Are we addicted to “Big Data”?

The Next Web interviewed Peter Sunde, co-founder of Pirate Bay to get his thoughts on how we have missed the bus when it comes to decentralizing the Internet.

Qubole

Sunde says that rather than focusing on what might happen, we should be concerned about what is happening.

Everything has gone wrong. That’s the thing, it’s not about what will happen in the future it’s about what’s going on right now. We’ve centralized all of our data to a guy called Mark Zuckerberg, who’s basically the biggest dictator in the world as he wasn’t elected by anyone.

Trump is basically in control over this data that Zuckerberg has, so I think we’re already there. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong and I don’t think there’s a way for us to stop it.

“The internet was made to be decentralized,” says Sunde, “but we keep centralizing everything on top of the internet.”  To support this, Sunde points out that in the last 10 years, almost every up-and-coming tech company or website has been bought by the big five: Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook. The ones that manage to escape the reach of the giants, often end up adding to the centralization.

We don’t create things anymore, instead we just have virtual things. Uber, Alibaba and Airbnb, for example, do they have products? No. We went from this product-based model, to virtual product, to virtually no product what so ever. This is the centralization process going on.

Sunde says that though we should be aware that the current effects of centralization, we shouldn’t overlook that it’s only going to get worse. There are a lot of upcoming tech-based services that are at risk of becoming centralized, which could have a huge impact on our daily lives.

We’re super happy about self driving cars, but who owns the self driving cars? Who owns the information about where they can and can’t go? I don’t want to ride in a self driving car that can’t drive me to a certain place because someone has bought or sold an illegal copy of something there.

He believes that there needs to be a greater ethical discussion about technology and ownership if we don’t want to end up living in a corporate-driven dystopia (worse than our current one, that is).

Can we fight for decentralization and give the power back to the people?

No. We lost this fight a long time ago. The only way we can do any difference is by limiting the powers of these companies — by governments stepping in — but unfortunately the EU or the US don’t seem to have any interest in doing this.

Sunde then draws an  interesting analogy between the addiction to tobacco and the addiction to the products that the big data companies offer:

I would say we, as the people, kind of lost the internet back to the capitalist society, which we were hoping to take it back from. We had this small opening of a decentralized internet but we lost it by being naive. These companies try to sound good in order to take over, that they’re actually ‘giving’ you something. Like Spotify gives you music and has great passion for music, and all of the successful PR around it.

But what it does to us in the long term is more like smoking. Big data and Big Tobacco are really similar in that sense. Before, we didn’t realize how dangerous tobacco actually was, but now we know it gives you cancer. We didn’t know that big data could be thing, but now we know it is. We’ve been smoking all our lives on big data’s products and now we can’t quit.


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In solidarity with the those in the world’s most despised demographic, WH has decided to ‘come out’ as an old white male. WH enjoys exercising the white-male privilege that Whaleoil provides for him by writing the occasional post challenging climate change consensus; looking at random tech issues that tweak his interest, as a bit of a tech nerd; or generally poking the borax at anyone in public life who goes on record revealing their stupidity. WH never excelled on the sports field because his coaches never allowed him to play in his preferred position on the right-wing. WH also enjoys his MG.

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