I just read an article on the implementation of The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
That’s a mouthful and a half! The point is, “off-chain” social initiative and engagement often anticipate on-chain consensus. The community must know what it needs, and every participant counts, from node operators, miners, token holders, casual users and more.
So, with the above in mind “How will the value of data change over the next 5-10 years, and what does this mean for Africa?”
Before delving into the question, contextual understanding is a prerequisite.
As a simple example, let’s look at how Governments see the value of data; lying in “public good”, and Commercial operations witnessing the amount of data as lying in the dollars it creates, is creating an interesting dichotomy of considerations.
The value of data is dependent on the need people have for it in any given context. Let’s think about this in the background of exchange. The value of data arises out of transactions, such as the exchange of data for services and outcomes. In this equation, the value of data, therefore, depends on the willingness of people to give to get.
Using this ‘exchange value’ paradigm for understanding the value of data, it is then easy to see that the value of data is neither inherent nor immutable. It can change over time and space depending on the nature of the exchanges it is involved in or excluded.
Moreover, of course, that data which cannot be part of a transfer of some kind becomes value-less.
To maximise the value of data then we must ensure that it is used for public and social good. Otherwise, the value of data is very likely to end up negative for humanity.
“If access to information is the oxygen of democracy, then data is its lifeblood.” This quote I recently heard, suggests that we need to treat data perhaps more carefully than we have been if we want to preserve the values of democracy itself.
What is the effect of data on a community? Though this might seem obvious that this is the very essence of the value of data, it’s effect on us as a community, positive or negative, might come to define the value of data for us all.
At this critical point in the transition of our African economies, with growing foreign investment interest in the continent and its potential for mobilising local resources, technology will play a vital role in capitalising on this opportunity.
Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence will become standard terms in our vocabulary.
The question is, will artificial intelligence mean that machines will define their ethics? Alternatively, do ethics lie in the underlying code with which the devices are designed, and if so, does that mean the developers themselves are the moral arbiters of machine decision-making? Should there be a kind of ‘Hippocratic oath’ for developers, and is this practical when code which is developed by many developers each of whom could not possibly be individually responsible for the decisions made by the whole code structure?
Also, how do we incorporate the enormous variety in moral and ethical beliefs between different cultures?
Beyond the idea of absolute ethics, there is also an issue of accountability. Who should be ultimately accountable for decisions made by ‘intelligent’ machines? Do we need to reconsider the role of the CEO in organisations where devices make decisions? Where is the accountability structure for machine-made choices and actions? Should the CEO be more involved than he/she currently is, and how much more knowledge should CEOs have of this issue than they now do?
My friends, we are at a crossroads, and the route we will take will determine two potential pathways, a positive and a negative. There is a great sense of urgency around the need to tackle these issues robustly, right now!
As individuals, we need to uphold moral and ethical value systems, preserving our own moral compass and being independent of negative influences. We need freedom from bias in the digesting and disseminating data.
We know that trust is not dependent on one central authority; it is federated between all users, while, on some level, that may be scary for some who will need to cede control of proprietary systems of checks and balances in favour of an open, transparent approach.
The implications will be far-reaching.
Beyond having an immediate financial impact on many institutions who’ve been charged with auditing, assigning identification tags, and processing the contracts, financial instruments, and documents that can now be tracked on the blockchain, the mere existence of this record fundamentally changes our foundations of trust.
With new blockchain initiatives launching pretty much daily, the path ahead is anything but certain, but the implications of the technology on many of the fundamental underpinnings of our business and legal structures are already starting to become clear.
Ultimately, what’s unfolding here is a rapid maturation of the blockchain ecosystem as financial firms begin to bring together all the checks and balances required to comply with current regulatory and administrative requirements while making the transition to distributed ledger technology.
Significant challenges still exist on the way to full-scale adoption of the blockchain, but the progress made thus far will only be amplified as incremental milestones are achieved, and that’s where the hype becomes a reality.
The future is here and it excites me.