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 problems will you solve with blockchain?

Anne says: Recently, I’ve been writing about blockchain and it’s potential to fundamentally change the way we do business in previous Friday Fave posts (26Oct20185Oct2018). Through my current research studies with the Blockchain Institute & Technology, we’re examining both the technology (challenges and new developments) and the tokenomics (the economic models associated with blockchain). What is becoming evident for me, through research and studies of early adopters, is the adoption of blockchain and associated technologies are going to have more impact to the way we work than robots – particularly when we combine AI with blockchain.

But I digress, this research report from MIT Sloan asks the pertinent question:

“How can companies strategically benefit from blockchain?”

Their key findings:

  • For both startups and incumbents, distributed ledger technologies can enable new business and operating models.
  • They can help companies disrupt existing industries.
  • To create value, companies need to systematically link blockchain technology with their strategy and capabilities.

Let’s be clear – it’s not all hype and not every business problem can be solved by blockchain! To leverage the potential, it’s going to be essential that management understand the basic uses and functionalities. This article reviews the background (or read my earlier Friday Fave – 5 Oct2018) about ledgers and the principles of decentralised ledgers.

There’s a description of three problems (the authors admit there are many, many more examples) that have been selected to illustrate the potential of blockchain:

  1. Paying for contributions to intellectual property
    Based on the video game industry with blockchain being used to breakdown royalty payments to authorised participants – in real time. This project utilises the smart contract aspect of blockchains to automate the conditions where payment is not simplified, quickly transacted and transparent.
  2. Establishing history of ownership
    This example is based on diamonds – the tracking and provenance of certification to ensure diamonds are not being used to finance armed conflicts. Replacing the paper-based certification system which is prone to fraud, the UK company, Everledger, expects to substantially reduce the US$2billion in fraud. I’ve also seen similar examples being used in the art industry to verify the provenance of artworks.
  3. Making supply chains more efficient and transparent
    Again – tracking products in real-time across cargo, transport and shipping industries, reducing inefficiency and lack of clarity about product origin.

The authors believe that building blockchains into your organisation’s strategy requires a “… need to understand how to configure, design, and use blockchain technologies in unique ways.” They warn against the wait-and-see attitude that many companies applied to the internet – there’s a simple explanation that recommends a traditional strategy, capabilities and problems evaluation. However, I believe a co-design process across business units would reveal options that could easily be overlooked following the traditional strategic development methods.

An important point the authors highlight:

“…the types of problems that blockchains can solve are far-ranging, spanning many industries and contexts…”

Similar to the early days of Web2.0 technologies, we are only limited by our ability to not only solve current problems, but to redesign fundamental aspects of work design.


AI for Good

Helen says: This year we have witnessed significant development in the field of AI and its broad application in both the commercial and private world. The benefits of this technology have been well reported, as are the concerns expressed around data bias and its lack of transparency. This article is based on an interview with young AI technologist and mentor Kriti Sharma. It is a refreshing look at how AI can be used for social good.

Sharma acknowledges the reality of AI bias and points out that this is often unintended. She believes that by creating more diverse teams, many of whom have experienced bias first hand, will result in greater awareness during development and help reduced inbuilt bias.  Sharma sees the

“[The Obama Foundation Summit] is where I realized the opportunity that exists in using AI for social impact and our biggest humanitarian challenges.”

Sharma has helped develop an AI platform where victims of domestic violence could talk to a machine instead of a person. Unsure that expressing personal fears and concerns to a machine would appeal, the take-up and positive feedback from a pilot in South Africa reassured her that it did.

She works at The Sage Foundation and it was encouraging to read that all their development is guided by five core principles aimed to help them “develop AI-powered technologies in a mindful way” – you’ll have to read the article for details. Sharma is positive about AI technology and the future – next on her list is providing health care to remote populations and I will be following her progress with great interest.


Drones can successfully deliver human organs, study shows

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a kidney?

When it comes to organ transplants, every second counts. But donated organs aren’t always immediately accessible where the patient is and must be delivered from other locations. That’s where drones come in.

A new study by the University of Maryland Medical System shows that a drone can be used to successfully deliver human organs in a pinch. The study was published in the November issue of the IEEE Journal of Translational Engineering in Health and Medicine.

The study’s authors got their hands on a human kidney that was unfit to be used in a transplant and was thus designated for research. They put the kidney in a special container and included a device that would monitor temperature, altitude, barometric pressure, vibration and location. This container was attached to a DJI Matrice 600 Pro, a commercially available drone that anyone can buy (for $5,000).

The researchers would take biopsies of the kidney before and after to see how it fared. Throughout its travels the kidney maintained a safe temperature and showed no signs of structural changes. Researchers concluded that drone flight didn’t affect biopsy results. The study even showed that the kidney experienced less vibrations than it would have if it travelled via a traditional fixed-wing aircraft.

