What keeps me up at night: TBWA\New Zealand’s Catherine Harris

TBWA\New Zealand group managing director Catherine Harris 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?

Right now, losing my phone.  

What excited you the most?

Everything when used with a conscience. Having my coffee order waiting, Netflix, Audible, video calls with friends all over the world, the shared economy, information access, healthcare advances, green technologies, how the younger generations will start to harness tech for global good…

What’s your scariest prediction for the future?

Everything Elon Musk worries about. And that ungoverned global companies will allow a small number of extremely powerful individuals to render governments meaningless and control the world without conscience, boundaries or accountability.

If you could go back in time, what’s one technology advancement you would rave about to your great-grandparents?


What do you think New Zealand will look like as a country in 2038?

We won’t have an agricultural economy, as all food will be engineered. Our entire country will be an ecologically balanced National Park that will be a hang out for Kiwis and creators, inventors, comedians, athletes, philosophers and humanitarians.

What’s your social media usage like?

A prolific lurker on most platforms and a contributor on IG.

Do you try limit how much personal information is available about you online?


What will be dead in the next five years? (Products, companies, trends, etc.)

Phones, we will all have wearables or biotech.

What does your ideal robot look like?

My dog Margo as a therapy robot. Any ideal robot will not be self-aware, it will not harm humans, it will not have the perception of free will – but it will have a sense of humour.

Will the robots become sentient and kill us all?

They will try, but our new bionic bodies will fight back.

How likely is it that we’re living in a simulation?

Like Neil deGrasse Tyson, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out we are in a simulation being run by a computer or superior being with a really weird sense of humour.

How far should we take human enhancement? (Bionic limbs, computer chips in brains, designer babies)

Improving ourselves is human nature – from a health, a community and a lifestyle perspective – and there isn’t a simple a line to draw here. Like so many of the big questions for humanity we require a global perspective…. but if the robots become sentient, all bets are off…

What’s the best use of a chatbot you’ve seen?

The Google Duplex demo…unless if was faked….

How would you feel about interacting with a chatbot fuelled by a deceased loved one’s texts and social media posts?

I am not sure what work has been done around this idea, but I do think technology can increasingly play a healthy role in helping us process grief.

What about being a part of a social credit systemBlack Mirror-style?

We are not ready for that power – currently, it would create greater social disparity. But in a more enlightened time, social credits around doing social good and contributing to communities would be a great alternative to money when robots take all the jobs and render traditional labour driven currency useless. 

Want to make a change in 2018?

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To read what’s keeping other industry folk awake at night, click here.

This story is part of a content partnership with Tech Futures Lab.

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