Track to the Future

It was only a quick question… “if I forward an email, can other people see that I have done so?”

‘Pretty straightforward’, I opined… yet on further thought, it was a much smarter question than I gave credit for… and one that illustrated a couple of underlying truths or trends.

No Slacking

Now I am someone who has grown up with email… I have a fondness for Outlook, and dare I say, Lotus Notes and ccMail too!

But, rather than taking this perspective let’s view it from the perspective of someone (likely younger) who has grown up with social media, Slack, or Snapchat as their primary forms of communication instead.

Here, everything is tracked; You can instantly see if a message has been delivered, read, or forwarded. And, from this perspective, the question suddenly makes a lot of sense. Why, of course, should a forwarded email not be visible?

Now for most of us in the world of work, and especially for those over 30, we know the answer – forwarding an email is not trackable – generally speaking at least. That is the way legacy email works.

But, taking a step back, and despite the actual answer, who in fact is making the safer assumption and is better prepared for communication in the 21st century?

Is it those in the email paradigm, with assumptions around communication is not being tracked, or the (younger) part where a base assumption is that everything can be tracked, and visible, somewhere where you need to be careful?… all of a sudden, I feel old!

Recently I have spent a fair bit of time discovering and discussing cybersecurity, and it’s been quite concerning.

It is not only what we see, but also what’s going on under the surface (the stuff that we are not aware of) that is troubling. New technology, hacking techniques and even social engineering is increasingly being used.

Yet the level of awareness, for most of us, is really not where it needs to be.

It is easy to be caught out, get surprised – all of which can result in a lot of complications that need to be resolved. This can happen even more easily if our paradigms of how the world works are stuck in the past too.

The Open Ocean

‘The old days’, where we worked in smaller communities, knew people, trusted and (dare I say) had even met them, are fading fast… it was a warmer but smaller pond back then.

Now it seems we are increasingly being thrust into the global ocean, cold, dark and less explored. Undoubtedly possibilities seem endless, yet the dangers are more ever-present… and our guard needs to be up.

Despite this, the underlying truth from the question was actually something quite reassuring.

Younger generations are far more prepared for swimming in this new reality than someone, like myself, who finds some of this unfamiliar.

They have the sense to ask the right questions and be cautious by nature. By doing so, they are much better prepared to take advantage of all the opportunities out there.

For the rest of us… it is not quite time to close the spreadsheets and put the permanent out-of-office message on just yet… but as ever it is worth listening and observing the little things to see how things are changing. It helps us be flexible and adapt.

Remember not all is lost; we can change our paradigms too… 🙂 Now, where are my slippers?

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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It’s dark outside

This past weekend, I spent some time on YouTube catching up on talks and stumbled across an excellent concept from Maggie Appleton and her talk at the FFconf conference in Brighton relating to the Dark Forest theory and our interactions on the internet.

The internet is getting shady

The concept of the “dark forest theory” is one borrowed from astronomy, really as a response to the question… ‘if there is intelligent life out there, and the universe is infinite, why when we listen do we not hear anything?

An answer… is that we live in a hypothetical dark forest, and in a dark forest, there are many scary predators. Signalling loudly ‘I’m here’… is just not, well, a great idea… CHOMP.

A scary thought… yet putting this aside we can think about what would be our logical human reaction to this?

Most likely, if true, our immediate action would be to keep our heads down, stay in the metaphorical burrow, and hope to not be noticed. (probably making lots of Hollywood movies about how we the plucky human race fought back and brought pizza to the universe again).

So how does this relate to the public internet and to our widespread use of AI/Large Language Models?… well there is an analogy here.

The internet is getting shady

Outside of any concerns we may personally have around bias in AI and the quality of the output, what these new models have done is fundamentally change the speed at which content can now be summarised and created.

It has gone from days to seconds, at the push of a button.

It is amazing, and for those of us looking at large amounts of information can be a great way to wade through the vast sea of information to find ideas and distill the data points you are looking for. Yet this same tool is also making the problem worse.

Never have we had more content, articles, or podcasts it seems, and they are all vying for our attention.

If you really want to get noticed, it is all too easy to play the volume game, forget quality, and just publish more… so pressing the AI button to generate another 50 articles on the same topic is too easy.

The argument is, that this is already starting to happen and starting to pollute the open nature of the internet.

AI bots are watching and if you step out of your corner, waving I’m here, it is a signal to be bombarded by offers, articles, and spam, vying for attention… and if they can personalise or make this interaction even more human to more likely you are to respond…. BAM

Now it is starting to sound a little like the dark forest theory… and consumers are responding as you may expect… at least for now retreating to trusted spaces or into hiding.

Growing groups and walled gardens

By way of example, I see this myself. Yes, I still look at social media, but it tends to be increasingly one-way, people telling me information, or me putting information out there, rather than a two-way discussion…

This two-way interaction happens in chat groups, such as on WhatsApp, on video calls, on webinars with video on, or simply in person at live meetings or events.

