockchain Part 3
The emergence of smart contracts is an attempt to codify, in software, the transaction rules of a particular ecosystem, making it transparent and efficient, and able to disintermediate entire industries. The potential to eliminate a significant portion of disputes is real, but it’s important to recognise that code is not infallible, and that algorithms don't yet have the embedded ethics present in humans.
Best practices in the software industry teach developers to write the test before they code the feature. This method ensures that the developer has a solid understanding of the functionality to be delivered before they spend any time on coding the feature. Test-driven development is one of the most important practices in the elimination of waste and improvement of quality in software delivery. A smart contract uses the same principle; it forces the parties involved in a transaction to codify or verify the agreement before the exchange of value occurs.
Although software is undoubtedly the most important source of progress in the last century, we should not ignore that code is not infallible and that smart contracts could shift control from lawyers to software developers and to those who can afford computing power.
What is certain is that codification of rules into an executable program reduces ambiguity and increases clarity.
Read the next post in this series: Crypto and Private Digital Interactions – Blockchain Part 2
Through lenses like geography, age, gender, race, and sexuality, the mainstream advertising platforms help us make sense of consumer behaviour. And yet, constrained by these filters we fail to appreciate the exponential curve of human evolution. While we stick to irrelevant boundaries, digital breaks the silos that used to contain our customers’ tastes and fancies.
“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” - Peter DruCker
As the data captured by digital-first companies such as Netflix demonstrates, broad demographic categories and generalisations are irrelevant and a distraction to brands that value meaningful connections and expect a return on investment from online advertising.
A teenage boy in Japan may be as excited about watching the next Marvel release, as a grandmother in Canada. And yet, blinded by what they measure most brands still believe the world fits into neatly packaged boxes, in a kind of structure that would thrill someone with severe OCD.
Due to the escalating political and public debate on equality issues, there had been serious backlash against stereotypes and biases in advertising. Petitions, complaints to advertising watchdogs and social media naming and shaming of offending brands are now a regular feature of the advertising industry.
The large brands, those that can afford it, focus on the next big thing--data driven hyper-personalisation. They gobble up data as greedily as the cookie monster diving into a jar of chocolate chip biscuits. Unfortunately, most just get massive indigestion incapable of making sense of the tsunami of information stored on their servers, fighting with lawyers and regulators over appropriate data usage, and struggling to setup up suitable privacy and security governance in the age of digital fraud and hacking.
Just like their counterparts in financial services , the advertising platforms thrive in complexity and somewhat shady business. The ad tech landscape is increasingly opaque and fragmented. New devices, channels, and tools flood our newsfeeds as we step into the future ill-prepared to deal with the looming internet of things, virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
In today’s fast changing world, marketers either experience an onset of schizophrenic attention as they seek to cut through the clutter, or suffer from paralysis—frozen by complexity and change.
The rise of programmatic ad fraud, the exponential adoption of ad blockers and the shrinking attention span of digital users waste away marketing budgets.
Marketing experts from platforms and agencies tell us that we are in the age of experiences and meaningful connections, that we must create delightful, surprising moments instead of focusing on our products and services. Although partially true, their message hides and undermines a simpler, healthier perspective, the one that places the emphasis on sustainable businesses that have a clear purpose and stand for greatness, goodness, and progress. A focus on continuous innovation, on added value products and services that people need and want.
A healthy skin shines from inside out, becoming an excellent foundation for effective advertising. Delightful experiences and meaningful connections start with the business vision, the offerings strategy and design, the empowered employees that thrive by removing silos and creating impact.
Large or small, the brand must focus first on its essence, and if necessary evolve it to meet the expectations of this new age of meaning, experience, connection, and sharing. Popularity contests are not going to work. Goosebumps and fuzzy feelings don’t drive conversion in isolation.
The ambition to know our prospective customers is, of course, valid and worth pursuing. Gathering insights and building a deeper understanding of current and future markets is an exercise in focus, determination, design and technical capability. But, precision must not ignore issues of privacy and security. Focus is not about big data; it is just enough data— the right data. Seamless integration in brand placement and native advertising cannot compromise the trust and transparency between brand and audience.
