• Sebastien Van Laere

Future Digest - November 10th


Bethany Williams, All Our Children

This week's Future Digest discusses the value-action gap - why we value sustainability, but don't buy it, the impact of the Joe Biden win, the end of virtuous brands, algorithms that troll trolls, possible applications for synthetic media, why Wallmart is pulling the plug on its robots and calls for the end of the data economy.

Act

  • Jing Daily addresses one of the key issues in sustainable consumption, namely the value-action gap. This refers to the discrepancy between believing in something and then acting in line with those beliefs. They discuss a recent report by R.I.S.E. Lab "the Chinese Consumers of Sustainable Fashion in a Post-COVID-19 Era” that found that while 71% of respondents said: “I hope to purchase sustainable products to offset my negative impact on climate change.” only 29% of them have made such purchases. The article suggest the industry needs to do more to make sustainable fashion accessible.

  • The AP News announced on Saturday that Joe Biden won the presidential election. The FT analyses what this might mean for the next four years. They anticipate more collaboration with the EU, more focus on climate change, work on discrimination and a tough line on China and Russia.

Explore

  • In the last couple of years, activism marketing has been embraced by a large number of brands looking to show their moral side. While most consumers prefer brands that try to do the right thing, they are getting tired of brands' virtuous messaging without follow through according to The Atlantic.

  • Amazon filed a patent for an algorithm that gives gaming trolls a taste of their own medicine. The algorithm identifies trolls and rather than kicking them off the game, puts them together with other trolls it identified.

  • Walmart is pulling the plug on their inventory robots. Turns out people still performed the job better and human inventory workers are less creepy to customers and other staff in store.

  • French company Transition One updates fossil fuel cars to an electric vehicle by removing the internal combustion engine and replacing it with batteries and an electric motor — all within about four hours.

  • For Kim Kardashian's 40th birthday Kanye West gave her a hologram of her father who has passed away.

Monitor

  • Last week, HBR podcast Exponential View interviewed Dr. Carissa Véliz from the Institute for Ethics in AI at the University of Oxford to talk about her proposals to end the data economy. She unpacks the dangers of data and argues passionately that people should have full control over their own data. Meanwhile, Inrupt, the startup from Tim Berners-Lee (the founder of the world wide web), is planning to release an enterprise version of the Solid privacy platform, which allows large organisations and governments to build applications that put users in control of their data. For even more on the data economy, check out Shoshana Zuboff's The age of surveillance capitalism.

  • Speaking of privacy, the city of Jackson, Mississippi is running a pilot program that would give their police real-time access to participating Amazon Ring users’ doorbell cameras. This would provide them with a detailed view of specific areas to monitor and capture illegal activity. Amazon has quickly distanced itself from the pilot and claims not the be involved.

  • The UAE announced it is relaxing some of its Islamic laws for personal freedoms in a move to appeal to more people from outside the region. The move also follows the U.S.-brokered deal to normalise relations between the UAE and Israel, with the UAE trying to attract Israeli tourists.

Consider

  • The sustainable value-action gap is nothing new, yet few studies have been able to identify the big drivers behind the discrepancy across different consumer segments. Sustainability has problems on both the demand and supply side and both need to work in sync to create systemic change.

  • As consumers are increasingly wary of brand's big virtuous announcements, businesses should explore how to better engage their consumers with their purpose. Other brand touch points like packaging, retail activations, customer service, etc might prove more impactful.

  • Synthetic media is often connected to deep fake porn or avatar influencers, however, technologies such as holograms and AI avatars have many applications, beyond entertainment. It could help people engage more strongly with AI, for example kids in school using AI in learning, workplaces that use AI to support on certain tasks, etc.

  • Social media trolling, harassment and misinformation are big problems and the main platforms have not found a good way around it yet. Perhaps something akin to the Amazon algorithm could be the solution? It could help bring back the health and positive engagement to their platforms, which would in turn also attract more advertisers.

  • Privacy legislation is set to shift significantly in the coming years. Both the EU and California have put forward ambitious proposals that curb the power of tech platforms over our data. Given that the big technology oligarchs' profits are largely driven by the processing and selling of people's data, they have no incentive to change their business model. Instead there is incentives for them to buy and kill competition and when markets don't work, government intervenes.

  • By relaxing the Islamic laws, the UAE is setting a precedent in the GCC. It will be interesting to monitor which countries will follow suit as the region has been playing with the idea of introducing more liberties. Saudi-Arabia for example has been very vocal about increased women's rights in order to appeal to a Western audience.