/ Josh Thompson / 12.20.2018 /

The kids will keep smoking..

Tech and media companies are currently like big tobacco was back in the day. The kids will keep consuming no matter how bad the end result is — just get them hooked and they will stay. Keep using these amazing tech and media platforms that make the world more connected and a better place for free — just don’t mind us tracking your every move, tokenizing you, and then selling pieces of you around the world. Just when you want your data and dignity back (reminiscent of wanting your health/lungs back, say) it’s too late. It has already been used, shared, or sold.

I want to lay out a few facts as they relate to our upcoming generation — Gen Z, or people born after the turn of the century who are changing the way we think about media, markets, and spending. In two years Gen Z will represent 40% of all U.S. consumers — that’s $143 Billion in direct spending and $333 Billion in total spending influenceable based on BLS Consumer expenditure data. 49% of high schoolers do not trust media to fairly or accurately report the news. 6% trust corporations to do the right thing — 1 in 10 trust their government — 34% of Gen Z have deleted their social media accounts (mind blown emoji) Do you get where I am going? More importantly — do you get where they are going?

These facts are significant for many reasons, most notably regarding double bottom line startups — companies that exist with a motivation of how they will get an ROI for their investors and ROI for a positive impact on society. When I ask people at these companies about their plan for trust, they respond with some version of “radical transparency”. This is tricky because transparency is not what will endear Gen Z to trust you. Rather, they are coming of age with the recognition that transparency is a convenient practice when companies are in trouble. Transparency is simply making something visible. What we need is a verification mechanism that clarifies whether what is being made transparent is true or untrue — not just governments, tech, and media companies making transparent what they want the public to see.

I was recently speaking with a senior person in media about their plan to launch a new platform on what they called trust — I reviewed the deck and the thesis, which looked nice but when I asked how am I to trust that your platform is factual — I got a long explanation and a slide about past track record, business model, trends, and what they care about. So I shot back and said — OK — I get it — I should trust you because you have been successful, have a great reputation, and you’re a good person? They answered — well ya — I answered you do not know Gen Z and Gen Z does not know you and with this thinking the game is up!

With this in mind — Onward Labs exists to launch and implement an open, trusted underlying technology that validates what is true and, more importantly, what is untrue in a format that can never be doctored or removed — in a format that is immutable. Onward Labs believes the way in which to do this is to have companies adopt a reasonable and functioning blockchain technology strategy. At its core, blockchain technology is simple. Blockchain combines the openness of the internet with the security of cryptography to give you a more efficient and safer way to verify key information and establish trust. I am, of course, obsessed and fascinated about all the promise of blockchain technology — but let’s focus on what its current functionality is: the ability to verify facts — proxy voting — consensus verification — decentralized ledger that is immutable. We often fall right into the future of what something can be but what is a future without trust — so lets’ start there!

If “trusted” or early companies can have the vision to adopt this concept, it will allow them to thrive in a new economy (the Trust Economy) where trust and verification are paramount. Unfortunately for companies who have failed to gain the trust of their consumers, we find ourselves in a place where trust is not a “nice-to-have” but a necessity. Just ask Facebook and Wells Fargo, who have been hoarding people’s data, and have now made public that they are embracing this technology — but a bit too late for Gen Z, who are no longer interested in their platform or companies.

You can’t keep the kids from smoking, the tobacco companies said — but we CAN keep governments, media, and tech companies from continuing to steal data — or at least immediately and publicly expose them on a immutable ledger that they are doing so and swim away in masses.

In my opinion the future of trust is equally about the companies and individuals that opt into the truth by verifying on a immutable ledger (the act of giving permission) — AND about those individuals and companies who choose to not opt in. If your friends are opting in — how are we to explain why you are not? Your choice — Gen Z is watching you!

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