Future scenarios in the financial sphere (I)
The present day and the preceding years have been a disruption for society as a whole, for the economy in general and banking in particular. This is the first of a series of 3 posts, in which we have sought to understand not so much what may have happened, but what is to come in the financial sphere. We focus on 3 aspects:
- Future scenarios, the present post.
- Potential threats.
- How we have done it and the techniques we have applied.
In one way or another, we are concerned with what is to come, there is more reason to feel a certain distrust, unease and disenchantment with what we sense in a more or less plausible or linear way. This affliction derives from the sentiment of having lost the capacity to make decisions about what we as a person, as a community, can face. Our sense of control has always been and will be fictional, but our experiences, accompanied by the speed of change, have developed at a pace that our generation believes is assumable and manageable… Mainly at a human scale that nobody can predict. At most, we have been able to draw on past life experiences, generate data and narrative threads that regard hypotheses or possibilities. We have established plausible consequences from particular sign projections that have allowed us to represent certain scenarios.
In this context, we have been seduced by the work of Fred Polak and his “The Image of the Future”, as we acknowledge the great power behind images that can add extensive value to the narrative, which in great measure determines our imagination at present and in the future. Literature, comics, art, science fiction, advertising, film, and videogames determine to a large extent our approach to the future, our visualisation of what it might be like.
Through genuine curiosity, we wanted to look beyond and elucidate 4 possible future scenarios that are particularly unsettling. We conceive the financial sector from a macro perspective, but micro affectations still remain. Whether we take it into consideration or not, our day to day is affected by decisions that trigger economic repercussions, which is the reason why we have felt drawn into this exercise.
In order to address this, we focus on two factors that we believe determine the creation of this cosmovision:
- Horizontal axis; public institution assessment,
- Vertical axis; solvency of the economic transformation process.
The logic behind the scenarios
The scenario design embraces the need for economic change by incorporating social and environmental variables, without focusing solely on economic profit. The prevailing view is that change will occur either abruptly or in an orderly fashion. The decision on how to approach this change would imply reducing or increasing a socio-political polarisation, and eventually it would generate repercussions at a national and international stage that could affect the European itself, positively or negatively. A process of disengagement or loose linkage for Spain or tantamount nations, would potentially entail an erosion of living standards, and eventually, generate a socio-economic setback. Ultimately, it would affect the institutional roles that ensure the quality of life, and resource arrangement and management, which involves benefitting or not an economic activity that coexists respectfully with society and the natural environment.
A. Management privatisation and public resource planning
Private entities govern and conduct the need for change in the face of weak institutions, which makes it difficult to reconcile social interests.
In other words, necessary changes are taking place but in a dysfunctional manner that harms the public space and social cohesion, while benefiting important business actors. This context stems from a more individualist behaviour of people with weak social and family ties. The prime approach is to benefit from a rational consumption, oriented towards personal leisure. Large digital platforms are ideal spaces for this proposal.
As a result of the growth of digital platforms, financial services are being diluted in such a way that banks are left as a safe deposit box, as bookkeepers, but without the capacity to maintain a direct relationship with “their” client. In contrast, conventional financial entities have space to fill allotments for investment management and resources, while applying ample knowledge of micro and macroeconomic dynamics to public management.
A digitisation arranged by economic sectors leads to an internet fragmented by commercial brands and/or proprietary operating systems that support and display basic digital services.
B. Multilateralist balance
The geographical conflict (West vs. East) perpetuates a lack of recognition from both ends, a partial and biassed view that attempts to embolden spheres of influence for their own benefit, far from corresponding to the challenges that lie ahead. To some extent, it is the voice of technocrats, with a broad vision and a capacity to involve the population to legitimise and support the process of decision making, which implies rethinking forms of consultation and/or open government.
A strong role for public institutions, both at national and international levels, would strengthen multilateral dialogue. This would lead to significant social and economic progress in a more collaborative mindset (redefining public and private spaces, mobility, economy, nutrition…), awakening people’s confidence, both in the personal and social sphere. This would be transferred to the public opinion, leaving aside populist solutions. Doing so implies a greater control over social platforms, in a way in which technology isn’t exclusively developed for business purposes, but also for citizens and public management.
