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

Blockchain in Catalonia

Anne says: This week a report was released in Catalonia, Spain on the state of blockchain and the adoption and nature of businesses in Catalonia. Of particular interest is the nature of these businesses and how they’re using blockchain – see Section 3 in the report.

What is not shown in this report is that the Government of Catalonia are intending to implement blockchain into the local Catalan Administration and will release their strategy by the end of this year. Here’s a link to the Press Release – in Catalan, so turn on your translators.

Catalonia is recognised for its innovation and design – think Gaudi, Dali, Picasso, and urban design such as Eixample in Barcelona. And now they’re intending to pioneer the use of blockchain not only in government but also in supporting the local blockchain ecosystem. The report identifies the potential (see Section 4) and areas for growth with the estimated size of the global market by 2021 valued at US$2.3 trillion with an annual growth of 61.5%.

If you’re not convinced by blockchain and the potential, perhaps some of these future initiatives will provide you with ways to think differently about blockchain. And just a note – there is more to blockchain than Bitcoin, which is a cryptocurrency using blockchain technology. But perhaps that’s a post for another week!

NB: The website is published in the Catalan language and the English version is not functioning, so turn on auto-translate in your browser and you’ll get the gist. The report in the link below is the English PDF version.



Disrupting death: Technologists explore ways to digitize life

Nat says: The human fear and fascination with death is always an interesting topic for discussion. According to the philosopher Martin Heidegger, humans are the only species whose existence is an issue for it. The reason being is that we are the only ones who have knowledge and awareness of our death. His solution, however, was to face death, embrace it, and see it as the thing that gives meaning to our lives (he and many other philosophers said the same thing). But it is a curious thing that some, as is the case with this shared article, seek technological immortality. After all, would we need religion if we didn’t die? It appears that our science and technology are themselves a form of modern religion. Instead of a God in heaven, we have become Gods on earth, and instead of immortality in heaven, we crave immortality here on earth (thanks to technological advance). But who actually wants to live forever? Does the desire stem from a fear of death and the unknown, more so than it does the love and craving of life?

The shared article talks about immortality from two stances: personal consciousness and social immortality; the latter being the thing that scientists are trying to immortalize by digitizing the mind. The former, however, is seen as something that cannot be captured. Funnily enough, in both types of immortality pursuits, some questionable assumptions are being made. One is that we have a separate consciousness, and the second is that our identity and knowledge are merely mental constructs. This highly analytical view forgets that knowledge is something social, something enacted, and something experienced. It is not just a box inside our heads that collects and stores “data”, yet this is the idea scientists are working with in their immortality pursuit. I for one do not want to live forever, but that does not mean I want to die anytime soon, nor does it mean that I can avoid the lure of immortality. In fact, humans are said to seek immortality in predominately three ways: through children (genes passed on), through knowledge (ideas passed on), or through technology (self passed on).

But try and remember what it was like before you were born, and then try to imagine going to sleep and never waking up. There is no conscious awareness in either of those states. So even if we seek life out of fear of death, then that fear seems somewhat arbitrary. I personally think that many seek immortality from a state of delusion and self-grandeur; that they are too important, too knowledgeable to have their life and their mind forgotten. But if they do believe this to be true, then they themselves have yet to really understand life. To pass ourselves on is the point, not to capture ourselves as separate entities. Why else have children?


Digital Land Rights

Helen says: It was refreshing to read about the design approach used to develop the #thismymob app, “the first national Indigenous-led research to co-design and build technology with Indigenous people in Australia – if not the world”.

Christopher Lawrence, Director of Indigenous Engagement at UTS, has been working on this smartphone app since 2016. Its purpose? To enable Indigenous Australians to ‘connect with their mob – and other mobs’ in a safe environment that promotes a sense of belonging and encourages freedom of expression. Lawrence refers to this as “digital land rights”.

Design workshops involving community leaders and end users helped to identify features and functions that reflect the cultural sensitivities and needs of the user community.

“Some of the features that came out of these workshops include mob identities, mob news, and mens’ and womens’ business spaces. The functionality of the app for each user is determined by the mob they are connected to, and their gender. Users can either post directly to their mob, or post to all mobs. This has meant we had to design and code for many different Indigenous identities, language groups, clans and cultures. In effect: coding for culture.”

The team is hopeful the results of this project will help inform future product design, keeping the end user in mind and accommodating cultural diversity.


I interviewed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles thanks to a little VR magic

Joel says: Reading through this piece on CNET had me thinking about the many ways virtual presence and VR avatars could be used in the near future. At Ripple Effect, we are often each in remote locations and dial into a video conference with each other for our work meetings. Could we soon do the same thing but in VR? Whereupon putting on the headset we enter a 3D rendered office where each of us can see and interact with one another while taking the form of a selected avatar. Who knows but it sounds like a cool concept.

It’s at least what came to mind after reading about Mike Sorrentino’s interview he conducted with the Ninja Turtles at this year’s Comic-Con.

Nickelodeon invited reporters to meet two of the Ninja Turtles who will be part of the network’s upcoming rebooted animated series. Instead of sitting down at tables with talent, Mike was escorted into a green screen cube and put on a virtual reality headset.

A few moments later, I was transported into an animated version of New York, where I met with Ninja Turtle Mikey (Brandon Mychal Smith) and brother Donnie (Josh Brener) — both of whom were voiced live by the actors on the other side of a curtain. You can see my body in the video, but my head was replaced with the Nickelodeon character of my choice.

At the end of the interview, Nickelodeon reps took Mike’s headset off and walked him behind the scenes to show him how they put the interview together.

Smith and Brener (the voice actors for the Turtles) were in separate areas, each wearing a headphone and microphone while responding in character. Meanwhile, a whole team managed the Ninja Turtles’ movements and expressions he saw in real time during the interview.

The experience itself was constructed with a combination of Adobe Character Animator, Epic’s Unreal Engine and NewTek NDI to trigger live animations and ultimately produce and edit the video of the interview as it was happening.


3 Questions About AI That Nontechnical Employees Should Be Able to Answer

Jakkii says: I’ve got a must-read for you this week! Do you understand AI? Machine learning? What about your employees?

While there’s a bit of cross-conflation of the terms ‘AI’ and ‘machine learning’ in it (machine learning is a way of achieving artificial intelligence; it is not AI in and of itself), this piece presents a neat argument for why employees of all types should have a basic understanding of what it is, what it can help with, and what it can’t do. It gives the analogy of aeroplanes to illustrate:

But machine learning is a technological tool like any other: it can be understood on various levels, and can still be used by those whose understanding is incomplete. People do not need to know how to fly a plane to be able to spot sensible new airline routes. Instead, they need to know approximately what a plane can and cannot do. For instance, lay people might also have ideas about what planes should not be used for, which could result in positive outcomes such as reducing aircraft noise in the middle of cities or limiting costly flights for very short journeys.

It then goes on to give short explanations about what it is, what it’s good at, and what it should never do – the latter of which makes mention of my favourite ‘e’ word, ‘ethics’:

There may be some problems that your organization should never ask an AI application to solve. For example, I would not want an algorithm to make the final decision in my company on whom to hire, what to discuss at a board meeting, or how to manage a poorly-performing staff member. If employees have thought about proper ethical limitations of AI, they can be important guards against its misuse.

What do you think? Do you agree that everyone should have a basic understanding of AI? Did this article help you either understand it in simple terms, or help you explain it in simple terms?


The Future, This Week

This week: a reflection on what the Sydney Business Insights team have learned from their 100 podcasts to date.


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