Memia newsletter 2020.04 AI boardrooms // Self-driving businesses // It's only money // Aww baby dolphin 🐬

And bouncing backpacks...who knew?

Hi there / Kia ora

Ben Reid here with another regular Memia roundup of what’s happening in strategy, tech and innovation in [my corner of] the world. Thank you to those who got in touch to give feedback on recent issues - gratefully received!

The most clicked link in the last issue (~7% of opens) was the Newsroom article on the Coronavirus “misinfodemic”. As always, if you enjoy these newsletters, please do forward to a friend or share using the button below.

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AI Boardrooms

A recent Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) campaign muses on what the Boardroom of 2030 will look like - (apparently) an “exciting” future for company directors with access to “24/7 real-time data”.

I’m not so sure. Most of the governance tasks currently carried out by directors - particularly around compliance and audit / financial and operational oversight - are prime candidates for substantial automation using software and AI. (Pretty much any cognitive task involving rules or pattern recognition will soon be better left to a machine…). Plus, “24/7 real-time data” implies no scheduled board meetings, for one thing - imagine how many hours of executive time could be saved not having to write those monthly board reports! 😂

Which surely leaves the important job of setting strategy for directors? Actually, again, I’m not so sure. Strategy, at least as currently practiced, is largely automatable too: Given enough data and a well-modeled Digital Twin of the business in question, the function of setting company strategy actually becomes “what outcomes are we optimising for?” The business itself works out how to get there. Furthermore, businesses which invest in accurate data and models of their operating environment will get virtuous feedback loops to inform even better, more granular optimisation decisions. (Witness: Google, Amazon, Alibaba, Tencent…).

On this topic my friend and prolific LinkedIn poster Rob Warner asks instead:

…how could AI amplify and extend governance oversight and strategic thinking? What could be plausible for Board toolsets, skill sets and even mindsets to evolve and keep pace with emergent ‘triple bottom line’ risks - to people; profit; planet?

To my mind it's actually the same set of issues to consider as self-driving cars - instead of holding on to the steering wheel, we just set a destination and let the car navigate itself - and perhaps busy ourselves with thinking on more high-level concerns. But do today’s company directors see themselves one day sitting in the front seat of a self-driving business...?

It’s only money

It’s only money (1) Last month I covered developments in sovereign cryptocurrencies around the world. China, clearly the most advanced nation in the field, recently filed 84 new patents related to launching a digital currency.

While a central bank-operated universal ledger could deliver huge efficiencies and innovation in financial transactions, concerns about individual privacy for users of “programmable money” remain. The FT quotes the president of the Chamber of Digital Commerce:

“While some of the patents mentioned the guarantee of peer-to-peer privacy, there were no mechanisms to prevent the Chinese central bank from having full oversight of users’ transactions”

It’s only money (2) For all the effort and energy expended by the fintech sector, substantial financial innovation is still constrained by dated monetary policy rules and GAAP accounting standards - which often render money frustratingly non-functional for broader concerns and applications - for example, accounting for the environment.

The frameworks which underpin money that are currently used to measure value can be changed or extended. Some examples:

It’s only money (3) Last week Amazon founder and world’s richest man Jeff Bezos announced he was launching a US$10 billion fund to address climate change. (In 2018, Amazon emitted about 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, putting it in the top 200 emitters worldwide by some estimates - if ever triple bottom line accounting standards were called for… 🙈🙉🙊)


Local tech and innovation goings-on:

Photo: Precinct Properties

[Weak] Signals

A few weak signals from near and far future:


Sharing reading and other content that I’ve been enjoying:

Hidden Gem

Thanks for getting to the end - and as always 🙏 to everyone who sent links in to share.

More next time…

Regards / Ngā mihi