Joel says: I found this piece interesting as it touches on futuristic applications for two things I’m personally interested in – drones and medical research that can solve current day problems in interesting and futuristic ways. Obviously, this idea sounds like a great theoretical option but I think before the idea can become a mainstream common practice some social and security issues need to be addressed and agreed upon first. Drones are known to be hackable, I think there would need to be security measures put in place first to prevent the drones carrying organs from being vulnerable to external attack as much as possible. This may start with bespoke drone models being manufactured to specific security specifications and not using an off the shelf model described above. This would limit potential hackers having access to the same model and being able to work out its vulnerabilities for themselves.

And on top of virtual security, do we need to worry about how these drones will be physically secured as well? Such as including special locks or potentially arming them with physical deterrents to prevent people from identifying the drones that would carry these organs and attempting to take them down to take the organs for themselves via brute force.

It’s a great idea and could very well be the way of the future but may need some of the security issues ironed out first before going ahead with full-scale live field tests.

This was obviously just a study and the kidney in question wasn’t actually used for a human transplant but the results of the tests prove that drone transportation for human organs could be a viable option and possibly used in the medical field in the future.


Why It’s Easier to Make Decisions for Someone Else

Jakkii says: First of all, I love that HBR has a section called ‘Managing Yourself.’ Self-awareness is a critical skill, and our own personal development is the responsibility of each of us – and that obviously includes our professional development as well. I’m a big believer in being a life-long learner and that we learn – or should push ourselves to be learning – each and every day. Still, I’d love this section of HBR even more if they called it “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.” (wink)

As soon as I read the title of this piece, I was hooked – immediately I thought, “whoa, that’s true!” and had to read it to find out why, in fact, it’s often so much easier to make decisions or provide advice to others about what they should do, than it is to do this for ourselves. The researchers, based in China, wanted to know more about why this is.

We were interested in the process and quantity of information a decision maker uses when choosing for others versus choosing for the self. We wanted to know: Is more information searched in the process when people choose for others versus for themselves, and does the way they evaluate that information change based on whom they are choosing for?

What they found aligned with earlier research: we have a more ‘adventurous mindset’ when making decisions for others, and a more ‘cautious mindset’ when making decisions for ourselves.

They then go on to look at how the research findings might be applied, offering suggestions for overcoming being held back in making a decision by an overly ‘cautious mindset’.

  1. Everyone should have a mentor, or a blunt friend who can help people see and act on better evidence.
  2. Using a fly-on-the-wall-perspective to look at the problem another way.
  3. Pretend you’re making the decision for someone else to provide some distance.
  4. Let someone else make the decision for you!

I have to be honest, I now feel a little better about some of the very blunt advice I’ve given friends over the years after reading this piece. (wink)

Our research underscores a basic human desire: we want to feel like we’ve made a difference. We are wired for connection with others and an interesting part of making decisions for other people is that it is possible to have a bigger impact.

Particularly in our roles as leaders, we often need to make decisions on behalf of others, and this research suggests we’re often OK at that. What I think we can benefit from, though, is not only some techniques to improve our decision-making for ourselves, but to help guide our employees and colleagues in how they might approach decisions they need to make for themselves differently in order to push through that cautious mindset and move forward.


Life is NOT a journey

Anne says: Today I’d like to contribute something for Nat. She was an Alan Watt’s fan and we frequently shared new pieces of his work, so when this landed in my Inbox today – I knew I had to share it on her behalf. And I think the message is appropriate and a good reminder. Hope you enjoy it – and listen for Alan Watts’ giggle, as he amuses himself with some of our everyday behaviours.

Alan’s closing remarks were written for Nat:

“…we’ve missed the point the whole way along – it was a musical thing and we were supposed to sing or dance while the music was being played…”


This Week in Social Media

Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: disturbing patents, smart housing, and asking a dangerous question. 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:

Facebook seeks to patent software to figure out profiles of households

Cohousing for smart, sustainable cities

Other stories we bring up:

Facebook’s new patent predicting household demographics based on image data

The next data mine is your bedroom

Our previous discussion of Facebook’s uncanny ability to suggest/match friends and figure out who your contacts might be

Facebook can infer race and religion

Netflix infers all sorts of things about you

Our previous look at Facebook’s algorithm that determines its users’ social class using indicators other than income

Our previous discussion of what a smart city is with Dr Tooran Alizadeh

The co-housing conversation in Australia

Our previous discussion of Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs’ redevelopment of the Quayside waterfront precinct in Toronto

Our previous discussion of the loneliness epidemic

U.K. appoints a Minister for Loneliness

The co-housing case study in Barcelona

Our discussion of platform monopolies, including Amazon


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