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Behavioral Economics, Autonomy and Ethical Land Mines

Overview: Behavioral Economics Autonomy and Ethics user experience designBehavioral economics autonomy and ethics is a thought experiment on how to approach “doing good” when applying the emerging practice of behavioral economics. Along with big data analytics and cognitive science, behavioral economics affords businesses, governments and other organizations unprecedented impact on individuals’ behavior, even without their consent or awareness. This arouses serious ethical and social dilemmas.

Every behavioral economics practitioner I’ve met has emphasized the importance of using its practice “for good” in order to help people. Like all other human endeavors, however, “for good” is open to interpretation, so I’ll apply my experience with ethnographic and behavioral analysis of social media to reflect on what “for good” might mean in light of individual and group autonomy.

I also hope this Noodle will be food for thought for executives who hire behavioral economics firms as well as all of us who are invariably its subject. In a similar vein, most designers I know are committed to using design principles to improve user experience, and there’s considerable overlap between design and behavioral economics.

Behavioral economics is as […]

On Autonomy, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things

Autonomy Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of ThingsAutonomy Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things reflects on how people’s autonomy will be affected by software-powered devices and systems that are rapidly permeating our individual and social lives.

Although this noodle has a strong personal angle for me, I also have the unusual benefit of having regular conversations with people who are leading the redesign of our “environment.” By superimposing digital devices, sensors, and “intelligence” onto the physical world, designers, engineers, policy makers, behavioral economists, neuroscientists, nanoscientists, and investors, just to name a few, are changing how we perceive and interact with our “world,” so I’ll also bring my insights from those conversations to it. Finally, I’ll consider creator and user points of view on autonomy artificial intelligence and the Internet of things.

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Reflections on Trust: The Power of Trusting People to Be True to Themselves

Reflections on Trust: The Power of Trusting People Reflections on Trust: The Power of Trusting People to Be True to Themselves delves into how trust works in personal and business situations

Many people are talking about trust in business these days. I am, too, because it’s the core of my business as well as my personal life. It just occurred to me that there are often some accidental gotchas within many trust discussions I read, and I’ll explore them in case that’s useful to you. First, I’ll delve into trust a little before sharing some insights on how you can make it actionable in your personal, career, and business relationships.

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Noodle XIII: Surprising Benefit of Extreme Weather (Before you cancel that event..)

Surprising benefit of extreme weather: reflectionsThis winter carries a surprising benefit of extreme weather. It has been a bit colder than usual in much of the U.S.A. due to the “Polar Vortex,” and I have observed that many professional groups in Chicago have canceled or postponed events due to “extreme weather” over the past two months. This has started to become a phenomenon, so I’ve been observing it with interest.

My social business client work involves analyzing digital social networks, and it constantly reveals how people affect each other’s behavior, often in surprising ways. I hypothesize that reactions to this weather phenomenon are having unintended effects, so, in the spirit of all Noodles, I’ll explore some of these deeper meanings and invite your thoughts.

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Noodle XII: Why Machines Won't Displace Human Workers in the Knowledge Economy

Noodle 12: Why Machines Won't Displace Human Workers in the Knowledge EconomyWhy Machines Won’t Displace Human Workers in the Knowledge Economy is a short thought experiment, in the spirit of all Noodles, which was in response to a post in Wired. In Here’s How to Keep the Robots From Stealing Our Jobs, John Hagel posited that a major rationale for the Knowledge Economy firm would be its role as a “knowledge platform” that enabled people to accelerate their learning and productivity. I highly recommend the post, which sparked many intelligent comments.

It’s obvious that many people are having difficulties imagining the world toward which we are hurtling, a world in which machines are getting “smarter” and able to “compete” for work roles that humans now do. In writing The Social Channel App, I thought long and hard about the Knowledge Economy and people’s roles in it, and its main thesis is that everything, from states and enterprises to people and products, will be differentiated in the Social Channel and that “humanness” will assume a much more visible importance in the economy.

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Noodle XI: The Rise of Design and Fall of Nokia, RIM and Motorola

The Rise of Design Signaled the Fall of Nokia, RIM and MotorolaThe rise of design signaled the fall of Nokia, RIM and Motorola describes how engineering is becoming less important in distinguishing hightech and other products from each other. It also presages a seismic shift away from product towards customer experience in determining market leaders for people-oriented products and services. A very large portion of product companies will follow in the footsteps of these three former mobile phone titans unless they transform their focus from product features (engineering) to customer experience (design).

By no means do I imply that engineering is not important—in fact, it is more important than ever—I assert that it is less important than design in differentiating people-oriented products. Engineering is abstracted away from the customer/user of the product, and design explicitly addresses how the customer uses the product to attain outcome(s).

Design is to the Knowledge Economy what engineering was to the Industrial Economy.

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Noodle X: Anonymity, Marketing and Predicting the Future

Anonymity, Marketing and Predicting the Future shows that, although each culture has its own concepts of “anonymity” and “marketing,” anonymity will prove to have been a temporary phenomenon in most human cultures because communications technologies are counteracting it. Moreover, based on my studies of and experience with sociology, evolutionary psychology and technology, I observe that 20th century marketing is grounded in anonymity, so we can predict the future of marketing by exploring anonymity and its relationship to marketing.

In brief, marketing’s influence is most poignant when anonymity is high and the marketing “target” is ignorant of the product/service and how to use it. In this scenario, the target is most open marketing’s influence. Read on to learn how marketing is related to anonymity, where anonymity is going and how marketing can transform to strengthen its influence.

Marketing organizations that do not transform will be sidelined because anonymity is dissipating fast.

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Noodle IX: Upgrading the Expert Role for the Knowledge Economy

Upgrading the Expert Role for the Knowledge Economy shows how knowledge workers can no longer seek refuge in their core expertise, and how to branch out.

Upgrading the Expert Role for the Knowledge Economy

“Experts” are regarded as the foremost authorities in their fields, the glib guru versions notwithstanding. An oft quoted maxim shows why: according to Malcolm Gladwell, for one, it takes 10,000 hours [of study, work] for most people to become expert in something.* On a related front, Naveen Jain posits that experts will be less likely to solve today’s toughest problems because their expertise has become a box around them. All those degrees or promotions within the organization have focused their minds but also closed out creativity. While commenting on his post, I realized that redefining the expert would be necessary in the Knowledge Economy, so here I’ll offer some strategies and tactics for how to practice being an “expert” in the 21st century.

Notably, we can take lessons from experts and apply them to specialists, which are arguably less far along on the same vector—and more common.

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Noodle VIII: Tablets Won't Save Mainstream Media But ProAm Might

The WSJ succeeded in charging for content because their content was traditionally part of their customers’ workstreams. When your livelihood depends on something, you pay. Most “news” and media entertains, it has little financial impact. […]

Noodle VII: Tombstones and Milestones in Publishing

Reflections on the collapse of Chicago’s legacy publishing economy: Britannica, Encarta, Wikipedia, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times […]