The conditions foster a greater social conscience regarding the impact of consumption at all levels. It shifts how we conceive products and services, beyond business interests.
Control over digital platforms increases in a way that forces interoperations between operating systems, commercial internet, the Dark Web; it paves the road to decentralised platforms, where the use of invisible intelligent agents becomes the new normality. Likewise, the data collection and management is conceived for the benefit of institutions and individuals, while relegating those with exclusive commercial interests.
Financial entities deploy their services in counselling and accompanying users, as if they were a Financial Google Maps; there is a starting point and a vital destination that needs to be worked on.
C. Rise and cluster of certain global hubs
In the post “dot com” years, and throughout the present century, the digital financial dynamics-despite the humanist and libertarian conception of the internet origins- has clearly shown its monopolistic angle: the winner takes it all. There are no second actors or agents, no counterpower or ways to conciliate interests that don’t pertain to the market. It takes place around innovative poles or hubs; a prototype of city-states that are mainly corporations that reside in particular geographies, and through the use of technology, they extend their power through teams of highly qualified people. It is reminiscent of the crew needed to command a spaceship in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, “Alien”, or “Moon”, except that those spaceships carry all of us.
A select number of State-Corporations control technology and financial innovation, which leads to tremendous inequality, and important sectors of the population lose their representation. Non-ownership models are developed in favour of the use of different material orders. There is no ownership, we are talking about an economy based on subscription, where the basics are attainable, consisting in small payments without actually owning anything; everything is ephemeral. This is a space where financial entities have a lot to say, and in which they are developing their services for vital flat rate payments that enable access to lifestyles that can be modulated, such as digital avatars.
People distrust one another, the minimum social consensus falls apart due to a pessimistic attitude that leads to inaction, and finally, the acceptance of “defeat”. This state of mind has repercussions on family or social ties, on consumption that is oriented towards evasion, towards alternative fictions that develop in virtual spaces where people can turn into their own creations and project themselves through many characters. Avatars are like clothing, interchangeable depending on the audience and circumstances.
In this environment of mistrust and suspicion, projects such as the European Union would be affected, without excluding new exits, by a gradual disengagement or lax linkage, which would ultimately lead to a backward step, a decline in social and personal conditions. Weak institutions send countries adrift by stripping them of the capability to negotiate, while being dependent on companies that own the technological solutions.
In this context, technological platforms absorb it all. The data of people’s lives is a company asset, which counts with an added data value that helps social conditioning in favour of technologies and related public institutions.
D. Resource nationalisation and societal life planning
A poorly orchestrated transition leads to the paradigm of benefiting the community over individual freedom. We face a complex context where technologies determine the course of the economy and innovation. It accounts for a digital gap that condemns people by turning them into mere users, and without a way to avoid the tech solutions that have a presence in every angle of our lives. Public institutions conduct technological evolution in favour of control, safeguard, social peace, public opinion moderation, and the alignment of individuals’ expectations.
Strong and personalistic public institutions seek to perpetuate the institutional power both inside and outside, searching for like-minded countries, regions or private entities, respectful towards internal concerns and singularities (the principle of non-interference in internal affairs). In a way, it is a re-enactment of the Cold War, where bloc politics and influential areas are sublimated by the control of public institutions via technology.
Social appeasement prevails over problem solving or global concerns, which leads to a population that is impoverished but compliant. It requires a large-scale process of re-education via propaganda. Social welfare is imposed over personal aspects, and social ties must fit in accordance with the community.
Maintaining that peace without a successful economic model means subsidising large sectors of the population, where everyone is expected to mind their own business without altering the community. Public meddling occurs in practically every personal aspect; institutions possess absolute control over financial matters, such as bank statements or cash flow, in order to keep social stability.
Ultimately, this results in the planning of each person’s life and professional projects.
Despite the scenarios, we are reluctant to trust any approach imposed through technology, and its tools. It is not technology that will determine the future, but rather it is our ideas and beliefs that will pave the road. The faith in technological solutions is what makes us lower our guard and judgement. It is other people’s images that deprive us from conceiving a preferable and personalised future. Technology does not run the world, ideas and beliefs do. Let’s cultivate, nurture and share them.
Talk to your machine
Conversational design tendencies in the age of relationships.