Friday Faves: What We’re Reading This Week

Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

Is there life on Mars?

Anne says: I have to admit to being a rocket groupie – probably since I was very little watching man land on the moon! (Yes, I saw it live, on a B&W TV in my school hall). I was awestruck  – and continue to marvel at our (humans – and a few AI robots) ability to innovate. This week, in case you missed it, Elon Musk and his team at SpaceX launched a test rocket. Sounds like your average day in the office, right?

Let’s put some perspective around this. While we problematise our digital workplaces – how to get rid of emails or at least reduce our Inboxes; how to get people to be more engaged; how to break down silos of information; and how to communicate and collaborate more effectively – the people at SpaceX launched a rocket! AND it achieved 3 out of 4 goals, and it was only a test! Makes you wonder…

Don’t think this couldn’t happen without a lot of collaboration, a lot of technology, and a combined focus towards a goal. And just a little bit of risk, a whole stack of physics, and the ability to believe in something bigger than emails.

There are so many interesting angles we could explore that will occur because of this successful launch – from privatised space exploration (versus government funded), from a marketing / PR perspective, from the ability to experiment and push boundaries which opens up more opportunities for other businesses to… well, life on Mars!

Here’s a few links to get you started – please explore and be awestruck by man’s ability to achieve inspiring outcomes and ask yourself, how could we get our digital workplaces to be this awesome?

Make sure you have David Bowie’s Life on Mars playing at full volume!

Read The Atlantic, A Triumphant First Launch for Elon Musk’s Giant Rocket. The New York Times, Falcon Heavy SpaceX Launch., SpaceX Starman Tesla Roadster Live.

‘Human Uber’ lets you pay someone to live your life for you

Nat says: I saw this article and immediately thought that a genuine life hack had been made – the ability for someone else to play the role of ‘you’ whilst you get on with the real business of living your life. But, alas, this is not really the case. Technology is not that advanced… yet. Developed by Japanese researchers, this so-called ‘human uber’ allows a surrogate person to do certain tasks for you. The surrogate wears your clothes, as well as a  ‘Chameleon Mask’, and behaves based on your instruction. The telepresence system allows you (the real you) to sit at home whilst your surrogate goes to a physical location on your behalf. You then, through your laptop, camera and microphone, see and hear the localised worlds of where your surrogate goes, for which you can then communicate to others through the ‘mask’ display that is mounted on the surrogate’s head.

For some reason, this invention reminds me of that childhood game where your friend would place their hands behind their back, and you put your arms in-between theirs; making it appear as though your arms are their arms and hilarity ensues. Part of me wants to be a surrogate just to make absurd bodily gestures that are not in-sync with what the person, who would oddly be on my face, is saying. But for serious uses, who would use this device and for what reason? The shared article does not go into much detail about its intended usage, but of course there are several possible avenues.

Perhaps this invention would be great for those who have mobility issues and they want to experience something like a hiking adventure. Or perhaps the mind-body ‘illusion’ can help in offering a feeling of connection for people who are separated by distance. Even organisations and workplaces, as they rely heavily on video conferencing and work travel, could perhaps use this human uber as a means of reducing their corporate expenses. Regardless of how or why it is used, I find the invention somewhat dehumanizing for both the virtual person and their surrogate. You are being treated as nothing but a head, and your surrogate as nothing but a body. This is the epitome of thinking that mind and body are separate entities; suggesting that our bodies are only useful in their ability to cart around our head – where our supposed intelligence lies. It would be quite odd as well to be the recipient talking to the human uber. It makes me wonder how the conversation would be stifled or affected by the fact that someone else is literally there listening to everything you say. I guess we should ‘watch this space’ to see what becomes of the human uber.


China’s police get face-recognising glasses

Joel says: How much surveillance is too much? That’s a question being asked in China, with some police officers in the country now getting glasses equipped with facial-scanning technology.

The glasses, issued to officers at a highly populated train station in the Henan province, are part of a security push leading up to Chinese New Year. So far, according to the state-media report, seven wanted criminals have been caught thanks to the glasses, as well as 26 people using fake IDs.

LLVision Technology, the company behind the tech, told the Wall Street Journal that the glasses can recognize 100,000 different faces, and can identify a person in 100 milliseconds.

Though technically impressive, the glasses ironically raise security concerns for citizens. “The potential to give individual police officers facial-recognition technology in sunglasses could eventually make China’s surveillance state all the more ubiquitous,” Amnesty International’s William Nee told the Journal.

Personally I think it should only bother you if you are a criminal. There is facial recognition technology used all around us everyday that we aren’t even aware of. The Chinese police have adopted this technology to assist their search for criminals. If you have nothing to hide then there should be nothing to fear about this particular piece of tech.

