It has been a fantastic ride this semester with ISYS6621. As we look back on what we’ve learned, we are also necessarily looking forward at what is to come. Because after all is said and done, while we did learn a thing or two about marketing in the digital age, the takeaways that will really stick with me are more in line with the Tech side of things.
This was a really exciting semester to be involved in this particular class. From Twitter’s unprecedented political limelight, to the rise of A.I. and its applications across social media platforms, to driverless cars and drones, to biometric wearables and the future of digital commerce, we remained steeped in the cutting edge, the land of the mind-blowing.
Below are just a few of my major takeaways from this semester:
1. We need truth police now.
It’s not just a matter of politics. The reality of our current state of affairs when sharing information online (which we increasingly love to do), is that our online information delivery systems have been “telling us what we want to hear.”
Whether you are stuck in a “Friend bubble” that makes it impossible for Trump supporters to even see your posts when you explicitly invite them to engage in dialogue to discuss your differences, or if your search history on Google is feeding you more information along the lines of the sites you already visit, it has never been easier to feed your Confirmation Bias with facts (real or “alternative”) to help support and validate your point of view. Even if that view is, you know, wrong.
During the course of this semester, we got to discuss this issue AND begin to see Facebook and Google roll out policies to begin addressing the problem.
The era of the truth police has begun. But will this even matter? Will we need new tools that actively challenge our assumptions by presenting us, regularly, with opposing viewpoints supported by real, verified facts to keep us challenged and heading ever towards the “objective” truth? The answer is yes! We already do!
But do we want this? Instinctively, no. We want evidence to support our pre-existing notions of what is real and true, so that we can continue to feel comfortable. We buy comfort, and that’s why businesses have brought us to where we are now: because it sells to tell people what they want to hear!
2. The technology is more ready to change our infrastructure than we are.
Cars that drive themselves? Check.
Oh, remember those flying cars we saw in The Jetsons back in the ’70’s, before any student in this class was even born (it’s called syndication)? We got those too.
The ability to print human organs? Sure, we can do that.
Want to use your brain waves to move around a wheelchair, or speak, instead of using your body in the old boring way? We can do that, too.
The technology is out there, but are we ready for it? Nevermind that switching off of traditional driven cars to all self-driving cars is a gigantic undertaking, and that doing this in increments is problematic in the interim when we will have a mix of driven and driverless cars on the road together. We kind of… want the old way. There’s a part of us that doesn’t want to give up the vision of the rugged individual out on the open road.
And this is just one of many symptoms of a cautious approach to technology adoption. Perhaps this is healthy. Perhaps this is the way we have always operated. After all, new tech always has its “early adopters” who boldly test out a new technology, and define whether it will catch on, or be doomed to fizzle.
And we still haven’t colonized Mars. What’s the deal with that, huh?
We don’t like change, as a generality. And don’t let your perspective as a highly tech-savvy millennial cloud your vision from this fact! Our deep-seated instinct is to avoid change, to be afraid of it.
3. Technology is becoming increasingly “creepy-helpful.”
When your browser knows to serve up banner ads for the BC Part-Time MBA program ubiquitously after you ran that one exploratory search, you know you’re being watched.
I for one still fall on the side of, “yes, please track me so you can make smarter recommendations later.”
With so much content out there, we need more and more tools to help filter out all the “noise” and to help us make efficient use of our time browsing the internet. After all, we know that at this point, pretty much any message we would want to see online, we can find it. And so if the internet can honestly and accurately predict what I want next, then, well… I say, “yes, please!” There’s too much content online to wade through without help!
But where is the “line,” and when will someone like me raise a flag to indicate it has been crossed? When does the A.I. need to “butt out” and just let us live already?
We want the assistance. We want A.I. performing complex analyses of our current important decisions, correctly anticipating what these will be and offering helpful solutions to make our lives easier.
But we don’t want to feel like we’re being watched. When our waking day feels like the Panopticon, like Big Brother is always watching, that’s when it has gone too far. What we’re really afraid of is the death of personal privacy.
4. Brand maintenance hasn’t changed, but the platforms have.
Hey, we’ve come a long way since the days of the original “branding.” But the fundamentals have not changed!
Just as in the old days, Farmer Joe’s cattle would be more recognizable if Farmer Joe made sure the cattle were in every possible fair, newspaper article, and that a consistent brand appeared to help viewers recognize the origin of the cows; today, brand recognition remains all about awareness, boldness, and consistency.
It’s just that now, we have so many more channels to manage. And the new digital channels are having impacts not only on bloggers and brand managers whose brand couldn’t be possible without them; today’s Farmer Joe needs to be aware of the social media/digital landscape in order to keep up with the competition. Heck, he’s probably using drones to water his crops and A.I. to milk the cows.
The manner in which we operate in the world, how we respond to brands, is still essentially intact: we crave authenticity, utility, and truth (perhaps “our truth”). But now there is much more visibility for any given brand, and so we must be competitive as brad managers in order to survive, perhaps more now than ever. These were principles I learned to be true about the author’s contemporary publishing scene, and have found to be true in practice as well.
5. I’m old. Sort of.
On the one hand, as one of the few MBA students I found ample opportunities throughout this course to feel old. Basically, this came down to being one of a handful of students who consistently knew what the hell Professor Kane was talking about when he referenced things like “Cheers,” or pagers, or internet chatrooms.
On the other hand, I am still a “millennial,” albeit an old one. I felt older during this class seeing how handy many of the undergraduate students in the class were with social media in general, and specifically with understanding things like… why Snapchat is a thing, or… why Instagram is a thing, or… why Pinterest is a thing.
But, it is all relative. I do walk away from this class feeling like ours is a pivotal generation, one where we are just on the cusp of an array of radical technologies that may drastically change what it means for us to be alive in this world.
How long could we live? I firmly believe that at least one person from among those in this semester’s class will at least have the opportunity to live to be 200 years old or longer.
But where will you be on your 200th birthday? Will it be on Earth?
Where will your kids be? Will their childhood resemble yours?
What kinds of jobs will matter in 200 years?
We may or may not get to experience the answers to all of the above questions. Regardless of the outcome, though, I do know one thing now that I could certainly not have said before the beginning of this class: