Big Data. We (users of information network technologies) are effectively shut out from a one trillion dollar data market, a market where we are delivering all the value. Its value is not just measured in dollars but in healthy and informed minds, nurtured souls, and functioning economies, democracies, and ecosystems. The asymmetry of our relationship with our information network stewards is spectacular in its breadth, and it increases against our favor every day.
We all agree that oil is valuable. We all agree that rare earth minerals used in industry are valuable because there is almost no aspect of our lives that isn’t impacted by natural resources. Governments sell mining licenses and collect taxes on these resources which pay for services like health care and education. In some cases like Alaska, a portion of the fees collected and profits made from resource mining are deposited directly into citizens’ bank accounts. Reasonable since much of the land and infrastructure used in these industries is owned or paid for with taxpayer funds and therefore a portion of the returns should go to those same people. Not to mention the millennia of practical experience that tells us that unregulated exploitation of natural resources always ends badly.
Why are we not doing this with data? Most of the infrastructure, which hosts data flows, was paid for with taxpayer funds and all of the data is made by network users. The problem can be broken into two parts:
1. It is hard for us to connect our daily lives to the data we produce on a 1:1 basis. The value derived from our data comes to fruition in context and it is an abstraction which deals with exponentials. This stuff is hard even for the brightest and best.
2. Our current system is not set up for information flows to be managed in a way that makes this kind of information and value sharing possible.
So where do we begin?
First, we need to establish that if you have a computer and a cellphone you are a data creator and your data is being bundled with other people’s data and then sold. The profits are enormous, but more importantly, the profits gained from analyzing the data and applying the insights are exponentially greater.
Here is a simple illustration of what exponential means:
1 unit of data = 1 permutation
3 units of data = 27 permutations
10 units of data = 10,000,000,000 permutations (that’s 10 billion)
Add to this that not one person I know, outside of a small handful who have looked into the data marketplace, is able to assess the value of their data on its own or in context. And among those people in the know, the figures vary wildly. And yet, we hear estimates that run into the trillions of dollars for the global internet user data market.
Data is used to understand people individually and in groups. The data collected helps companies improve their products and exposes trends and subtle shifts in public sentiment which can be exploited for profit. This metadata is combined with more concrete information on individuals to leverage their personalities to move them in a particular direction.
We, the people, are the creators of the raw material from which all of this value is derived. In exchange for our data, we are given a tool which is a two-way portal through which our attention is leveraged to deliver the strategy which was designed based on the insights developed from our data.
There is no oversight, no transparency, and no sharing of profits.
We need a new kind of network that allows app builders and their users to benefit from the exponential gains of collective intelligence together and in harmony with each other for a sustainable and mutually beneficial communications system that allows for balanced value creation in democratic societies. Because the alternative, towards which we are speeding, is a small group of people in control of 100% of the value created from the insights derived from our data. This is already negatively impacting information flows in news (fake news: Ukrainian election interference!) and culture (disinformation: Vaccinations cause autism!), and it will have an increasingly chilling effect on entrepreneurship and the ability of small companies to identify and exploit commercial opportunities or increase their market share. And most importantly it makes it near impossible for societies to achieve consensus around important issues since we are no longer able to evaluate whether a particular issue is getting a proportional response (Pizzagate, Anti-Immigration, George Soros).
For a revolution to take place 3.5% of us need to agree that there is a reason to revolt. This is an invitation for everyone who is on the fence or has felt something is wrong but can’t quite put their finger on it, to take a few minutes to understand how screwed we really are if we don’t do something very soon.
Please visit www.SenseCollective.org to discover what we are working to help solve these problems and how you can contribute to our efforts to take back control over one of our most precious resources: our identity in the digital domain.