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Pew asks: Will our data be visible to all?

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February 21, 2006

Pew asks: Will our data be visible to all?

Stephen Baker

I'm filling out a survey on the Internet in 2020 for the Pew Internet Project. It's worth a look if you have a few spare minutes. My complaint is that they overstate scenarios and then ask us to agree or disagree. What do you put if you agree with 80% of it?

Here's an example:

Transparency builds a better world, even at the expense of privacy: As sensing, storage, and communication technologies get cheaper and better, individuals' public and private lives will become increasingly "transparent" globally. Everything will be more visible to everyone, with good and bad results. Looking at the big picture - at all of the lives affected on the planet in every way possible - this will make the world a better place by the year 2020. The benefits will outweigh the costs.

My quibble there is about "everything becoming more transparent to everyone." I think the privileged will always have ways of shielding their data, and that this will feed a growing industry for anonymity. The needy, by constast, will exchange their data for services, much the way people in past decades sold blood.

One other provocative one:

Some Luddites/Refusniks will commit terror acts: By 2020, the people left behind (many by their own choice) by accelerating information and communications technologies will form a new cultural group of technology refusniks who self-segregate from "modern" society. Some will live mostly "off the grid" simply to seek peace and a cure for information overload while others will commit acts of terror or violence in protest against technology.

My feeling here is that the danger will come from people who figure out how to use the technology, not from those who shun it. But those who object to tech advances will doubtless be branded Luddites. Your thoughts?

08:30 AM


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