Series: A Human-Centric Paradigm for the Web
Article Six (of Six)
Richard Whitt, Todd Kelsey
“Your reaction to the datafication of life should not be to retreat to a log cabin in the woods, for they too are full of sensors; but to aggressively seek control of the data that matters to you. It’s good to have recommenders that find what you want and bring it to you; you’d feel lost without them. But they should bring you what you want, not what someone else wants you to have.” — Pedro Domingos, The Master Algorithm
Where We’ve Been
In the previous five articles, we have examined the computational systems that increasingly govern our daily lives. Article one called for replacing the Web’s current SEAMs paradigm (feedback cycles of surveillance > extraction > analysis > manipulation), with a new HAACS ethos (enhancing human autonomy and agency, via computational systems). Article two introduced us to Carla, a typical Web user, and showed how corporate and governmental entities employing SEAMs cycles can reduce our human freedom in the world. …
Series: A Human-Centered Paradigm for the Web
Article Five (of Six)
“We can be controlled from the outside not simply by having our choice bypassed but by someone controlling the world we perceive.” — Maria Brincker
Series Recap: Our story so far . . .
Over the first four articles in this series, we have discussed the desirability of replacing the Web’s current SEAMs cycles (surveillance, extraction, analysis, manipulation), with a new HAACS ethos (enhancing human autonomy/agency, via computational systems).
· Article one highlighted the dynamics of fostering large-scale systems change in our social institutions.
· Article two introduced us to Carla, a typical Web user, and showed how “Userhood” and SEAMs cycles (surveillance > extraction > analytics > manipulation) reduce her agency in the digital world. …
Todd Kelsey and Richard Whitt
This article is seventh in a series that explores the many individual and societal implications of how data is handled in the era of Covid. The series has introduced new approaches for protecting human agency and autonomy, including various forms of digital mediaries (such as digital fiduciaries and data trusts), and personal AIs. This culminating article proposes some actual projects. We are seeking input and partnership from any person, organization or company that may be interested in assisting. For further context you are invited to check out the series.
PROBLEM: Fidtech — the Missing Sector
Throughout the article series we have learned about the Web’s current massive asymmetries and imbalance, where the power and control of all forms of data is controlled largely by corporations and governments. In short, our data is taken into vast non-transparent databases over which we have no control, and where we have little recourse. In that setting the growing power of artificial intelligence is used to generate increasing wealth. In the articles, we’ve looked at SEAM feedback cycles (surveillance > extraction > analysis > manipulation), which have become the default operating system for the Web for too many of us. As a society, we can choose to passively accept this accelerating trend, with a significant lack of visibility into the true value of our data and a lack of control over how the data is used. …
In mid-September, we published a short blog posting describing the Oasis Foundation’s vision for a responsible data society. At its core is the concept of using a blend of advanced distributed ledger technologies to give human beings much more control over their own data. These technologies combine two foundational elements: the public and easily-shareable nature of tokenized data, with secure computing environments. The end result is the capability to produce a new form of cryptodata.
It’s been gratifying to hear from many a growing sense of interest and excitement in this vision (including from hundreds of our ongoing Community Cup participants). As a result, we thought it would be suitable to provide some additional details about theses technologies, and the significant market and societal implications. Today, we are pleased to publish the Data Tokenization white paper, supplying some of those details. …
Article Four (of Six)
“Trust and accountability: above all else, these are the pillars of public health.”
– Laurie Garrett
Recap: Our story so far
Over the first three articles in this series, we have discussed the desirability of replacing the Web’s current SEAMs cycles (surveil, extract, analyze, and manipulate), with a new HAACS ethos (enhancing human autonomy/agency, via computational systems). Article one highlighted the dynamics of fostering large-scale systems change in our social institutions. Article two introduced us to Carla, a typical Web user, and how “Userhood” and the SEAMs cycles reduce her agency in the digital world. Article three described how entities acting as personal digital fiduciaries, along with tech tools like Personal AIs, could greatly empower Carla and other Web end users. …
At the Oasis Foundation, we have been developing a vision for a responsible data society. Data is becoming one of society’s most valuable resources, and yet our current approaches fail to do justice to its intrinsic value. Our computational systems today have become siloed and mis-incentivized — failing to respect the basic rights of human beings. As a result, society to date has been unable to fully realize the value of the world’s flows of data.
HAACS in Action: Digital Fiduciaries, plus Personal AIs
Article Three (of Six)
“Trust can only be strengthened when people and systems actually have a reason to trust each other more.” -Lee McKnight, Syracuse University
In the first and second articles in this series, we looked at the desirability of replacing the Web’s exploitative “SEAMs” paradigm, which treats mere “users” to constant feedback cycles of surveillance, extraction, analysis, and manipulation. In its place was proposed a new “HAACS” ethos — fostering human autonomy and agency, via computational systems. We also noted how analog world concepts of trust and support, derived from the judge-made common law of fiduciaries, offer one way to elevate our rights in the digital world (or, D>=A). …
Today, nearly half of the world’s population are digital citizens — connected to each other via the internet. Collectively as consumers we own some 3.5 billion smartphones, and on a regular basis rely on an additional 20–25 billion connected devices (such as smart IoT sensors, connected appliances, and wearables). Combined, these technologies of digital surveillance and data extraction yield an astonishing amount of data every single day — by at least one count, some 2.5 quintillion bytes.
For the most part, users and businesses do not directly benefit from the production and use of all that data. Even though users do receive some “free” services in exchange for their personal data, their actual value to users is dwarfed by what they indirectly and often permanently give up in return. Plus, while some businesses directly benefit from all those data flows, most companies remain shut out of any meaningful opportunity to utilize personal data, especially in human-empowering ways. …
D>=A: Expanding our rights in the digital realm (Article 2 of 6)
Every historical crisis terminates in institutions. If we have no control over the crisis itself, which is pure hazard, we do have control over the institutions, since we can define them, choose the ones for which we will fight, and thus bend our efforts toward their establishment. Albert Camus, The Rebel (1956).
In the opening article of this series, we explored the necessity of creating enduring change in our failing social systems, in particular the exploitative ethos of the Web. Against the relentless online paradigm of “SEAMs” (Surveil, Extract, Analyze, and Manipulate) was posited a counter-paradigm of enhancing human autonomy and agency via computational systems, or “HAACS.” The article suggested that effective leverage points include creating human-centric infrastructures of trust and empowerment. …
A Human-Centered Paradigm for the Web:
COVID-19, and Pathways to Our Digital Empowerment
(first in a monthly series)
“Certainty hardens our minds against possibility.” — Ellen Langer
Seeking Autonomous Futures
Abiding in the long shadow of a still-raging global pandemic, with its pernicious economic and societal fallout, there is an opportunity to pause and consider where exactly humanity stands. By all accounts, our many intertwined social systems are not serving most of us very well. …