A Question from the Floor

It sometimes happens that a conference, though not quite living up to its billing, prompts a delayed-action response. This happened to me the other day.

3:30 pm. The last presentation ends. The mood is one of nostalgia, the air a little stale. Almost before having been served up, the accumulated Powerpoints have exceeded their sell-by date and lie neglected in the delegate pack. Dog-eared sandwiches await removal by catering.

Comfort break. I head outside for some fresh air.

Seated on a bench in the square, an elderly man frowns into his newspaper. The news is grim.
His canine companion bounds about at his feet, undeterred by world affairs, anticipating the simple gesture that will renew his joie de vivre, boundless, never waning.

But the ball remains at his master’s feet.

Again, please.

There is no response, no renewal of bliss, but this dog is not one to whimper.
He picks the ball up in his jaws and deposits it in his master’s lap, gooily.
With just the faintest irritation, the man tosses the ball away, his eyes still fixed on the daily horror.

We humans are not so easily pleased.

3:45: Plenary. “So what’s the next disruptive technology?” comes the question from the floor.
We need our fix.

The panel concurs. Personalised dashboards are what our customers want now. We have data and it’s big and intelligent and will tell customers what they need to know before they realise they need to know it.

Yes, and customers are concerned about their privacy online. It is our duty to protect it.

Many heads nod.

Outside, the man on the park bench is feeling the tremors of the clash of democracy and fundamentalism. He dreads the disruption of world order.

Inside, no such reverberations are felt.
Personalisation and privacy have yet to collide.

5:50 pm on the train. I muse that perhaps this imminent collision is indeed the next digital disruption.


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