Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said “Between the birth of the world and 2003, there were five exabytes of information created. We [now] create five exabytes every two days.”
I don’t know how reliable the first number is, but I’m sure that digital, online technology has spurred phenomenal growth. Digital, online technology makes it easier and more cost-effective to produce, store, and distribute content. That much is obvious.
What’s less well known is that it’s now possible to measure everything. By that I mean (for starters) everything you do, everywhere you go, everything you say, and everything you read, listen to, and watch. It’s also possible to measure the behavior of groups of people, companies, countries, markets, and the entire world.
Isaac Asimov foresaw the possibility of using math to predict the future—at least in its broad outline. He based his Foundation science fiction series on what he called the science of psychohistory. However, Asimov believed that psychohistory would not be accurate enough to predict smaller scale events in the distant future.
An important question emerges: are predictions about smaller scale events unreliable because the laws of physics get in the way? It may be impossible to predict small scale events well into the future, but there’s plenty of evidence that we can predict near-term, small scale events. This is what game theory, behavioral targeting, and sociophysics are all about.
I’m concerned that the propensity to measure and record everything could be harmful to individuals. This information could be used against us in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Plus, those who collect and analyze the data would have a huge advantage over individuals.
If privacy is dead, so is individual freedom. Avoid, as much as possible, being tracked and profiled.