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Innovation vs. Implication

"Being human in the digital world is about building a digital world for humans."

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with media and technology theorist 
Douglas Rushkoff, where we discussed tech's role in shaping humanity and vice versa. Our conversation reminded me of the above quote from entrepreneur and author, Andrew Keen, who long predicted many of the quandaries we're facing today.

Warnings from critics like Keen beg the question — If we'd thought through unexpected implications of emerging tech, would we be in the same predicaments?

Every company wants to be innovative, but the need to anticipate unintended implications has become a new driver for a quickly growing position — innovation officers. The role can take on 
different meanings for different companies, but when discussing what an innovation environment should look like for us, myself and others at Weber Shandwick determined we need to consider not just what we can deliver for clients, but the impact of those innovations. We need to act like an implication office.
Weber Shandwick CEO, Gail Heimann, and I recently sat down with Doug at the Holmes PRovoke19 conference.
YouTube's algorithm has come under fire for its role in radicalizing users with extreme content. Consumers are rating the creepy factor of connected products, causing them to reconsider their holiday gifts. Laws have been proposed to ban the addictive Snapchat "snapstreak" that has led to anxiety and bullying among school children. 

If we had been able to predict these adverse technology implications and others like disinformation, attention overload and extreme polarization — what would we have done differently?

The long-term effects of technologies we're building today like AI, VR, autonomous vehicles or genetic engineering are largely unknown. We may be able to anticipate about 80% of the impact they'll have. But that remaining 20% can have massive implications for source organizations and society as a whole.

Innovation offices, implications offices or cultural anthropologists — regardless of what you call them — can be the drivers for offsetting adverse impacts. As Rushkoff told
Pew Research last year, we need people with knowledge of human society and history, or people with high emotional intelligence, to collaborate with tech creators and bring human elements into design and crisis planning.

Nobody can predict the future, but an emphasis on both innovations and their implications can help us prepare for unexpected side effects.

Chris Perry 
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What We're Reading
Media Forensics
The Weirdness is Coming
By Brock Colyar, Gabriel Debenedetti, Jane Drinkard, Bridget Read, Matt Stieb and New York Magazine Editors, Intelligencer

Today, the world has the uncanny shimmer of future weirdness, its every week stuffed with new events that seem to open up strange new realities only to be forgotten as the next wave of strangeness hits. Taking a tour through the calendar of news events with an eye toward the future is actually pretty dizzying.

Media Forensics
The Collapse of the Information Ecosystem Poses Profound Risks for Humanity
By Lydia Polgreen, The Guardian

We are currently facing a new systemic collapse, one that has built far more swiftly but poses potent risks for all of humanity: the collapse of the information ecosystem. We see it play out every day with the viral spread of misinformation, widening news deserts and the proliferation of fake news. This collapse has much in common with the environmental collapse of the planet that we’re only now beginning to grasp, and its consequences for life as we know it are shaping up to be just as profound.

Media Forensics
You're Gonna Tell Your Kids About These Comically Misleading Memes That Are Rewriting History Forever
By Ashley Hoffman, Time

People are having a blast tweeting about their plans to lead their future children to believe that some of the most significant figures in history are actually random pop icons. The meme sprang up on Twitter and the comical misinformation commenced from there.

Content Experience
New Wave of Visual Experiments Challenges Conventional TV Wisdom
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The year ahead will see more industry-based testing of the proposition that creative storytelling can pay off, both through formal research like Northeastern’s Reinventing Local TV News Project and through grassroots experiments by a new wave of innovative TV journalists. What they find may have big implications for the country’s roughly 700 other stations – and for the future of news more generally. 

Artificial Intelligence
Actually, It’s about Ethics, AI, and Journalism: Reporting on and With Computation and Data
By Bernat Ivancsics and Mark Hansen, Columbia Journalism Review

Journalists are becoming data analysts and data curators, and computation is an essential tool for reporting. Data and computation reshape the way a reporter sees the world and composes a story. They also control the operation of the information ecosystem she sends her journalism into, influencing where it finds audiences and generates discussion.

Platform Dominance
TikTok’s Chief is on a Mission to Prove It’s Not a Menace
By Raymond Zhong, The New York Times

Like almost everybody who runs a big tech company these days, Alex Zhu, the head of the of-the-moment video app TikTok, is worried about an image problem. To him — and to millions of TikTok’s users — the app is a haven for creativity, earnest self-expression and silly dance videos. But to some people in the United States government, TikTok is a menace.

Content Experience
Why Colleges Are Betting Big on Video Games
By Luke Winkie, The Atlantic

E-sports scholarships are still rare, but the idea is quickly becoming normalized in American higher education. Major universities with considerable overhead have started devoting a corner of their scholastic budget to competitive gaming, as a way to both juice scholastic recruitment and future-proof their sports programs for a world where more people are watching Twitch than CNN or MSNBC.

Emerging Technology
Top 10 Emerging Technologies Of 2019
By Scientific American 

Together with the World Economic Forum, Scientific American convened an international Steering Group of leading technology experts and engaged in an intense process to identify this year's “Top 10 Emerging Technologies.” One day soon, an emerging technology from this report will allow you to virtually teleport to a distant site and actually feel the handshakes and hugs of fellow cyber travelers.

Deep Take
New Powers, New Responsibilities. A Global Survey of Journalism and Artificial Intelligence
By Charlie Beckett, London School of Economics
The future impact of AI is uncertain but it has the potential for wide-ranging and profound influence on how journalism is made and consumed. AI can free up journalists to work on creating better journalism at a time when the news industry is fighting for economic sustainability and for public trust and relevance. It can also help the public cope with a world of news overload and misinformation and to connect them in a convenient way to credible content that is relevant, useful and stimulating for their lives. This report tells us what journalists are doing with AI right now, and also what they hope to do with it in the future. 
Copyright © 2019 Weber Shandwick

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