Data and Digital Intelligence as People’s Resources
* Workshop: Data and Digital Intelligence as People’s Resources. Reclaiming Freedom and Control in a Data-based Society. 23rd - 24th November, 2019, Berlin
Just Net Coalition, Friedrich Ebert Foundation and Bread for the World
Mechanisation of economic activities triggered the industrial revolution, changing our economic, social and political paradigms. A parallel can be drawn in how data-based intelligencification of economic processes is setting up a digital economy, with similarly wide ramifications expected. Economic and political power in the industrial era centred on the ownership of industrial means of production – and so did the counter-claims of the multitude against the few. In a digital society, these powers are considerably determined by control over a society’s data, and the ensuing digital intelligence. A thorough understanding of these elements must informs the struggles of progressive forces against abuse and excesses of digital power, towards its fair distribution.
Protection of personal data is much discussed, but not that of collective data. The latter may be anonymised, aggregate social data, as well as data from our common artefacts, public spaces and the nature. Protecting personal data also requires collective approaches; individual centric attempts having largely failed owing to power asymmetries between individuals and the data controlling giant corporations. For obvious reasons, the latter resist attempts to call conceptual and policy attention to collective aspects of our data and digital intelligence.
The importance and implications of data itself tend to be less self-evident; to understand them one should focus on how data provides intelligence about us; as a society as a whole, as national and sub-national communities, and as various forms of groups and kinds of people. Such intelligence is not just some open, general knowledge about its subjects. It is information of an ever-shifting and -enhancing, granular, real time quality, infusing and impacting the most intimate, even unexplored, spaces of social relationships and fabric, and personal behaviour and psychology. It is as specific to particular people, groups and communities, as personal information is specific to a person. In wrong hands, such specific group intelligence carries great harm potential. It cannot, therefore, just be
shared as an open access resource. Much of community intelligence would increasingly be auto- executing, forming large AI or digital intelligence based economic and social systems – sector-wise,
and cross-sectoral. Google and Apple, for instance, are no longer personal applications providers; they are centrally into health, transport, education, urban governance, and much more. They really are digital intelligence corporations, with the aim, and business model, to ultimately own society’s collective intelligence – sector-wise, and generally.
Should groups and communities not own and control intelligence about themselves; and therefore own and control the data that builds such intelligence? This data after all is largely contributed by them, or comes from commons/public/natural spaces. Our collective intelligence is the greatest power over us, and the logic for its self-determination is as much moral as political-economy based. Reassertion of people’s control should also extend to the techno-structures that form the ‘physical body’ of society-wide digital systems, from connectivity to software and cloud-computing. The first day of the workshop will examine the conceptual basis of these key issues. The second day will explore practical strategies for progressive actors to help people regain control over their data and digital intelligence, and the techno-structures that enclose them."