Philip Sheldrake

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Tag: personal data

Webinar on identity, interpersonal data and collective minds for SSI Meetup

boy with painted face

I was delighted to accept an invitation from Alex Preukschat to host a webinar earlier this week on the topic of digital identity for SSImeetup.org. My presentation is based on the reciprocally-defining, inseparable conceptions of identity, relationships, and personal data — or interpersonal data as I like to call it after my AKASHA colleague Mihai Alisie unjumbled my previous garbled attempts to make a distinction.

The presentation can be downloaded as a PDF here, and can be viewed as a Slideshare and video below. Please get in touch if you want to discuss any facet, over a cup of the good stuff if you find yourself London way.

 


Photo by Sharon McCutcheon.

The interpersonal data at the heart of all human digital systems, including markets

The ecosystem of a coral reef

In light of the Radical Markets book chapter entitled Data as Labor, its co-author Glen Weyl invited me to write this post for the RadicalxChange blog, published 9 Feb 2019.


The RadicalxChange mission dedicates the community to “using dramatically expanded competitive, free and open market mechanisms to reduce inequality, build widely-shared prosperity, heal global political divides and build a richer and more cooperative social life.”

Our values are aligned and our purpose very similar, but I will describe here some important considerations in designing for personal data that may not yet have received attention by the RadicalXChange community.

Co-operating is essential

It is, I think, critical to outline the emphasis I adopt here in framing the problem and the opportunity. Whereas the RadicalxChange mission aims to have competition lead to greater co-operation, I treat competition and co-operation here as equal and concurrent. Here are two quotes by way of explanation.

The brilliant and indomitable biologist Lynn Margulis discovered that:

The view of evolution as a chronic bloody competition among individuals and species, a popular distortion of Darwin’s notion of “survival of the fittest,” dissolves before a new view of continual cooperation, strong interaction, and mutual dependence among life forms. Life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking.

And the progenitor of the invisible hand himself, Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations, actually considered his Theory of Moral Sentiments to be the superior work. It is, as Gintis et al write, the perfect counterbalance.

Effective policies are those that support socially valued outcomes not only by harnessing selfish motives [Wealth of Nations / competition] to socially valued ends, but also by evoking, cultivating, and empowering public-spirited motives [Theory of Moral Sentiments / co-operation].

I had such a blend in mind a few years ago when I had a stab at defining the meaning of business beyond the outworn credo of shareholder value and the Newtonian simplicity of customer-centricity; that is, to establish and drive mutual value creation. Competitive and co-operative.
Read more

The misleading name, metaphor defiance, and awesome potential of “personal data” — part 3 of 3

In the first post of this series I asserted that data is data. In other words, it's not like anything else. The second post explored and dismissed conceptualisations of data-as-property and data-as-labour. This, the last post in this series, explores data-as-reputation, data-as-public-good, and data-as-me, and then points to some architectural principles for a new direction — interpersonal data.

The problem of the way we frame the opportunity and problem

Data-as-reputation

Rachel Botsman discusses reputation scoring in her book What's Mine Is Yours (check your library), and summarises the opportunity in a later magazine article:

Imagine a world where banks take into account your online reputation alongside traditional credit ratings to determine your loan; where headhunters hire you based on the expertise you've demonstrated on online forums such as Quora; where your status from renting a house through Airbnb helps you become a trusted car renter on WhipCar; where your feedback on eBay can be used to get a head-start selling on Etsy; where traditional business cards are replaced by profiles of your digital trustworthiness, updated in real-time. Where reputation data becomes the window into how we behave, what motivates us, how our peers view us and ultimately whether we can or can't be trusted.

Welcome to the reputation economy, where your online history becomes more powerful than your credit history.

... It's the culmination of many layers of reputation you build in different places that genuinely reflect who you are as a person and figuring out exactly how that carries value in a variety of contexts.

The most basic level is verification of your true identity -- is this person a real person? Are they who they say they are?

There is nothing to dislike about the advantages touched upon here. Unfortunately, like most things in life, the upsides come with downsides. Read more

The misleading name, metaphor defiance, and awesome potential of “personal data” — part 2 of 3

In the preceding post I proposed that reframing personal data as interpersonal data is much more appropriate, more useful, more valuable. I also asserted that data is data — i.e. not like anything else. To support these points, this post explores and dismisses the dominant conceptualisation of personal data as property, and then reviews the less well-known data-as-labour framing.

The problem of the way we frame the opportunity and problem

Data-as-property

Let's linger a while on markets and the fundamental components of money and property. I'm working on the supposition that cryptonetworking may be integral to a future interpersonal data architecture, and given that Bitcoin is the genesis of cryptonetworking, it's doubly instructive to reflect on money.