Today’s backlash focuses on equality; tomorrow’s uprising will voice privacy as the primary concern. In a world where yesterday's whistleblowing traitors are tomorrow’s heroes, where boundaries between physical and digital first fade and then disappear, we must not underestimate or patronise our audiences. Connections must be meaningful, but respectful; they must be relevant, but non-intrusive.
And if, by now, you are thinking, “Give me a break! What is a marketer to do?” Check us out.
We believe in delightful and meaningful moments, but above all else, we believe in your brand and the products and services it has to offer. We know that audiences will be grateful and excited to give your offerings and experiences their undivided attention, at the right place and time and on their terms. This laser-like precision will drive the results that really matter. Likes, shares, and smiling Emojis are fun, but at Unonimity we only get goose-bumps when you acquire or retain customers.
We are Unique, Diverse and In Control
Brands must accept that we are complex and multi-dimensional creatures freed by the internet to indulge in our unique interests without fear of judgment and validated by the connections we make in the digital realm.
The long tail is our trail, and we wander through many tails and trails in pursuit of utility, meaning, and joy. All companies have to do is meet us there beyond the Flatland that tries to deny our individuality, and beyond the Wasteland that threatens our privacy and security. We may indeed indulge in the joyride of Popularityland, but we see beyond it as we seek value.
A thriving, healthy, respectful ecosystem between brands, partners and customers delivers the best results. Join us as we design a new land.
"I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman." - Virginia Woolf
Humanity runs on an ancient and very effective operating system—the stories that make us, the stories that break us, the cultural narratives that unite us, divide us and inspire us to engage in acts of madness, kindness, and greatness.
Our organising principles are built and structured on a foundation of narratives that justify our identity, beliefs, and actions. The scaffolding of civilisation is as old as our ability to express ourselves.
In poor, remote villages in Guinea, the story of the wives of the Prophet Abraham that motivates older women to bestow the most atrocious affliction on the young maidens of the land.
According to the myth, Abraham’s first wife, Sarah, filled with jealousy and hate, ‘cut’ the genitals of Hagar, the second wife. It was Sarah's goal to make Hagar seem less attractive and less desirable. When Abraham’s affection for the maiden Hagar did not diminish, Sarah then inflicted the same mutilation upon herself.
This is a tale that is forever reenacted as a rite of passage to womanhood, teaching young maidens to yield to pain and bear it for as long as they live. Because of one toxic narrative implanted within the identity of an entire civilisation, over ninety percent of the women in Guinea have become victims of genital mutilation.
Of course, most of these stories about women, served to preserve the power and control of men, and were written and disseminated by them. These are viral memes that have endured the test of time and crush women into a lifetime of suffering and shame; limiting desire and sexual expression.
Yet, over our history, the most common sin in storytelling is the one of omission. The exclusion of minorities whose feats of greatness are deleted, altered and appropriated by the male, outwardly heterosexual, and mostly Caucasian ruling classes. Alan Turing, Rosalind Franklin, Rosa Parks, and Ada Lovelace are a few of the names and faces we have recently managed to recover from history's exclusion and misrepresentation; they best represent the anonymous, unsung heroes of the minorities.
We can and should pursue a path of revolution, one that asks for equal pay, equal opportunity, fair representation, and celebration of the voices and achievements of minorities. We are equally deserving of Oscars, Nobel Prizes, the commander's seat on a trip to Mars, and the country's top job. We can pursue a path of uprising, but story is best placed to power change. When we change the dominant cultural narrative, everything else will fall into place.
Queer women of colour are still anonymous. The minorities are rising, finding their voices and their economic weight in the world. Much has been accomplished, and yet the chasm in history books, in fiction and in art is still overwhelming. There are not enough stories about us, our context, our past, our struggles, and our victories.
Corporations, like governments, are always a step behind, trying to catch up to the whims of the faceless mainstream masses, but rarely walking alongside or ahead of their followers. The mammoth sized media organisation is too worried about the sensibilities of their powerful sponsors, too focused on their audiences greatest common denominator, too busy processing yesterday’s patterns and trends to notice today’s sparks of brilliance that will fuel tomorrow’s social progress.
Mass-media panders to white corporate feminism while we fight for intersectionality; they replace a Caucasian actor with a black one in a mainly white story, while we yearn for stories that genuinely represent our communities of colour. They pander to queer stereotypes while we learn to accept that gender is a spectrum.
