The Threat of Big Data

Democrats and Republicans don’t seem to agree on much.  And even when they identify a common problem they typically disagree on the fix.  It appears the same pattern will apply to Big Data, which is defined by three or four companies; Google, Facebook, Amazon, and to a lesser extent Twitter.

“Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data” by George Gilder (2018) and “World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech” by Franklin Foer (2017) are two books that have recently been published and view Big Data as a big threat.  Interestingly, they come from opposite ideological perspectives; George Gilder from the Libertarian right and Franklin Foer from the left.

There’s a growing concern about the impact of Big Data on our lives and you don’t have to watch the news very long to see the debate.  On Bloomberg recently, the Co-CEO of SALESFORCE Marc Benioff has called for the regulation of Facebook.  The EU has passed privacy regulations known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and have these firms under scrutiny, and who hasn’t heard of the Russian use and misuse of Facebook in an attempt to influence the 2016 election.  However, according to both authors the problem is more insidious; the usurpation of human thought and creativity.

Gilder notes several fallacies with Google’s view of the world, the third fallacy being the world will soon be run by artificial intelligence.  Gilder also notes that AI is useless without the creative element that only human consciousness can bring.  According to Foer, the problem “is that when we outsource thinking to machines, we are really outsourcing thinking to the organizations that run the machines.”  Which brings us to the other threat on which they agree; the unique monopoly power of each entity.  But they diverge on the solution.

Gilder thinks blockchain will eventually decentralize what Google, Facebook and Amazon have centralized.  Foer thinks the problem will require government intervention.  “What we need, “is a Data Protection Authority to protect privacy as the government protects the environment.”  It is obvious the world has a growing problem with Big Data.  The solution, like with all big problems, will come from the politicians.  What could possibly go wrong?

 

Editor’s Note: Just last week several Facebook purged over more than 800 U.S. publishers and accounts for flooding users with “politically-oriented spam, reigniting accusations of political censorship and arbitrary decision-making.” The domestic pages and accounts Facebook removed had a strong political bent. Facebook for years has tried to squeeze spam and clickbait from its platform because it can irritate users. But Facebook has usually applied a softer punishment, downranking the sites in its newsfeed so fewer people see them – but not shutting them down altogether. But ever since Russian operatives used Facebook to target American voters ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the company has been on a crusade to demonstrate that its platform won’t be used to disrupt the democratic process. But the true issue is does it infringe on first amendment rights?

Some of the Libertarian leaning pages that were purged included: The Free Thought Project, Police the Police, Cop Block, Punk Rock Libertarians, V is for Voluntary, Cop Logic, and Gun Laws Don’t Work.