n 2017, I wrote in a quarterly trends digest [p. 8]: “A number of high-visibility tech leaders are offering visions for collective action and prototypes of global governance that bypass traditional intergovernmental models. Do these offer a challenge or an opportunity for the UN?” This trend has only grown since. And proposals have gained in sophistication. This week, Facebook unveiled the membership of its new Oversight Board. The board will make decisions on what content should be allowed or not on Facebook and Instagram. The set-up looks great: the creation process was consultative, the board is independently run and funded, and the membership is of high caliber and diverse. Some, like Casey Newton, questions whether the group of 40 people – each working 15 hours a month in their board member capacity – will be equipped to deal with complex issues affecting 2.37 billion people. For me, the main problem is that content disputes are only symptoms of more fundamental issues that this board will not tackle. Indeed, global digital platform content-related disputes bring up issues of rights, inequalities and democracy. They are also products of how these digital platforms are designed and operated. If the new Oversight Board does not have a say on these fundamentals, then who does? I would still argue that because this is about universal rights and global governance, this is UN core mandate. So my 2017 question remains valid: where is the UN?
Blake Ashforth and al.’s “All in a day’s work: boundaries and micro role transitions” put the finger on a key issue for me while working from home during confinement: the loss of micro transitions between the role of worker, parent, educator, and partner. The article [paywall, sorry] gives a theoretical framework and shows how micro-transitions create helpful boundaries between roles, making it easier to do it all and deal with trade-offs. In regular times, these transitions might materialize through a change of physical location, specific times, or different dress codes. When confined, it all gets blurred so one needs to re-create micro-transitions artificially to operate. I still struggled but reading and thinking about it helps me adjust.
My graph this week is from the Spring Update of the Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 which surveyed 13,200 people in 11 countries in April. Two numbers surprised me. First, trust is at its highest level since 2012, even gaining 6 points since January. Second, 64% of people think that the crisis will lead to positive innovations and change for the better. I was not expecting such optimism.
My quote this week is from Tim Bray who resigned from Amazon Web Services where he was VP and Distinguished Engineer: “Firing whistleblowers isn’t just a side-effect of macroeconomic forces, nor is it intrinsic to the function of free markets. It’s evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture. I choose neither to serve nor drink that poison.” Wow.