Om Malik on Big Data:
Facebook’s emotion-driven-engagement experiments are tiny glimpse of what really awaits us: a data-driven and alogrithmic future, where machines make decisions on our behalf, nudging us into making decisions. As I pointed out in my recent FastCompany magazine column, the new machine age is already underway, unseen by us. “It is not really just a human world,” said Sean Gourley, cofounder and CTO of Quid who points out that our connected world is producing so much data that it is beyond human cognitive abilities and machines are going to be part of making sense of it all. So the real question is what will we do and what should we — the technology industry and we the people do? From my perspective, we need to start with the raw material of this algorithmic future: data. Whether it is a billions of photos that carry a payload of emotions, relationships and location data, or status updates announcing the arrival of a new one or those searches for discount Prada shoes or a look-up about a medical condition — there is someone somewhere vacuuming our data droppings and turning them into fodder for their money machine.
Automation of our society is going to cause displacement, no different than mechanization of our society in the past. There were no protections then, but hopefully a century later we should be smarter about dealing with pending change. People look at Uber and the issues around it as specific to a single company. It is not true — drones, driverless cars, dynamic pricing of vital services, privatization of vital civic services are all part of the change driven by automation, and computer driven efficiencies. Just as computers made corporations efficient — euphemism for employed fewer people and made more money — our society is getting more “efficient,” thanks to the machines.
We live in a post now, ask questions later world.