back to article Meet the original Big Data, TED Talk, Thought Shower Futurist

At the Battle of Ideas Festival at the Barbican last year, Claire Fox chaired a panel titled: “Is Technology Limiting Our Humanity?”, and invited me to take part. Panelists could give a seven-minute introduction. It’s now online as a video and podcast. Two avenues looked promising, and today I will give you an excerpt from …

  1. Zog_but_not_the_first


    "As a writer, I find the hardest part of my job meeting politicians, policy makers, is to explain that things today are temporary".

    Actually I think the reverse is true. For the first time in history the minutiae of our lives are documented, often by our own hand, and stored permanently for inspection and analysis.

    [But not the minutiae of the lives of politicians, policy makers etc., obviously.]

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Comment

      The minutae of the lives of politicians is documented. And has been for years. Even if much of it is secret. Their private lives have been known and more-or-less public for years. But lots of their professional lives get released under the 30 years rule, so historians at least can look at it. Even if us mere mortals have to wait for the biographies to come out to find stuff out. Plus of course the partial information they put out in their autobiographies (usually soon after retiring) and what they themselves spaff onto Twitter and their websites.

      New Labour did a lot more "sofa government" and spurned the committees with written notes to some extent. So we may have less on policy from them. Though that tendency seems to have been reversed by the next government, partly as a matter of policy, but also because they had to be more formal as a coalition. Anyway we've now got emails being archived, so even more crap for historians to trawl through.

  2. Graham Marsden
    Big Brother

    “Privacy is Theft” “Sharing is Caring”

    Call Me David and Treasonous May have signed copies.

    Unfortunately they didn't get the joke...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good stuff. That is why I have my little home NAS with 6 TB and stream my movies and music myself. Travelling? Just take with me the movies and music I need and I won't have to rely on an internet connection for entertainment.

    But it is a difficult conversation to have, to explain why the immense centralization could be a bad thing. However, I am absolutely certain that the pendulum will start to swing the other way again and again and again.

    It is not the first time in IT history.

  4. Chris Miller

    I was disappointed to learn that William Playfair was nothing to do with the Playfair cypher.

  5. Dick Pountain

    Good article, both parts. As for this this half, about defending individual rights against the "plantations" of Google and Facebook, I'd say that we already have the perfect model in the public road network. A neutral state builds and maintains the infrastructure, paid for by taxation, which individuals are then more or less free (within certain safety regs) to use their cars, cycles, motorbikes, lorries, busses on. The railways, since privatisation show the pitfalls of the other model, where private interests monopolise sections of the infrastructure.

  6. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    The greatest achievement of Silicon Valley, perhaps, is to get people to campaign against their own interests – to celebrate when their rights are seized or nullified.

    Right wing political parties have (?since Reagan) been convincing the working class to vote for benefits and infrastructure cuts in order to fund tax cuts for the rich. So nothing new.

    1. Bruce Ordway

      since Reagan - Thatcher too?

      >>since Reagan

      As a "card carrying liberal"... this election year has scared me more than ever.

      But... I have been mostly horrified by US politics since the Reagan years.

      Today's Democrats would have been Republicans before then. And I don't know what to make of today's Republicans. Pray for U.S. citizens.

  7. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    It takes an genius to convince internet users that their own property rights, their copyright, is a bad thing, and even to campaign to weaken their own rights!

    But the creative output of most people has very little value. If you're one of those people, getting the output of other, more talented people for free is a net gain.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      But the creative output of most people has very little value. If you're one of those people, getting the output of other, more talented people for free is a net gain.

      I'd imagine Orlowski is also talking about personal data here. As he's talked before about using something akin to copyright to allow people more control of their personal data.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Yes, data should have property rights, and your data should belong to you.

        It has been floating before:

        Do you think this would be popular with users? I do. And very unpopular with Google and Facebook, which might have start to respect people's property.

        1. Alistair


          "And very unpopular with Google and Facebook, which might have start to respect other people's property."


          <sorry my citizens united twitch is over active at the moment. >

        2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          @Andrew, @Spartacus

          I agree that it would be unpopular with Google and Facebook.

          But copyright is not the only way to protect a user's data. A hypothetical Pirateland could do away with copyright and still have strong Data Protection rights, after all the "right to be forgotten" is not a copyright issue.

          And if we do it through property rights, then whatever the economic value of a user's data¹, the user would have to pay that price to use Facebook or Google. So there's net economic gain to them. It's free Netflix for the price of Google knowing you need incontinence pads and everybody being able to see your photos. Whether that's economically rational depends on the price you put on your privacy.

          ¹ I can't find the article where you calculate it for an American, but Facebook has quarterly revenues of $1273E6 and 1550E6 users so it generated $0.82 per global user in one quarter of 2015.

  8. the_stone

    Self Interest Requires Knowing Self

    Some old Chinese dude said, "The way of heaven is to take from that which has too much to give to that which has too little. Man's way is to take from those who have too little to give to those who already have too much."

    So progressive tax policy is in the Tao, go figure. Monopolies are easy to regulate and they make fat targets. The super computer in my pocket which cost $179 will soon be replaced by some hyper version of it for even less dosh. Somehow I think that works in favor of those with too little, but hey I'm a perpetual optimist that more information, more connection, more looking will always result in less global stupid.

  9. JeffyPoooh

    "Comments welcome."


    Many of your columns have pre-moderation enabled.

    edit: as does this one "Submitted and awaiting moderation since Just posted"

    (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good article.

    Rules, regulations, software and the like are temporary, but the data and information stored lives its own life. The EU objections against safe-harbour were taken to court by an Austrian, yet Austria is a country that opted out of the "right-to-forget" in 2014.

    Google will be sitting on the scans of the largest book-archive in the world that they can simply re-sacn with better tech and apply neural networks to analyzing and categorizing, dating etc..

    It will be interesting to see what can be achieved.

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