What to Gentech really think about technology?

Revolt on the horizon? How young people really feel about digital technology

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DisobeyAr/Shutterstock

Dr Mike Cooray, Hult International Business School and Dr Rikke Duus, UCL

As digital technologies facilitate the growth of both new and incumbent organisations, we have started to see the darker sides of the digital economy unravel. In recent years, many unethical business practices have been exposed, including the capture and use of consumers’ data, anticompetitive activities and covert social experiments.

But what do young people who grew up with the internet think about this development? Our research with 400 digital natives – 19- to 24-year-olds – shows that this generation, dubbed “GenTech”, may be the one to turn the digital revolution on its head. Our findings point to a frustration and disillusionment with the way organisations have accumulated real-time information about consumers without their knowledge and often without their explicit consent.

Many from GenTech now understand that their online lives are of commercial value to an array of organisations that use this insight for the targeting and personalisation of products, services and experiences.

This era of accumulation and commercialisation of user data through real-time monitoring has been coined “surveillance capitalism” and signifies a new economic system.

Artificial intelligence

A central pillar of the modern digital economy is our interaction with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms. We found that 47% of GenTech do not want AI technology to monitor their lifestyle, purchases and financial situation in order to recommend them particular things to buy.

In fact, only 29% see this as a positive intervention. Instead, they wish to maintain a sense of autonomy in their decision making and have the opportunity to freely explore new products, services and experiences.

The agency pendulum swings between the individual and technology. Who will take control? boykung/Shutterstock

As individuals living in the digital age, we constantly negotiate with technology to let go of or retain control. This pendulum-like effect reflects the ongoing battle between the human and technology.

My life, my data?

Our research also reveals that 54% of GenTech are very concerned about the access organisations have to their data, while only 19% were not worried. Despite the EU General Data Protection Regulation being introduced in May 2018, this is still a major concern – grounded in a belief that too much of their data is in the possession of a small group of global companies, including Google, Amazon and Facebook. Some 70% felt this way.

In recent weeks, both Facebook and Google have vowed to make privacy a top priority in the way they interact with users. Both companies have faced public outcry for their lack of openness and transparency when it comes to how they collect and store user data. It isn’t long ago that a hidden microphone was found in one of Google’s home alarm products.

Google now plans to offer auto-deletion of users’ location history data, browsing and app activity as well as extend its “incognito mode” to Google Maps and search. This will enable users to turn off tracking.

At Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is keen to reposition the platform as a “privacy focused communications platform”, built on principles such as private interactions, encryption, safety, interoperability (communications across Facebook-owned apps and platforms) and secure data storage. This will be a tough turn around for the company that is fundamentally dependent on turning user data into opportunities for highly individualised advertising.

Facebook is trying to restore trust. PK Studio/Shuttestock

Privacy and transparency are critically important themes for organisations today – both for those that have “grown up” online as well as the incumbents. While GenTech want organisations to be more transparent and responsible, 64% also believe that they cannot do much to keep their data private. Being tracked and monitored online by organisations is seen as part and parcel of being a digital consumer.

Despite these views, there is a growing revolt simmering under the surface. GenTech want to take ownership of their own data. They see this as a valuable commodity, which they should be given the opportunity to trade with organisations. Some 50% would willingly share their data with companies if they got something in return, for example a financial incentive.

Rewiring the power shift

GenTech are looking to enter into a transactional relationship with organisations. This reflects a significant change in attitudes from perceiving the free access to digital platforms as the “product” in itself (in exchange for user data), to now wishing to use that data to trade for explicit benefits.

This has created an opportunity for companies that seek to empower consumers and give them back control of their data. Several companies now offer consumers the opportunity to sell the data they are comfortable sharing or take part in research which they get paid for. More and more companies are joining this space, including People.io, Killi and Ocean Protocol.

Sir Tim Berners Lee, the creator of the world wide web, has also been working on a way to shift the power from organisations and institutions and back to citizens and consumers. The platform, Solid, offers users the opportunity to be in charge of where they store their data and who can access it. It is a form of re-decentralisation.

The Solid POD (Personal Online Data storage) is a secure place on a hosted server or the individual’s own server. Users can grant apps access to their POD as a person’s data is stored centrally and not by an app developer or on an organisation’s server. We see this as potentially being a way to let people take back control from technology and other companies.

GenTech have woken up to a reality where a life lived “plugged in” has significant consequences for their individual privacy, and are starting to push back, questioning those organisations that have shown limited concern and continue to exercise exploitative practices.

It’s no wonder that we see these signs of revolt. GenTech is the generation with the most to lose. They face a life ahead intertwined with digital technology as part of their personal and private lives. With continued pressure on organisations to become more transparent, the time is now for young people to make their move.

