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Photo to go with story on WPP Secret and Lies report

New report shines spotlight on technology challenges and opportunities

Only a few weeks ago, TikTok was mostly known for being a seemingly harmless and fun app that had kids (and possibly their parents) dancing.

Now it’s a bona fide data risk that has been banned in India, one of its biggest markets.

Such is the transitory nature of our daily digital lives – a major theme that emerges in WPP AUNZ’s new report, Secret and Lies: Humanity and the Machine.

The latest chapter in the Secret and Lies series, launched last week, explores society’s relationships with technology, how it is reshaping the way we work, live and transact, and how people really feel about technology’s significant role in our everyday activities.

From fake news and online debate to parenting in a digital age, a full copy of Humanity and the Machine can be downloaded HERE. Meanwhile, here is a quick look at some of the biggest talking points it raises:

  1. Learning to live with (and love) AI: from the recommended content we are served by Netflix (and other streaming platforms), to the way we shop online – whether we realise it or not, artificial intelligence is already influencing a lot of what we do. The question is how ready we are for it to take on an even bigger and more visible role, including being a driver of e-government? If it reduces red tape, are we prepared to hand over the keys to AI?As Salesforce Australia CEO Pip Marlow puts it, building that trust relies on an understanding among the general populace that AI is “merely a tool and is morally neutral” but also that lawmakers and regulators must take a “nuanced approach” to AI legislation that includes the involvement of the technology industry and the broader business community.
  2. The big data question – convenience versus privacy: TikTok is just the latest app to fall foul of concerns around data…and it certainly won’t be the last. It can be a fine line to walk for technology companies but the report also highlights interesting issues around personal attitudes to the topic – while 90 per cent of us think it’s unacceptable for companies to collect personal financial, health and medical data for the purpose of tailoring consumer offers, only 15 per cent say we ‘always’ or ‘often’ read terms and conditions when signing up for online services.Or, as the report eloquently puts it, there remains a disconnect between people’s stated privacy concerns and their actual privacy choices when faced with inconvenience.
  3. The limitless potential of 5G: Most of us are at least vaguely aware of what 5G is and what it might be able to do, but as Humanity and the Machine makes clear – it won’t be until the technology is rolled out more widely and put into action that we will really appreciate its full capabilities for things like virtual and augmented reality, healthcare and surgery, smart city technology and driverless cars.Expect the transition to that appreciation to be fast. Productivity benefits from 5G are forecast to be worth $65 billion to the Australian economy by 2023.
  4. Tech isn’t a silver bullet: the report acknowledges there can be a temptation to view technology as “magic” and that there are significant limitations associated with that viewpoint. As The Ethics Centre fellow Dr Matthew Beard outlines, such an approach involves people conceding technology is something they can never understand (and becoming beholden to its creator/owner) and/or somehow expecting it to miraculously cure all problems. Similar attitudes towards technology can carry over to the concept of automation and long-running speculation that machines will eventually take over human jobs.As its title might suggest, Humanity and the Machine, focusses heavily on the positive interaction between people and technology and how it could help fuel an “ideas economy”. Atlassian Work Futurist Dom Price writes that technology’s increasing role in working life means reframing the way we look at our employment to include a “lifelong commitment to learning”: “there are plenty of ways to improve job security by reframing as ‘career longevity’. Let’s not view it as securing and staying in the same job, but instead having a long, purposeful and engaging career.”
  5. Creativity rules: tying in with the thoughts above on the relationships between humans and technology, the report reinforces that digital transformation can’t happen at any level without significant creative thinking. One of the most interesting aspects of Humanity and the Machine is a series of “WPP Inventions” – thought starters incorporating everything from the potential for food deliveries to be driven by biotech patches, to highway road signs personalised around likely fatigue levels, VR-based suggestions for home office fitouts, and pizza boxes designed to add to important societal conversations.On face value, some may seem farfetched. But it’s yet another timely reminder that technology’s intersection with our lives is limited only by how much thought we want to put into it.

Cannings Purple is a specialist communications consultancy with market-leading expertise in investor relationsgovernment relationsstakeholder engagementdesign and digitalcorporate affairscrisis communicationsmedia trainingmedia intelligencevideo production and bespoke content creation.

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