In some ways, it feels like we are retrenching from social media to these walled gardens. It is somewhere we know everyone is human and interaction is genuine, or at least can be better judged.

So what does this mean for us at work?

Undoubtedly, in public information spaces, there is an impending virtual arms race between mass content providers and content readers. AI is being used on both sides to generate and filter content. I don’t think there is much we can do to stop this and to do so will put us at a disadvantage (at least as a reader).

Yet we are also going to look for trusted spaces or sites, where we know quality information is available, or for customers where there is trust around interaction and how they receive, and send information.

In some cases, we are going to want to know when we are talking with a human (and also when we are not). This is not to say that we won’t find AI interaction/content useful, just the need to be aware, linking to the trust factor, is going to be crucial.

Lastly, there will still likely be a role for human-to-human interaction (or as they termed it ‘meatspace’). In some instances, this may become paramount, and meeting someone directly will be the last line of defense to guarantee you are speaking with an actual human being. This will be especially valued in some areas.

What can be done, today?

So as someone who does use AI to summarise content… podcasts and those lengthy articles into key bullets… this discussion really got me thinking, especially about transparency.

Recognising this (and as a nod to this talk and these ideas) I’ve started using a new logo “AS AN AI”. This is to reflect when a piece of content has been largely AI-generated, and if possible always with links back to the original article.

I can of course not guarantee the original was not written by an AI… but hopefully this is a start, to support the lean towards greater transparency more generally.

Why ‘AS AN AI’… take a look at the video, I do thoroughly recommend having a watch.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

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The Digital Frontline – A Retreat to Reading Books

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending an event around resilience, in the world of consumer duty and cyber threats, in Manchester. All very interesting, and I walked away with the feeling that what we think we know is merely just a fraction of what is really going on.

It was an, albeit a concerning, eye-opener to the need to be prepared and being operationally (and indeed cyber) resilient to potential risks.

The event, built upon a prior session in London, more focused on the public sector, which highlighted digital threats posed by state actors and criminal entities (the size of a large G7 economy these days).

Most of the time, we are just not aware of what is going on… yet in the background, there are relentless attempts at extortion, brand damage, and other malicious intents. It seems to be getting worse, and indeed highlighted the week before, upon visiting the British Library, finding that they had had a ransomware attack too).

Dyb-Dob – Be Prepared

All of this did make me think on the way home about preparedness. Why is it we are all too ready to spend money on growth and new exciting tech?… Yet preparedness or protective measures for future threats, some even yet to be determined, not so much.

When losses remain unseen, investment in defences often feels unnecessary. Yet, without the investment, if something occurs, can have of much greater impact and stress for all involved. It is one of our human cognitive biases or blind spots… loss aversion, I think?

It is also true in the world of Accounts Receivable, Collections, and Recoveries.

How many leaders of these functions have struggled to explain the need for gathering data from upstream processes (updated contact details, potential vulnerabilities, financial difficulties), or educating customers, providing support when times are good… rather than having to gather this information once the customer is already having challenges and under stress?

… and as for technology investment, this is why many still struggle with spreadsheets, multiple systems, and manual processes, whilst the onboarding process is seamless and slick.

There’s often a discernible imbalance in investment, favouring growth over preventive and supportive strategies.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. To some extent with the Consumer Duty, in financial services at least, the FCA has come to the rescue, requiring resilience and good customer outcomes across the entire customer journey… as a compliance requirement, it should help.

Social Ideas

Getting out and about meeting new people I am still finding really refreshing. Not just for the ideas sparked from any event content, but also for the informal discussion too.

At the event, in London, the lunchtime discussion turned to the media reports of the day around social media consumption of news, and how this is changing the media landscape, especially amongst the ‘youth’ of today.

Apart from thinking I am sure I heard the same concerns and dangers highlighted by my parents in the 1980s about television, I also realised that most of my news is already from X/Twitter, curated video clips from TikTok/Instagram, leading to watching long-form content on YouTube. (I am definitely not in the ‘younger’ demographic btw!)

Little of my media consumption is traditional media (Live TV or newspapers). You can see the challenges they are under, especially for niche content (science/tech discussions and food videos in my case).

Room for Reading

This splurge of new media formats has, undoubtedly impacted my reading behaviour too.

I have never been an avid reader but trained myself to do so really to access ideas in non-fiction or business books in particular. With the advent of short-form videos, however, this has become increasingly frustrating.

I mean, why read 250 pages to express ideas that could be explained in 6 pages of PowerPoint, in a talk online? It is just so much more efficient.

Yet, a recent sci-fi thriller on Netflix this weekend gave me another view. That is just how great fiction is at exploring hypothetical scenarios and questions. The film was thought-provoking, as good ideas are, and with some good storytelling had me thinking about it all weekend.

This together with the lunchtime discussion has me reevaluating reading fiction again… Maybe a resolution to revisit a good book or two… now I just need to find a bit of time, and get into the habit!

Have a good week everyone.

(thanks to the Fournet team for the event invites)

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