A Future For The Internet

in #technology2 years ago

When it comes to internet privacy, it is a lot easier to talk the talk than walk the walk. Most people that have the power to influence or change things end up doing very little to remedy the issues outside of waving their hands and implementing some small and insignificant policy change.

Internet Blues.png

Data is worth something. Or to be more specific, your data is worth something to people that want to know more about you. Why they want to know more about you is irrelevant. Whether someone is stalking you, looking for something to blackmail you with, looking to sell you something, or wanting to give you a gift for your birthday, that data is valuable to make decisions, money, and achieve other objectives.

The current infrastructure zeitgeist is centralized data collection. As a user of some internet service (often for free) you surrender some personal data in order to gain access to the service. In cases like social media, your information becomes the service that is offered to others to entice them to use the service.

Any internet service is then able to utilize the information they collect in whatever ways they may please within the boundaries they are legally obligated to stay within. If we had a society of individuals that cared more about privacy, we would also have a more constrained boundary of social pressures, but given the addictive property of some of these services and the intentional and unintentional suppression of public delivery of privacy information, people don't really care that much.

Privacy for a lot of folks concerned about it is to simply choose not to use or engage these services with their information. But that still leaves a lot of individuals that are willing to give away their data for free while that data is then being sold through back channels and even utilized against the users in the forms of targeted advertisements and news.

While people may be fine with giving their information away, the ability of services to exploit their user's information should be of concern to most individuals. These individuals are giving something of value for free due to their ignorance and willingness to donate their data for access.

But we can't expect people simply to stop using something because it may be bad for them. If somebody wants something, they will take the easiest path for them to obtain that something. And with information, the easiest way to get information on the people and news that you may care about is to pay with the currency of data.

With automation and other improvements in efficiency, it will be important for people to have some stake in progression of technology. Whether it be a technical job (fixing the machines), a creative job (doing something the machine can't do), or a passive investment (owning the machines). The data that is given to these internet services for free is capital that falls under the creative realm (machines aren't social animals) and the investment realm (data is a valuable commodity).

So, whether people realize it or not, privacy is actually really important moving into the future. Having control and protecting your data from external parties will be vital to then leverage that data as currency to utilize that capital in the future economy. This economy is probably a little further off than we think it is, but those that can utilize valuable resources before everyone realizes their value often gain the most from their insight.

So how do we leverage technology so that we can empower users to use their data more inline with the way that they would use paper currency to purchase groceries or clothes? Well, it requires a paradigm shift. The current paradigm relies on data centralization and distribution. This model benefits the entities that control central servers where data is stored and can be packaged and sold to other entities or utilized for other purposes such as training data for machine learning algorithms.

The next paradigm shift is decentralized data control. Each user manages their data and controls their distribution. But isn't this what already happens? Each user technically controls their data before giving it up to a centralized entity. Aren't they already in control of distribution? Kind of. The centralized entity acts as a third party to distribute that information on behalf of the user. So the user might think they are in control of their data, but that is often only a surface-level control.

A decentralized model gives the individual the power to approve distribution to parties they want rather than hoping that a party distributes that in the way that they want. Because a social media provider will share your data with your friends, but also share it with other folks that you probably never intended to share with and in some cases with some folks that you don't want to utilize your data (facial recognition, social credit, government agencies, etc.).

How would a decentralized model work? Your data would be encrypted and according to the rules of some electronic set of rules (smart contract) that data would be distributed only in a manner that you approve. So, take social media for an example. You would control your data encrypted on your computer or on a server that someone else might own and only a few actions that satisfy that rules that you set can decrypt that data. A social media network may only grant unlocking access to a small group of people that you have marked as "friends". That data is protected from being sold to third parties (unless one of your friends decides to sell it behind your back).

How does such a model work in a more automated and technologically advanced future in a way that benefits users? In the prior example, you still gave away your data for free, but maybe you want to be paid to unlock that data. Since you are in control of the data, that is a choice you are free to make. With more individual control, users can exploit the value of their data rather than be exploited from centralized internet entities.

Decentralized technologies such as blockchain have been able to benefit individuals and grant them more control over the value of their money than they would otherwise have as a individual stuck in a psuedo-democratic corporate dominated oligarchy where the interests of those that yield the most power are prioritized over those yield power over themselves.

Decentralized data networks allow users to place stake on their digital oilfield than be forced to lease their creativity to participate in the system. But how do we transition between the current paradigm to the next one? People have to be incentivized to move in that direction and those with power have little incentive to undermine their monopolies. That will be the major challenge.

The current information boom is an opportunity and a warning. Those that can see the opportunity can leverage it. Those that can't shouldn't just be left behind, but that is often what occurs prior to major shifts. Innovation happens in two ways. Incentives lead to organic creation or chaos grows until "incentives" are made.


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 2 years ago Reveal Comment