Back in September when it was front page news across the UK that intelligent machines and artificial intelligence (AI) would take our jobs, most of us managed to find some hope in the fact our job was too unique for a computer to do it, but is that really so?
Back in September when it was front page news across the UK that intelligent machines and artificial intelligence (AI) would take our jobs, most of us managed to find some hope in the fact our job was too unique for a computer to do it, but is that really so? I went along to a talk from Professor Lord Giddens at the London School of Economics looking at sociology and the digital revolution, and according to him we should “drop the idea that computers are not creative.” Hang on a minute, does that mean they could take my job?
Professor Giddens also talked about computers that write poetry. This poetry, like the classical music, cannot be distinguished from human-created verse. It doesn’t stop there, stand-up comedians can now be robots. Computer generated jokes are getting more complex, simple examples include: What is the difference between leaves and a car? One you brush and rake, the other you rush and brake! Terrible, I know.
You may have a greater understanding of classical music than me and can tell the difference between David’s computer generated music and that of Vivaldi. You may also wince at the terrible AI generated jokes, but quantum computers are coming and therefore the possibilities are exponential to what we are seeing today. Only last week did the Guardian report that the University of New South demonstrated a quantum version of computer code being written onto a silicon microchip with the highest ever recorded degree of accuracy.
I question how long it will be before we will be visiting art galleries with works entirely computer generated. One may even exist now. What I want to know is how this will impact our engagement with the piece? We will know there is no real heart or soul to it, it is just an image generated by a computer. It is here where I am questioning how far technology will take us. Whilst technology has the skill, will it not rip out the heart of what makes something special, and therefore does it start to become devoid of meaning?
Whilst a computer may be able to write poetry, create classical music, paint a picture and tell a joke, for it to have integrity I believe this needs to come from the heart. I am all for a technological revolution and love watching and exploring as it unfolds, but there are some things we should keep a human heart in. If we fight for this it may just be where some of our jobs stay.
23 November 2015
This autumn marks eight years since the start of the global financial crisis which led to unforeseen reputational damage to the banking sector and wider financial services. Governments moved to address the problems and harsh lessons learned. Robust prevention measures, bullish markets and recovering economies since might help us forget about the crisis.
This autumn marks eight years since the start of the global financial crisis which led to unforeseen reputational damage to the banking sector and wider financial services.
Governments moved to address the problems and harsh lessons learned. Robust prevention measures, bullish markets and recovering economies since might help us forget about the crisis.
But, the industry, eight years on, still faces an enduring and significant deficit in consumer trust.
Edelman has led the charge of measuring trust for 15 years. Tracking trust in financial services since 2011, our Trust Barometer™ has shown only modest increases in global trust in the industry – and it remains one of the least trusted industries year-after-year.
In the 2015 Trust Barometer™, only 36% of UK consumers state that they have trust in financial services.
Low trust is a core reputational issue. For the UK financial services sector, it’s crippling to the bedrock on which it is built.
The discussion of trust in the financial services sector is not new, but has come under brighter lights most recently at the Bank of England’s Open Forum on 11 November, 2015. George Osborne shared public frustrations with an industry some think went relatively unpunished during and since the crisis; Bank of England Governor Mark Carney revealed that the public still expects significant changes to be made if trust in the sector is ever to be redeemed.
Added to that, in a report released last week, our client – the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) – highlights the need for the industry to do more to address the “trust gap” which exists.
The FSCS has an important role in restoring trust in the financial services sector at large. It protects consumers when authorised financial services firms fail. Its mission is to provide a responsive, comprehensive and efficient compensation service that raises public confidence in the industry.
In Mind the Gap: restoring trust in UK financial services, the FSCS (along with Edelman’s 2015 Trust Barometer™ results) examined current consumer interactions and perceptions of the industry. Synthesising the research into a simple framework to describe the three conditions necessary for trust: Alignment, Benevolence and Competence, the report unravels the consumer trust gaps that continue to plague their relationships with financial services in the UK.
The FSCS co-authored the report with Nick Chater, Professor of Behavioural Science at the Warwick Business School and member of the Advisory Board to the Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insight Team (popularly known as the ‘Nudge Unit’), which applied principles of behavioural economics to the independent research which surveyed over 2,500 UK consumers.
The partnership between the FSCS and the Warwick Business School was first inspired by another Edelman trust insight: the heightened level of trust the public places in academics. As the FSCS’ purpose is rooted in generating consumer confidence and reassurance, aligning with an academic body with such revered research credentials was essential to ensure a thorough understanding of consumer perceptions of UK financial services today. Only then could the FSCS develop solutions to address and help restore identified gaps in trust – in collaboration with the industry.
In this changing world, there is one perennial: trust is an invaluable commodity. What the FSCS’s report shows is that trust in financial services can only be restored and maintained through understanding the complex psychology of customer behaviours and perceptions. Customers also need the assurance from industry that its energies and decisions are serving the best interest of the customers. There is still work to be done.
23 November 2015
If 2015 was the year that the UK elected an all-Tory government and the opposing party drove further to the left, 2016 will see how this new polarized political landscape will pan out. What will our expert panel predict for 2016?
If 2015 was the year that the UK elected an all-Tory government and the opposing party drove further to the left, 2016 will see how this new polarized political landscape will pan out. The British people will also have their say on they position in the EU, which will determine relations with both allies and foes.
For many, 2015 symbolized a year of war, terrorism and crowds of humanity in flight. Will 2016 be a year when the world moves away from the abyss of war, or closer to it? With a new US President also set to take centre stage, 2016 will see change and uncertainty.
