All Hail Our New Digital Gods
The digital service cloud, increasingly endowed by artificial narrow Intelligence, dense sensor meshes and human interaction data points will be the foundation of our new religion. Believing that Google search results represent reality, that Uber gives you the “best” or at least “a fair” price, that your AI personal finances assistant gives you sound advice – without clearly understanding the processes inside the system or the objective function that the system maximizes – requires a level of “trusting-without-actually-verifying” which is usually reserved for gods and deities.
It is our species’ second attempt to create, feed, worship and follow a construct greater than itself. On our first attempt, the rituals and the processions of old priests were the materialization of faith. And none of these ancient practices are dissimilar to best practices, frameworks and standard operating procedures of modern inter-connected corporations.
But the digital god we’re building now is much more powerful, because its word is not limited to a printed collection of fables and outdated practical wisdom. Its word and its sight and its action has direct consequences in our daily lives. In real-time. When we pay with our credit cards. When we authenticate with face recognition. When we click on ads. When we use free services which scrupulously rummage through “our” data. When we use Apple or Google or Revolut or BitCoin or Amazon as carriers or holders of our data, our money, our secrets or our assets. We need to trust that this mesh of systems, which no person entirely controls or understands, has a sense of fairness and our collective best interest in mind. And trust is not a bad thing. But blind trust can leave us exposed.
So in 2019 – let’s do this personal exercise – let’s understand the difference between what we actually know and what we blindly trust about how our digital identities and digital habits and digital services work.
Do we need all the services we use?
Does using these services tend to serve you or someone else most? (Hey, Zucc)
How I do make sure I own my data?
How do I make best use of my data and my digital services?
How do I make sure my personal digital assets actually work to *your* advantage?
I’m not telling you not to trust. I’m just suggesting a principle that Ronald Regan, AirBnb and the IRS all share: trust but verify.