What is big data? And how do we democratize it?

I bumped into this article, which I consider a MUST READ for all CHT members. It puts many discussions we have had in this forum into context, provides background, highlights the need for a Cultural Awakening and ways to go forward, find actual solutions.

What I like about this article also, is that it highlights the root causes that underly our current technology problems. I have repeatedly argued that we should focus more on them, rather than look to all kinds of side-effects and symptoms.

Here is the article:

Summarizing from the article (highlights are mine):

Google knows you’re pregnant. Spotify knows your favorite throwback jams. Is this convenient or creepy? It depends.

Big data has been around for awhile, but our discomfort with it is relatively recent. We’ve always had dissenters sounding the alarm about Silicon Valley’s surveillance-based business model. It’s only since 2016, however, that their message has gone mainstream.

This awareness is a wonderful thing. But if we want to harvest the political opportunity it presents, and channel the bad feelings swirling around tech into something more enduring and transformative, we need to radicalize the conversation.

Yes, our private lives are being pillaged on an unprecedented scale. [Big data] is not merely the mechanism whereby Google learns you’re pregnant. It is not confined to the cluster of companies that we know, somewhat imprecisely, as the tech industry.

You should think about pretty much everything. Understanding big data, then, is crucial for understanding what capitalism currently is and what it is becoming—and how we might transform it.

Digitization, as scholars like Shoshana Zuboff and Nick Srnicek have shown, offers a new engine of capital accumulation. It gives capitalism a new way to grow. With digitization, however, capitalism starts to eat reality itself.

Big data will eventually become so big that it devours everything. One way to respond is to try to kill it—to rip out the Blob and dump it in the Arctic.

This is the path of retreat from the digital, towards the “authentically human”—an idea that’s constantly invoked by the new techno-moralists but rarely defined, although it’s generally associated with reading more books and having more face-to-face conversations.

The other route is to build a better Blob.

Data is the new oil, says everyone. It’s a useful comparison—more useful, in fact, than many of the people using it realize. Thinking of data as a resource like oil helps illuminate not only how it functions, but how we might organize it differently.

Big data is extractive. Society, not industry, should decide how and where resources are extracted and refined. Big data is no different.

Regulating big data is a good start, but it’s far from revolutionary. In fact, it’s already begun: [e.g.] the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). More public oversight is welcome, but insufficient. To democratize big data, however, we need to change who benefits from its use.

This summary goes to halfway of the article and from here on it deals with possible solutions that are very interesting and we should analyse them by our community!

Note: This article was written by Ben Tarnoff - who seems to be a Humane Tech guru - and comes from the new Logic Magazine and seems well worth the $30,- subscription fee! I recommend taking a look at the ToC’s of the issue and previous issues as well :slight_smile:

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Ben Tarnoff of Logic magazine, a San Francisco publication I’ve emailed in the past, noted; “The idea of using computers to plan an economy isn’t new. The Soviets briefly experimented with it in the 1960s, Salvador Allende’s Chile explored it in the 1970s, and Western leftists have been particularly interested in it since the 1990s.” As my sociocybenetic proposal in this CHT forum identifies (by linking to the New York Times), Mr. Stafford A. Beer is an early sococybernetisist whose Project Cybersyn showed promise before the 1973 coup killed it. Cybersyn is now a museum in the old Presidential Palace in Santiago.