If data is the new oil, are tech companies robbing us blind?

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Could a radical way of rethinking data ownership provide a new payment system for future humans?


Data is the new oil, or so the saying goes. So why are we giving it away for nothing more than ostensibly free email, better movie recommendations, and more accurate search results? It’s an important question to ask in a world where the accumulation and scraping of data is worth billions of dollars — and even a money-losing company with enough data about its users can be worth well into the eight-figure region.

The essential bargain that’s driven by today’s tech giants is the purest form of cognitive capitalism: users feed in their brains — whether this means solving a CAPTCHA to train AI systems or clicking links on Google to help it learn which websites are more important than others. In exchange for this, we get access to ostensibly “free” services, while simultaneously helping to train new technologies which may one day put large numbers of us out of business.

This problem becomes more crucial in a world in which AI is threatening jobs.

Viewed uncharitably, companies like Google and Facebook can appear almost like the unscrupulous oil man Daniel Plainview from Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 movie, There Will Be Blood; offering little more than tokenistic gestures in exchange for what amounts to a goldmine.

“The defense of this practice is that these companies provide ‘free’ services, and that they deserve some reward for their innovation and ingenuity,” Dr. John Danaher, a lecturer at the School of Law at NUI Galway, who writes about the intersection of the law and emerging technology, told Digital Trends. “That may well be true, but I would argue that the rewards they receive are disproportionate. The other defense is that many companies provide for some revenue-sharing agreements with more popular users, such as YouTube. That’s becoming more true, too, but it’s only a handful of users who can make decent money from this.”

This problem becomes more crucial in a world in which AI is threatening jobs. According to a famous 2013 study carried out by the U.K.’s Oxford Martin School, 47 per cent of jobs in the U.S. are susceptible to automation within the next 20 twenty years. Could rethinking the way that data is gathered — and, more crucially, remunerated — offer one possible solution?


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This article and images were originally posted on [Digital Trends] September 25, 2017 at 07:16AM

Credit to Author and Digital Trends