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

Future Cities

Anne says: It would be easy to do a piece on GDPR this week – after all my email inbox has been bombarded with updated privacy policy, compliance with GDPR and some questionable behaviour disguised as GDPR personnel information updates. However, I wanted something more inspirational than regulatory requirements!

This article is of particular interest to me – it encompasses one of my favourite topics: future city design, then adds self-driving cars and we have the potential for re-thinking how we move around cities, in fact, our concept of city living.

Have you ever noticed how the car dominates so many of our public spaces? On-street parking, beach front parking, garages that dominate the front of houses, and the enormous spaces required for public carparks? What the article is suggesting is how urban planners will re-think this imbalance through new layouts and reclaimed spaces dedicated to cars. They describe “nests” or small pit stops for autonomous vehicles, presumably to recharge and wait to be summoned, with larger “hives” for maintenance.

Imagine no traffic lights, no street signs with speed limits – these are all designed for people, not autonomous vehicles that will be programmed to know this – i.e. they don’t read signs!

Now here’s a concept I love – do you live in an apartment building where you enter via the car park? No more – you’ll be entering through the front doors (if you know where those are!) – which means redesigning the entrance halls or foyers into places that welcome or provoke conversations!

As a part-time resident of Barcelona, in a city where design is everything, many of these concepts were built in during the expansion of the city in 1900-1920s – particularly apparent in the inner city suburb of Eixample (pronounced a-chump-la in Catalan). Here entrances to buildings are everything, art deco modernism design is breathtaking, cut out chamfered corners or “illes” in Catalan – designed to maintain smooth traffic flow but also for pedestrian safety – and of course each of these corners are ideal for a cafe or 2. Every street block has all amenities, chemist, vegetable shop, a cafe or 10, baker, almost a self-contained village – with a wider selection covering a few blocks creating a village. Inner city living, as is apparent in other larger metropolitan centres globally, are re-discovering the village community.

A city of the future described in the article may seem a long way off, while our dependence on personal cars remains a cultural norm. Perhaps we should be reconsidering these relationships while the urban planners prepare the designs for our future cities.


PS. If you haven’t updated and reviewed your adherence to GDPR, not sure what it is and if it affects us in Australia, then get in touch – we can help you navigate through the swamp of claims and email marketing and storage of personal data related to EU citizens.

The Line between Big Tech and Defense Work

Nat says: Google’s “Project Maven” has caused quite the ethical conundrum for some of its employees. Since the project was announced in 2017, more than 4000 Google employees have signed a petition urging their employer to cancel the military contract they have with the US Department of Defense; with some employees even walking out the door. However, companies aligning with the Government in this capacity is scarily nothing new. What is new is the fact that it is digital companies who are now on board, such as Microsoft and Amazon who have signed-on with intelligence agencies and other branches within the military.

In a somewhat depressing realisation, humans have been at war for longer than we have ever been at peace. But what our digital era is doing is setting up a premise for us to make our ability to kill one another all the more impersonal and easier. Instead of questioning the problems with war, or looking at avenues for peace, we keep looking at advances in technologies. In fact, many even believe that the evolution of technology is itself the evolution of war — just look at the arms race as an example. In today’s context, instead of having to ship troops overseas to engage in hand-to-hand combat, we can now save time and money by having someone sit behind a computer desk, press a button, and have a drone on the other side of the world drop a bomb on so-called enemy terrain; killing thousands in one hit. It seems that war has become so normalised in our lives that we have stopped questioning what the hell we are doing to each other as human beings.

Last month for example, I guest lectured an ethics class for Masters students studying big data, and I was left speechless by one student’s comments. In my asking the group whether or not they would, as is the case with Google’s employees, take moral action against their employer, one student replied, “If I am being paid to program data, then it is my job to program data. Not question the why of my programming”. After I got over my initial shock, I made the remark that Nazi soldiers were also just “following orders”. It seems that these days we talk so much about technology, but tend to ignore the ethics behind its application — of the individual obligation we each have in questioning the why and how of our own behaviour in the context of the bigger technological picture. It seems that ethics is something that needs more attention, as our technological progressions (i.e. the atom bomb) become contrivances for our planetary suicide.


The Cybercrime War

Helen says: When it comes to growth, cybercrime is top of the pops.The Cybersecurity Business Report quotes some impressive, if not disconcerting, statistics. In 2015 cyber crime damages cost the world $3 trillion and that will double to $6 trillion annually by 2021. It will be more profitable than the global illicit drug trade. By 2022 over 6 billion people will be connected to the internet, and by 2030 that figure will have increased to 7.5 billion or 90% of the projected population (over 5 years of age). With this ever expanding market, the threat to individuals, companies and governments is immense.

