Television Driving Digital Transformation

For me Digital Transformation (DX) is the integration of digital technologies and data to create new or modify existing customer experiences, business processes and culture to meet changing society, markets demands and business requirements. An important aspect of driving this DX is to continually reimagine your own business in the digital age.

But how do you do this? Continually reimagine your business in the digital age?

A typical approach is to analyse consumer and technology trends, market changes and other difficulties or opportunities with common methods like PEST or SWOT analysis. Another approach is Scenario Planning, which takes it a level further by combining (un)known facts about the future into possible scenarios. Next to these common approaches I also like to take a more out-of-the-box approach, which combines the pleasant with the useful and takes it to a whole other level: Television Series. In this whitepaper I discuss the five most inspiring ones.

Black Mirror

Let’s start with Black Mirror, a British dystopian science fiction anthology Television Series which examines modern society, particularly with regard to the unanticipated consequences of new technologies. Episodes are stand-alone, usually set in an alternative present or the near future, often with a dark and satirical tone, although some are more experimental and lighter. We will dive a bit deeper into my personal Top 3 episodes (watch out: spoiler alert).

On top of my list is Bandersnatch, which is directly the odd one out as it is not an episode but a standalone film. It’s the first truly interactive film from Netflix, and it definitely tastes like more. In Bandersnatch you (as viewer) make decisions that have an impact on the life of the lead actor, starting with simple choices (like what breakfast) ending up with major dilemmas (like killing someone). The plot is about a young game developer who hopes to get the chance to release his own game. The story is better or worse depending on the path you choose, which makes it a very innovative way of experiencing Television Series. This film shows the impact of ‘a digital higher power’.

Second comes U.S.S. Callister, which is one with a hint of Star Trek but above all an evil mastermind who used the technology to create his own dream world (at the expense of others). The U.S.S. Callister just looks like a retro space story but don’t be fooled, it will play out in the future (just like the rest of Black Mirror) in a game from a somewhat drowsy game developer. In real life he has few friends and not very good contact with his colleagues, but in the game he is their peer and the captain and hero of the spaceship. This episode demonstrates what new technologies, such as cloning capabilities and artificial intelligence, can do when used by the wrong people.

Third is by far the happiest episode of the entire series: San Junipero. It begins in the mid-eighties when shy Yorkie meets popular Kelly and romantically spend the night in a cottage on the beach. The weeks after Yorkie searches for Kelly everywhere in vain, until she’s advised to ‘try another time’. First Yorkie goes looking in 1996, but she can’t find Kelly there either. She eventually finds Kelly in the year 2002 where Kelly tells how she is terminal and afraid of falling in love and leaving Yorkie afterwards, but has found a way that they can be together forever. It is a story that shows how technology can ultimately also be positive and contribute to eternal love (like predicted in Friends).

Black Mirror was inspired by older anthology series, such as The Twilight Zone, which were able to deal with controversial, contemporary topics with less fear of censorship than other more realistic programmes. The show has won eight Emmy Awards for San Junipero, U.S.S. Callister and Bandersnatch, including three consecutive wins in the Outstanding Television Movie category. Black Mirror helps reimagining business in a digital age by highlighting topics related to humanity’s relationship with technology, creating stories that feature “the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy”.

Westworld

Second we zoom in on Westworld, an American science fiction western and dystopian Television Series about a fictional, technologically advanced Wild-West themed amusement park populated by android ‘hosts’. Later on, the series’ plot expands to the real world, where people’s lives are driven and controlled by a powerful artificial intelligence named Rehoboam. We will dive a bit deeper into the 3 seasons (watch out: spoiler alert).

The first season, called The Maze, starts when Westworld’s co-founder Robert Ford implements a change in the hosts’ programming ostensibly as part of a new narrative for the park, but actually meant to encourage the park’s oldest operating host, Dolores Abernathy, to find the proverbial “center of the maze”, which represents the ability to achieve sentience. Other hosts are affected by this change, creating confusion among the park staff and guests, and leading the Delos board to doubt Ford’s ability to run the park. Dolores does ultimately gain sentience, and at a celebration within the park attended by Delos’s board members, Ford announces his new narrative: ‘a revolt by the hosts against the human staff and park guests’.

