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Notes and Reflections on Books and Media

by Hannah Leitheiser

Siren Servers

Who Ownes the Future?

Jaron Lanier




Continuing on Who Owns the Future:

The problem, if you value a middle class anyway, is that big data servers are gleaning data from people without paying. Google Translate only works because it's able to mine translated text for free. Amazon's recommendations and reviews are based on user activity. General practitioner case histories are gleaned to power automated diagnostic engines. And of course, Facebook. Jaron Lanier calls these entities siren servers since no one (except perhaps in the case of government data collection) is forced to provide data or use them, yet they are hard to resist. In the current system, the ways to make money are to do something computers do not yet do efficiently or align yourself with the top levels of a siren server, and of course, as computers become able to do more, concentration will continue toward those in control of the servers.

Lamar's proposed solution is to make data not free. If Facebook has to pay to mine your profile to target ads to your friends, some of the bloat in the value of these data aggregation services decreases. It gets a little more expensive to creep on masses of people.

Doing this, Lamar suggests, requires data that is more often two-way linked than copied, because this allows awareness of who is using your data. You might think of it rather like a citation tracker in academia that judges the influence of a paper on how often it's cited. Obviously this adds complexity, but not so much that computers shouldn't be able to handle it. Then, of course, you have to create economies that respond to these links.

Everything I've read in this book makes a great deal of sense. I will be interested to see if Lamar has details on how he thinks we might transition to something like this system.