Designing a world we want to live in

By Martin Recke

08/11/2017 | Do you still remember the stock-market craze of the late nineties? And are you excited about the latest ICO at the same time? Then think again. For those of you who don’t know what ICO means: it stands for initial coin offering, and that is a kind of crowdfunding via cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. It’s the hottest thing since sliced bread, or at least since the dot-com bubble. And it might very well end like the last major tech bubble ended, in blood, sweat and tears. At least that’s a possibility you should consider in case you are invested.

Of course this doesn’t mean blockchain technology or even Bitcoin must be a fad or a scam. It just means we might see people make the exact same mistakes they made almost 20 years ago. Meanwhile, there are a few killer apps for blockchain technology already emerging. These could be, in no particular order, dark web and black market payments, digital gold, (micro) payments in general, and tokenization. The first one is quite obvious: If you want to pay someone for something on some kind of black market, you need anonymity.

Digital gold is more complicated, but if you think about it, it’s a compelling proposition to have a replacement for precious metal that can be easily transferred and used as a store of value. Payments in general and micro payments in particular can also be huge, if solved by the blockchain better than by yesterday’s technology – or solved at all, like the micro payment problem. After all, it still sucks to pay a few cents on the web.

The fourth killer app of blockchain, tokenization, is harder to understand. Think ICO and smart contracts. If and when done right, tokenization can create whole new markets for assets that are not very liquid today. Perhaps we need an ICO bubble first, and a burst of that bubble second, to finally get there. By then, the finance industry will look very different, and some people will lose their jobs.

Which is what a lot of people expect from AI. Kevin Drum sums up the current debate about massive job loss due to AI-driven bots taking over human's jobs, with a very US-centric perspective. But he offers no solution other than the usual suspects like universal basic income, which might itself quickly turn into a dystopian future. So let’s leave that aside, at least for now. A few weeks back, at NEXT17, we had a lot of debate about the burning question why and where digital went wrong.

I must say I like Adam’s dry British humour. Here’s a quote from him on Steve Jobs:

People tend to take the wrong lessons from Jobs - they behave like an arsehole, rather than being a hands-on product person.

Read the whole piece. This brings us from problem to solution. Product design has undergone several iterations over the past few decades, e.g. from user-centred to customer-centred and then to human-centred design. It’s time to move on and take the step to humanity-centred design. The question that leads to this is: Are we designing a world we all want to live in today and tomorrow? At least that’s what we should do.

Photo by jose aljovin on Unsplash

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