Is Dataism the Key to Scientific Discovery or a Danger to our Freedom?

So what would actually happen if all of a sudden our personal data became public? And I am talking about everything from devices that are recording your bodily biometrics, your smartphones and devices that would expose your locale, your social media footprints and activity, all the way down to your browser and internet search history?

Do you believe that such insights into our personal lives would give companies, leaders, and politicians much more power to manipulate our world by using this information against us?

A brand new philosophy that is called dataism does not seem to think so.

Actually, this hot new ideology thinks that allowing this data to flow is one of the most valuable things we can do for our society. Not only that, it might even be the pathway to the greatest scientific discoveries in the history of mankind.

So What Is Dataism Anyway?

dataismWe first heard that term in a 2013 New York Times article written by David Brooks that was entitled “The Philosophy of Data.” As it turns out, dataism is an ethical system that’s been popularized and very intensely explored by a historian named Yuval Noah Harari.

In his 2016 revolutionary book named Homo Deus, Harari referred to dataism as a brand new type of religion that elevates the rising value of big data.

Its core belief promotes the central notion that our universe naturally gives more value and support to individuals, societies, and systems that participate efficiently and most heavily to the processing of data. While being interviewed by Wired, Harari claimed, “Humans were special and important because up until now they were the most sophisticated data processing system in the universe, but this is no longer the case.”

Today we are witnessing that machine learning and big data are proving to be quite sophisticated, and dataists strongly feel that we ought to release all of our information and data to these powerful algorithms. They sincerely believe that this free flow of data will release innovation and unlock a very powerful and productive scientific movement that will prove to be unlike anything the world has ever seen.

Pros: Progress and Personal Growth

Whenever data is allowed to flow freely, it will inevitably become mixed and coupled in brand new combination that is bound to spark progress. And now that we are entering a future where every single citizen is forever linked and sharing their personal data, they will be unlimited potential for collaborative breakthroughs.

In fact, we are already seeing amazing increases in our overall quality of life because of companies such as Google. As we all know, Google Maps knows our phone info, and our location is being continually updated on their servers. This data is collected and combined with all other people in the world. Such a connection allows us to benefits from knowing real time information on things like current weather and traffic conditions around our present location. This allows us to make adjustments that we can benefit from.

We could actually do the same kind of thing with our bodies.

Think about a world where everyone has a biosensor insert into their bloodstream. Such a scenario is not that far away. Suppose someone who is a diabetic is sharing their blood sugar levels with the world. This can be very helpful as their doctor and local hospital has an instant medial record of the previous hours.

Let us look at a bigger picture still. Think about a major virus like the Bird Flu or Zika. When it breaks out, medical professionals can find out quickly when and where it began. They have instant history stored in the cloud as to what their next move should be. Think of the lives and the time that could be saved with such a system. A vaccine could be created much sooner.

Cons: Manipulation and Extortion

Unfortunately, the skeptic in all of us instantly considers the potential failure that comes with dataism.

As Harari is quick to point out, the increasing popularity of datism also means that “humanism is now facing an existential challenge and the idea of ‘free will’ is under threat.”

In the year 2017, The Economist claimed that data has become the most valuable resource in the world. In fact, it has actually gotten to the point where it is more valuable than oil.

If we think about this for a moment, we will see that data actually mean understanding, and when we understand things that no one else does, that we have the means for leverage and control over them. Therefore, in our world of politics and advertising, possessing data about your voters and consumers will provide you with an amazing advantage.