Posted: 27 Jun 2013 08:46 PM PDT
Free information will be our doom, Quartz‘s Jaron Lanier asserts in, “Free Information, as Great as it Sounds, Will Enslave Us All.” From high-frequency trading to online marketing, insists Lanier, big data is being used by those with the resources to collect and manipulate it to enrich themselves. Meanwhile, those of us with just paltry, personal devices are the ones creating the information, creating the value that fuels such systems. It is an argument that has been advanced before, and Lanier pursues the thread:
“Something seems terribly askew about how technology is benefiting the world lately. How could it be that so far the network age seems to be a time of endless austerity, jobless recoveries, loss of social mobility, and intense wealth concentration in markets that are anemic overall? How could it be that ever since the incredible efficiencies of digital networking have finally reached vast numbers of people that we aren’t seeing a broad benefit? . . .
“While people are created equal, computers are not. When people share information freely, those who own the best computers benefit in extreme ways that are denied to everyone else. Those with the best computers can simply calculate wealth and power away from ordinary people.”
See the article for its supporting arguments. Lanier does not leave us hanging for a potential solution. He recalls a suggestion he credits to Ted Nelson, which the IT pioneer made back in 1960: embed a “universal micropayment system” into any digital communication network, so that each individual who contributes any bit of data would get a bit of compensation in return. In that reality, for any tweet each of us sent, search query we made, or even security-camera image of us that was later used by any organization (for whatever purpose), we might become a few cents richer.
Interesting idea; can it gain any traction before the current system is set in stone?
Cynthia Murrell, July 01, 2013