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On Exponential Trust with Debbie Gamble and Anne Connelly

Will blockchain help us build trust across communities? Could digital currencies unlock potential for entrepreneurship in the Global South? Can artificial intelligence serve all groups equally, including those who have been marginalized? Anne Connelly, educator and a thought leader in blockchain and social innovation joins Debbie Gamble, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at Interac, to discuss how with more technology, there is more potential for meaningful and authentic connections to strengthen business and social outcomes.

  • Episode Transcript

    Debbie Gamble: I’m Debbie Gamble, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at Interac, and you’re listening to Everyday Trust. We are witnessing a period of accelerated digitization in Canada. With this comes new opportunities and increased efficiencies. It also highlights one of the most important questions innovators face today. How can we give Canadians the confidence they need to participate fully in our emerging digital economy? The answer that I come back to over and over again is trust. Trust unifies our families, our communities, and even the way that we’re governed. Trust can take years to build and a singular moment to break. And in a digital world, the way we build and maintain trust is constantly evolving, and we need to stay ahead of the curve. In this series from Interac, I’m talking to leaders about what trust means to them.

    DG: I’m excited to be talking today with Anne Connelly. Anne is an educator and a thought leader in blockchain and social innovation. Recognized as one of CBC’s twelve young leaders change in Canada and has lectured at Oxford on innovation and impact finance and also teaches at Singularity University and Boston University. She is the coauthor of Trust, a graphic novel, and a Bitcoin and the future of fundraising. Hi, Anne, and thanks for joining us today to explore the topic of trust.

    Anne Connelly: Thanks for having me.

    DG: You’re very welcome. I like to start these conversations with the same question. So how would you define trust?


    AC: For me, trust really is the glue that binds a society together. So, it’s really necessary for people to have trust to be able to build relationships slowly over time, whether that’s between people or between themselves and a corporation or with their government. Trust for me really is the foundation of the society that we live in. And when I look at trust, I find that it’s changing, and what that means is changing over generations. So, when I talk to my parents’ generation, they have trust in corporations that have big well-known brands that have been around for a long time. My generation, less so. We don’t care so much about your brand. We care how many five-star ratings you have on Google or on Amazon, what the crowd around me thinks about this particular organization and whether it’s trustworthy. And I think that again is going to change with the generation after myself to see how they trust different institutions or different individuals in the space. So I’m very curious to see how that plays out moving forward into the future, especially as we weave in other technologies like AI and we start to have more robotics that are a part of our society and just look at what that means in a future where humans are one part of a society, but there’s many other creatures or objects or individuals. So, I don’t know how that compares to your view on trust and what that looks like to you.


    DG: Of course, it’s a really important dynamic to every society and the way we interact at Interac, the way we look at its part and parcel of pretty much everything we do. For us, it’s about the engagement that we build, with Canadians and the services that we offer, to Canadians for them to not just go about their daily lives, but to have meaningful connection to that. For us, there’s really kind of the three legs of the stool, which is authenticity and authentic engagement. And for the tech audiences that might be verifiable credentials. And the second leg of the stool is, inclusivity, being inclusive with the audience, ensuring that we can think about everybody. It’s only then that you can actually design the best possible outcome. And then the third leg of the stool from a trust framework for us is about relevance. Right? So, it’s about the relevance to the needs of the community and whether that’s in, verification or authentication to enable new experiences. I think the notion of trust is core to pretty much everything we do when we start to embrace, the ideas of the technology and hence why we wanted to talk to people like yourselves around how you think about this. You’ve got a fantastic background. At Singularity University, you engage with leaders around technology, in particular, the impact of exponential technologies and how it can solve some of the biggest problems that we’re faced with. So perhaps we can kind of look at that a little bit more. And let’s start with what is exponential technology.


    AC: Exponential technology is just technology that grows on a predictable pattern. So, typically, it doubles in a particular time frame. So, obviously, we’ve heard of Moore’s law and computing power, how it doubles about every eighteen months, but the really important part is just the predictable nature of it. And so that we can look at where is this technology going to be in five years and be able to know what we’re gonna have to work with five years from now. So, let’s start building applications knowing that that level of technology is going to come. So, we see this type of pattern with everything from AI, VR, blockchain. You can look at quantum, nanotech. There’re all sorts of different ones. We even saw that exponential curve with COVID where no one really thought it was gonna be as bad as it was because humans think on a linear scale, and we just weren’t able to really appreciate when it doubles every few days or whatever it is just how bad it could get. I like to look at exponential technology from the more positive side: if we know that this is where blockchain is today, but this is where it’s going to be ten years from now, we can really imagine a world in which, that technology is going to help us create better outcomes for people in society or create the better business outcomes, whatever it is that you’re curious about. Just making people aware of what the world is going to look like maybe five or ten years down the road with these technologies is gonna help us to actually appreciate what we can do with them and then what type of outcomes we might be able to achieve.


