Category Archives: future

To Trust or Not to Trust: That is the Indigestion!

The mantra that I frequently hear is that overall levels of trust are declining in public institutions and even between people.I hear that technology is building invisible walls around individuals and that we are less connected despite the existence of amazing tools that are supposed to connect us.

Is it true? Like most generalities, it probably is and is not.  Too bad because we know a key thing about trust. Without it, modern society doesn’t function. We must trust people who we do not know or we will not be able to use the systems that make life happen.

So what drives trust? What are the core determinants that make it flourish? Conversely, what destroys it? As Bruce Schneier pointed out a while back, whatever they are, they are matters of perception, not just reality. If we perceive that something is safe, we trust it. That goes for situations and for people.

So it is not enough to make something safe. It is equally important to persuade people that it is safe in order to build trust. So what persuades?

A track record of trustworthiness helps. You might trust your huge barking Doberman not to bite you if he or she has never done so over a period of years. Strangers might feel less secure, whether they have reason to or not.

And here is the fun thing — we are starting to realize that reputation can be created in digital space. A digital reputation, based on the experiences of everyone who has dealt with you can confirm that you are trustworthy to people who have never met you. For example that is how Airbnb works.

This is something new. Not only does it provide an incentive for folks to do things online to build a digital reputation. It allows us to better value what others offer. As our networks grow in complexity, this will grow in importance.

Stay tuned!

More on Estonia’s Future

I posted the other day about this. Today I can offer a follow-up.

A big, big question that obsesses me is how can we maximize the opportunities for our kids here in Estonia to have a great future.

The first step in trying to address this type of question is to recognize that we cannot know for sure that that future will look like. For that reason is it is a strategic, rather than a planning sort of thing.

So while we cannot know for sure how this will turn out, we can ask this question — what does winning look like? And to me, it looks at least like this – kids know from an early age how they can “fit into” what is going on. They are aware of what opportunities are around and are given the best possible chance to make good decisions to realize what opportunities await. That is a major starting point. The next step is that when they make choices, they are supported by the best mentors around. In other words, we connect folks who are excelling today with folks who we hope will excel in the future.

That means connecting kids with the real world. Not just any old part of the real world, but those parts that offer them the best vision about where that real world is headed. We are taking a first step in that direction this May. It is a writing contest organized by young Kristiina Ude and her colleagues.  Here is their facebook page. Winners will be selected and prizes awarded by leading figures in Estonia. And then a nice party.

Keep in mind that this is not some sort of top-down, government funded initiative. All of the work done so far has been done by young folks trying to make a difference on a volunteer basis. And I think that they have a very cool vision. My role? I am donating matching funds for the prizes.

More on this as we go forward. Keep in mind. It is a writing contest. And it is a lot. lot more than that! It is a step towards maximizing our children’s chances for a great future.

Collaborate or Die Trying – Informed Solicitation

Over the last several years, it has become more apparent that it is possible to speed up or slow down the pace of innovation. We can speed things up, not so much by getting smarter, but by better connecting smart folks who have different types of expertise.  Matching talent and need, so to speak.

We know that this is the path forward. We don’t know, however, how to maximize this type of connectivity.  That requires facilitation and more precisely informed facilitation.

Fy informed facilitation, I mean facilitation that can build focus points that bring to bear the full range of intellectual power that is available beyond a single institution and applying that focus to generate better solutions faster.

Greg Satell tells this interesting story in the context of finding new battery technology. It is a must read.

The Thrill of DYI Space Flight … and More!

when I was a lad, each rocket lift off by NASA was a thrill. You never knew if they were going to go up or blow up. We are well beyond that now. Mankind has been to the moon, we have a permanent space station, and SpaceX and others launch re-usable rockets.

But space exploration is still very, very expensive. That is, unless you only want to go up to around 100,000 feet. Then all you need is some low-tech gear. This is turning into a hobby for some.

The next step?  DYI orbitals? DYI visits to the moon?  And eventually, holidays on mars?

My own guess — we will move from having a space station to a space-vacation destination. A resort type thing that is way, way out there. Imagine — weightless yoga!  Not to mention the erotic opportunities.

Up for it?


Can Tim Berners-Lee Save the Web?

Tim Berners-Less invented the web. He did not make gazillions of dollars for doing so. Instead, he thought it was the right thing to do. Tim Berners’Lee is an idealist and a guy who we all should thank.

Indeed, making the web was the right thing to do. It has unleashed a new era. Not just a flow of information but a torrent. And that torrent has had amazing effects.

Sadly, not all of them are positive. And Tim Berners-Lee knows that. He is especially concerned with two negative effects. The first is the concentration of power that certain platforms have achieved by leveraging the flow of data. Google, Facebook and so on. These platforms control your data. And now Trump et al have changed the law to enable them to use your data however they want. In other words, you are not as empowered by the web as you might think.

The second problem is the abuse of web free flow of information. These abuses include manipulation through diffusion of spin and falsehoods as well as outright fraud. This has become more apparent over the last year with Russian hacking into the US political process.

Tim Berners’Lee thinks we should do something about these issues. Fortunately, Tim Berners’Lee is in a position to recommend what it is we need to do.

The first and perhaps most important item on the agenda – We need to recapture the decentralized aspect of web data flow by giving back control of data to users. We need to take back control of our data. Here is a thought from Tim

The idea that people will eventually migrate from today’s tech giants to more decentralized systems may seem like a stretch. But last year at the Decentralized Web Summit in San Francisco, Berners-Lee pointed out that in the early days of the internet, many people thought proprietary online services like America Online, Compuserve, and Prodigy—all of which sought to tame the chaos of the web and the open internet—would dominate the mainstream market. Eventually the web won out. “You can make the walled garden very very sweet,” he said at the event. “But the jungle outside is always more appealing in the long term.”

BTW, Tim is not alone in thinking this way.  And I suspect that this idea will gain traction.  It will be one of the biggest stories of the next decade.

The second thing we need to do is embrace stewardship of web data flow. Why? The simple reality underlying web information flow is the incentives that are in place to generate web traffic. More traffic means more power. Not just money, though that is part of the game. Traffic gives power over what we all believe to be important and true. So the incentives to gain traffic can easily trump incentives to add value.  Stewardship of web data flow is shorthand for finding different incentives to add value and reduce the impact of that manipulation.

How to do that? Tim points to Wikipedia as an example of high-level curation.  Wikipedia does not work because of its amazing technology. It works because of the way people interact with it.  We need more of that type of interaction. Again, we don’t yet know how to make this the norm across platforms. Our best hope is that we can better match incentives to add information flow with the value added that the flow offers (not just power for traffic). that may require better ways to pay for content generation using micro-payment systems via crypto-currencies.

The above are meta issues. Big stuff. And I think some of the most important stuff that needs to be discussed.

What do you think?

Tech for All!

One of the themes I discussed today in meetings today in Tallinn is the challenge of making a knowledge-based society worthwhile for everyone. Not just the lucky few who disrupt global markets, but for everyone. It is an interesting challenge.

One way to meet this challenge is to spread awareness of what tech can do. To spread awareness of the value added that is possible to discover.

For that reason, I like Fred Wilson’s post today about “Digital Dancing”. It is a nice example of this way of thinking in action.

Want Empowerment? Get Tracking!

For those who have a strategic bent, consider for a moment what the future is likely to bring. The word is “automation”!

But what will automation bring? For high-level skills work, it means building and using an exploding database that enables better and faster diagnosis and strategy.

Check. So if you want to be part of that, you might start thinking of what types of databases would improve your performance. What tracking do you need to do to build those databases? And how can you best plug into tracking systems?

Connect or else!