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

The Blockchain Economy: A beginner’s guide to institutional cryptoeconomics

Anne says: I’ve been participating and engaging in conversations with a lot of people recently about blockchain. One of the key stand out issues for me – people just don’t “get” what blockchain technology is. They all say something along the lines: “I’ve read definitions and seen examples, but I just don’t get it!” And comments like: “Oh blockchain – that’s Bitcoin, right? (Whatever that is!)”

And it makes me wonder why? Is the concept of distributed ledgers so hard to understand? Or is it their application? (Or both!). And then the confusion caused by cyrptocurrencies (like Bitcoin).

What are the implications of this lack of understanding? Potentially, they’re huge!!

And this is where the article I’ve selected for this week comes in.. This is one of the well-written articles that describes blockchain and cryptoeconomics in plain simple language, connecting the concepts to how things have worked before blockchain and how they will shift with blockchain.

Some of the key messages to call out:

“Blockchains are experimental technology.. not everything is a blockchain use case…”

BUT… “This process is going to be extremely disruptive”.

As with early internet experiences, we have yet to imagine and implement the potential of blockchain. But like the internet, I believe blockchain is going to change everything – well, a lot of things, perhaps not everything! They will disrupt a number of ways we do things, and as the article highlights in the conclusion, the associated technologies will massively disrupt current economic conditions.

The important message: develop an understanding of the concepts and models that can be used across many ledger-based organisational contexts. Be prepared and start thinking differently about the way ownership and possession is determined, the way smart contracts may offer new and more secure ways of doing business.


Artificial Intelligence gets good at creating anime characters

Joel says: Following on from my piece last week talking about how machine learning and AI can work hand in hand to create DeepFakes of real people, this week I found an article over on Kotaku interesting because a company called Crypko is using similar technology to create unique and great looking anime characters as part of their online cryptocollectible game.

People started messing around with AI anime character generation back in 2015, and the results back then really weren’t good at all. But just a few short years later the system is able to generate character images that you would never know were created by an algorithm. Japanese law now allows copyrighted images to be used in machine learning, which has likely allowed for a faster increase in the quality of character generation.

The Crypko site states

Deep learning makes it possible to automatically generate incomparable images, surpassing traditional rule-based image producing techniques in quality, consistency, and diversity.

With the state-of-the-art techniques, our constant exploration is bridging the gap between professionals and amateurs on anime character creation.

The Crypko system is also able to take two already created characters and ‘fuse’ them to output a number of possible combinations of the two characters.

All of this is possible with no artistic experience required.

While Crypko’s main purpose is to own and sell your cryptocollectible characters, the thing about the article and system that interested me the most are its potential uses in professional animation. Imagine if Disney, Cartoon Network or any of the many Japanese anime production studios could cut down on character design and pre-production by having unique characters generated for them using just algorithm rules and user research data containing information on what characteristics the majority of the public found favourable. It has the potential to speed up production and cut costs, as well as impact the human animators employed at animation companies.


Searching for truth

Helen says: We’ve written about fake news quite a number of times since the inception of our Friday Faves last year, and even touched on what can be done to stop the spread of fake news back in July 2017. Yet, fake news is still on the increase. It is created primarily for two reasons – to influence opinion or for profiteering e.g. posting fake news to draw people to a website and encouraging paid advertising (click-baiting). Contrary to Trump’s accusations, fake news occurs in the social media sphere, enabled by its technology. This is an interesting podcast in which Professor Alan Denis, an expert in information systems at The Kelly School of Business at Indiana University, discusses fake news and how people are responding to it. He shares some interesting insights based on studies he has undertaken.

Three quarters were worse than chance. They would have been better off to flip a coin to decide if it is true or false than use their own judgement.

As it turns out, we are not good at identifying fake news. In one study, a group of university undergraduates assessed 40 headlines taken from mainstream media and fake ones taken from social media. Denis speaks of confirmation bias and its influence on our interpretations. If information received aligns with a person’s hidden beliefs they are more likely to believe it. Confirmation bias can also be stronger than belief, so regardless of whether a subject is thought to be true or not, a person will spread what they think should be true.