    DG: You know, I love the the quote from Ernest Hemingway around exponential change being, like bankruptcy. It happens very slowly and then all at once. So, Anne, where do you think technologies like this can make the biggest difference?


    AC: For me, what gets me most excited is is the impact of technologies on the long tail of the curve. People maybe that are LGTBQ plus, maybe they’re neurodivergent, maybe they’re living in a place that is very unique. For them to be able to make connections between these communities through digital organizations or any way that they can feel like they’re a part of something really important and have been able to find their people. I think it is really what gets me most excited about technology. You know, we talk a lot about authenticity. And when you look at Instagram and Facebook and TikTok, I feel like there’s a crisis in authenticity in our generation right now where everyone is encouraged to be as fake as possible to get likes. And what I’m hoping we’ll see is that people will be the most authentic version of their selves, and they’ll be included as a result of that. So, if you’re autistic, maybe you’re masking or you’re hiding some of your tendencies. But in in our future society, I would love to see you just be who you are and have society, recognize that as a great thing. And that to me is going to help everyone just be more comfortable with who they are and have a society that’s much more accepting of people who are different.


    DG: And I think that this notion of authenticity is very important to trust. So, are we confident in the engagement? Are we confident and comfortable with having that digital relationship? Do we know who’s on the other side of that relationship? And I suppose not just who, but, in the future, what. Right? It’s not just gonna be that human interaction. So exponential technologies in a positive light can be the source of great productive change. But they also have the dynamic of exponential technologies. It takes us a while to get our arms around what this actually means. So, as we tie this back into the topic of trust, when you think about exponential technologies, what do you see in terms of what they can do to help enable the notion of trust in the future?


    AC: I mean, my passion is obviously the blockchain sector, and and trust is one of the biggest topics. And it really looks on how our entire society is built on these trusted centralized intermediaries, so whether they’re banks or governments or corporations. And when we start to see if you can’t trust those intermediaries to do what they’re supposed to do, then the fabric of society really starts to erode. And that’s where we’re seeing with blockchain with this type of decentralization. So, moving away from this need for these centralized parties, you don’t actually have to have that trust anymore. Blockchain provides that transparency for you, to enable you to transact in a more peer to peer fashion, which is going to just change so many things in the way society operates and subsequently create these incredible outcomes for people, particularly in emerging economies. If you think about the banking sector in a lot of locations, there’s a huge proportion of the world is unbanked or underbanked. And so, they don’t have access to these services. But the really neat thing about cryptocurrencies is they’re totally permissionless. So, with a bank, you could show up, say, I want an account, and they could just say, no. We’re not interested in you as a client, and that’s it for you. There’s really no recourse. But with cryptocurrency, anybody can participate. It’s really exciting that anyone with a mobile phone and an Internet connection can have access to an entire financial world that they didn’t have access to before.


    DG: I think this is about accessibility, isn’t it? It’s about the notion of how you leverage this great technology and make sure that, everybody has access to it, whether it’s for financial services or in our case, we’re looking at Interac. We’re kind of doubling down on this idea and talking about leveraging some of these capabilities for verification solutions, which for us is really a pathway through to digital enablement. And I think the breadcrumbs to a vibrant, prosperous digital economy. So maybe you can just perhaps touch on some of your experience in other markets as to how that’s been achieved using technology.


    AC: The first example that really comes to mind is is actually health care. I think we’re seeing a lot of challenges in the Canadian system these days, and that’s primarily because so much of our health care is based on in person sort of old-fashioned style models of operation. But if you can look at from an African perspective, I worked in Central African Republic and Doctor Congo, to get qualified medical staff to some of the most remote locations is very difficult. But if you can roll out telemedicine you can have a qualified doctor who’s sitting in Johannesburg who can see patients all day long or just in a spare time if that is the only time they have. And then you can take it a whole step further where you’ve now digitized the care, but you’ve got these big telemedicine units and cameras and clinics. Well, get rid of the units, put it on your phone. So, then you’ve got refugees or people who are mobile. They can access a doctor anywhere they are in the world. And then all the resources that would have gone to these clinics maybe can go to other things like training, more tertiary level care providers. How then does the idea of trust in the medical system change when we’re eliminating maybe things that are familiar or comfortable or eliminating the human element incorporating more of this sort of digital, or new technologies that, we might not be as familiar with or comfortable with.


