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

What if people were paid for their data?

Photo: vchal/Getty Images

Anne says: This article from The Economist (republished on Medium) raises an emerging issue regarding personal data.

We’re all used to giving away information to sign up for free (or even paid for) social media sites – but have you ever stopped to think how much your data might be worth? The article explores the next form of labour – our data – as it is required to feed artificial intelligence. Shouldn’t we receive compensation for our contributions?

From exploitation of our data (think of the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook breach of privacy and our data) – others in the article are referring to this approach as “technofuedalism” – which leads to the need for data to be viewed as a form of labour (and we’re the workers). And of course, not all data is equal! Some people are more active than others in generating data, others may have rare or unusual data sets that may be highly prized by data analysts.

In the future, will we negotiate rates that reflect the value of our data? Will we organise into unions that have the ability to block access to data if we’re not adequately compensated?

This may all sound rather futuristic – but it’s already happening now. And don’t expect the large tech companies to offer you $$ for your data anytime soon – that would impact their bottom lines. Meanwhile, we have seen initial steps towards protecting user rights – such as the introduction of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) for EU citizens.

The article is thought-provoking and another reminder that we need to be having these conversations sooner than later.

How much are you worth?


A new quantum theory predicts that the future could be influencing the past

Nat says: In just over a month, I’ll be presenting at the 4S Sydney conference on the concept of temporality in organisational practices. At the event, I’ll be talking about the iterative moments of coming-and-going between workplace contexts; of project processes shaping the people who navigate back and forth across time and space intervals. The idea being that projects evolve as a result of the action and work conducted in such intervals, as much as they do in the work undertaken in the ‘here and now’ of the project’s ‘doing’.

The title of the shared article and its ideas might seem bizarre and ‘impossible’, but it reminded me of my upcoming talk as well as an experience I once had whilst on a psychedelic trip (disclaimer: I was in a country where that was legal!). Since I had this ‘trip’, I have always questioned the time-space relationship and have gravitated towards like-minded people. For example, if you yourself are interested in time, I suggest following Dr Time on Twitter — Eddie shares time-related articles and ideas about time “all the time”, and we often discuss time concepts, ironically, in sporadic moments in time.

The reason I am fascinated by time is that it is seen as one of humanity’s greatest mysteries. The whole quantum movement is progressively challenging our conceptions of “reality” and time in completely novel ways. I’ve always said that if I were mathematically inclined, I would have pursued physics and probably ended up exploring the quantum realm. At its core, quantum mechanics questions the probability of a particle moving from A to B. The shared article challenges what this means in relation to time, which funnily enough aligns with my ‘trip’ which left me pondering the following question: Are we experiencing life forwards, but really it’s unfolding backwards? Theoretically, this is possible, yet life itself is lived forwards but understood in hindsight. In my “altered state” of consciousness, I could feel myself living forward whilst simultaneously collapsing back-in on myself, which was, as the name suggests, quite a ‘trippy’ reality to encounter. Fundamentally though, when you begin to question time, or experience time differently, you also begin to question everything else. After all, you cannot question time without also questioning space.

So ask yourself, is it about time you questioned that thing we call time?


The impact of the ‘open’ workspace on human collaboration

Helen says: In the modern workplace, open plan office design is commonplace. The idea of removing walls and partitions to open up office space was about promoting face to face communication and improving productivity. This Harvard Business School study, published 2 July 2018, tells a different story and may give cause for a design rethink.

The study examined digital data from wearable devices and communication servers collected during the transition of corporate headquarters to more open plan offices. It looked specifically at the effect of this change on employee interaction and found a huge drop (70%) in face-to-face communication and a relative increase in electronic interaction. It discusses how people have a fundamental need for privacy, so in an open plan office, they look for ways to create a level of privacy which results in reduced face to face interaction. Substituting email for face to face communication is thought to lower productivity as does the overstimulating, more distracting environment, an open plan office brings.

It surmises that “while it is possible to bring chemical substances together under specific conditions of temperature and pressure to form the desired compound, more factors seem to be at work in achieving a similar effect with humans. Until we understand those factors, we may be surprised to find a reduction in F2F collaboration at work even as we architect transparent, open spaces intended to increase it.”


