Tech Storytelling Transcript Selection

Internship Interview – Round 2 Exercise

Transcript 1: Expert Interview Stephen

Gem: What is the most exciting current development in telecommunications technology?

Stephen: Great, yeah. So I mean, I think both 5G and 6G, like a lot of technologies, are likely massively overhyped in the short term, but significantly underestimated in the longer term. I mean, in particular, with 5g, you know, a lot has been spent saying how 5g will, you know, will bring a lot of socio economic benefit in sectors that the mobile systems haven’t generally addressed, so that it will go beyond simply making the phone in your pocket faster. And hopefully, a little bit more reliable, but really allow, you know, industrial processes, particularly, but also a wide range of other sorts of enterprise and public sector users to make a difference. And that that really creates some of the tension between the hype and the outcome. Because, first of all, when you first get the 5G logo on your shiny new phone, you don’t tend to feel the socio-economic benefit coursing through your veins. The difference is, is smaller, almost non existent in terms of actual consumer perception. In the short term, what 5g is really doing is just making sure that mobile operators don’t bang their heads against, you know, economic capacity and technical capacity limits. So really, you’re opening up new spectrum bands. You know, clearly in the US there’s been recent availability of the C band spectrum, which has been very important and without that, the previous kind of hype around millimetre wave spectrum for 5g that, frankly, delayed 5g really making good inroads in the US context. But more profound is that most 5g that’s been deployed today is so called non standalone i.e. it depends hugely on being anchored on the 4g network. It really isn’t anything more than a slightly bigger big bit pipe. And until standalone 5g networks are widely deployed and devices actually work with those standalone networks, many of the benefits of 5g simply won’t fly. Likewise, there’s technology and 5g cable, and why won’t they flow? Well, one is because actually the most profound difference with 5g is having consistent delays and consistent latency such that you can deliver services that have for example robotics that need a control loop that goes on stable with more than about 10 milliseconds of round trip. Secondly because as humans, we like to interact in a way that’s low latency. When organising things like Zoom orchestras low latency is absolutely critical for that. And it kind of works, but it is really hard on today’s public networks. And then thirdly, it’s hyped, because there’s this this technology around, around, sorry, the word fails me for a moment, but, but it’s embarrassing for me to forget the word but where you couldn’t partition the network into different layers for different users with different quality of service requirements to that. 

Gem: Slicing?

Stephen: Thank you. Yes, exactly. 5g standard load is required to make all of those things work and simply hasn’t been widely deployed today. The other piece is, it may not actually be necessary. Because these enterprises have special requirements, what they really need is their own network. And, and sometimes they don’t have the expertise or the spectrum to build their own private network, but if they had it, that would meet most of their needs, it would ensure coverage was in place in the right places, they would ensure they have the capacity dedicated to them to avoid, you know, having to do fancy things in terms of partitioning for them. And, you know, it would mean that it’s fashioned in their own image, it’s very hard for, you know, for mobile operators to understand the finer details of the needs of these enterprises. So, you know, for all those reasons, I don’t think 5g is remotely scratched, it’s, you know, potential at this point in time

Gem: More generally, how do you try to convey ideas about complex technology? 

Stephen: I learned how to convey tech by having to teach it. And when you’ve got, you know, I don’t know, a lecture theatre full of 120 mostly Greek students who don’t take any nonsense, you know, you, you have to pretty quickly make the stuff compelling. And my recipe for making it compelling is bit by bit. But I’m genuinely interested in the stuff and trying to make that interest sort of shine through in what I’m saying. And, you know, I’ve always enjoyed seeing the light bulb moments when people say, Great Scott!, I get it now. That’s, that’s kind of quite, quite rewarding. I don’t I don’t know if there’s any great magic formula I can give you. I mean, others are good at telling stories about this stuff, and working from anecdotes and so on. I mean, I throw in a lot of analogies, but I’m not really, you know, it’s not doesn’t tend to be loads of facts and figures. It’s more like just breaking it down. It’s simple language or plain language, not really simple language. Yeah, I don’t know the answer to your question, but it’s a great way. 

Gem: The thing you mentioned earlier about facts and figures is interesting, because often businesses who want to convey something in the space tend to rely on like, percentage uplift, or like, this is going to get faster by this much. And weirdly, there’s something about it, it feels kind of empty. And, and yeah, just as you mentioned, that reflected in the way that you described like, okay, 1010 megabits per second, sorry, 10 milliseconds, right? Like, it’s going to improve it, but it’s like when politicians say 1 million pounds, it doesn’t really mean anything without the context. 

Stephen: Yeah, I mean, I mean, I confess it’s a bit different in written communications where throwing in a numerical factoid, lends credibility to the discussion. You know, it often actually doesn’t do anything of substance that IT people, people latch on. So when I’ve quoted a number on it, and it looks as though it’s well sourced the verbiage around it probably is good stuff. That’s a slippery trick. Rarely, but it does work. 


Transcript 2: Expert Interview Anders

Gem: How do you convey technology to consumers?