    DG: We had the privilege recently of talking to Zayna Khayat, and she shared with us a pretty interesting stat of twenty-five to forty percent of everything done in the health care industry today is considered wasteful, duplicative, unnecessary, or harmful. So, if you think about how we can leverage some of these solutions, some of this exponential technology and verification services, how much more efficient we can be, and how much better the service would be if we can make it more accessible and relevant to the users. So, let’s talk about the other side of some of these exponential technologies and think about the difficulties and the challenges in building trust, confidence, and in some cases, significance in leveraging some of these capabilities. And we’ve seen a lot of noise in the marketplace recently about, confidence, etcetera, in technologies like blockchain. How might we overcome some of that?


    AC: Yeah. It’s been an interesting month in the blockchain space. That’s for sure, with everything happening with FTX and Sam Bankman Fried. I think the most interesting thing that comes to me about all of that is FTX was probably one of the most regulated parts of the cryptocurrency space. And there’s a lot of talk in in the media and in my networks, and they’re saying: “well, we need to regulate crypto more”. And I’m like, regulation failed, astronomically, versus if you’re looking at decentralized finance, they’re not regulated. And you don’t get these cases of people running off with hundreds of millions or, in this case, billions of dollars. I think we really need to think about what is the end result that we want to achieve. And if that’s a case of not wanting people’s funds to get stolen or to avoid money laundering or to make sure taxes go to the right place, keep that in mind and then build. What are the protections and how can we create those protections? The answer is not necessarily more rules and more regulations. Maybe it’s actually more technology. And, again, that sort of comes back to this idea of how do you trust in this technology? I mean, we’ve seen incredible cases around AI where they’ve put dirty data in or data that is accurate but is historically biased against, say, female engineers or women of color in science or something like that. And so, it’s really about how can we ensure that anything that’s been programmed is actually not biased and harmful in a way that actually is detrimental moving forward. And I think that’s going to be a key discussion is how do you prevent? And then on the backside of that, if something happens, how do you get recourse, and what does that look like? For example, if you have a self driving car and it gets in an accident who do you take to court over for the death of the pedestrian? Is it the programmer? Is it the owner of the car company? Is it the person sitting in the car? And I think there’s a lot of really interesting ethical questions that we don’t necessarily have the answers to yet. And so that’s gonna be something we’ll have to look at very closely. I think in the coming year or two because of that exponential curve where we think these questions are five, ten, fifteen years out, but they’re really not because the pace of technology is changing so quickly. We’re gonna see these real-life cases in our laps, I think very soon.


    DG: Yeah. I agree. And it’s certainly about how you distill down some of those cores and in some cases, quite sophisticated, complicated sets of technology to, some simple datasets, so that people can understand. So, I think that notion of simplifying the complexity, and thinking about it so it is applicable to everyday usage, so you can build that behavioral change. You can get the best out of the technology. We you recently wrote a graphic novel about this. Right? So, you’ve obviously, been thinking about all these elements of trust. What were you thinking about around how can you share this with the community, and what were you trying to accomplish, I suppose?


    AC: The idea came up about three years ago, and it really came from when I would go to these different crypto events, they were very white and and they were very male. And I just thought, you know, there’s so much untapped talent, particularly in African countries, and if we could just get them excited about blockchain, get them aware of it, we would have the potential to bring a whole new diverse set of individuals into the space. One of the best ways that I found over time of of helping people understand this technology is storytelling. It’s not so much this is how it works specifically, but more of this is the change it’s going to create in the world. I partnered with a friend of mine, chief Nyamoya, who’s a celebrated graphic novelist in Nairobi. And we came up with just an exciting story. It features two female protagonists. We were able to sort of create this world that young Africans, particularly Eastern Africans, would be able to see themselves in. And so we wove the blockchain education through it, showed the characters sort of using cryptocurrency, creating a decentralized organization, changing the governance of the community around them, really with the goal of drawing on how governance was done by their ancestors and historically before the colonial powers came in and sort of broke everything apart. We produced the graphic novel. It launched in September of this year. We had, two sold out screenings to the motion comic version in Nairobi, and it’s free to access on


    DG: What a wonderful way to convey the capabilities. Right? I like the kind of combination of traditional and new. Right? So, storytelling, particularly graphic storytelling is the history of humanity, really, and combining that with telling the story about, applicability of the new technologies, again, kind of embraces that notion of inclusivity and touches on what is relevant, to that particular audience. So, let’s turn our sights to the future. When you think about the future and this kind of capability, how do you think about trust?


