The challenge is at what point someone will be able to actually do something truly useful - and quite possibly disruptive with all of that ostensible knowledge. And if so, who will it be?
The smart money is betting on itself. That is to say, the fleet of gigantuan financial institutions and their privateer outliers like the hedge funds and private equity firms believe they are optimally positioned to take that data and trade on its implications. The problem they face is that there are so many of them from the same schools, using the same hard-and-software, parsing the same algorithmic rules and assuming similar approaches to risk. This causes them to follow similar strategies that tend to cancel each other out and even to cause crises as we have seen repeatedly going back to the first modern crash in 1987.
The techsters also think they have won pole position in this race. They, after all, invented all this stuff and created the capability to realize its potential. They, too, do not lack for self-belief, and are further convinced that they possess the moral high ground because they are scientists and technologists, not mere bankers or merchants.Who better, they imagine, to generate yet another statistical program to unlock the meaning before anyone else does and make even more selling the secrets to the universe.
There is certainly ample evidence to support either of those contentions. Tech and finance have emerged from the financial crisis and lingering recession largely unscathed. They have, for the past generation (yes, it has been that long) partnered to generate unparalleled wealth, at least for themselves.
But there is a third contestant in this competition, a long shot to be sure, but one whose growing centrality, competence - and frustration - may best position them as the ultimate winner. We speak of the citizen-consumers themselves. The people whose activities, interests and inclinations are the fuel for the data frenzy. They are beginning to awaken to their power and how to wield it. There are growing calls for an end to the Faustian bargain trading 'free' data in return for access to pathetic discounts or weasely promotions. They want to be paid, they have terms to discuss and they know they have alternatives.
Whether 'the people' will ever self-organize to the extent necessary to extract concessions from those acquiring and then reselling their data (though whose it actually is has yet to be legally determined). But as the value increases as do the numbers of providers and professionals seeking access to it, the market about which we hear so much, may well act to enable the surprise. And wouldnt that be disruptive? JL
Evgeny Morozov comments in the Financial Times:
Sensors and internet connectivity are also turning “dumb” gadgets into powerful vehicles of prediction and speculation. The data they capture can be integrated with data from other gadgets and databases to create new information commodities whose value might eclipse the value of the gadgets used to generate the underlying data. Soon, the devices might even be given away for free.