Money is attributed value, but value is far deeper and broader than the mere monetary sense — in the money can't buy you love sense for example. Nevertheless, our current civilization is monotheistic in its veneration of the market, and our first inclinations when grappling with any shiny new idea is to see if we can't quantify its value and subject it to the manipulations of Adam Smith's invisible hand. Despite quite substantial evidence to the contrary, our idolatry of this mechanism truly marks it out as a religion imho.

Sometimes free markets work best. Sometimes well-regulated markets work best. Sometimes, markets don't work best.
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The misleading name, metaphor defiance, and awesome potential of “personal data”

We have a problem and an opportunity currently labelled "personal data".

The opportunity encompasses nothing less than a complete redesign of our lives and societies and our collective ability to grapple with complex adaptive systems including super-wicked problems — but this will remain elusive until we've wrestled with the "personal data" problem, including the problem of the way we frame the opportunity and problem.

While we needed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to stop some very disrespectful and frankly unethical and harmful practices relating to personal data, no regulation can require innovation. The innovation, indeed transformation, I'm talking about here is in the spirit if not the letter of the regulation. Perhaps the most prominent and simplest explanation for why it cannot be to the letter is contained in the Regulation's first definition (Article 4) by which "an identified or identifiable natural person" is thereafter known as a "data subject", which is entirely the wrong framing for the kind of innovation I envisage.

This topic is core to my work and this post serves two purposes. First, selfishly, it's a way to communicate efficiently without having to repeat the contents on a weekly basis. Second, I hope to identify more like and dislike minds in seeking the collective intelligence needed to explore the bountiful and indeed existentially critical opportunity sooner than later. Read more

Different kinds of privacy, empowerment and autonomy – centralized versus decentralized

qs-watch[Originally posted to the hi:project blog.]

In an article in the Guardian last week, Professor Alex 'Sandy' Pentland mooted the potential for Google to cleave in two, with one part dedicated to providing a regulated bank-like service for data. Pentland directs the MIT Human Dynamics Lab and co-leads both the Big Data and the Personal Data and Privacy initiatives of the World Economic Forum, and I'm surprised how often his name crops up in my hi:project related research, yet I find it difficult to reconcile his observation here with his fluency in the power of decentralized networks:

Social physics strongly suggest that the [Adam Smith’s] invisible hand is more due to trust, cooperation and robustness properties of the person-to-person network of exchanges than it is due to any magic in the workings of the market. If we want to have a fair, stable society, we need to look to the network of exchanges between people, and not to market competition.

Pentland continues under the heading: How can we move from a market-centric to a human-centric society? Read more

Technology trends relevant to change management

when change becomes routine – PostShift

I have been invited to talk about tech trends relevant to change management at this evening's London meeting of the Change Management Institute.

I'm keeping most excellent company alongside Karolina Lewandowska, Change and Transformation Manager at Google UK, and Faith Forster, Founder and CEO Pinipa.

The image here is taken from an excellent blog post by Lee Bryant of PostShift – The Quantified Organisation: can change become routine?

Here's my stack:

A presentation to the Open Mobile Alliance conference on big data

According to its website, the Open Mobile Alliance "was formed in June 2002 by the world’s leading mobile operators, device and network suppliers, information technology companies and content and service providers. OMA delivers open specifications for creating interoperable services that work across all geographical boundaries, on any bearer network."

The OMA met today in Dublin to discuss aspects of big data, and I was invited to present on personal data, social media and social business.

I've met some great people today and we've covered some pretty geeky things between us, but the experience has left me with a renewed appreciation of the differences between 'net' and 'telco' people. For example, this was the first conference I've been to in many years that didn't have an agreed hashtag, or many people tweeting come to that. And mine was the only stack not to claim copyright, rather my normal Creative Common licensing. Trivial examples maybe, but indicative nonetheless of a different (but no less apposite) mindset.

I've tried my best to persuade a standards-setting collective to think harder about when to intervene and about the longer-term ramifications they might have on all the good stuff the Internet, the open Web and related technologies can do and are doing for humanity and our custodianship of the planet. That's not to undermine the value of standards, far from it, but as the saying goes, everything can start to look like a nail when you have a hammer.

I asked them to think about "humans" or "people" rather than "consumers" and "users", and about putting the facility for all humans to realise their full potential ahead of shareholders. That's not counter-capitalist. I put shareholders' best interests first by putting them second. You can find out more about this perspective in my recent ebook, Attenzi - a social business story.