Are We losing the web to shareholder influence?

Shareholder influence

An Essay by J. Paul Duplantis 

I ran across an interesting article (DHS to Move Biometric Data on Hundreds of Millions of People to Amazon Cloud) discussing Amazon’s cloud leveraging our biometric data but as 25,000 Amazon employees move next door to the Pentagon, one has to wonder what path we may be taken down. Of course, there will be firewalls, redundancies, and standards met but think about how many of our experiences are being captured under the domains of massive corporations (Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft) as well as governmental entities (Department of Homeland Security and the NSA). Now think about who owns the rights to these captured experiences? Do We?

 

The rights to our bio-metric data. Our words. Our sleeping patterns. Our heart rate. Where we are going. What we are doing. What is in our refrigerator. What we are interested in, etc.., etc., etc..

Are we in control of our own experiences on the web? Is the promise of the open and flourishing web of the 90s slipping through our fingers to the influence of massive corporate domains beholden to shareholder expectations of growth? How concerned should we be about this intake of our experiences into vast monetized silos outputting influence onto what we read, hear, and watch? If we’re not worried, I hazard to guess we are not paying attention, we don’t care, or we believe there’s nothing we can do about it.

Is this a grand Orwellian plot for mind control or a continuous series of subtle nudges to condition our experiences to maximize a bottom line attached to shareholder value and political expediency? I go for the latter but at the very least the evolution of the World Wide Web has become a centralized repository to extract more value from the user than for the user. And this is a missed opportunity of epic proportions as the fundamentals of the web to positively impact society are in place.

Certainly, we are connected like no other time in history with the mobility to consume and share experiences with each other regardless of time and location. Where advancements in artificial intelligence are beginning to provide context to what we can and cannot see. Where robots will begin to lighten our load and sensors will begin to extend our awareness. And where immersive technologies will soon begin to render amazing new worlds onto our existing realities. All opportunities waiting for us to take advantage of but when we are not in control, how will we ever not be the ones taken advantage of?

How can we claim control over the technology being built in the name of our interests? Three examples of innovative ideas on the scene today come to mind to lead the way.

Focus on legislation to establish user data rights

Decentralize and contextualize the web

Tim Berners Lee and the startup Inrupt (Personal Online Data Stores, Separating User Data from Applications, The Semantic Web)

Decentralize Artificial Intelligence

(Distributed AI development, Offer Networks, Blockchain)

What could be done to build a more private, secure, and resonant web where the user retains control of experiences created and consumed? Where we are inspired to create, collaborate, and contribute more than we are merely entertained or provoked. Where we lead more than we are led. Where stakeholders are more influential than shareholders elevating purpose over profit only. The future of the web and societal progress is in our hands and our minds. What are We going to do about it?

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