No, I haven’t lost “it” and this is not a science fiction movie.
With the unleashing of big data, big computing, big temptations, and big greed, it is going to be real tempting to develop a George Huba (or Bill Smith or Mary Doe or heaven forbid, a George Bush) computer model that can fairly accurately predict from my lifetime experiences whether I will buy a new car next year (and what type and in which cost range and maybe from which car dealer), purchase or sell a home, shift from converse to adidas sneakers, become emotionally distressed if I do not have chocolate, and purchase Apple stock. Or run a simulation of me as the CEO of a particular company to determine if I get the job. Or look at my medical history and determine whether it is likely that my grandchildren will have each of 20 expensive diseases that no insurer wants to touch.
Already the IRS runs programs to estimate the likelihood I cheated on my income taxes, Amazon runs programs to estimate the likelihood I will purchase certain books and socks before or after the December holidays, and my credit card company runs models to determine whether it is likely or not that I purchased shoes while on a business trip (yup, they once froze my credit card because their computer model says I only buy sneakers).
OK, so the accuracy of the big data scientists is only something like 20-50% now. What do you think it will be when your book purchasing history is integrated with your job history, income, ice cream purchases, pharmaceutical purchases, and BMI? And then fine tuned with the grade you got in college English, chemistry, or psychology; whether you had a hiking or a beach vacation; if you purchased (used) sunscreen and had a history of purchasing sun hats; the diseases that all four of your grandparents and parents had at different times in their lifetimes. And whether your car is more than 3 years old. And what do you think it will be when we create a generation of data scientists willing to capitalize on huge data to build such models for salaries that will approach those of professional athletes and rock stars?
Ten years from now, the computer models produced of selected individuals will make Mark Zuckerberg, the Google guys, and Jeff Bezos look like rank amateurs in profiling.
[Oh, and by the way while writing this post Google knows that I looked up Mark Zuckerberg’s name and the spelling of adidas.]
I want to tell anyone that wants to develop a mathematical, computer model of me (or my behavior, beliefs, attitudes, skills, history, and future intentions) to cease and desist. Or fuck off.
Which raises the questions … Do I own the copyright (patent, trademark) to my own life? [And if I do, what are the limits and will violations of those laws by a number of countries be ignored?]
This is not so far-fetched. I spent my whole life becoming the person I am. Does anybody have the right to take all of the big data about me and distill my life down to formulae and algorithms that will explain my past and current behavior and predict what I will do in the future? Should people be allowed to model individuals, I fear that the suicide rate will go up dramatically as people find out how much these models can be used to control them.
As a psychologist, I spent my career studying people so that we might better understand their fears and concerns, help them better use their full potential, become happier, control their own aggressive or violent tendencies, and generally become the people THEY WANTED to be. And I, and no other ethical psychologist, struck out with the intent to model the behaviors of others so well that the resulting models could be sold to governments and corporations.
Big and huge data, data scientists, companies, and governments need to be prohibited from violating the rights of individuals to “own” their individual lives. If we ever let others “own” our individual identities, we will have crossed into new territory from which there is no return. The technology is almost there to create such individual mathematical models.
I was endowed by my creator to own the copyright, patents, and trademarks of my own life… and to answer for what I chose to do with that intellectual property (free will). I choose not to sell my soul to the devil.
A few more thoughts are in the mind map below.
Click on the diagram to zoom.