Alexa, do you act with conscience?

Updated: Jul 31, 2019

The age of big data analytics and artificial intelligence poses a host of new questions about how brands using these technologies engage with “conscience”

There are, apparently, 5 basic “Stone Age” biases that affect us humans and are part of our evolutionary DNA: Genetic self-interest, Temporal Discounting (or short-sightedness of gain), Status needs (relative to each other), Social imitation and Sensing Mechanism. They form part of our processing of information and our decision-making. Sometimes, indeed often, they get in the way of good decision making for our species and for our planet.


Needless to say, as we leave actions and decision-making increasingly to Artificial Intelligence and to Big Data analytics, such all-too-human biases will disappear, decisions will become more rational, more bias-free. Think so? Think again about the role of conscience in new technologies.


We have all become sensitised in the last couple of years to the apparent “carelessness” of leading new tech brands in handling our personal data, to the apparent misuse of personal profiling to direct people’s actions and behaviours. Cambridge Analytica is only the most (in)famous example of a brand that may not have broken the law, exactly, but whose actions cannot be classified as “with a good conscience”. But such obvious cases of deliberate manipulation through data profiling are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to branding with a conscience in the age of new technologies. While much has been written about the use and misuse of big data, this article considers the challenge...


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By Peter Brown

Brand, marketing and corporate strategist serving clients across a range of industries in Europe, the Middle East and South America. A former Strategy Director at the Orange Group, Peter is passionate about the role of identity and purpose in defining vision and strategy for both commercial and not-for-profit organizations.

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