A think tank held in Las Vegas early this morning organised by Adobe took a turn for the dramatic when some of its panellists declared the next major global conflict would be sparked by data.
Pointing to the still current brouhaha over Russian cyber influence in the US Presidential election, the panel argued similar nefarious activity could quickly escalate into a world war such is the importance, value and incendiary nature of personal data.
The think tank was pitched as an in-depth exploration of the ‘Experience Business’ of the future off the back of Gartner research which found nearly 90 per cent of businesses surveyed rated becoming an experience business as crucial to future survival.
Chaired by Altimeter founder Charlene Li, the panel looked at three topic areas: design, delivery and data. However it was only when data was addressed the discussion took a turn for the dark and dramatic.
While agreement was hard to find among the nine-strong panel of experts, clear themes to emerge was data is the new oil, and we all know how many wars that has sparked, and there’s too much personal data at large and we’re careening towards a future where not sure how to control or regulate.
Some panellists, such as head of venture design at Frog Ethan Imboden argued a shift away from companies seeking permission from consumers to use their data in line with their terms and conditions towards consumers setting their own data policy was a solution. However other panel members including Broadsuite CEO Daniel Newman said just as consumers couldn’t be bothered to read the terms and conditions of anything ever before hitting the “I agree” button, there was no way the average consumer was going to control their own personal data usage.
What was more likely to happen, he argued, was data privacy and its use by artificially intelligent machines would become the most heavily litigated branch of the law.
His rationale being we’ve already given away so much of our private data via Facebook and other social media outlets that AI could be used to mal-intent.
The example given was where once upon a time we never told people we were going on an overseas holiday for fear of being robbed, we now tell the world by pasting pictures of us in Bali all over the web. It’s not too far, the panel mused, to think of a machine able to make a register of abandoned houses just waiting to be robbed.
Similarly, while Uber updated its app, which meant it was tracking people’s movements for five minutes after they got out of their ride, it was only when it became a media story was any mention of that update.
Theresa Lamontagne, head of digital marketing and media operations Verizon, said if Uber tracked her to the liquor store every afternoon when she got out of her Uber then her boss found that out she could be sacked. Ms Lamontagne was quick to point out she in fact did not stop off at the liquor store every day on her way home from work, but was merely providing an example.
While no clear solutions were arrived upon in the discussion, it was clear a strong need for the ethical use of data and better design of data gathering was a clear imperative.
Watch the entire glorious 90 minutes of the think tank here.