To demonstrate the power of the surveillance system, Chinese officials sent a BBC journalist to Guiyang, an area with a population of around 3.5 million, to see how long he could remain out of sight. It took just seven minutes before he was in police custody.


Inside Amazon’s Spheres

Jakkii says: Have you heard of Amazon’s Spheres? I hadn’t until this week, though I’m somewhat surprised I missed the media when they opened a couple of weeks ago.

For the unitiated like myself, Amazon’s Spheres are buildings that contain a ‘mini-rainforest.’

“The Spheres,” as they’re known, hold 40,000 plants from 30 different countries around the world. They were designed as places employees can go to take a break or meet up with others away from their desks. The spheres also feature living walls, which are vertical gardens with over 25,000 plants woven into 4,000 square feet of mesh.

It’s a fascinating project, particularly in the context of organisations and indeed governments undergoing significant change in thinking and approaches to the physical ‘place’. From smart buildings to smart cities, we are are seeing a shift in the way we think about what ‘place’ means in relation to the people that use it and the technology that underpins it.

Then there’s the philosophical lens, as our colleague Nat might take: the Western view of man and nature as separate, and our ongoing quest to recreate nature – perhaps in our own image.

It’s not all pine trees and roses, though:

Even with the option to relax, Amazon will monitor how long employees spend inside the spheres via their ID badges, so no one can dominate the space or ignore tasks to spend an entire day in man-made nature.

With no further information about how this monitoring will work or what the consequences of being in the rainforest all day might be, it’s unclear just how invasive this ‘Big Brother’ approach could prove to be. What is interesting though is the inference that even in an idyllic workplace, employees are inherently untrustworthy and cannot be left to their own devices. Technological – and, presumably, management – oversight is still seen as a necessity: the proverbial stick to the workplace carrot.

A demonstrable example that command and control remains alive and well in our workplaces, despite the many movements that exist to dismantle it.



Bait & Win: What Super Bowl trolling teaches us about the future of Marketing

“Trolling as a marketing tactic baits and provokes, but when done right it triggers lasting social conversations…”

Emilio says: This week, Super Bowl 2018 (a.k.a. the US National Football League Championship), US television’s much awaited and most watched show of the year and also the biggest advertising event, blasted on screens with a first time winner, the Philadelphia Eagles, taking the top honour.

On social media, however, it was burger chain Wendy’s that earned the shining trophy with its clever trolling of archrival, McDonalds. Wendy’s, which gloated heavily on its hamburgers containing only fresh beef and bacon, threw shade on McDonalds’ frozen beef patties, in a tweet that generated 5.1k retweets, 23k likes and 434 replies.

In the cut-throat arena of marketing, savvy brands are taking to ‘trolling’ as a tactic in order to gain attention and elicit reactions on social media. Interestingly, what was once considered a guerrilla social marketing approach, ‘trolling’ is now becoming a commonplace strategy to gain traction and engage fans in increasingly overcrowded social feeds, as this AdAge article points out.

And why not? Trolling can be one of the most ingenious ways of challenging your competitors in the market whilst promoting your brand to a switched-on audience. It is relatively inexpensive and if done right can elicit brand love amongst your fans in an interactive and engaging way on social media.

A final disclaimer though and perhaps just restating the obvious: ‘trolling’ as a social media marketing tactic for brands can be phenomenal – but I do not, in any way or form, endorse trolling or hurling abuse on social media… ever. I hope this context clarifies that.


Could a weekend sleep-in be bad for you?

Helen says: So, you’ve enjoyed a relaxing weekend, complete with an indulgent sleep-in or two, but find yourself on Monday, with fluctuating energy levels and an acute desire for a nap. Dr Andrew Phillips from the Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences explains that “social jetlag is the difference in your sleep timing between your work days and your free days. Lots of people effectively live in a different time zone on weekends from work days.” However, changing our sleep patterns and waking at different times, rather than sticking to a regular pattern, messes with our circadian rhythmicity and impacts our productivity. Phillips found that “irregular sleepers had the same total sleep as regular sleepers. They achieved this by sleeping more during the daytime”.

He views “sleep regularity as a potentially important and modifiable factor – independent from sleep duration – in determining academic performance and circadian timing.”

I might just try the ‘Introducing Bedtime’ feature on my iPhone after all.


Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast


This week: what’s up with universal basic income, fiduciary moats, and cars in space in other news. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

The stories this week:

Half of Americans like universal basic income – and they want AI companies to pay for it

The fiduciary moat of Apple and Amazon

Other stories we bring up:

The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration universal income experiment

Milton Friedman on negative income tax

India could be trialling a universal basic income before 2020

Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator’s upcoming experiment to give Americans free money

Could Australia afford UBI?

Some background on the alienation argument

A critique of UBI

Taxing robots discussion on TFTW

NSW accelerates solar approvals


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