At this year’s Innotribe Sibos, we have a session about digital ethics. Part of a full day on man-machine convergence.
Some of that conversation will be about the use and control of data. With this post, I would like to add my perspective to that conversation, based on some recent thinking on human agency.
At a recent MyData2016 event in Helsinki, i was surprised how little the thinking about personal data stores has evolved since 2012, when i was myself deeply in the trenches of the topic of distributed data sharing.
It was a really great conference, well organized, cool audience etc, but like many conferences, it was the tribe talking to tribe, believers talking to believers, all thinking that their lens to look at things was the right one, with little or no contrarian view.
I wanted to be that contrarian, and challenge a bit the assumptions.
At the event there was a lot of talk about “PIMS”: Personal Information Management Systems, or personal data stores, or personal data “clouds”. I don’t want to have a discussion about the subtle semantics here.
At one moment, Jamie Smith from Ctrl-Shift – who i respect a lot – said something along the lines of “PIMS are all about giving people agency”.
I think that is a big illusion, and that was what my talk was about. The illusion that the problem is about taking back ownership and control of your data. And that a PIMS is the solution. I believe we are discussing the wrong problem and the wrong solution when talking about managing our own personal data at our terms and conditions.
Owning your own agency is more important than owning your data. That in essence is what my talk was about.
My presentation at #MyData2016 conference
UPDATE: here the link to the Prezi of this presentation. Because there is so much video in this Prezi it takes 2-3 min to load. Be patient 😉
The talk is part of a longer story of more than one hour, wandering through a whole bunch of philosophical, ethical and artistic considerations. At this event, i got only 20 minutes, and i told the moderator he could cut me off, which he did most elegantly (no pun intended) at the end of my presentation.
My agency vs. my data is a pretty big deal.
- It is not about buying but creating
- It is not about my data but my agency
- It is not about privacy but about shelter
- It is not about power asymmetries but relationship symmetries
- It is not about MyData but about OurData
In that sense the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is shooting at the wrong problem. In that sense our politicians and leaders in general are again outperforming in solving the problems of the past.
I got some good reactions after this talk, from Doc Searls saying “you gave the talk that i always wanted to give”, to somebody else sending me a tweet and a mail saying “your presentation has changed my life, i decided to leave Facebook after more than 10 years”.
There is such a strong tension between our actual reality and the desired reality that we are currently moving in some form of virtual or surreality. But as Magritte said:
“Surrealism is the immediate knowledge of reality”
And we feel lost. We escape and try to reconnect nostalgically to what was, and are afraid of what going to be. People focus on the surreality of their phones instead of real life.
People believe what is on their phones and PIMS is the reality, and are able to represent us as human beings. But as Markus Sabadello said at this event: “Technology will not be able to represent the full complexity of human beings”
Our devices and apps make us believe we are in control, because we now can “manage” our data and lives. But we are focused on managing life, rather than living it. That is our big illusion.
To summarise, I believe our plan and ambition towards our desired reality must at least have following components:
- This space needs to be regulated. Regulation means setting ethical and moral norms, AND policing them
- These norms must be ethical and moral
- We must decide who sets these norms, who polices them, and who penalises/rewards good behaviour.
For that we must bring “Society-in-the-loop”, and not let this be decided by governments, corporations, or god forbid, algorithms
Society-in-the-loop by Iyad Rahwan
We must expand ourselves from a problem (efficiency) orientation to a creative (value creating) orientation, because the future is not about solving the past but knowing what you want and use mastery to make that happen.
Last but not least, we must be very much aware of the shallowness of the actual reality, and strive for high quality work with high quality attention and presence and meaning also called “Deep Work”
Maybe next year, they should call the conference #MyAgency2016;