Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The trust machine

From time to time, I get excited about a future beyond my comprehension.

Imagine a computer chip that can decide, all by itself, if your organisation is trustworthy. Not a computer, not a big system but a chip (ergo, you can put lots of them into a single 'computer'). Imagine this chip gathering all the information on and offline that will allow it to make judgements about you, your organisation, the value of your products brands and the ethic you stand by.

IBM's cognitive chips, launched this week, are part of the Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) project, which aims to create a system that is capable of rewiring itself as it interacts with its environment while still analyzing complex information from several sensory modalities.

The announcement this week of the new cognitive computer chips is a big step on the way.

These systems, which would not be programmed like traditional computers, will learn through experiences like humans. They will create hypotheses, find correlations, remember, and learn from their environments.

As always, the PR industry will ignore all of this as being too technical and of tomorrow and not worth investing time in today.

As ignorant as BP's Tony Hayward was of public relations, the practitioner that ignores IBM's big announcement will be as unstuck. 'I'd like my life back' will also be a closed option for organisations that don't heed an ability for a computer to judge the capability, efficacy and ethics of an organisation.

I realise this is not a subject for journalists' given the job of investment banker or discovering a Higgs Boson particle or, harder still, being a professional PR practitioner, but it is important for the rest of us.

It is important because, unlike a number of practitioners who are obviously one egg short of a dozen, modern practitioners will have to persuade the David Cameron's,  Tony Haywood's and the Metropolitan police that good PR is not predicated on someone being able to write news copy or depend on some "Other Buggers' Efforts'.

Why must we take note now?

Firstly, this is going to have an effect within five years (less time that it took Twitter to master PR). Secondly, it will have a memory that can remember what you, as a practitioner did today (as in right now). Finally its ability to combine radical organisational  transparency with the totality of the organisational environment is now assured with all the organisational consequences that entails.

No doubt, this will take me and a number of other practitioners, and hopefully, some academics, time to think through but it is a significant professional challenge.