    AC: So, when I think about industries being able to incorporate many of these new technologies, I think we’re not looking at these incremental levels of change, this sort of ten percent better. I think we’re looking at, let’s wipe the slate clean, rebuild from scratch, and build something incredible that looks nothing like what we had before. And there’s real pros and cons to that. I mean, the pros are that everything’s gonna be so much better. The cons are that change is really hard, and people are going to be uncomfortable with that. Power structures might be dismantled, so there’s gonna be a lot of pushbacks on that. And so, in terms of trust, it’s really going to be hard. I think it’s gonna change a lot. I think we’re gonna maybe hopefully go back to trying to create scenarios where you have deeper human connections with people in your local communities where you live. And then these great online communities that have been created, how can we create more trust in those? Blockchain’s playing a big role in that in terms of organizations and transparency there. But then again, it’s how do you trust in machines and these machines or computer programs have our best interests at heart. And I don’t know how to fix that problem. I think we’re gonna have to figure out as we go. And and maybe the answer is just that the outcomes, surpass expectations. But there’s gonna be a lot of challenges to get to that place. And so, it’s really about, do we have the faith, I suppose, to power through some of the issues that will inevitably happen on our path to this new way of working so that we can reap the benefits on the other side.


    DG: I love the idea of the potential for deeper human connections. I think that’s gonna be core to how the future actually plays out. So, thank you for that. We close these conversations with a handful of rapid-fire questions if you’re you’re ready for that.


    AC: Okay. I’m ready.


    DG: The first is complete the sentence: trust is just another word for?


    AC: Human connection. Absolutely.


    DG: The second one, the most trustworthy person I know is…


    AC: I don’t know. Part of me wants to say, myself, because I can always depend on myself. But then there are people who know me better than I know myself. So maybe they’re better able to predict, what’s gonna happen.


    DG: I like your idea of trusting yourself. Why not? We certainly have the technology to enable that. So, that is really verification. Right? So why not? And the third question on our rapid fire is, what’s one thing an organization could do to quickly earn your trust?


    AC: For me, it’s all about dependability and doing what they say they were going to do. So, its honesty, authenticity, and and just never having to worry if they’re gonna be there for me.


    DG: There’s that word again, authenticity. I think that’s gonna be so cool to the future. And thank you so much for talking to us about the pretty impactful term of trust. Your experience is really insightful around how we can get our arms around the technology and apply it, not just to our developed world reality, but also in, hopefully, enabling some developing nations to embrace this technology to prosper as well. So, thank you very much.


    AC: Thank you.


    Conclusion: Trust is evolving. And through that process, it’s up to us innovators to create a solid foundation of that trust, where trust and new technologies intersect. I like to think of this foundation as a three-legged stool. First, there’s authenticity and authentic engagement. For the tech audience, that could mean verifiable credentials. Is the person or the institution you’re engaging with really who or what they claim to be? The second leg of the stool is inclusivity. Can we design systems that include everyone? And I really mean everyone. And the third part of the trust framework is relevance. Are we innovating just to innovate, or is what we’re creating relevant to the community’s needs? Emerging technologies can play a key role in developing this trust framework, providing safe spaces for marginalized communities to make connections and build in roads for those who do not have access to traditional institutions. One example of this is the blockchain technology, which can provide transparency and authentication for peer-to-peer transactions that don’t involve traditional centralized intermediary institutions. But before we get to the point where we’re using technology to build trust, we need to work to build trust in the technology itself and reassure users of its reliability. For Anne, storytelling can play an active role in helping people understand the positive impacts these new technologies will have in the world and what these changes mean for them. Building a narrative can go a long way to build understanding, especially when it comes to these new exponential technologies. And coauthored a graphic novel that aims to do just that for blockchain. To learn more about Trust, the graphic novel, visit or follow the link in our show notes. Thank you for listening to Everyday Trust. If you found this conversation valuable, please take a moment to subscribe to the show and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.