Dr Mike Cooray, Professor of Practice, Hult International Business School and Dr Rikke Duus, Research Associate and Senior Teaching Fellow, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Riding the storm

Boeing 737 MAX: how much could the grounded fleet cost the company?

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Grounded. EPA-EFE/STR

Volodymyr Bilotkach, Newcastle University

Boeing’s 737 MAX fleet has been grounded by airlines around the world for the last three weeks. First flown commercially in 2017, the 737 MAX is the fourth generation of Boeing’s 737 series and it is actually not unusual for new aircraft to go through technical issues in the early years of operation. Both Airbus’ A380 airliner and Boeing’s Dreamliner were grounded in the past due to technical problems (the A380 had engine trouble in 2010 and the Dreamliner had battery issues in 2014). But the current situation is different on several fronts and could prove costly for Boeing.

First, the scale of the problem is much larger. Only a handful of A380s and Dreamliners were in operation at the time their problems surfaced. Boeing has already delivered nearly 400 of its 737 MAX series aircraft and has orders for about 5,000 more. This is a lot compared to rival Airbus, which has delivered just 234 A380 aircraft since 2007, and the 1,400 orders of Boeing’s Dreamliner since 2004 (around 800 have been delivered already).

Second, previous cases did not involve fatal crashes – although there have been a couple of serious incidents, such as Qantas flight 32 in 2010. In that case, the Qantas plane’s A380 aircraft suffered engine failure but nobody was hurt in the emergency landing that ensued.

The crash of Ethiopians Airlines Flight 302, however, which led to the grounding of 737 MAX planes around the world, killed 157 people. The Lion Air 737 MAX that crashed in October 2018, and which reports indicate had similar issues to the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy, killed 189 people.

A Lion Air 737 MAX crashed in October 2018. Gusti Fikri Izzudin Noor / flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Now serious questions are being asked of Boeing’s software and the automated flight control feature that investigators suspect caused the two fatal crashes. Boeing has promised a software fix for this, but its roll out is delayed and airlines around the world are keeping their 737 MAX planes grounded.

Costly situation

This is a costly situation for the airlines. If we assume that an airline operating in the US uses its 737 MAX aircraft for three round trips a day and carries 145 passengers on an average flight, we can estimate some of the losses involved.

According to the US Department of Transportation, the average airfare in the US is US$343.28. Under the assumption that this is for a round trip, a 737 MAX aircraft will generate around US$150,000 of revenue for the airline per day. Of course, about 10-15% of this is taxes, but then the US transport department data does not account for any revenues the airlines may get for ancillaries such as checked luggage.

Southwest Airlines – the largest 737 MAX operator in the US – currently has 34 of these aircraft grounded. This means that a day of all these planes not flying might be costing the airline as much as US$5m in lost revenue.

e cbc f o. Bill Abbott / flickr, CC BY-SA

For all the 737 MAX planes now grounded, the total revenue airlines are losing per day might be close to US$60m. And these calculations only account for the potential lost revenue – airlines are bound to bear additional costs associated with the mitigation planning involved, rescheduling, and potential longer-term loss of business due to routes being suspended as a result.

Of course, the US$60m figure above is to be viewed with caution. It may not be entirely appropriate to extrapolate the figures for the US market to calculate a number for the rest of the world, and at best one tenth of the above amount is profit. Nevertheless, we can easily foresee Boeing facing lawsuits from the airlines amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, should the planes remain grounded for any extensive time period. There is no international convention to limit the amount of liability that aircraft manufacturers may face if they are found to be at fault.

A manageable amount?

Hundreds of millions of dollars may seem like a manageable amount for a company that earned US$10.5 billion profit in 2018 alone. But longer term costs to Boeing due to lost business will likely be in the billions of dollars. For instance, the order of 50 planes, which was cancelled by Indonesian airline Garuda was worth US$4.9 billion.

Garuda have cancelled a big Boeing 737 MAX order. Christian Juncker / flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Boeing’s long-term viability as a manufacturer is not really in doubt, however. Airbus forecasts that the global commercial aviation industry will require 37,400 new aircraft over the next 20 years – and Airbus cannot build all of those planes alone. Even with the entry of Comac – the nascent Chinese aircraft manufacturer – there will still be a lot of market left for Boeing, which currently shares the market for narrow body aircraft nearly equally with Airbus.

The US manufacturer will no doubt learn lessons from all this. The 737 MAX disasters may remain a dark spot in Boeing’s history, and a cautionary tale for the future. But ultimately, it is impossible to put a price on the lives of the 346 victims of the two recent crashes, as well as the pain and suffering inflicted on their loved ones.

Volodymyr Bilotkach, Senior Lecturer in Economics, Newcastle University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.