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Middleman (you and I) beware!

AI and Blockchain are contributing to a revolution of trust that has been in the making for a long time, writes ANDRIES BRINIK, CEO, Andile Solutions

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AI and Blockchain are contributing to a revolution of trust that has been in the making for a long time…

There is a common goal, an elevated status pursued by an enormous number of professions.

Legal practitioners, accountants, financial consultants, private bankers, politicians, estate agents, management consultants, stock brokers, car salesmen, life coaches and headhunters (amongst others) all strive for the ultimate compliment: the title of “Trusted Advisor”.

This is a noble pursuit as it implies consistent and correct behaviour over a period of time. If considered carefully, you would find that it is a status that one can apply to any position in work and indeed life.

Why we need trust

Trust is a scarce and critical commodity. The bigger the interpersonal network that depends on it, the bigger the chance of it being broken.

Once there were telephone operators who patched in calls. Consider for a moment the complex job of this person – let’s call her Tant Toekie – connecting telephones in the community in 1939: “Two phones was easy”, she’d recall. “Only one patch possible. Five phones, ten patches, no problem. Twelve phones… O jinne! Even I couldn’t keep up some days, 66 patches and so much information.”

Robert Metcalfe, originator of the Ethernet protocol and founder of 3COM, captured Tant Toekie’s tribulations through Metcalfe’s Law: the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of nodes. As a network grows, the value of being connected to it grows exponentially while the cost per user remains the same or even reduces. For every single new node, one doubles the value – expressed as connections – in the system.

This exponential ‘network effect’ places a huge amount of stress on any system. Middle men are the historic remedy for such stress. Such intermediaries act in the best interest of the end user and connecting that client to the best possible sources.

That’s the theory. But it’s imperfect. We have all been in that dreadful position when trust is broken. This is normally due to two factors: the withholding of relevant information and inconsistent behaviour that is not in line with the requisite best interest.

Trust then suffers when the truth is revealed. Maybe your financial advisor advised you on only the portfolio of investments where his commission was above a certain percentage, or maybe the car dealership did not really mean it when they said that they would always be there for you with the best possible service. Trust is built when we speak the truth and then consistently back it up through our actions.

The new trust

In the past ten years, we have seen the most violent change in the global business landscape yet. The global financial crisis generated a huge amount of broken trust. Accordingly, the market voted against the bankers, the ultimate form of intermediary. As Governments propped up the financial sector, taxpayers lost more and more trust and voted with their investments and spending. The impact has been profound, seeding mistrust around governments, globalisation and the free market.

And yet, the network is tranqualising Tant Toekie’s tongue through technological trust mechanisms. These include unbreakable security protocols, modern systems design with access control and authentication, encrypted data storage and so on. Recently, there was added a new poster child to this list, i.e. BlockChain or Distributed Ledger Technology. And there will be further development as exponential growth demands more innovation.

The impact of this effect is already very visible. Consider the following graph showing the change in the top ten companies in the world, shown in USD-denominated Market Capitalisation:

What distinguished the first column of companies? Most are disintermediating the middle man in different ways. They gun directly for the consumer and we trust them enough to connect to their ecosystems, which scale easily and across borders. Through the use of Artificial Intelligence, they learn about our behaviour and give contextual advice, directly.

This is a profound shift in business culture – and we’ve not yet truly experienced what new technologies such as blockchain can really do. It leads to the question: what industry will be spared the wrath of disintermediation? Read though my list of trusted advisor status seekers again. I can’t think of many…

Hope springs: Be sure to look out for the next installment of this five part series where I consider, in the true Christmas spirit, the three wise men and a revolutionary saviour that might just have a gift for all of us. If we are good, that is.

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Netflix to make SA series

The world leader in streaming movies has announced the first South African production to join its Originals roster.

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World leader in entertainment streaming services Netflix this week announced its first Original series in Africa, with South African series Queen Sono.

The news comes immediately in the wake of local rival Showmax announcing it’s first original drama production. In this context, it heralds a new phase in the evolution of streaming video-on-demand in South Africa.

The action-packed series follows Queen Sono, the highly trained top spy in a South African agency whose purpose is to better the lives of African citizens. While taking on her most dangerous mission yet, she must also face changing relationships in her personal life. The series will be created by Director, Kagiso Lediga and Executive producer Tamsin Andersson.

South African actress, Pearl Thusi, will star as Queen Sono, with the character having been created with her in mind. Thusi is also known for her performance in the romantic dramedy, Catching Feelings, available on Netflix.

Pearl Thusi stars as Queen Sono in Netflix’s first original series in Africa.

“We are excited to be working with Kagiso and Pearl, to bring the story of Queen Sono to life, and we expect it to be embraced by our South African users and global audiences alike.” said Erik Barmack, Vice President of International Original Series at Netflix.

“We are delighted to create this original series with Netflix, and are super excited by their undeniable ability to take this homegrown South African story to a global audience. We believe Queen Sono will kick the door open for more awesome stories from this part of the world” added the director and executive producer of the series, Kagiso Lediga.

The series is due to start production in 2019.

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Microsoft adds Chrome to Edge

Microsoft is working to build a new version of its Edge browser on the open-source version of Google Chrome, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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After 20 years of backing Internet Explorer and its underlying software technologies, Microsoft has chosen to integrate Chromium, the open source version of Google Chrome. This announcement comes just three years after launching Microsoft Edge, the refreshed version of Internet Explorer.

“We intend to adopt the Chromium open source project in the development of Microsoft Edge on the desktop to create better web compatibility for our customers and less fragmentation of the web for all web developers,” said Joe Belfiore, corporate VP at Windows, in a blog post on 6 December.

The change affects the back-end elements of the browser that run in the background to make the web pages work for the user. The shift includes scrapping Microsoft’s EdgeHTML rendering engine in favour of Chrome’s Blink.

Utilising the Blink engine will allow Microsoft to support versions of new Edge on Windows 7, 8 and 10, as well as a version for macOS. Belfiore said that the company had also started contributing to the Chromium open source project: “We’ve begun making contributions to the Chromium project to help move browsing forward on new ARM-based Windows devices.”

Microsoft’s move to Chrome has shifted the “browser wars” in favour of Google Chrome, as Opera and Edge will now both be using Chrome’s rendering engine.

“If you’re a Microsoft Edge customer, there is nothing you need to do, as the Microsoft Edge you use today isn’t changing. If you are a web developer, we invite you to join our community by installing preview builds when they’re available and staying current on our testing and contributions.” said Belfiore.

Edge’s project manager, Kyle Alden, confirmed in a Reddit thread that Chrome extensions will be compatible with the new version of Edge. It is expected to launch in a preview build in early 2019.

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