What’s The Future? Where Are We Now And Where Are We Going?

There is always a moment when you sit back, roll your eyes heavenwards, and ask yourself, “WTF Now?” 

Brett and Michael often talk about these moments on their podcast, and chatted to Craig Wing about the future of business, its changing speed, and what it means for you!

He unpacked some thinking around trust, biases and the direction that business is headed towards.

And the future isn’t looking too bleak, to be honest.

However, a few small hiccups have to be dealt with along the way, especially where data transparency is concerned.

WTF Does Business Look Like?

Craig Wing is a world-renowned speaker, entrepreneur and futurist with plenty of knowledge around where we currently are in the landscape of business and where we’ll be heading through the use and implementation of artificial intelligence.

One of the most important things that he has pointed to is that much of business will be premised around trust – do your clients or customers trust you?

While we rapidly advance together with the emergence of new technology, we’re constantly being polarised with the massive amounts of data surrounding us daily; picking sides, defining where our loyalties lie and making decisions based on agendas.

“Whose agendas?”, you might ask. Simply put, those of politicians, corporations and the many platforms that we engage within this ever-growing landscape of digitisation.

Business and society have changed drastically in more recent years. With the pandemic, we’ve come to see some of the most significant shifts in consumer interaction through the use and adaptation towards digital platforms. As a matter of fact, the rate at which society is adapting to this technology has been measured as a 3-4 year increase* in customer migration to these platforms since Covid started.

It goes without saying that these enormous changes have many benefits and might appear as benevolent at face-value. Still, nothing should be accepted without looking at some of the pitfalls and ulterior-motives that will inevitably surface through this technology.

Trust, then, becomes a critical factor in business development.

Customers, clients or consumers are certainly becoming the biggest driving force behind the provision of better products and services, like e-commerce, social media, and other e-services place more emphasis on the customer’s experience.

Wing uses Twitter as an example of this. Before the social media platform existed if you ordered or bought something that wasn’t what you paid for – you were more likely to deal with it and accept any small mistakes that were made. Still, now you’re able to go to Twitter, provide feedback and get what you want, without any issue or hassles.

“It isn’t just about feedback; it’s about the voice of the customer… it translates into transparency, which relates back to faster feedback loops,” says Wing.

The customer’s voice can now be clearly heard, and the experience and satisfaction around the consumer’s journey are far more critical than it’s ever been. More importantly, there’s far more accountability and transparency culminating from the provider.

Trust has become a huge factor that will ultimately determine how successful your business is and will be! Developing higher levels of trust is fundamental in any business’s growth and reputation, so it is vital to act in the customer’s best interests.

Wing goes on to say that, “the only way you can increase trust with your customer is by having faster feedback loops and being in a place that you can react.”

These feedback loops are essential to figuring out which direction to take in the delivery, experience, and product or service you offer and ultimately determine how you should react.

One of the growing concerns around this shift into our new digital paradigm is biases and agenda-based programming, which breaches trust – as objectivity becomes sidelined.  

So Is AI Biased?

During the discussion, Wing argues that labelling AI as inherently biased, racist and/or sexist is “silly”, as it solely depends on how you make use of it.

He compares AI to fire, in that it can either be used for constructive or destructive purposes – depending on who makes use of it and what the programmer’s intention is. This means that it comes down to trusting the source of the code and the processes behind AI. 

“The AI, the machine, the technology can be biased, but is predicated around two primary things: 

  1. The implicit biases of the program – we all have biases, it’s natural; and 
  2. the paucity of data – you pour the data in and the data says something… that data set is also fundamentally flawed,” says Wing.

AI, as a concept, can’t necessarily be defined as biased, so the concern shifts to the programmer and the data that he/she inputs.

It all boils down to the programmer’s subjectivity – as they are driven by an agenda or act with a particular premise to accomplish specific goals. Take the example of a bank, where data needs to be processed and programmed with the intent of making as much money as possible – specific patterns will be searched for in a particular data set that will produce that for them.

Ultimately, people manipulate data and have the final say around how the data is interpreted and extrapolated.

AI is here to stay; it’s already a part of the present, and it will be a massive part of the future. Sure, there are a few hiccups, bugs or obstacles to work through, but the advantages far outweigh the pitfalls.

In the same way that we are left with the responsibility to fact-check and ensure that sources of information (i.e. news) are factual, objective, transparent and truthful; we have to apply the same logic around the trust that we give to social media platforms, politicians and organisations that make use of AI.

There you have it – AI isn’t biased, but the people who control and use it are.

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Michael Cowen

Michael Cowen

Michael Cowen is the CEO of WTF and co-host on the ThinkWTF Podcast. I focus on helping business build systems to respond to exponential change and thrive. You can book my keynotes on WTF Keynotes

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