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This article is by Featured Blogger Richie Etwaru from his LinkedIn page. Republished with the author’s permission.
By design, humans are terrible at agreeing. Challenge five individuals to find three movies which they must all agree are the best movies of all time. Ask three individuals to agree on the best way to write a sentence. Ask two individuals to truly agree on the best way to visualize an idea in PowerPoint. We are inherently disagreeable.
Yet, we civilized eventually absent a specie wide built-in capability to agree at scale. We agreed eventually that taking another person’s life is wrong, we agreed that women have equal rights, and we agreed that we are all born free. Most recently we agreed on rules of monetary currency, measurements of education, and rules of ownership and transfer of property.
To agree seems to be civil, and to fight in disagreement is civil war. The agreement that slavery should be abolished, was a killer agreement. No pun intended.
We know how we disagree, but how do we agree?
We seem to agree on a spectrum that ranges from agreement by compromise to agreement by compliance. Agreement by compromise is familiar as we are active participants. Agreement by compliance is less active, passive as we will see. I can compromise that Independence Day is not one the top three movies of all time, and I am actively aware in my compromise. I agree that driving over the posted speed limit is wrong, and it happens in passive compliance.
Agreement by compliance is an important thread in the fabric of human civilization. Because of our innate disagreeability we created extensive constructs such as tribal leaders, monarchies, sovereign governments, and a multitude of bureaucratic bodies to collect, hold, and enforce our agreement (or they created themselves). Regardless, from democracy to dictatorship, we have pools of power that holds our agreement serving as a patch to our design flaw as a specie, of being inherently disagreeable.
If you look over history, the trend is that we are increasingly passing off our disagreements into pools of power. Items that didn’t need agreement for centuries, now have pools of power that compel us to comply. The pattern is, we have to agree that something is important enough to need an agreement, and then we transfer the responsibility of discovery and enforcement of agreement to pools of power. We had to agree that we needed agreement on acceptable fuel emission levels, and then that to pools of power. We had to agree that smoking indoors was not acceptable, and then passed that too to pools of power. More agreements, more civil. More power to pools.
Agreement is not bad. History has not been the worst of what it could have been.
However, there is a big piece missing. In some cases, we civilize (seemingly) under concealed agreements. These are agreements where we are not active in compromise, or passive in compliance, they are imposed on us and we have little knowledge that they exist.
Take for example video advertising on the back of an airplane seat. There is no law or regulation that says video advertising must be there, or more importantly can’t be there. It’s a (not so dangerous) concealed agreement that in exchange for some free entertainment, we shall watch some advertising.
Hey, not so bad. I mean, if Independence Day is available for free, then why yes, please show me that Marriott advertisement one more time. Historically, numerous successful enterprises have been built on concealed agreements. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and SnapChat are all examples of great enterprises built on a single concealed agreement. Civil or not, you get a platform or a service for free, and in exchange you agree to be advertised to, with no expectation to be snooped on, manipulated, or worst domesticated.
We have a massive concealed agreement on our hands that is growing increasingly dangerous. We, the human species have never needed to agree on what it means to “own” our personal data, until now. Take for example our most personal data set, or medical records – we are absent agreement on what it means to own or medical data. In the absence of an agreement, successful enterprises have thrived on using and abusing our human data. Human data which is owned by humans, is being used absent human consent, authorization, and in many cases our awareness amounting to a 250B+ industry annually.
Let me put that number into perspective, when correcting for inflation, the annual labor rate that would have been paid to the estimated 6 million American slaves in the early 1800s would amount today to approximately 300B+ annually.
The annual monetary result from the exploitation of human data in 2019, is on par with the annual monetary result from the exploitation of human labor in 1819.
The next great companies will unseat today's data plantation owners with a new (nonviolent) form of civil unrest. They will stem from a place of civil ethic. These new enterprises will likely build replacement killer agreements where there are uncivil concealed agreements or no agreements at all. They will likely start by building an agreement on what it means for a human to “own” human data. They will be called civil enterprises, and they will unseat the Facebooks, the large financial services data brokers, and the large health data brokers in the next five to ten years.
These civil enterprises will have an unprecedented pattern in their competitive posture. Instead of trying to build a better business model than Facebook, better that Experian, or better than Neilsen, they will build a business model that is the opposite of the business models of these companies. The will build a consumer-inclusive data economy, replacing the current consumer-not-invited data economy.
Facebook is an enterprise that built a Killer App, whose business model is based on a concealed agreement to exploit a consumer-not-included data economy. Facebook’s replacement will be a civil enterprise building a Killer Agreement, whose business model will be to replace the concealed agreement with something more civil, a consumer-inclusive data economy.
Software ate the world's data. Civil War, Civil Enterprises.