Technology seems to be changing around us faster than ever before. Autonomous cars, artificial intelligence, machine learning, sensors, blockchain, Internet of Things, and so many other technologies are transforming our expectations and our lives. But not only that, they are also changing the way we behave.
Recently I had the opportunity to interview Tom Koulopoulos, one of Innovation Excellence’s most popular contributors and author of the book Revealing the Invisible: How Our Hidden Behaviors Are Becoming the Most Valuable Commodity of the 21st Century to investigate a series of important questions about these topics and much more. Without further ado, here is the transcript of that interview:
1. What is different about the Behavior Economy from the Knowledge Economy?
Fundamentally, not much. Both the knowledge and behavior economies are the result of massive amounts data and information. However, knowledge is typically associated with some sort of categorization, or what’s often called a taxonomy. Behavior doesn’t fall neatly into categories. It’s far more volatile, constantly evolving, and uncertain. In the book I talk about the difference between clocks and cloud. That’s a good metaphor for the difference between knowledge and behavior. We are transitioning from solving clock problems, which are neat and orderly, to cloud problems which are always emerging and changing and whose data is just too vast to allow a finite solution. .
2. What is the one change in the world that not enough people are talking about?
The coming of a post-industrial era. I’m not talking about the “information age” or the “AI” age. But rather a new way to think about how we can scale systems and services to meet the needs of 10 billion people. If we try to do that with our industrial era infrastructure we will destroy the planet and our economy. That sounds obtuse but here’s an example. You cannot scale transportation as it stands today. In fact we talk about a model that will reduce the number of vehicles by 90% and yet transport 4-5 times as many people.
3. For a new reality to exist, people must let go of the old reality, willingly or by force. Which will it be and why?
The truth is that we don’t let go willingly. We need a crisis. There has never been a time of great progress when its opponents didn’t speak of the threat it posed to humanity; the gloom and doom of our coming apocalyptic fall. It hasn’t happened yet, but that won’t stop the naysaying. We will use looming unemployment, the fear of cybernetic overlords, the loss of privacy to justify our reluctance to change We probably need to be reminded that in 1850, 93 percent of the one billion inhabitants of our planet lived in extreme poverty. Today less than 10 percent of seven billion humans live below the line for extreme poverty. Amazingly, that means that there are about four hundred million fewer people living in extreme poverty today! Progress only happens when there is a net positive. Yet we fail to do that math accurately in anything other than retrospect.
4. What is the role of behavior in this new reality?
If we think of behavior as being something all complex or intelligent objects (biological, ecological, and digital) exhibit then the task is to gather enough data about these behavior to identify the hidden patterns that result in cause and effect relationships. That will never be a perfect science because the patterns change. However, it will give us the ability to deal with big challenges such as climate change, pandemics, healthcare, the economy, terrorism, in ways we simple could not have otherwise. And it will create an era of truly global economic engagement.
5. Do you agree or disagree that the bloom is off the rose of social media and that people are pulling back and returning to actually engaging and living life in the real world again?
I think that nothing behavioral happens on a straight line. There is a long term societal negotiation that we need to have about the role of privacy, digital identity, the real vs virtual world. None of this is well understood yet. In the book we talk about how technologies such as GPS have become pervasive because they have enormous value in making this a safer and ore certain world. Yet, it took the crisis of Korean Air 007 being shot out of the sky to get the US government to even consider allowing the private sector to use GPS. And then there was incredible fear around how it might be used. Today none of us would choose to live without it. These aren’t new issues. Over 2500 years ago Socrates was adamantly opposed to the written word because he believed it would dumb us down. Sound familiar?
6. What is the role of trust in the adoption and spread of technology?
Trust is always the last mile in getting any technology to be widely adopted. But this takes on many dimensions. There’s the trust of keeping me, my identity, and my property safe. The trust in keeping the promise of a brand. The trust of being able to count on a company to innovate. What’s interesting about all of these is that they are all invisible. You can’t see or touch them. We talk about that in the book and how the ultimate objective is to create a “Loyal Brand” that gets me enough that it deserves my trust.
7. Will further technological advancement require more or less collaboration and why?
One of the theme we come back to over and over again in the book is the increasing nature of collaboration. The hyper-connectivity we are experiencing is creating a level of innovation, community, and inclusion the world has never before experienced. Collaboration is the new oxygen.
8. If the pace of change is accelerating, how will humans have to adapt to cope with it? Or can they?
We’ve always had that challenge. You could claim that it’s never accelerated this fast that’s it’s exponential, that it’s exceeding our endurance. But all of these are arguments made in the absence of an understanding of how technology such as AI will amplify and augment our intelligence. Look, if I had told you in 1800, when there were one billion people on Earth, that you’d have to plow enough fields to feed seven billion you’d have told me that the world could never produce enough horses to pull that may plows. I can imagine the consultants of the day forecasting how the globe would end up knee deep in horse manure! Today less than 2% of the US workforce is dedicated to agriculture. And there are effectively no horses needed. We will do what we’ve always done; build the tools to extend our abilities to keep up.
9. People talk a lot about brand loyalty, but you’re talking in your book about loyal brands. Tell us more!
Brand loyalty was what you did because a brand had done a good job of convincing you through media that they deserved your business. But that was done using broad-based demographic data. Suddenly brands have the ability to understand in real-time what we are doing. If they can turn that into predictive analytics, without getting creepy, they can demonstrate huge value They can “get me” the way a personal assistant or shopper would. Now it’s about them being loyal to me!
10. Do you keep your phone next to your bed or downstairs at night, and why?
Neither. It’s in my bed! Why? Because it’s my outboard brain; my external neural link to the world; my healthcare assistant, and I’m single.
Thanks Tom for sharing some of the insights from your latest book Revealing the Invisible: How Our Hidden Behaviors Are Becoming the Most Valuable Commodity of the 21st Century!
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Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, builds sustainable innovation cultures, and tools for creating successful change. He is the author of the five-star book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire and the creator of a revolutionary new Change Planning Toolkit™. Follow him on Twitter (@innovate) and Linkedin.