( A Ten minute read, that challenges the reader to leave a comment.)
Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today.
People’s characters, conceptions and behaviour are socially and culturally are being constructed by Data. We are living in a data explosion.
Like every period of significant rupture and change throughout history, the data-evolution we are witnessing is in urgent need of a stronger ethical and critical backbone.
Big Data is creating a new kind of digital divide: “the Big Data rich and the Big Data poor.” Inequality has become an essential part of the system that creates, stores and makes data accessible.
Tech giants like Google are creating what some call an “intellectual monopoly,” as universities’ best brains are hired to work with their exclusive access to privately harvested data to produce scientific results which are often not shared publically if they are profitable.
The Internet, has become an alternative space of consumption, production and social interaction. It is an increasingly influential space where the future divisions and similarities between people are being formed and the political and economic rules and structures that govern this space called Internet deserve our critical attention.
Ninety percent of data that exists in the world today was created in the past two years. This mass explosion of data – and our increasing reliance on it is creating a very disturbed place devoid of human life and filled with whirring fibre optic cables, servers and generators to convey the vastness of the web through binary code and pixels:
The majority of data which exists nowadays is made not by governments or scientific organisations but by ordinary citizens.
It’s the kind of information that most people share without a second thought, but when compiled in physical form, presents a surprisingly discernible narrative from hobbies and habits to musical tastes and conversations.
I am all for Technology but its impact on organisations and institutions will be profound.
Governments, armies, churches, universities, banks and companies all evolved to thrive in relatively murky epistemological environment, in which most knowledge was local, secrets were easily kept, and individuals were, if not blind, myopic.
When these organisations suddenly find themselves exposed to daylight, they quickly discover that they can no longer rely on old methods; they must respond to the new transparency or go extinct.
They are struggling to cope with transparency.
In my last post I asked the question – are we just becoming fodder for Artificial Intelligence, ie Data.
Don’t get me wrong, data is a treasure trove when it comes to health, predicting the climate, space, and the like. Community projects such as Open Street Map and Safecast‘s work to record radiation levels in Japan.
Big data’s impact on politics can also be beneficial such as Madrid City Council site, which acts as an open consultation platform where people can have their say on issues from bull fighting to transport proposals, something we’ll likely see a lot more of over the next few years.
We will see more and more live data streams on a map of the capital, showing Tweets, Instagram posts and TfL updates, while another by Future Cities Catapult asks users to make decisions about housing, energy, transport and building projects, and uses data modelling to predict the effects those decisions would have over the next 20 years.
Now I am no data mining scientist but it seems to me that the data world is not clear-cut, whilst a good data visualisation is worth a thousand words, it does not automatically follow that it tells the whole truth.
Machines are learning to recognize all sorts of patterns in the data at a scale and speed humans couldn’t possibly manage to do on their own. It’s not just data on its own, it’s data from a gigapixel imaging devices that can scan the whole body for indications of cancer, or data captured by sensors installed in self-driving cars about nearby objects and vehicles in motion that can eliminate sources of human error and make self-driving cars possible.
Whole industries are being disrupted by those who know how to tap the new potential of the right information in the right place at the right time.
The whole Big Data thing started with Google.
Some estimates put the total amount of data generated each day at 2.5 quintillion bytes!
While the massiveness of data boggles the mind with ease, the granularity of it is equally staggering when you consider the individual sources of the stuff.
The Large Hadron Collider at CERN generates about 30 Petabytes per year (as a result of 600 million collisions per second generating data in their detectors.
The Synoptic Survey Telescope generates 30 Terabytes of astronomical data per night.
In 2010 the list of largest databases in the world quotes the World Data Centre for Climate database as the largest in the world, at 220 Terabyte (possibly because of the additional 6 Petabyte of tapes they hold, albeit not directly accessible data). By the end of 2014, according to the Centre’s web site, the database size is close to 4 Petabyte (roughly 2 Petabytes of these are internal data).
Every interaction that every user has with any piece of technology produces more of it, and as people are becoming more comfortable using technology and more reliant on the information it provides, they want to use more of that data in simple and rewarding ways.
Although it may be logical to assume that we retain the power to control our digital privacy, like the bar-coded plastic membership cards that dangle from our key chains, our privacy is quickly slipping through our fingers.
As surveillance technologies shrink in cost and grow in sophistication, we are increasingly unaware of the vast, cumulative data we offer up.
Of course not many of us are concerned in an era when cellphone data, web searches, online transactions, and social-media commentary are actively gathered, logged, and cross-compared, we’ve seemingly surrendered to the inevitability of trade-offs in a digital future.
Mobile devices themselves are becoming the primary access point for information.