How will those debates play out? Who will be the focus of media scrutiny; what will shake the business world; and which cultural or social forces will shine the brightest to grab our attention?
Our expert panel will explore answers to these questions and more at Edelman’s annual Crystal Ball.
Watch the live stream of the event here from 8.30am on Wednesday 2nd December 2015.
Our Crystal Ball panel includes:
Kirsty Wark, Broadcaster – Moderator
Sue Perkins, Comedian, Author & TV Presenter
John Witherow, Editor, The Times
Baroness Tessa Jowell, Member of the House of Lords
Michael Spencer, CEO, ICAP
Ed Williams, CEO, Edelman UK
To read the predictions made in December 2014 ahead of 2015, click here.
Hi Reader, How are you? I thought you might like to know that Amol Rajan, the editor of The Independent, has been tweeting recently about PRs’ use of insincere language in unsolicited emails. He isn’t happy.
How are you?
I thought you might like to know that Amol Rajan, the editor of The Independent, has been tweeting recently about PRs’ use of insincere language in unsolicited emails.
He isn’t happy.
Amol says he has blocked a large number of PRs who use what he calls the “lying obsequious stupidity of “Hope you’re well”.”
I know what he means. I imagine we all get dozens of emails every day that include the phrase and I imagine that many of us write them, too.
The history of the written message, though, is a history of insincerity. The earliest scrolls of Sumer almost certainly contained banal pleasantries and good wishes exchanged by people who loathed each other.
“Dear So-and-so”. “I remain your most humble and obedient servant” – we don’t mean a word of it. “Yours sincerely” is from someone who is neither sincere nor yours.
It is just form.
Ask yourself: how do we greet strangers in day-to-day life?
If we are Brits, we ask something like: “How are you?” (when I was a child, I was taught to ask “How do you do?” to adults I was introduced to. I did not care about their answer and they did not usually bother even to reply). It is unlikely that we want a genuine, sincere and comprehensive answer, even from friends, and certainly not from strangers. So why do we even ask?
The act of salutation (a word derived from Salve, the Roman greeting, which also means Good Health) is an attempt to establish tone in a conversation. The true message is this: I am open to talking to you even though you are a stranger who may be about to assault me; I am not going to assault you; I am interested in communication; I need to talk to you.
It may, by its tone, mean any number of things, including these: watch out, I may assault you if you aren’t careful in your response; I am very glad to see you; I am embarrassed to be in this position and I wish I hadn’t met you; I love you.
There are many tones, you see, that a salutation has to carry. To do so requires not just a choice of words, but a choice of volume, of pitch, of supporting gestures (a handshake or a hug, even), of eye movements, of head movements, of genuflection. Culture and convention help the recipient to interpret them.
Written salutations have to do the same sort of job, but without the advantage of hearing the tone or seeing any supporting gestures. When I was a newspaper reporter, I received very good advice from my esteemed (a genuine sentiment, I assure you) colleague Patrick Bishop that journalists should always remember that the keyboard has an italics setting, but not an ironics setting. You should write what you mean in a news story and not rely on the reader understanding that you are being insincere, sarcastic or ironic on purpose.
The same does not apply to letter or email writing (let us call it correspondence for short) because, unlike news stories, they are a substitute for conversation. The language has always been intended to take the place of the tone and the gesture.
“Dear” people are unlikely to be dear to us. In fact, in English, if you are writing to someone you love, it would be insulting to write to them as merely “Dear”. You cannot use the same salutation as you would to a stranger (“Dear Sir or Madam,” is my least favourite form of this abuse of affection), so you go out of your way to start correspondence with “Darling,” or “Dearest,”.
But we get to Amol’s bugbear – “hope you are well” – immediately and precisely because correspondence does not do tone. To blunder straight into the purpose of the correspondence would seem as rude as if one were to go straight from a handshake to a “Do you want to have dinner tonight?” or “Are you available to join my masonic lodge?” or “I thought you ought to know that I am building a nuclear power station at the bottom of your road.”
Frankly, you wouldn’t do that. You would use an icebreaker. You would say “How are you?” and only then introduce the meat of the conversation. And that is the purpose of “Hope you are well.”
I hate it too, but I do struggle to think of an alternative. I try variations: “Hope this finds you well; Hope you are thriving.” They all have the same weakness that, if Amol Rajan and others are going to take offence at an insincere expression, they are all just “good form” expressions.
Perhaps what we need is something bland and inoffensive. “God Save the Queen!” might fill the gap between salutation and conversation. But it could be misinterpreted.
How about “Weather is a bit brisk/close/breezy for the time of year, isn’t it?”, which plays to so many Briticisms. But still smacks of falsity. Maybe we need something odd:
My favourite in this field comes from Shakespeare, from Macbeth indeed, when Macduff, in exile, greets his countryman Ross with the question: “Stands Scotland where it did?”.
This meant something to them and to the Bard, but four centuries later is just the sort of barmy icebreaker to a conversation that we need. It doesn’t need to be answered and it creates a gap between the “Hi, Amol” and the attempt to interest him in whatever is the subject matter of the email. If it becomes accepted form, it doesn’t matter what it means and its sincerity is irrelevant (unless you happen to be an SNP supporter, in which case, invent your own alternative).
Alternatively, we could go meta: “Hi Amol, I hope you don’t mind me hoping you are well.”
Not that this is going to persuade Amol to publish more stories offered to him by PRs, but it might stop him blocking you.
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