Episode  MSP57  Cash is King [What I’ve Learned in 2018(i)]
Episode  MSP57  Cash is King [What I’ve Learned in 2018(i)]
Since he adopted Wikipedia as his main memory source, Matt forgets most of the things he learns within 24. What exactly can he remember from the ride in a washing machine that was 2018?
These shows are dictated to and transcribed by machines, and hurriedly edited by a human. Apologies for the minor typos and grammar flaws.
We’re coming to the end of another year, and it’s a tradition with MSP that we find out what Matt has learned over the last 12 months. One of the reasons we ask this, is that the list of things he has learned is usually a lot shorter than the ones he has learned.
What have you learned this year?
· The first thing I learned is that no one over the age of 25 should play futsal unless they have an ambulance on-call and very very good medical insurance.
· The second thing I learned is that no one batted an eyelid when Richard and I played on-air badminton.
o Which suggests that they either have the people at home have a high level of trust that I will eventually make a the point, or that no one is listening.
I had no idea that you and Rich played badminton, so I guess no one was listening.
· Always there with a kind word.
· And it’s kind words where I want to begin and end with this.
· As usual, I’m going to spread this out over two episodes. So if all goes to plan we’ll go full circle from kindness through rage, delusion, miserliness, fear, optimism, happiness and back to kindness.
· Because this year really has been a crash course in ethics.
In what sense?
· Last year we talked a lot about the power of tech companies and how they were dominating increasing sections of our lives, especially with the aggressive consolidations, mergers and takeovers that we often don’t pay attention to.
· Like Amazon owning almost half the world…
· We’ll get to the Fake News.
· I wish that there was some penalty we could impose on anyone who shouts that in someone else’s face.
· You know that thing about Godwin’s Law and the time it takes for someone to compare something or something to Hitler or the Nazis in a debate.
· I think we should call it Zuckerberg’s Law, which is the time it takes for anyone to decry any factually provable argument as fake news.
· I know you’re still jet-lagged but I think you’re going to have to work a little bit harder than this.
· Jeff: Fake News!
· This is going to be a struggle.
· So that journey into the power of the companies, into the role that technology has played in disrupting elections, influencing share and stock price movements.
· And how tech populism has gone hand in hand with, or even paved the way for, the rise of political populism.
· So this year has been one where I think the shows have concentrated more on people than the technology itself.
Some people might argue that’s just your excuse for not doing any research?
· Like you’ve done for these questions? Yelling fake news all the time.
· No, for a really interesting reason.
· People have stopped loving technology. We were talking about this a bit on last week’s show, too.
· One of the by-products of that loss of interest is that it’s allowed us to stop marvelling at Oz and the Yellow Brock Road and take a much more critical look at the Wizard.
· And, as with all magicians, there’s a lot more smoke and mirror than there is substance.
· This time I’ll allow it because you’re right.
· I know we’re all up to here with fake news, but despite the attention that has been heaped on it, it isn’t going away.
· This is one of those things that’s so frustrating.
· Governments take so long to get into gear.
· So we are still seeing panels and committees being formed.
· Executives from tech companies being called in for talks.
· And a lot of talk about action.
I think we’ve discussed this enough times on the show before. It’s gone beyond the point where we leave these issues to the tech companies to resolve.
· Yeah. A few weeks ago we did an episode on smear campaigns.
· I think that was with Richard. And I think quite a few people were shocked by how easy it is.
· If anything, this focus on Fake News is making things worse.
· Because people are seeing how poorly this area is regulated, how slow governments and enforcement agencies are to react, and how overwhelmed the social media companies are.
· So, every half-baked snake charmer now thinks he or she can deliver opposition research and deflection campaigns.
· And it’s become the standard way to respond to something you disagree with.
Yeah, like the obsession with Donuts that you and Richard seem to have developed while I’ve been away…
· Well, donuts is where our smear campaign started.
· Everyone knows you can’t get a good smear going without a healthy dollop of jam.
· And that’s where that thing about ethics comes back in.
· Companies routinely seem to be behaving like second-rate dictatorships who rely on intimidation and thuggery.
· Some companies seem to operate their own informal secret police, either internally or through the plausible deniability of shady PR and reputation management companies.
Why do you think we’re so afraid of the truth?
· I genuinely don’t know.
· There seems to be this tacit belief that it’s better to spin than to tell the truth.
· My non-radio job is communications, I do crisis comms and all kinds of communications strat and content development, so I work with a lot of PR and communication companies, – reputable ones, I might add, - and they pretty much all advise their clients to tell the truth.
· But we’ve become addicted to spin. So, even when statements are easily disprovable or the facts are a matter of public record companies seem to have become allergic to the light.
How does Facebook fit into this narrative?
· It’s not limited to Facebook.
· You can take any of the big tech companies – and lots of companies outside tech –
· they have these skeletons in their cupboard that they spend tens, hundreds of thousands of dollars – maybe millions in some cases – rather than just put up their hands and say, sorry I did it.