There is nothing new about this data digital culture, however significant changes are happening — some are obvious while others are below the surface. We’re only just starting to see how revolutionary big data can be, and as it truly takes off, we can expect even more changes on the horizon.
While digital natives are comfortable with technology, the question is: which technology, in which context?
There are now more mobile phones on Earth than there are people! And most of these phones have cameras. Yet Google Glass feels invasive because of its ability to record video.
As wearable technology is getting its toehold embedded technology, it’s not so much about the technology, but when, all of a sudden, things go from impossible (or immoral) to ubiquitous only a fraction of the world is going to benefit.
The fact is that when we all start to wear wearables, the intimacy level will be much higher that we cannot avoid considering how these devices literally change who we are and our bodily engagement with the world.
For example when one buys a Fitbit because they desire to be seen as fitness-conscious, just as much as they seek truth in quantification. Their exercise routine or daily walks are an act of designing a better self, so the device simply becomes part of that ecosystem.
A teleological view of human nature is inherently dynamic.
We know what things cost but have no idea what they are worth. We know longer ask of a judicial ruling or a legislative act: Is it good? Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right? Will it help to bring about a better society or a better world?
In the words of moral and political philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, this teleological view maps out the journey between “man-as-he happens-to-be” and “man-as-he-could-be-if-he realized-his-essential-nature.”
Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.
The inevitable price of the convenience of opting in is compromise.
The promise of big data cannot be segregated from this price.
Embracing the radical transparency at our threshold, many see a potentiality that far outweighs the threat—after all, what do we have to hide?
Yet, privacy is not secrecy—and while there are things we should be comfortable bearing, our dignity should not be one of them.
Whistleblower Edward Snowden said his biggest fear was that we “won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things.”
Machines will win our hearts with every step they take in evolution. Undoubtedly, this is a co-evolution.
It’s a symbiotic relationship where we are becoming more and more enmeshed and less aware of the capacity of this evolving interconnection. It’s a compulsory affair built on convenience and reward.
Arguably, we are no more mindful of the bits and bytes that we tap, swipe, and key than we are of our own breathing.
The true heirs of this data are platforms like Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others that we have gifted seemingly insignificant data to—under the guise of “sharing.”
As more mobile devices enter the world, they generate more and more data that needs to be understood, analyzed, presented, and consumed.
There is already so much data stored in the world that we are running out of ways to quantify it.
Data is quickly becoming the primary content of the 21st century.
Humankind is able to store at least 295 exabytes of information. (Yes, that’s a number with 20 zeroes in it.)
For 30 years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest: Indeed, this pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of collective purpose.
The sense of living a life of purpose, meaning, sociality, and mutuality are disappearing. These scenes used to be the backbone to political questions, even if they invited no easy answers.
Modern economics focuses a lot on incentives, but not nearly enough on intrinsic motivation.
Samsung has just warned its customers that their smart televisions may be impinging their privacy.
Facebook is now a public entity. It claims to have upwards of 300 Petabyte of data in their (so-called) data warehouse;
Fortunately there is a series of mixed media installations that encourage visitors to think twice about the information they post online.
If you don’t want them to share your photos and information in your profile updates and statuses you need to issue the following statement. I declare that I have not given my permission to Facebook to use my photos or any information in my profile, my updates and my statuses.
Twitter has produced a millionaire buffoon as president of the USA.
Three examples of a big difference in perception and expectations.
Our lack of control over the data we upload serve as a chilling reminder of global governments’ power to use personal data without our consent, and the extreme lengths used to conceal surveillance programmes.
We must learn once again to pose questions of our governments by taking a fresh look at democracy.
The conversation, both national and world-wide, is terrifically out of balance, with near-total focus on what’s broken and how we should fix it, and so little focus on stories of attractive, desirable possibilities we might agree to work toward.
To tackle social problems in their entirety, organisations need to mount a collective approach. It is the role of statesmanship – always in short supply – to remind us of the enduring commonalities that we are forever in danger of overlooking.
We are currently opting into an unfathomable interdependency with an urgent need to re-evaluate our daily interactions with technology and their impact on the fidelity of our privacy.
What that ecosystem and the devices that inhabit it will look like 20, 10, or even five years from now is anyone’s guess and it’s not at all comfortable.
We need a more controlled understanding of Big Data before headgear and an apps allows users to control products using their brainwaves.
Data itself is of no value if it is just being stored and not converted into useful information or actionable insight.
As I have said in the last post the AI genie is out of the bottle with no way to get it back in. So, knowing what you know now, do you choose the red pill or the blue one?
Red for access to a digital divided world.
Blue for a digital world where all technology is vetted by an Independent totally transparent New World organisation. Called Click.
All comments welcome all like clicks chucked in the bin.