Mango Communications' managing director Claudia Macdonald discusses what keeps her up at night as a part of a series in conjunction with Tech Futures Lab.
What worries you the most about technology?
Two things – that we focus on the technology but not what it can do for us. When social media first arrived, people kept talking about doing ‘social media’ as if it was an end point but not how it was a powerful new channel for communication. The second is that we are unprepared for the changes technology is bringing or will bring.
What excites you the most?
What’s your scariest prediction for the future?
That we wake up and realise it is all an illusion. Read David Eagleman’s books for more about this. https://www.eagleman.com/
If you could go back in time, what’s one technology advancement you would rave about to your great-grandparents?
I believe technology is of its time and I worry that my great-grandparents would have no ability to understand my rave.
If I think about their lives and the challenges they had, what would be most relevant to them is not things like the internet, holograms or VR, it’s labour saving devices or medical science. However, my favourite technology is that I can Facetime my children in the UK whenever I am missing them. As my grandparents moved from the United Kingdom to New Zealand, I am sure they would have loved that too.
What do you think New Zealand will look like as a country in 2038?
We’ll be even more multi-cultural than we currently are. There’ll be a collective Kiwi consciousness as well as deep roots into our origins. As we get more global in our outlook, our roots will define us. Hopefully we’ll also have made huge progress towards protecting the land and that climate change has been slowed so we are not all living on the top of mountains because we are afraid of the sea rising further. I am, however, not about to buy coastal property.
What’s your social media usage like?
Professionally, I keep involved and engaged because it is where brands are and their audiences. Personally, it’s a great way to connect with people who you are apart from. I reconnected with my brother in Australia through social media and we have become much closer now because we know about each other’s daily lives.
Do you try to limit how much personal information is available about you online?
I do but I’m not sure it’s achievable. Frankly I was surprised people were shocked by Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in the United States election. I thought they were all accessing our data and using it. Maybe it’s because I read 1984 before 1984!
What will be dead in the next five years? (Products, companies, trends, etc.)
The thing about trends is that they come around and around. Once it’s old enough, it becomes nostalgic and revives. What I’d like to be dead is the need for charging devices. (I’m writing this at a conference, watching the battery bar on my computer drain and searching the room for a plug.)
What does your ideal robot look like?
Read the book He, She, It by Marge Piercy. As one of my team said, “it’s sexier than I thought”.
Will the robots become sentient and kill us all?
No. Someone will have a switch for that.
How likely is it that we’re living in a simulation?
Who knows! Again, David Eagleman’s talk at the Auckland Writers’ Festival socialised that thought very effectively. We don’t really want to know; it mucks with your mind.
How far should we take human enhancement? (Bionic limbs, computer chips in brains, designer babies)
Hmm, that’s a tough one. I’m not sure we have a choice as I suspect it will just happen. We cannot stop progress but I believe in humanity’s ability to select the right things to progress. Ethics are increasingly important and individuals, organisations and countries need to determine their own ethical blueprint for the future. I listened to Rachel Taulelei from Maori company food and beverage producer Kono https://www.kono.co.nz recently talk about a 500 year plan that incorporated their values and selected behaviours that were right for the future. That’s a great idea.
What’s the best use of a chatbot you’ve seen?
I’d have to say Re:Scam by DDB for Netsafe, a project Mango was involved with.
If you are going to make chatbots, make them for good.
How would you feel about interacting with a chatbot fuelled by a deceased loved one’s texts and social media posts?
Creepy. The memory of a loved one is usually better than the reality of their daily interaction with you when they were alive. Plus, I’m not sure I want to relive the ‘what are we having for dinner’ texts.
What about being a part of a social credit system, Black Mirror style?
I think rather than having it legislated, it would be good to see it as an intrinsic part of our upbringing and education, then flow through into our commerce. The concept of ensuring we are all ‘doing good’ is brilliant but it’s sad it needs to be on a points basis. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned values? But maybe I’m too optimistic for the future.
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To read what's keeping other industry folk awake at night, click here.