The secretive Magic Leap headset will ship this summer

Joel says: After initially being revealed way back in 2015, Magic Leap has finally revealed more details about their mixed reality headset the Magic Leap One as well as a proposed launch window.

So far the project has been super secretive with not many knowing details about the unit, other than knowing it has received over $2 billion in investor funding from big companies such as Google and China’s Alibaba Group. But with developers recently given access to development kits, Magic Leap have gotten on the front foot to reveal more about the device in a special Twitch live stream.

You can view the replay of the live stream here. During the stream, Magic Leap shared the news many were most curious about. When can they get their hand’s or face really on one of these devices? The answer: this Summer.

The team at CNET got to see more in a demo from Magic Leap:

The company showed us a prerecorded demo, sadly. In a real-world living room, a real, flesh-and-blood hand does a “pinching” gesture to drop a digital object into the world, using a spherical mesh-like grid to show your literal sphere of influence.

The headset apparently detects horizontal surfaces like couches and tables, much likeother AR experiencesyou might have recently triedfrom Google, Apple and Microsoft, so you can place them naturally in the real world — so they look like they’re sitting on top of your furniture, instead of awkwardly floating above them.

Check out their full experience and thoughts on the limitations of the device in the piece over at CNET.


The rise of ‘pseudo-AI’: how tech firms quietly use humans to do bots’ work

Jakkii says: That tweet was from 2016, but it seems little has changed in the two years since.

Initially highlighted in a Wall Street Journal Article (behind a paywall), the issues of “pseudo AI” is an important one for many reasons. On the surface, there’s little wrong with using humans to prototype AI or to train it. But the ethics are problematic, not least because frequently there is a lack of transparency about what’s really taking place.

In the case of the San Jose-based company Edison Software, artificial intelligence engineers went through the personal email messages of hundreds of users – with their identities redacted – to improve a “smart replies” feature. The company did not mention that humans would view users’ emails in its privacy policy. (emphasis added)

Depending on actual privacy policy and the applicable jurisdictions, this may not be illegal but it is unquestionably unethical to provide a service to users in which they provide consent for machines to read their data, and instead have humans reading it. Machines read and process, they do not make judgements – a prime reason many would not agree to allow humans to read their emails where they might otherwise accept a machine doing so.


Research has shown that people tend to disclose more when they think they are talking to a machine, rather than a person, because of the stigma associated with seeking help for one’s mental health.

The founder of Woebot, a ‘mental health support chatbot’, is a psychologist and notes “As psychologists we are guided by a code of ethics. Not deceiving people is very clearly one of those ethical principles.” This is fortunate, but in technology at large ethics remain an oft-ignored concept, certainly not codified and considered in all actions and activities. That is not to say there aren’t individuals, and some companies, deeply invested in producing ethical technology, but we see example after example that demonstrates ethics take a backseat far from other drivers, typically led by monetary factors.

While we’re thinking about how we might truly own and leverage our data in the future as Anne’s piece discusses this week, we must do more collectively to demand ethical development, products and behaviours from technology companies (and indeed all companies). This is particularly pertinent in technology fields where people’s understanding of complex ideas may be limited, making it easier for unethical companies to obfuscate rather than educate.


Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: AI matters, hail the rides, and flying snake bots.  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:

Chinese AI beats 15 doctors in tumour diagnosis competition

Uber and Lyft may be dramatically increasing transportation access for minority groups and in lower-income neighbourhoods

Other stories we bring up:

AI and the future of the NHS

Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene at the airport 

The inside story of Imagenet

Talk of an AI bubble

Lyft is reaching LA neighbourhoods where taxis wouldn’t

The high cost of convenience in ride sharing puzzles economists

A future of automation

The trust shift

CEO Insights: Daniel Flynn on social entrepreneurship

CEO Insights: Technology against poverty with 40K’s Clary Castrission

Women and the future of work

Demystifying Chinese investment in Australia

Innovation in the Navy: how the Air Arm does it

Materialising the digital


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