Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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Harry, the Fresh Prince of Virtue Signal Valley


PRINCE Harry has been appointed Chief Impact Officer for BetterUp, an artificial intelligence start-up in Silicon Valley that simulates empathy for automated corporate coaching. 

Are they going to inject Harry with artificial intelligence?

What that going to do to him? Is he going to start talking all American, like Stephen Hawking? Maybe they’ll programme him to sound more like his job title, big Chief Impact Officer: ‘I bring um message, from my people.’

There are other questions: What is BetterUp? Who hails to the Chief Impact Officer? And what is the message from his ‘people’ now that he’s made it clear he’s not one of us?

BetterUp is based in the clouds with a swanky sounding address on ‘the vital intersection of well-being and human performance’. 

It’s quite hard to find on the map. Head along the Boulevard of Broken Dreams. If you find yourself on Equality Street, you’ve gone too far.

But if you see people without hope being stepped over by hipsters without a care, then you know you’re right in the heart of Virtue Signal Valley.

The word on the cloud is that BetterUp wants to build a better world. Starting with the virtually important people: corporate executives.

Big corporations have a problem. Their human capital is getting worn out faster than Elon Musk’s selfie stick. If these VIPs were machines their employers would create a ‘digital twin’ to monitor them and simulate their state of being, the better to predict when they could be replaced. But you can’t swap out humans and chuck them into a pit. Not yet: there’s some more lobbying to do before that happens.

Meanwhile, humans respond best to compassion, kindness and empathy, according to a report by analysts Blinding Lee Obvious.

But compassion costs, there are no tax breaks on kindness and empathy doesn’t show up on the quarterly reports.

BetterUp has found a solution. It’s a combination of coaching, counselling and mental health support that improves psychological and emotional health. Automated interventions can cut stress by 77 per cent, extinguish burnout by 35 per cent and boost nutrition 75 per cent, according to its figures.

And that’s not all. Sleep habits and ‘feelings of rest’ are up 2.4 fold, apparently.

I take it all back. Apparently you can measure happiness. I wonder what their figures are for spirituality.

The bottom line is that cognitive and emotional functions in employees are ‘enhanced’. And fast.

BetterUp says it ‘combines coaching with dynamic and personalised digital experiences to accelerate . . . development and personal growth’.

Sounds like a Hurry up Harry scenario.

Get digital, get better, get back in the meeting.

Prince Harry will help people through their lives and events with a focus on four key areas: driving advocacy, guiding impact, influencing vision and expanding global communities.

This all sounds very active but in reality these functions all involve either typing or gawping into a glowing screen. When Harry is ‘lifting up critical dialogues’ he won’t have to roll up his sleeves, he’ll tap the CAPS LOCK key.  

When Harry wants to foster ‘an environment for honest and vulnerable conversations’, he goes on the Oprah Winfrey show and briefs against his own people. 

That sounds like the worst sort of office politics. How will that help with the corporate zeitgeist?

Good luck in Silicon Valley, Harry. Remember, you’ve gotta be the smartest guy in the Zoom.

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Nick Booth
Nick Booth
Nick Booth is a freelance writer.

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