If you’ve ever slept outdoors or even just watched a survival reality show, you know the importance of fire. Fire is warmth, energy, safety. Fire bridges the line between comfort and discomfort. Even life and death.

Data Rules Everything Around Me

Today’s big moods are to be either fearful or possessive of data. (In the context of this essay, “data” means information about human activity that is collected, processed, and used.) Activists see data as a dangerous tool for privacy invasion, manipulation, and control. Companies treat data as a resource to be amassed, mined, and exploited.

New values

The digital era has changed what we measure and, as a result, changed what’s valuable. A growing amount of human behavior occurs via systems where it’s trivial to track our actions in minute detail. Because of the ease of measurement, our ability to define discrete values has exponentially increased, as have alternative forms of exchange based on alternative forms of value. Examples include:

“Fuck the algorithm”

These first forays into new values can prove controversial.

Democratic data

Our current age of data is only the beginning. How societies use data in the future will be significantly different than how we use it today.

Further Reading

  • A great book for learning more about data and data gathering: How to Measure Anything by Douglas Hubbard. Thanks to my friend Jeff Hammerbacher for the recommendation.
  • One extreme model for a world run on data is “automated luxury communism,” as this talk by Toby Shorin explains:
  • I liked this quote from the Evgeny Morozov essay: “As G. A. Cohen put it in his last book, ‘The principal problem that faces the socialist ideal is that we do not know how to design the machinery that would make it run.’”
  • A longer, not-yet-published version of Salome Viljoen’s essay on “Democratic Data” informed parts of this essay. Thanks to her for sharing.
  • Algorithms reveal what we really want. From New York Magazine:

Author of “This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World”; Cofounder of Kickstarter; Bentoist; http://www.ystrickler.com

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