Using EEG headset tracking, he went on to explore what occurs inside the brain when these assessments are being made. If a headline supported their beliefs, two areas of the brain lit up, the areas that focus on attention and process memory. In contrast, there was no such cognition when the headline opposed their beliefs, people tuned out. He went a step further and showed participants a story that aligned with their known opinion but marked it as fake creating cognitive dissonance. When seeing these two conflicting pieces of information participants took 1.5 seconds longer to consider the story before coming to a judgement. However, this still didn’t change their opinion, they continued to believe what they wanted to believe and it was observed that the brain signature showed this situation made them angry.

What can be done to help us navigate around fake news? Online it is common to refer to reviews and consumer ratings when making product choices, but a rating process for news doesn’t work, we simply don’t have a personal experience with the content to be able to rate it. What about experts? Denis gave identical ratings to a group of users and told them some they were rated by experts and others by users. Based on their responses he concluded that “users intuitively knew that experts were more appropriate to rate news items” thus making it possible for experts to facilitate judgement. He also noted that a key point of difference between social media and real life is that in real life when someone is telling us a story, we know them or at least something about them giving us a notion of whether to believe them or not.

Similarly, when seeking out news we go to a media source we have chosen to trust. In the case of Facebook, we are presented with content from various sources including paid content that typically has eye-catching headlines and graphics (with the source in tiny print). Some studies have shown that users are more sceptical of fake news if the source is placed at the top of the content making it more visible to them. However, even if these strategies were adopted, our inability to personally validate news, coupled with our inbuilt bias, presents a huge challenge for us in our quest to keep well-informed and Denis believes now is the time to start talking about how what we can put in place to limit the deliberate spread of fake news through social media.


Gender targets and quotas improve business and politics

Jakkii says: A brief comment from me this week, on an important topic. I’ve shared articles in the past on diversity and inclusion, and their positive influence on business. Of course, diversity and inclusion is about more than gender, but for this week’s contribution, that’s the focus.

There’s been quite a bit of discussion in Australia recently about the lack of diversity in politics, amid calls for the Liberal Party, in particular, to introduce quotas to increase the representation of women. And it’s not just in politics – we still have disparity when it comes to women in leadership, and particularly women on boards. We’re not alone in Australia, either: in California, a law has just been introduced requiring companies to have a minimum of one woman on their board. Let that sink in a moment – a law requiring they include just one woman on their board. A sorry state of affairs indeed when we are still trying to have women included at all, let alone reach some sort of balance.

The argument often goes that women would be represented if only they were as good as the men, which is a load of pure horse manure large enough to fertilise Australia’s enormous cattle stations for at least 1000 years. As this opinion piece points out:

Quotas and targets are assumed to promote unqualified and undeserving women who risk the success of organisations.

In the harsh light of day, those assumptions don’t stack up.

On no reasonable assessment are we reaping the best talent for leadership. Women having been the majority of university and TAFE graduates and the majority of entry-roles in business since the 1980s. For those of us born after 1980, having both parents working has been the norm.

…If you think that this outcome is fair then you assume that men are inherently superior to women, that having men dominate virtually all decision making roles might just make sense.

Research continually points out the benefits of diversity and inclusion, yet in 2018 we are, by and large, still refusing to make genuine efforts to reap those benefits.

How is your organisation doing? Are women well-represented in senior leadership roles or on the board?


Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: measure from space, liveable cities, and privacy is not the issue. 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:

What can satellite imagery tell us about obesity

The problem with ranking the world’s most liveable places

Don’t call it privacy

Other stories we bring up:

AI spots obesity from space

AI looks for obesity in cities from space

Satellites helping to change our understanding of economic life

The Economist’s Global Liveability Index 2018

The UN Sustainable Development Goals

Why WhatsApp cofounder left Facebook


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