· We find it shocking when govts spy on us but when we hear that some random tech company seems to operate its own tinpot Stasi, no one seems bothered.
We used to look to tech companies for leadership…
· There has been a change in the way we think.
· As I discussed with Rich on last week’s show, partly it’s because tech is the new norm.
· Genuinely, this is one of the things I’d hoped to learn this year. Maybe we’ll have it figured out by this time next year.
· There are bright spots, though not necessarily in the traditional tech industry.
· I have to commend Nissan for is its openness in this unfolding story about Carlos Ghosn and alleged fraud.
That story could have been swept under the carpet quite easily…
· Especially when you’re talking about Japanese companies, which traditionally try to keep these things in-house and not go public with things that might shame them.
· And then there are the dark spots: companies like Facebook which are supposed to be our beacons to the future and to represent openness, transparency, empowerment and honesty.
· And then you find out that COO SS was involved in the whole George Soros opp research and deflection campaign and that, rather than seeking her dismissal, the FB board supports her actions.
Are you using the word deflection for legal reasons?
· Well, I’m assuming I shouldn’t say what I feel.
· But also, this is something else we’ve lost sight of: you have to stick to what’s provable.
· I have an opinion but unless I can back it up then it doesn’t belong here in a public forum.
· If I’m talking about the future and I’m offering conjecture, that’s one thing.
· For example, I think that Facebook’s importance and power is going to diminish. I don’t think it will be an important part of our lives in 20 or 30 years.
· Amazon on the other hand, may be some kind of unimaginable mega-corp that takes a cut of every transaction that takes place on the planet.
· These are not facts. They’re predictions.
· Over the last few years we seem to have lost that distinction between fact, opinion and conjecture.
When we come back. More of the things Matt wishes he’d learned in 2018.
It’s the end of 2018. It’s been far more of a year than we can fit into 20 minutes. But that won’t stop us trying. Before the break we were talking about the failure of the tech companies. I know that Matt doesn’t want to get too hung up on this story, but I think we have to talk about leadership before we move onto something else.
The quality of tech leadership is something you’ve talked about at length this year.
· Yeah. On both sides. From the tech companies and from the elected lawmakers we’ve chosen to oversee them.
· Shall I start with the tech leaders?
· Jeff says anything he likes except “Fake News”
· Before the break we were talking about tech leaders like Sheryll Sandberg.
Some people might argue: why should we care?
· Ignoring the power and wealth that these folks have, they have an identity and a profile.
· We’re disappointed with Sheryll Sandberg because she’s also the author of the bestseller Lean In.
· She positions herself as a role model for women in an industry that is remarkably male dominated and seems to be increasingly sexist from the bottom up.
· In case anyone’s forgotten the open letter of a former Google employee that helpfully outlined all the reasons that women make worse employees than men.
· So figures like Sandberg stand for something.
That’s not the case for all those leaders, though. They aren’t all best-selling authors or self-appointed role models.
· They aren’t. But we still look for consistency. That’s why we call that top layer of a public company governance.
· Dorsey seems to epitomise the hashtag EpicFail.
· Just this week he was jumped on for holidaying in Myanmar and painting a glowing picture of the country and its people without once mentioning the plight of the Rohingya.
Does he have a duty to show that side of the country? It was a holiday. He’s not a reporter.
· We keep being told that these guys are their products.
· Z is the face of Facebook – Dorsey is Twitter.
· That’s the problem: if you set yourself up as the next Steve Jobs, if you seek that power and influence, then you have to account for your actions.
· And in Dorsey’s case, Twitter was heralded for its role in changing the way we communicate and for its ability to give disenfranchised people a voice.
· So if you travel to a country and ignore the dispossessed, we’re going to call that marker in.
Is it tone deafness? Is it ignorance? Why do you think we have this gap between our expectations and the reality?
· It’s odd – I can’t really explain it.
· It does seem to come down to that old ‘are there any adults in charge’.
· But then SS is supposed to be the adult at Facebook, so who knows?
· But however much opprobrium I have for our tech visionaries, it’s nothing compared to the thought deficit of the world’s lawmakers.
You’re talking about congressional hearings and other parliamentary investigations into fake news and technology.
· How do you recover from watching US lawmakers treat Zuckerberg as though he was Mark from tech support?
· Or a US president who talks about the Cyber.
· If I went into a meeting with a client armed with the level of knowledge that lawmakers often demonstrate about technology…
· I would be handed my donkey on a platter, to use a more radio friendly version of that phrase.
· If there was ever a demonstration of the gap between the world politicians inhabit and the world we live in, that was it.
· I’m supposed to be talking about all the things I learned in 2018 and it’s devolved into another rant about CEOs and politicians.
· But I’m genuinely cross about this.
I can see…
· Those congressional hearings showed that Zuckerberg and the people who were interviewing literally had different definitions of the words they were using.
· Take privacy. Lawmakers were talking about the kind of privacy you expect in your shower cabinet.
· Zuckerberg was talking about data privacy where third parties are given paid or privileged access to your personal information.
