FCB chief brand officer David Thomason discusses what keeps him up at night in the first of a new series in conjunction with Tech Futures Lab.
What worries you the most about technology?
It keeps crashing. Anything with software, especially when it’s connected to the internet, is very vulnerable. Yet we’re becoming increasingly reliant on it. Did you notice how many people couldn’t even get out of their garages during the power cut?
What excited you the most?
I think Uber Eats is a miracle.
What’s your scariest prediction for the future?
The combination of A.I. with weapons has to rank pretty highly. From an only slightly less immediately dangerous perspective, the quest for immortality combined with rapidly advancing technology is going to get interesting. We imagine tech transforming everyone’s lives, but it’ll probably only be the rich that’ll be able to shed themselves of their vulnerable physical flesh and blood representation and live forever. And it feels very wrong for Trump types to be able to damage humanity for more than a couple of decades.
If you could go back in time, what’s one technology advancement you would rave about to your great-grandparents?
They’d probably be pretty amazed by just a giant flat screen 4K TV and Netflix, but I wouldn’t be able to shut up about Uber Eats. It’s pretty hard to beat. At least until they can do drone delivery.
What do you think New Zealand will look like as a country in 2038?
I’m optimistic that we’ll have very few loud, expensive and poisonous combustion vehicles left on our roads. Wonderful electrical transport, both public and private, will be well on its way to helping save the world.
What’s your social media usage like?
Limited and random. I go through phases of “why am I wasting my (and other’s) time with this?” then back to “ok it’s a good way to pretend I have a broad and varied social life with minimal effort”.
Do you try to limit how much personal information is available about you online?
Perhaps accidentally, as a result of apathy. I’m not very good at posting much, or completing any form of online profile in order to sign up to anything. I’m honestly more likely to wonder what could they possibly get on me that could be of any harm beyond having to do the occasional Unsubscribe.
What will be dead in the next five years? (Products, companies, trends, etc)
I have to separate my wishful thinking (reality shows featuring no people with any discernible talent, The Weinstein Company, Facebook…) from the realistic possibilities. I don’t think nearly as much will be dead as “futurists” keep claiming. And five years isn’t long. But; surely Kodak can’t make another five years? And Unboxing. How is that a spectator event?
What does your ideal robot look like?
Anything but a human. It’s too confusing. I would have said a dog, but an episode of Black Mirror changed my mind.
Will the robots become sentient and kill us all?
Yes. But I’m not sure if it’ll be a violent demise or we’ll just become so sedentary we die through inactivity, depression and, perhaps most likely of all, a failure to breed. (I just watched the bit about pygmy sloths on Planet Earth.)
How likely is it that we’re living in a simulation?
I once read a very long and compellingly logical scientific view on this and, it’s hard to explain, but apparently, the answer is 'yes'. The more interesting discussion is whether that’s a bad thing.
How far should we take human enhancement? (Bionic limbs, computer chips in brains, designer babies)
If you take a broad view of the welfare and longevity of the human race we probably shouldn’t do any of it at all. But if you take a compassionate personal human view, then how can we not? But perhaps introduce some “simple” rule about compensating those with disabilities rather than adding special Iron Man-like powers?
What’s the best use of a chatbot you’ve seen?
Many still tend to be gimmicky, or overpromise and under-deliver when it comes to understanding the subtleties of human problems and language, but they’ll get there. Air New Zealand has a nice one called Oscar who helps you with your travel bookings.
How would you feel about interacting with a chatbot fuelled by a deceased loved one’s texts and social media posts
Is anyone really themselves on social media? Fortunately, they’re nowhere near doing this accurately. And when they are it’ll be very wrong.
What about being a part of a social credit system, Black Mirror-style?
I think humans have always had a social credit system of some form. But completely trust anything like this to technology and, as per my earlier answer, it can crash. It’s bad enough being locked out of your garage by a power cut.
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To read what's keeping other industry folk awake at night, click here.