Anders: The question is basically how can you basically show them why this is going to improve or change their daily lives? When, you know, for consumers a lot of their concern about networks, and telcos is basically just having a phone that works, you know, or like an internet connection that’s fast enough for you to work and everything. But I guess, like, we do see now a little bit more than that. I mean, the fact that like the pandemic, and everything and so much of our lives do take place through digital mediums, I think there’s definitely an opportunity to increase that importance. And I think it’s, I do think that there are some, like interesting use cases around. There’s one recently that was with, like VR, and it was in a museum in London, I think. And it was people using VR headsets to like, to learn about the planet and ecosystems. And it was like, hosted by David Attenborough. which just sounds like an amazing experience. I’d love to do that myself. And one thing, just as a side note, David Attenborough’s VR, like nature shows, is some of the best VR content I’ve seen. I think it’s awesome. It’s like if I want to show someone a cool VR experience, that’s what I show them. . Ah, one thing that I feel like the telcos have been the thing that they’ve liked their value proposition over the past years. It’s been like all about upgrades and they’re sort of like riding this American obsession with upgrades, like upgrading your house, upgrading your lifestyle. Um, I like upgrading to fibre and upgrading to 5g, and yeah, it’s better and it’s faster and it’s worth the money. But I think eventually people are going to start to question why, like, Why, yeah, it’s an upgrade. It’s better. It’s something that I use every day constantly. So it feels like it makes sense. But like to what end like, what, what is this ultimately going to offer? And I think that they’re, they’re in a position now and have been for the past recent years where they have to answer that question for the first time, like, upgrade because this is what you’ll get. And it’s a hard question to answer because the whole infrastructure, like the experiences that will rely on 5g, doesn’t exist yet. And there’s even a lack of clarity and agreement on what it’s going to look like. 

Gem: In terms of the metaverse and understanding that landscape, what do you find is the most compelling value proposition in the metaverse to the everyday person? 

Anders: That’s a major unanswered one. I mean, like, I’ll just float some Metaverse experiences that I find compelling. You are in a grocery store. And you need help choosing things that you want. You’re wearing AR glasses, and the platform you’re using knows your preferences. It knows what you care about when it comes to food, and knows your dietary restrictions and your favourite this and favourite that whether you buy brand name, whether you buy generic, what you care about with regard to sustainability and supply chains. And so it basically guides you through your supermarket experience. It also knows what’s in store, knows the layout and knows where everything is. So it takes you through, it shows you things that matter. You pick up a product, you see information about it, you know, nutrition sustainability reviews. And it’s basically like an information saturated experience, ideally one that reduces complexity rather than overloading information. That’s one metaphors experience. I think it’s compelling. Another, you’re walking down the street with AR and other wearables, you know, I think the air pods are the closest we can get to a Metaverse experience today, in many ways. But you walk past like a store and you hear some app from the store like fresh back gas, whatever. And then there’s like a hologram instead of a sign advertising. That’s a mystery. Another compelling metaverse experience. And this is I think, the thing that’s being most experimented with today is like a virtual commons that you can navigate by avatar, and talk to people. So almost like the real world, like a walkable Town Centre. Except your friends are there, even though they’re somewhere else in the world, and their games and other fun activities you can do with them. Um, and like we’re seeing a lot of experimentation with things like decentralisation and gathering. And there are so many places like there that people can navigate back in avatar and talk to people. But mostly, they are less about like a social experience and more about like, some speculative investing element. Like, we’re all here to buy land, like virtual land. And, like that’s what we’re doing. Like, we’re just here to make money. It’s not about the social experience yet, but that’s the promise because the land isn’t worth anything unless people are going there to socialise. I’m surprised that the mobile version has taken off yet. So like you can imagine gathering as a mobile app. But it’s based on a social network and so it’s connected to all your friends. And so you log in, you’re like, Oh, I wonder which of my friends are around? Oh, yeah, it’s my friend from high school who I’ve started talking to more because he’s gathering a lot. And it’s like, it’s like a form of social media that’s more active and social. And that doesn’t really exist yet. But I feel like it’s coming. And it’s going to be dependent on 5g, because that’s a high bandwidth metaverse experience. Um, so that was a big mess, like, obviously, there’s a trajectory from mobile to AR and other wearables. Um, but that I think, those are some of the answers to your question. 


Transcript 3: Expert Interview Laura

Gem: What is it that regular consumers need to know about telecoms?

Laura: I mean, I think that, you know, at the bare minimum, people should know that there are different types of networks that are operating in the world. Satellite based systems, cell phone system broadcasts, undersea systems, I mean, they should know that these systems exist, they should know how and where they are positioned and I also think they should know who owns them. You know, we know who owns and operates the systems who are charged with administering services, you know, organising and administering the services they provide to the public and consumers. But I also think that you know, and these are basic, almost like political economic approaches to the study of network technologies. But I think we’re entering an era where we’ve historically thought about telecom networks as public utilities. And more and more, we’re entering an era in which we’ve become utility publics. And by that I mean that the labour, the time, the attention and energy that we spend at the interface every day, is what is fueling and subsidising the future operation of the network. Without our attention and energy and time we spend online, these networks would have no value. So we are, you know, our public, we are the public’s that fuel and energise networks. They mean, I mean, they might operate, and there might be mechanics, operations and sensors without humans that go on their own. But they’re in terms of value and value generation. They’re very much predicated on what some have called our free labour, the free labour we get in the form of our time, attention and energy every day. Whether we’re using platforms of social media companies, or the banking services or whatever, whatever interface, it’s. 

Gem: Yeah, particularly in the context of security. It’s effectively a political question. 

Laura: I do think that, you know, especially in the context of data concentrations, that we have to be thinking about security issues all the time. But yeah, having some kind of baseline understanding of, if we’re talking about internet, the internet, and the movement of data from place to place on the internet, knowing that there’s, your data is stored in particular ways and places with particular mechanisms is helpful, and might give you assurance. To this point, I think it’s going back a little bit earlier, what I was saying, like, why does it matter? Why do we need to know, I think we need to know at a material level, what is bundled into these technologies, otherwise, things can be, you know, put in there. Unwittingly, without people being aware without import export controls, even being aware. We need to know how these networks are made, what their layers are, what their capacities are, and what their specifications are. That shouldn’t just be the realm of engineering, it should be public oversight, there should be national regulatory oversight. So that these things are made in ways that are humane and civil and, and not have these sort of sinister underbellies so to speak.