Spend on global cyber security is set to exceed $1 trillion, over 5 years from 2017, wars cost big! In my shared article this week, the approach to combating cybercrime using war rooms, intelligence officers, technological weapons, field tactics and combat drills makes for interesting reading.


The game too explicit for Australia

Joel says: It hasn’t happened for some time now, so obviously when it does occur it’s seen as a pretty big deal these days: those that were looking forward to playing ‘We Happy Few‘ will now be unable to (or may have to jump through some hoops to do so) if you live in Australia as this week the game was refused classification by the Australian Classification Board. This used to be fairly common affair here in Australia – especially for games that contained themes that couldn’t be moulded to fit our MA15+ age rating – but since we were granted an R18+ rating for games back in 2013 it’s become fairly rare to see a game not allowed to be sold on our shores.

[We Happy Few is] set in a dystopian society and based on an alternative timeline of events from World War II, the game follows one of three characters who refuse to take a hallucinogenic drug known as “Joy” which leaves them constantly happy, easily controlled and lacking morals.

Once they stop taking the drug, they must try to survive long enough to escape the city before the impending social collapse.

When granting the R18+ rating, the ratings board were still very clear that this wouldn’t stop certain games being banned. They have a list of themes that they will not budge on, and any game that features said themes will instantly be refused classification. One of those strict ‘no-no’s’ states “Computer games will be refused classification if they include or contain ‘drug use related to incentives and rewards’.” When it comes to We Happy Few, it’s because of the drug “Joy” that we won’t be playing this game anytime soon:

“a player that takes Joy can reduce gameplay difficulty, therefore receiving an incentive by progressing though the game quickly. Although there are alternative methods to complete the game, gameplay requires the player to take Joy to progress.”

This has many gamers up in arms, especially those that have already purchased the game via Steam’s Early Access program and Kickstarter; but even as someone that loves games and was looking forward to this, the guidelines are very clear. The developers do get the option to remove or change the content of the game and resubmit it for another chance to be rated, but seeing as the ‘Joy’ system is such an integrated part of the game and its narrative, I think they’re going to have a hard time doing so just to make Australia happy.


State of Community Management

Jakkii says: It’s community management report season! This week The Community Roundtable’s State of Community Management (SoCM) report for 2018 was released, and earlier this month the Australian Community Managers (ACM) Career Survey results were published as well. Each gives insights into the community management profession, with the ACM report favouring the customer-facing side of community but focused on the Australian market, while the SoCM report offers more insights from the employee/internal community perspective (such as those looking after enterprise social networks, social intranets, and the digital workplace) with a more global contribution. Each report is worth a read (and both are linked below). Please note you’ll need to provide your details in order to download the reports.

Some key results from the ACM report:

  • 81% of Community management is millennial
  • 77% have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher and 98% invest in ongoing training
  • 68% of Community Managers are female – making it one of the few technology disciplines dominated by women
  • 14% of organisations are spending over $250,000 annually on community programs (excluding head count)
  • 24% say community is integral to their organisation’s business model
  • 33% struggle to communicate ROI
  • 37% are working with AI or automation in their communities

Key findings from the SoCM report:

  1. Communities are change agents
    Community programs impact multiple functions, stakeholders, and departments in organisations. They have immense potential to be agents of change by efficiently dispersing knowledge and information across organiaations and their markets.
  2. Communities generate transformative value
    Community programs show an average ROI that exceeds 2,000%. They enable behaviour changes that directly impact profitability and revenue generation, while also having an overwhelmingly positive impact on brand and cultural sentiment.
  3. Community teams are underfunded
    Community professionals are burnt out due to increasing success and workloads without the accompanying increase in resources and support. This is limiting impact.

What do you think? Do the results and findings align with your perspectives on the state of community management in Australia, and abroad?

Read ACM

Read SoCM

Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: why it’s too early to certify AI, and phantom traffic jams and fungi sandals 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:

The Turing Certificate and overcoming our mistrust of robots in our homes and workplaces

Other stories we bring up:

O’Neil Risk Consulting and Algorithmic Auditing (ORCAA) certification

Limits and challenges of Deep Learning

Paper by Gary Marcus

Some background on Cathy O’Neil’s ethical matrix


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