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Technological advancements are being kicked into high gear. Finding someone - centenarians excluded - without a phone and social media app installed on it is as rare as hens’ teeth. All registering with social media are asked to agree with a terms of service and conditions (ToS) agreement that is intentionally long to discourage readers. This can lead to some interesting, yet unsurprising, outcomes- a study in 2016 found that over 500 participants unwittingly agreed to give their first born to the company overlords. Whilst the Rumpelstiltskin-esque demand would never hold up in court, it does show how eager we are to throw away our rights signing online contracts, without bothering to see what we're giving away.

During the Dotcom bubble, Google had to change its revenue source to keep its head above water. The method they chose set the example for all future tech giants and created a very lucrative business model. Before 2002 Google used the data, it gathered from search requests, to improve the search engine itself. With every search, there was a behavioural data surplus that remained unused. This previously "surplus" data now makes up 86% of Google's livelihood, and similar practices can be found at other tech companies. User’s accumulated data over the years has proven to be a gold mine for tech companies, but at what point did they inform users? ...continue reading "The terms and conditions of your Social Contract"

Part one of two(?) on data and society. 1. The Pros

China trials a social scoring system which is set to launch in 2020. This new scoring system has been covered in the western media as what George Orwell describe in his book 1984 as Big Brother. Now we all know that big data and the collection thereof is evil, and I as an individual should have the only access right to my personal information. However, on the academic side, there are not a lot of peer-reviewed articles available yet on the precise social and political implications of this subject. Whether that is because of the novelty of the issue or that the information is behind locked doors, is uncertain. China's system is often compared to the ID number system in India called Aadhaar, while different from the outset, they both dabbling in new data realms. Most news articles that are written about these systems dive into the punishments and rewards, because, the truth is, that is what is most interesting to read about. How will it affect a person's life? And is it as scary as it sounds?
...continue reading "Big data & reality mining; the bright side"

21 lessons for the 21st-century, unsurprisingly, caught my interest because it goes exactly into the topics discussed in this blog. So many of the lessons touch upon challenges we face in this age and Yuval Noah Harari tries to set a frame or define, how we should approach these topics. From religion, to fake news, to technology, no stone has been left unturned. It is precisely this aspect that it should be worth your time to explore its 372 pages to see if any of the lessons: 1. Resonate with what you think is important & 2. Explore in what direction one must look for an answer. Overall a book I would recommend, but it would not be an honest review if I do not highlight some of its pitfalls.
...continue reading "[Book review] 21 lessons for 21st century – Yuval Noah Harrari"

The idea of what I want to explore in this blog is perfectly captured by the introduction of a journal article from The New Atlantis written in 2003. Eric Cohen wrote;

"The problem of technology — how to spread its fruits, limit its excesses, and save ourselves from its destructive side — ranks high among the great challenges of our time. The problem is so vast, so complicated, so many-faced — from stem cells to fuel cells to weapons of mass destruction — that it is often difficult to keep a level head about it, and often hard for even the most judicious scientists, statesmen, and citizens to know how to think and what to do."

...continue reading "The unasked questions about technology"

Long have I toyed with the idea of trying to formulate what I see as the best approach to counter the populist movement spreading through Europe. What made me pull the trigger to finally put word to paper was a recent statement by Juncker that was highlighted in a Euractiv article. He calls for the EU supporter to stand up against the 'stupid populists'. While I agree that some form of cooperation is needed to tackle this problem, I am rather certain his method is not only counter-intuitive, but also his attitude is actually one of the roots of the problem.

...continue reading "The quest to find the sword and shield against populism"