The Future is Verified: Insights and Critical Reflections from Interac’s VIP Talk at SXSW

At this year’s SXSW, Interac hosted a thought-provoking VIP talk that explored emerging technologies, strategic decision-making, and the role of verification in our digital future. While the insights offered were valuable, as someone deeply committed to equity and sustainability, I felt compelled to offer a counterbalance to the underlying capitalist assumptions that permeated much of the discussion.

Midjourney prompt: Diverse circle grounded by metaversical fluctuations, money grids

Trusted Intermediaries and Value Creation

The panelists rightly highlighted the need for “trusted intermediaries” to facilitate inclusive value creation within communities. However, one can’t help but question – who gets to define “value” and whether current power structures truly represent the diverse voices they claim to serve. Too often, the perspectives of marginalized groups are sidelined in favor of profit motives and the perpetuation of existing inequalities.

The discussion delved into the various ways value is created, emphasizing the importance of participation, inclusivity, and equity. “What are all the ways that value is created?…this is just a clever way of getting ahead of things,” remarked a panelist, hinting at the strategic foresight required to navigate the complexities of value creation in the digital age. Yet, we must remain critical of whose “strategic foresight” is being centered and whose interests are being served.

Financial Services and Emerging Technologies

The exploration of the intersection between financial services and emerging technologies, such as large language models and the concept of “large action models,” was undoubtedly fascinating. However, we cannot ignore the ethical implications of these powerful technologies, particularly when it comes to algorithmic bias and the potential for perpetuating systemic inequalities within the financial sector.

As we embrace these advancements, we must remain vigilant and ensure that robust safeguards are in place to mitigate potential harm and uphold principles of fairness and transparency. Too often, these technologies are designed and deployed with a profit-driven mindset, without adequate consideration for their societal impacts or the perpetuation of existing power imbalances.

Strategic Foresight and Corporate Strategy

The discussion pivoted to the crucial role of strategic foresight in corporate strategy, emphasizing the necessity of scenario mapping, data modeling, and long-term planning in today’s rapidly changing landscape. While the benefits of strategic foresight are clear, we must question whether the profit motives of corporations truly align with the broader interests of society and our planet.

As companies increasingly wield influence over our digital futures, it becomes paramount to strike a balance between economic growth and ethical, sustainable practices that prioritize the wellbeing of communities and the environment. Too often, corporate strategy is driven by a relentless pursuit of short-term gains, at the expense of long-term sustainability and social responsibility.

Digital Identity and Verification: A Cornerstone of Trust (and Privacy Concerns)

The discussion surrounding digital identity verification and its potential to enhance the security and trust of online engagements raised important points. However, as we move towards a future where digital identities become the norm, we must also grapple with the potential threats to individual privacy and civil liberties.

How can we ensure that these verification systems are not co-opted by the surveillance capitalism complex or used for nefarious purposes, such as mass surveillance or the suppression of dissent? It’s a delicate balance, and one that requires ongoing dialogue and robust safeguards to protect the rights of citizens – rights that are all too often sacrificed on the altar of corporate convenience and profitability.

At SXSW, I sat through an Interac talk that promised a peek into our techy, verified future, only to find myself playing buzzword bingo with terms like "emerging technologies" and "strategic foresight." As they waxed poetic about digital destiny, I couldn't help but wonder if our quest for a just & inclusive future was hiding in the fine print of their PowerPoint slides.

Supply Chain Verification: Combating Counterfeits and Ensuring Authenticity

The necessity of verification in supply chains to combat counterfeiting and ensure the authenticity of products and their components is a valid concern. However, we must also question the broader implications of our globalized supply chains and the often-exploitative labor practices that underpin them.

While verification may protect against counterfeit goods, it does little to address the systemic issues of worker exploitation, environmental degradation, and the perpetuation of neo-colonial power dynamics that characterize much of the current global trade system.

The Future of Digital Prosperity and Economic Super Cycles

The concept of entering a new “technology supercycle,” driven by the convergence of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and biotechnology, was presented as both exciting and disruptive. However, we must remain skeptical of the underlying assumption that technological advancement inherently translates into “prosperity” for all.

History has shown us that the benefits of such revolutions are often concentrated in the hands of the few, while the costs – in terms of job displacement, environmental destruction, and the erosion of social safety nets – are borne by the many. As one panelist cautioned, “We need to be vigilant and anticipate that evolution, not just observe it.” This sentiment should serve as a rallying cry for us to proactively shape these technologies in service of the greater good, rather than allowing them to be co-opted by the relentless pursuit of profit and market dominance.

Strategic Risk-Taking: Embracing the Unknown (Within Reason)

The call for strategic risk-taking by companies and countries alike was framed as a necessary response to the uncertainties of the future. However, we can’t afford to take risks when it comes to the health of our planet and the wellbeing of marginalized communities.

This perspective serves as a crucial counterpoint, reminding us that strategic risk-taking must be tempered by a strong ethical framework and a commitment to environmental and social justice. Too often, the risks taken by corporations and governments prioritize financial gains over the well-being of people and the planet, perpetuating cycles of exploitation and environmental degradation.

Canada’s Position and the Urgency for Innovation

The sobering statistic that Canada is expected to fall behind in terms of per capita GDP growth raised questions about the country’s sense of urgency when it comes to embracing innovation and technological advancements. However, as Carol Anne Hilton of Indigenomics Institute pointed out, “Canada’s pursuit of innovation and economic growth must not come at the expense of our traditional ways of life and our sacred relationship with the land.”

This perspective serves as a poignant reminder that progress and prosperity must be defined holistically, with due consideration for the preservation of cultural heritage, environmental stewardship, and the dismantling of colonial structures that have long oppressed Indigenous communities in the name of “development.”

Collaborative Approaches: Leveraging Canada’s Diversity

While the panelists highlighted Canada’s diversity as a potential advantage in fostering innovation through collaborative approaches, we must remain vigilant against the co-option of these narratives by the very systems that have historically marginalized and exploited diverse communities.

Carol Anne Hilton powerfully stated at he panel Q & A “True innovation can only flourish when we embrace the wisdom and perspectives of all communities, including those that have been historically marginalized.” This sentiment underscores the importance of centering equity and decolonization in our collaborative efforts, ensuring that the voices and experiences of those most impacted shape the digital futures we collectively envision.

Final Thoughts and Looking Ahead

As the talk drew to a close, the overarching sentiment was one of cautious optimism tempered by a sense of urgency and a call for critical reflection. While the need for a “collaborative approach” and “sustainability” was emphasized, we must remain vigilant and question the underlying power dynamics, ethical implications, and potential unintended consequences of these advancements.

Whether you’re a tech enthusiast, an entrepreneur, or simply someone curious about the world around you, the discussions at SXSW serve as a reminder that the only constant is change – and our ability to adapt and innovate will be the key to unlocking a truly prosperous, verified, and digitally-driven future. However, we must do so with a deep commitment to equity, sustainability, and the preservation of the rich tapestry of cultures and traditions that make our world so vibrant and diverse.

It’s a delicate balance, to be sure, but one that is well worth striving for – a future that harnesses the power of technology in service of justice, empathy, and stewardship of our precious planet, rather than in pursuit of endless capital accumulation and the perpetuation of oppressive systems.

Let’s embrace the challenges and opportunities before us with open minds and open hearts, always questioning, always learning, and always striving to create a better world for all – not just those at the top of the capitalist pyramid.

By centering the voices and experiences of those most marginalized, we can collectively forge a path towards a future rooted in true solidarity, liberation, and a reverence for the intrinsic worth of all beings and our shared home.