If you’ve got a social media account—and nearly 80 percent of Americans do—or if you use free online tools such as any of Google’s offerings, those digital platforms are collecting data on you—a lot of it. Maybe you know this and don’t care, thinking that you’ve got nothing to hide. But in Who Owns The Future?, computer scientist Jaron Lanier speculates on what could happen if we keep feeding these tech giants our personal information for free.
The process, he suggests, could prompt a recession when people are laid off by technology that could replace them. It could also create monopolies that control our behaviors. To avoid this fate, the public needs to rethink how it consumes information.
Currently, people allow centralized servers to gather data that can exploit their privacy or intellectual property. One way to counteract the danger, though, is to reward independent site owners by paying for information. Another is to demand that the digital giants compensate people for providing their information. If we don’t, artificial intelligence-driven tech companies will grow stronger, accumulating a nearly insurmountable amount of power and money along the way, putting many middle-class people out of work.
“People are gradually making themselves poorer than they need to be,” writes Lanier. “We’re setting up a situation where better technology in the long term just means more unemployment, or an eventual socialist backlash.”