The progressive voice
Rachel Botsman decodes the impact of technology on our lives, and says all roads lead to trust.
29 June, 2018
Rachel Botsman is a global thought leader on the collaborative economy, trust, technology and the impact this combination is having on our lives and the way business operates. She’s renowned for her Ted Talks, is an acclaimed author, features regularly in the media as an expert voice on innovation; and she more recently garnered the InStyle and Audi Women Of Style 2018 Progressive Voice Award for her ideas on technology and its said ripple effect.
Throughout her career Rachel has examined the shift in consumer trust from traditional institutions like governments and media to online communities. But it was her 2010 book What’s Mine Is Yours, co-authored with Roo Rogers, where she predicted the rise of a new era of collaborative consumption, dubbed the “sharing economy” that really captured international attention. This is a system where people bypass traditional organisations to exchange directly with one another, and most of us now engage these services on a regular basis. “I had this hunch that the way people were sharing photos, music and video, they were going to start to share other things in their lives,” the 40-year-old recalls. TIME magazine named her hunch one of the “10 ideas that will change the world”.
Throughout her career Rachel has examined the shift in consumer trust from traditional institutions like governments and media to online communities
“The real upside to (technology) is that it’s allowing us to connect and collaborate, not just with people that we know but often with complete strangers"
What rose to the surface here was the idea behind Reputation Capital. She explains, “Reputation is how other people see you, it’s not what you say about yourself. Reputation Capital is the sum of what a community thinks of you. What’s interesting is that online your reputation is being tracked and aggregated,” and thanks to ratings across all number of platforms (think Uber, Amazon, eBay to name a few), “there’s this virtual trail of how we behave, our reputation; in some instances this is becoming an asset and in other ways it’s become a very frightening tool.”
Botsman’s new book, Who Can You Trust? goes beyond this idea to unpack the profound effects of technology on our concept of trust. It looks at how technology has created new mechanisms, which enable us to trust unknown people, and specifically, how this new era of trust could bring with it a more transparent, inclusive and accountable society – if we get it right.
“The real upside to (technology) is that it’s allowing us to connect and collaborate, not just with people that we know but often with complete strangers, it really opens up entire new markets.” She continues, “But then you’ve got the whole relationship between trust and technology, automation and artificial intelligence,” and that’s where the real questions begin, “do you need to trust a human being or can that be replaced by a machine?”
Trust is an elusive concept and yet we depend on it to make our lives function day in and day out. For Rachel, “Trust is a confident relationship to the unknown.” The downside is that the tech space is changing at an exponential rate and while many of us absentmindedly click the check box and “let convenience trump trust,” technology is accelerating how the collective give trust away. It can be as simple as opting into a software upgrade without really understanding what we’re giving away and “the reason why that’s a bad thing is because when it goes wrong or when it breaks down we blame the company or the technology rather than accepting self responsibility,” she cautions.
And what of the next frontier? “When it comes to technology (it’s) around AI, understanding the intentions of the machine and being able to distinguish when we’re trusting a human verses a robot.” So given what we know, are these exciting or fear-inducing times ahead?
Possibly the biggest misconception is that we’ll see an exponential compressed change in a horizon of 20 to 30 years, however, with devices that can turn our lights off and our ovens on currently available, it’s happening now, we already have a relationship with digital assistance.
Trust is an elusive concept and yet we depend on it to make our lives function day in and day out
“we’ll actually start to appreciate human connection more than we have in say the last 20 years"
The optimistic side of Rachel feels as though, “humanity will realise what you cannot replace,” and suggests we’re starting to see that now through the tech-lash around addiction. She says, “we’ll actually start to appreciate human connection more than we have in say the last 20 years and we’ll realise that yes jobs will go away and that’s a big fear but there are certain skills like creativity and empathy that (won’t); you cannot replace intuition.”
While this recognised expert continues to educate and inspire others with her ideas and her progressive voice, this years InStyle and Audi Women of Style judging panel collectively sought to commend Rachel for her work to date.
Of her win she says, “The fact that (InStyle and Audi) recognised someone who’s output is ideas and thinking, I think that was really progressive of them. When people think of careers in thought leadership, they think they have to join an institute and if I can help, especially more women to know that their voice and ideas can really have an important impact on society and shape how many organisations think, well that’s what the award meant for me. It wasn’t about me; it was about what it could signal for other people.”
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