Comms Vision 2017 update: Disruptive times spark network renaissance

Institutions are losing their grip as populations place their trust in networks - and there is no quelling the revolt, stated Comms Vision Guest Chair Andy Lippman - Associate Director and co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab (MIT) - in his conference keynote.

At the heart of this transition phase is the technology that facilitates it, he said. "Society is going through an age of disruption and we are not immune to this," commented Lippman. "Technology is the enabler."

The first wave of Internet disruption was a shock to businesses, boomed out Lippman. "Disruption now attacks institutions," he added. "Trust is migrating away from them to distributed networks. It's a big shift that is changing our lives."

Historic events in recent times have helped to spark a network renaissance, noted Lippman. He pointed to 2001 and 9/11 as flags to an era when people displayed trust in institutions. In January 2009 bitcoin arrived, the distributed currency which has no government or centre. And then Edward Snowden's leaks in 2013 helped to nudge forward the shift in trust from institutions to distributed networks, which for many was a moral imperative defined by faith in numbers.

A key point is that technology has allowed the interests of individual people to come before the nation state to which they previously subscribed.

No less remarkable and also bound up in the network experience is the impact of AI, which Lippman defined in his own unique way. "There is no AI, only human intelligence, it just runs on a different platform to the human mind," he said. "It's human-guided deep learning that uncovers themes and biases. The difference is that it brings out patterns of recognition on an unprecedented scale."

MIT has a programme that analyses news to assess the important issues and various slants used by the media. MIT uses this intelligence to uncover the biases and act as a counter to the notion of 'fake news'.

"The intersection of technology with society is the crucial enabler," noted Lippman, citing autonomous vehicles as an example. "The magic is when new technology meshes with society.

"The challenge is to rethink our perception of the network, recognise the spirit of disruption in the world and see the societal shift in trust to distributed networks."

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