We will not find the answers to our narrative need in the small number of conglomerates that control global commercial media; it’s the independent storytellers and artists that will continue to push the boundaries. They are the leaders that reach our most primal and visceral desire for greatness through their talent, instinct, vision, intelligence and expression. They help us release ourselves from the stories that no longer serve us as a species.
Every day, through the eyes and heart of an indie storyteller, we discover a new tale to inspire us, to bring us a step closer to becoming who we want to be, and to unleash our true potential. Narratives that plant seeds and make us believe fervently and unwaveringly in the power of legacy, in the strength and character of the unsung hero, in leaving behind a better world than the one we were born into.
These are the creatives that do not settle for what they have accomplished; they are just too busy moving our collective consciousness one step forward, heading to the next frontier, releasing us from past tales of hate, fear, power, control, and separation. One soul at a time, they will continue to change the dominant cultural narrative one soul at a time until the mass media industrial complex is ready to appropriate these stories as universal truths.
To fail to support our independent artists is to give up on evolving the dominant cultural narrative, is to settle for a world full of inequality and dangerously close to environmental collapse.
A story is a drop in the ocean that may one day turn the tide. Funding is to independent storytellers what the silver light of the full moon is to the ocean's tide. So, what are we waiting for?
In a healthy democracy, people must have easy access to independent and diverse sources of information and news. Information, education, freedom of speech and debate provide a solid foundation that brings out the best of humanity.
Unfortunately, we are currently experiencing dangerous consolidations and concentrations of media ownership. A few organizations control a large share of the global mainstream media. This monopoly magnifies the risk of censorship, thereby reducing the quality of information.
In such a system, the needs of the sponsors of profit-driven media become the priority. Biases and conflicts of interest threaten editorial independence and the diversity of viewpoints. Suppression or alteration of stories to serve sponsors fails public interest.
Mass media channels lack appropriate coverage of crucial issues such as climate change, the rise in economic inequality, or the humanitarian refugee crisis.
Sensationalist headlines, shallow coverage and divisive fear mongering lead the masses astray. The people mindlessly following the 21st century Pied Piper to their doom.
New digital media entrants use data and technology to capture audiences and secure advertisers. Tech companies at their core, the exploitation of data to control human behaviour is at the centre of their digital strategy. They tap into viral pop culture trends and use clickbait headlines, videos of cute cats and sensationalist narratives to compete on the web.
But virality, like addiction, is not a sign of health. Tapping into the most primordial human behaviours to engage an audience is a dangerous game. The boundaries between meaningful connection and manipulation can be blurred in the digital realm. A web world that was once simply a virtual escape has become our primary reality.
The result? Increased dumbification and desensitisation of the masses. Comatose from LOL cats and Kardashian drama, the selfie and self-obsessed audiences fail to engage with crucial social issues. The best they can muster is to take part in feel good clicktivism, liking random online petitions and producing zero impact on what matters most.
The corporate race to control the internet escalates as digital channels become the norm for media consumption.
Net neutrality is at risk due to mega-mergers in the cable and phone industries. The continuous focus on short-term maximisation of shareholder value benefits only the powerful and privileged.
As a result, the internet may become an expensive, filtered, and controlled luxury, with the digital divide punishing the voices and stories that most need spreading.
The Final Frontier
The Internet is the final frontier for freedom of speech and access to information; the ultimate digital battleground that will define the fate of humanity. It’s unlikely that there will be a red pill that will unplug us from the controlling matrix; this is something we must do for ourselves right about now.
Advertising has been the currency of choice for access to digital content. The ever exploited 99% will continue to deprioritise buying content online. Most just can't afford it. The cost to our planet, to our humanity, and to the quality of our content is significant.
Can we make advertising work for us, instead of against us? Can we make it useful, relevant, timely, and ethical? Can advertisers become the enablers of independent news, information, and art?
Yes. It's that simple. Yes!
IF YOU ARE THE TYPE WITH A LIGHT TO SHARE, YOU NEED TO KNOW IT TAKES A MIGHTY HEART TO TRY HARD IN THE LION’S LAIR. WHEN EVERYBODY’S OUT FOR THE LION’S SHARE. - KAte Tempest