Two years ago Google X, the moonshot lab within Google prepared a speculative 9 minute video for in-house consumption called "The Selfish Ledger". Recently the video was leaked and found its way onto YouTube.
It describes a future in which the owner of all the data created by an individual, or more correctly literally all the people, could be used to not only guide individual behavior but literally change societal behavior. What's more the use of the data and the change it could create extends not just to the lifetime of its creator but also to future consumers of data.
X spokespeople were quick to characterize The Selfish Ledger as a work of science fiction rather than product prototype.
“This is a thought-experiment by the design team from years ago that uses a technique known as ‘speculative design’ to explore uncomfortable ideas and concepts in order to provoke discussion and debate. It’s not related to any current or future products.”
The fact that this even enters the realm of speculation is particularly germane right now. In my opinion this is a MUCH WATCH. Let us know what you think.
That data is currently not properly leveraged despite great algorithms in the background to exploit it, especially when it comes to security issues. There are still a lot of false positives and false negatives when it comes to identifying bad content, fake users, fake reviews, etc. At this point, sophisticated scammers and spammers outsmart these algorithms by manipulating and fooling them, influencing the metrics supposed to catch the bad guys by flooding the databases with bad data (undetectable fake clicks, fake "likes", fake comments, fake connections, sometimes generated by bots) to influence core rations used in decision making by these companies. Maybe the way to fight back is not relying on these companies, but instead deploying black hat data science technology. More on this very soon.
Uncomfortable and provocative indeed.
People's behavior is already being manipulated by external agents (e.g. what movie to watch, where to go for the next vacation). The way our mental decision system works, it's only a matter of time that with sufficient data the "ledger" will make the decision for us and guide all the behavior.