I was like “Dude it’s really weird, I’ve visited a movie for Maz Jobrani on Youtube and few hours later I was bombarded with his page posts on my Facebook account; how the heck did that happen?” My techy friend: “you’re being watched bro” with a smirky smile.
I admit, I was digitally naïve and I deserved the smirk. But since then, I started to look around my shoulders every time I utilise the internet. However, the more paranoid I get about staying under the cyber radar, the clearer I get that it’s absolutely impossible to stay disguised, and being digitally profiled is inevitable.
In today’s world of “internet of things” and the ability for servers to store an enormous amount of data about almost everything, we are faced with a new era of “datafication”, an era where the world we know is about to change and for good. Our dependency on the internet to manage our lives’ requirements is growing by the day, from buying online to utilising the search engines to clicking, sharing and liking on social media platforms etc… Today, it’s assumed that the amount of information stored online is 1,500 exabytes per year (one exabyte is one billion gegabytes); it’s an amount much bigger than the whole stored information throughout the human history from Adam and Eve till the emergence of internet, and the bing bang yet to come.
Putting the above in perspective with a quote once Francis Bacon mentioned in 16th century “Knowledge is power”, we come to a conclusion that we are sadly under the mercy of damn powerful data sucker monsters that will redefine our notion of “datafication”. Before the big data revolution, the human kind was split between left brainers and right brainers while analysing a piece of information based on the person genome’s structure. However, today with these data monsters’ approach, I am afraid we are going the “no brainers” route. The way datafication works under the “big data” platforms is simply by correlating enormous amount of dumb information to come up a smart average. It’s an approach that no doubt has added value to different aspects of mankind’s life, from buying the cheaper air ticket online to validating how “gluten free friendly” the city I am visiting as my next holiday destination, and the examples can go on and on. Having said this, the drawbacks are very threatening if we embrace the “big data” in an autopilot mode.
Moving into this new world will require us to rethink about the way we should marry between the proliferated data matrix and our ability to add qualitative measurements to maintain certain humanly benchmarks. No two persons will dispute the fact that people’s virtual profiles in most of the cases vastly vary from their physical profiles due to so many sociological and psychological reasons, but it’s always debatable which side is the true one. Bridging the two ends of these profiles is something that modernised “datafication” alone cannot solve, for the mere fact that we will remain always a mysterious specie driven by complex sets of motivations that cannot be depicted from our behaviours. Therefore, in another word, we need a human to understand a human fellow and connect with him. Obviously, the context will determine whether the “big data” or the “qualitative” should rule in that connection process.
So, in order to avoid being a “01” in a matrix world or victim renegade a la “minority report”, we have to democratise the “big data” and keep questioning it and make sure it’s there to serve us and not the other way around.
After all, I am not a big fan of Maz Jobrani, I just opened a link a friend of mine has sent me.
Dori Radi is the Managing Director of Alternative, Dubai