The dark side of big data according to a philosopher

In 2012 they were produced more data than in the previous 5,000 years. But the monopoly is in the hands of the big company. Luciano Floridi, a professor at Oxford and computer ethics expert, explains the deal in the third millennium and its distortions

01 Jun 2016

In 2012 they were produced more data than in the previous 5,000 years, and 90% of the information has been created in the last two years. From prehistoric graffiti in the caves until 2013 the human being has produced 4.4 ZB of data and from 2013 to 2020 is expected a production of 44 ZB. This is what is stated by Luciano Floridi, authoritative computer ethics expert, professor at the University of Oxford, known worldwide for his thoughts on the philosophy of information and computer ethics.

Oil of the Third Millennium, which is the data business, has its dark side: although it is an indisputable resource, who currently take advantage from it? The monopoly of the data business, according to Floridi, is currently in the hands of big companies: revenue from Google’s online advertising and a few other Californian companies is equal to the GDP of Sweden.

“Big companies have the monopoly on the questions that generate information on things. And have got it by diverting the gift economy: I give the information to the clients, rather to users because in return I get their data. And those are the assets that make me earn”, specify Floridi. This mechanism affects our society because it makes them unsure: in liberal societies we can ask questions, but the answers we get are often multiple and uncertain, because their management is monopolized by the search engines, namely Google. Floridi says, paraphrasing Orwell and his 1984: “Those who control the questions shapes the answers and who controls the answers shapes the reality”.

“In the US lobbying on the two main political parties is legal and transparent. It was not so hard to find that in the last two semesters Google has spent on this activities, more then Lockheed Martin and Big Pharma, two historical giants of the US economy. They invest so much to keep good government – continues Floridi – because they know they are fragile”.

” A developed culture is not only concerned with accumulating data, but also takes care for them: it analyzes them, puts them in context, interprets them. Today, however, the speed of information erases and rewrites in a continuous loop. We may end up trapped in a perpetual ‘now'”


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