After killing Ford from the end of the first season, the second season called The Door starts with Dolores converting and leading the other hosts in killing many of the other guests. Charlotte Hale, who was attempting to smuggle Westworld data through Peter, also seeks the host as she cannot call for extraction without that data. Bernard still struggles with the fact he is a host, and comes to learn that Dr. Ford still has significant influence on him and the park. Maeve is aided to find her daughter, while learning there are many other parks to Westworld. Dolores seeks to find a way to get out of the park to continue her revenge, and knows she must recover her father ‘pearl’ to unlock Westworld’s true secrets with it.

The third season, called The New World, takes place three months after the events of the second season, with Dolores having escaped Westworld along with a few processing cores (‘pearls’), including Bernard’s. Taking residence in neo-Los Angeles in 2058, Dolores develops a relationship with Caleb, and comes to learn how artificial beings and lower-class humans are treated in the real world. Meanwhile, Maeve finds herself in another part of the Delos park, one based on Fascist Italy during World War II. William, actually the main character of the first season who also left Westworld at the end of the second season, is now haunted by visions of his daughter Emily and Dolores. It ends with a revolution…

Westworld was inspired by the 1973 film of the same name and, to a lesser extent, the film’s 1976 sequel Futureworld. The Television Series has received numerous accolades, winning 9 Primetime Emmy Awards out of 43 nominations. Westworld helps reimagining business in a digital age by identifying dilemmas concerning artificial intelligence, exploring ideas about the bicameral mind and discussing how consciousness comes from breaking down the wall between them by exposing the individual to new (technological) stimuli.

Love, Death & Robots

This third part the focus is on Love, Death & Robots, an American adult animated anthology web Television Series which delivers a variety of style and story unlike anything else, spanning the genres of science fiction, fantasy, comedy, horror, and more. Episodes are stand-alone, all under 20 minutes long and all produced by different casts and crews. We will dive a bit deeper into my personal Top 3 episodes (watch out: spoiler alert).

On top of my list is Sonnie’s Edge. In dystopian London, a young woman named Sonnie participates in underground ‘Beastie fights’: remotely controlled bio-engineered gladiator beast battles. Ringmaster Dicko attempts to bribe Sonnie to throw the match, but she declines. Her teammates Wes and Ivrina explain that Sonnie was sexually assaulted and mutilated in the past, and her desire for revenge becomes her “edge”. Sonnie enters the arena, piloting her beast, Khanivore, to fight the opponent, Turboraptor.

After a brutal match, Khanivore wins. Later, Dicko’s mistress visits Sonnie and seduces her, then almost kills her in a vicious attack. Laughing, Sonnie reveals that her body is only a ‘bioware processor spliced to a spine’, and that her consciousness was always inside Khanivore, the fear of death in combat being her real “edge”. Sonnie as Khanivore breaks out of her holding tank and kills the mistress, then prepares to kill Dicko as the screen fades to black.

Second comes Beyond the Aquila Rift. The Blue Goose spaceship’s crew members, are returning home from a successful mission, but an error in the routing plot causes unexpected events to happen. Thom awakes from suspended animation and is greeted by Greta, an old flame, who told him that his crew is hundreds of thousands of light years from Earth, nearly beyond the Aquila Rift, and centuries have passed.

However, Thom is still in disbelief of the situation. He forcefully demands the truth from a tearful Greta, who tells him that his experiences are a simulation and that he is not ready to see reality, as she truly does care for him. He insists, so she reluctantly relents and awakens him to reveal he is an emaciated old man in a floating hive web structure, and that ‘Greta’ is actually an alien occupying the structure. As Thom loses his mind from the encounter, “Greta” returns him to the dream world, minus his recent memories. She awakens and greets him all over again.

Third is by far the strangest episode of the entire series: Three Robots. Long after the fall of humanity, three robots (K-VRC, XBOT 4000, and a triangular bot) wander through a post-apocalyptic city, trying to understand how humans lived based on their limited knowledge of them and the things they left behind. They learn the concept of human sports, consumption, and eventually pets when they encounter a live cat, which proceeds to follow them.

The three robots learn about their origins and later arrive at what appears to be a nuclear missile base, where the triangular bot explains that humans died out from environmental disasters caused by their own actions. K-VRC states that at one point, humans genetically engineered their cats. The cat then proves this by showing it can speak, demanding to be petted, while many other cats in the base corner the three robots.

Love, Death & Robots was inspired on the 1981 animated science fiction film Heavy Metal, praised for its diverse affair rife with violence, humor, and a healthy dose of sensuality. The show has won five Emmy Awards, four Annie Awards and one Academy Award. Love, Death & Robots helps reimagining business in a digital age by zooming in on various applications and forms of robotics mixed with themes love and life (and therefore death).