There was that hilarious Rudy Giuliani tweet last week.
· Yes! Giuliani inadvertently mis-typed a hyperlink into a Tweet,
· He accused Twitter of allowing someone to invade his tweet.
· That’s not a thing.
· He forgot to put a blank space after a full stop and created a hyperlink.
· Someone bought that non-existent domain and quickly put up a one page site criticising Trump.
· Now, this could simply be put down to an old, white guy having a senior moments.
· But Rudy Giuliani is a cybersecurity consultant to President Trump.
· His job involves him protecting the US from outside cyber-attack.
· I’ve got this mental image of him walking the grounds of the White House in a suit of armour, eagle eyed in case long haired hippies launch a hacky sack attack.
· He probably thinks webpages are painted, like the backdrops in the John Wayne cowboy movies.
I think we need to change topics before you blow a fuse…
· That’s one of the more unfortunate things I learned this year.
· Choose your battles and let the rest of the crud wash over you.
· But thank you for protecting my blood pressure.
· One of the other big things I learned this year was that I could understand the blockchain.
You’ve always claimed that you understood the blockchain…
· I do. But I’ve always struggled to communicate it.
· Especially in a way that would make sense here on the show.
· I like things that are enormous – and blockchain technology, what it is and what it can do, is massive.
· And I can visualise it but when I would try and explain it, it comes out jumbled and confused.
· Some crazy people made the mistake of asking me to moderate a session on blockchain with some proper pros.
· So I had to find a way, not just to explain it, but also to dissect what those guys were saying, in case any of it was too technical for the audience.
· And because it went moderately well, I had a crack at talking about blockchain and the future of money, here on the show.
· Now, I know that I still owe you guys a few shows on what blockchain tech can and will be used for.
· I have got those in the diary for next year.
So if you had to sum up blockchain in 30 seconds?
· I’d task you to stop being mean.
· The simplest way to think of it is just as information.
· When we talk about it as money - It’s like having a coin that comes with a till receipt of every transaction it’s ever been through.
It’s the transparency that’s the key?
· If you really can’t get your head around blockchain then just remember it’s about making actions transparent.
· That goes for money or any other blockchain application.
· Crypto-currencies have made us think that blockchain is all about secrecy and that’s the opposite of its function.
· I’ve talked about CEOs and politicians and accountability.
· That’s what the blockchain is for. Holding people to account.
· Creating a data trail of their purchases or their actions.
· That accountability empowers people.
Not bad. A bit more than 30 seconds though. What about the money part?
· You had me off my soapbox for a minute and now I’m back on it.
· There are loads of models for money in the world of future Matt.
We haven’t seen or spoken to Future Matt in a while.
· I think he’ll be making some reappearances in 2019.
· I’ve been getting the Transient Ischemic Attacks that are his idea of WhatsApp.
· Anyway, while I’m still in charge of my mind, let’s talk about money.
· There are lots of directions that money could go in the future, including ways that don’t include the central banks and reserves that we’re used to.
But most likely the future is digital?
· Yes, but I don’t think we’re looking at binary solutions.
· Electronic cash is convenient, it’s virtual and seamless.
· But there are some situations where you need cash.
· Some of our listeners may have heard me on the Evening Edition a couple of weeks ago talking about Malaysia’s plans to adopt a digital currency.
As a way of curbing graft and corruption?
· So with all respect to Malaysia’s PM, I don’t think it’s a good idea.
· It’s not that I don’t think Malaysia is ready. I don’t think any country is ready.
· One of the advantages of physical currency is precisely that quality: it’s physical.
· You can’t switch it off.
· When you look at hacking exercises in Estonia and Ukraine they targeted banks and payment systems, because those are some of the quickest ways to create chaos and disruption.
· To stop people being able to buy food, fuel, all the basics they rely on.
Why do you call them exercises?
· Because that’s what they are.
· They’re basically training runs, probing for weaknesses and assessing results.
· Treating real life countries as test subjects.
· Electronic payments rely on, above all, electricity. That’s the biggest drawback with electric cars.
· They rely on everything being stable. Try finding a charging station after a tsunami or a nuclear plant leak.
· And you want the Internet to work and to be able to process payments in seconds?
· Not going to happen.
· Cash is simple and it’s robust.
And that’s without talking about the people who live outside the banking system…
· I applaud any efforts to weed out corruption.
· But at the moment, even in the most advanced societies, there are huge numbers of people who work in the informal economy.
· We would be better looking at implementations – such as blockchain backed currencies – which actively help to bring those people out of the grey or black economy.
· Because if you remove physical currency, then the people outside the system have to work for food, lodgings, clothing. Those basics of life.
· And we have a word for people who live in those conditions:
· And that word is slavery.
· By all means, look at digital implementations.
· But those solutions have to be inclusive, they have to reduce the exploitation of the people who are most at risk.
· To have access to government services. To regularise their employment and hold their employers accountable.
· And I hold my hands up: thanks to Zul Kholil at Incitement, this is one of the most important things I learned in 2018.