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About Digital Pollution (Washington Monthly #mustread)

In the slipstream of exponential change… read this great posts on why the world is now choking on digital pollution (Washington Monthly).  Now that “data is the new oil” (one of Gerd's favourite memes – watch this video from 2012 😄), we also have “spillage” in the form of data pollution. The first time I heard about this term was in Andrew Keen's book “Digital Vertigo” from 2012. That was in the days when we were discussing “simple” challenges like information overflow and control by users on the sharing of their personal data. These remain important – as yet still unresolved – issues, but since 2012 a lot has changed: algorithms, AI, bots and fake news have added another layer of complexity.

A quote “For all the good the internet has produced, we are now grappling with effects of digital pollution that have become so potentially large that they implicate our collective well-being. We have moved beyond the point at which our anxieties about online services stem from individuals seeking to do harm—committing crimes, stashing child pornography, recruiting terrorists. We are now face-to-face with a system that is embedded in every structure of our lives and institutions, and that is itself shaping our society in ways that deeply impact our basic values.”

It's MORE ABOUT WHY and WHO then IF and HOW

The authors give a hint: “The drive for profits and market dominance is instilled in artificial intelligence systems that aren’t wired to ask why. But we aren’t machines; we can ask why. We must confront how these technologies work, and evaluate the consequences and costs for us and other parts of our society.”

“We need a common understanding, not just of the benefits of technology, but also of its costs—to our society and ourselves.”

We need to measure all the ins and outs of the full data value chain. We need a better legibility and thus awareness of it. Like the Doughnut Economy of Kate Raworth, we probably need a similar metaphor for a Digital Ethics Economy, not only mapping the progress of these new technologies, but also the harmful overshoots for society. Such a map will enable us to see the full picture, to measure what really matters, and help us decide what future we want. The future is what we make it.

This is a guest post by TFA Curator Petervan.

Related video: data is the new oil (one of Gerd's 7 future principles)





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