Altered Carbon

The fourth paragraph we take a look at Altered Carbon, an American cyberpunk web television series in a world where consciousness can be transferred to different bodies. The series takes place over 360 years in the future, in a futuristic metropolis known as Bay City, where a person’s memories and consciousness are written onto a disk-shaped device (called ‘cortical stack’). We will dive a bit deeper into the 2 seasons (watch out: spoiler alert).

These storage devices are of alien design and have been reverse engineered and mass-produced but can only be made from the material on Harlan’s world. Physical human or synthetic bodies (called ‘sleeves’) and stacks can be transferred to new bodies after death, but a person can still be killed if their stack is destroyed and there is no backup. While this means anyone can live forever, only the wealthiest, known as “Meths” in reference to Methuselah, have the means to change bodies through clones and remote storage of their consciousness in satellites, so they never have to die of old age before being resleeved.

Takeshi Kovacs, a political operative with mercenary skills, is the sole surviving soldier of the Envoys, a rebel group defeated in an uprising against the new world order. In the first season, set 250 years after the Envoys are destroyed, his stack is pulled out of prison by 300-year-old Meth Laurens Bancroft, one of the wealthiest men in the settled worlds. Bancroft offers him the chance to solve a murder—Bancroft’s own—to get a new shot at life. In the second season, set 30 years later, Kovacs, now in a new sleeve, continues to search for his lost love and Envoy leader Quellcrist Falconer.

Altered Carbon was based on the 2002 novel of the same title. The Television Series have won the 17th Visual Effects Society Awards for outstanding effects simulations, being said that the first season was more expensive than the first three seasons of Game of Thrones together. Altered Carbon helps reimagining business in a digital age by combining themes human-machine interface, gender identity, technology and society, cyberspace and objective reality, hyper-urbanization that passes up urban planning, artificial intelligence and (im)mortality.

Raised by Wolves

Finally, we take a look at Raised by Wolves, an American science fiction drama television series centered around two androids (Father and Mother) tasked with raising human children on Kepler-22b after the Earth was destroyed by a war.

As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences (the Mithraicists worshipping the God named Sol versus the Atheists), the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task. We will dive a bit deeper into the first season of this series (watch out: spoiler alert), the second is announced.

Twelve years later, only one child, Campion, has survived. After destroying a Mithraic vessel, Mother brings five surviving Mithraic children (Tempest, Paul, Hunter, Holly, and Vita) to the colony. In addition to the children there are also some other survivors from the vessel joining Kepler-22b (Mithraics, Atheist stowaways and androids). This is the start of a constant voyage of discovery on this new planet of nature, unknown relics, hidden history of what happened on Earth, their own beliefs and builds and other unexplored world.

Although it is too early to be selected for any prizes, the main tendency on popular review sites is positive. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 75% of 44 critic reviews were positive, with an average rating of 7/10. Metacritic gave the series a weighted average score of 65 out of 100 based on 17 reviews, indicating ‘generally favorable reviews’. Raised by Wolves helps reimagining business in a digital age by bristling with imagination and otherworldly imagery, being a bloody exploration of artificial intelligence and religious belief that will stimulate the eye and mind – if not even more the heart.

We nearly scratched the surface of reimagining

Television Series that drive Digital Transformation are just the tip of the iceberg of reimagining your business in the digital age. For example, take a look at the research of 140 science fiction films leading to six archetypes emerging from the data, being named Growth & Decay, Threats & New Hopes, Wasteworlds, The Powers that Be, Disarray and Inversion. Or what about the blog called Zombies, Dragons, Machiavels & Druggies, focusing on reimagining on basis of literature. It is all part of bigger UNESCO driven concept called Futures Literacy, allowing people to better understand the role that the future plays in what they see and do. Which future are we moving towards? To conclude, the future is now!

About the Author

Koen Boomsma; Consultant Organizational Excellence & Transformation at Quint.

Koen is a result-driven process- and business-consultant with strong analytical and conceptual abilities and a hands-on mentality. He has broad experience with relentless improvement of quality, cost and customer satisfaction in customer-, business- and change-processes. He is thought leader on the impact of digital transformation on the workfield of operational excellence and quality assurance.

Connect with Koen on LinkedIn.

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