“Ipsa scientia potesta est”
This was the first Latin phrase I learned in Mr. Bertollo’s 7th grade Latin class. I memorized it in an attempt to impress the cute girl in the first row. The girl moved on, but the phrase stayed with me. Knowledge itself is power. I never really knew the prophetic power that phrase foreshadowed until recently.
Information is both the liberator and jailor of the 21st century. While it can help us select the right restaurant, movie, or spouse, information also plagues us with anxiety about its potential abuse. People are generally freaked out about where their personal information is scattered, yet millions happily share their political beliefs, book preferences, and day-to-day locations on Facebook without hesitation.
At the same time, 45% of the American public feel overwhelmed by information pulsed at them every day.¹ The proliferation and fragmentation of communication channels creates an information cacophony that jangles the nerves. Email, SMS, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat all bring us together, but simultaneously, somehow, makes us more distant from one another. Boomers and the Silent Generation hang on to the bucking bronco of rapidly cycling technological innovation, while Millennials and the newly hatched Gen Zs successfully tame the wild beast like Cesar the Dog Whisperer.
Such are the paradoxes of our time. The largest avoidance-approach conflict is between information security and the Jetson-like convenience that sharing that personal information can furnish. At the Faustian crossroads is customer control.
Control and technology are central to the human condition. Using technology to control the environment and reduce uncertainty is a successful evolutionary pastime of homo sapiens sapiens. It has literally preserved the species and allowed us to prosper. Our need for uncertainty reduction include such Q&A classics as:
Q: How can I be more likely to secure my next Mastodon kill?
A: Check out this handy flint spearhead that my buddy Gürt came up with.
Q: How can I ensure my tribe stays alive through next winter?
A: I’ve been tinkering around with this thing called agriculture.
Q: How can I ensure I am the first to get the next season of Better Call Saul?
A: Of course, I will pre-order it on iTunes.
And so we are here in 2015. I have 30+ passwords and usernames, a bulging wallet filled with medical, airline credit, loyalty, and other cards that that would embarrass George Costanza. I have screens of neatly arranged cornrows of apps on my phone each with its own look and feel and navigation. I too feel…overwhelmed.
I need to simplify. I don’t think I’m alone.
One of my favorite phrases is “wouldn’t it be cool if…”. To really reap the maximum benefit from the phrase it helps to be irritated about something and pretend you are Lewis Black.
Let’s try it out.
Wouldn’t be cool if …
I didn’t have to carry all those cards and remember all those passwords and account numbers
Wouldn’t it be cool if …
I didn’t need any keys or swipe cards to gain access to things
Wouldn’t it be cool if ….
I didn’t have to explain who I am and what I need over and over when I interact with companies and governmental agencies
Yeah, that would be cool.
What’s not cool are those companies and governmental agencies knowing all that stuff about me. It freaks me out. It freaks most Americans out. 89% of Americans are concerned about the security of their personal information.¹
So given that, I think the future is having some kind of mobile technology that houses very secure personalized information about ourselves that we control. Our own social DNA if you will. We will decide who and what to share with people and for how long. We can give it and take it away. It is, our information after all.
I doubt people will want that in the cloud, I think they will want in their pocket.
The natural location would be on a personal device….hmmmm….I dunno maybe a smart phone for now. Notwithstanding the privations of the NSA, most people trust their smart phone and get visibly anxious when they are more than 3 feet away from it. You could have your own personalized social DNA housed on your device and you can decide with whom to share it.
Imagine, no longer do you have to re-enter personal information again and again. No longer will you have to remember all those logins and passwords. No longer will you be fearful of changing any login because of the catastrophic cascading effect it will have on all your other devices you and your family own. One app to rule them all, one app to bind them. We will be able to cloak ourselves in invisibility as we like, but unlike Frodo’s² ring, the customer will be in command, not the techno-commercial-governmental Sauron.
Unfortunately for some with big dreams of “owning the customer”, the race to control the home, the car, the wallet, and the social experience is about to be cancelled. Too bad, so sad…bye bye.
The first to come up with a way to consolidate personal information and put it the control of the customer will win. Good-bye 40 apps on my iPhone, I just need one to control all my stuff. I can’t wait to dump my spine contorting wallet in favor of my slim new iPhone 8.
Customers want to have control over their own information, but still gain the benefit that (wait for it) big data has to offer. But the customer will get to decide. You will get to decide.
I think it will happen if these newer generations do what they usually do; hack their way to freedom. Otherwise, I would imagine Mr. Bertollo, my 7th grade Latin teacher would say, “dificule est liberare stulti ex vinculo venrantur”.³ At least I think he would have said something like that. I may be a bit off…I wasn’t paying that much attention. Ignosce mihi.
¹ 2015 MaritzCX G-Tailing Poll
² or was it Bilbo’s or Gollum’s?
³ “It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere” – Voltaire (or maybe it was Voltron I’m not sure)