The Cambrian Explosion of Data

The Cambrian Explosion of Data

Era of data
Today everything and everyone generates data. For example, every minute, 300 hours’ worth of video is uploaded to Youtube. As more data is generated, everything gets equipped with more and more sensors. Of course, you’re thinking of devices such as your phone, laptop, etc. But don’t forget the heating dashboard in your home, your fridge, or your car – they’re all creating data. As those sensors get smaller and smaller, they become smartdust, sensors as small as a speck of dust. To take this one step further, this dust is connected to the internet, which makes it even smarter. Because of all those ever-smaller, ever-cheaper sensors, we are in a Cambrian explosion of data. That’s why many people call this is the Era of Data.
Copy internet
The internet itself contributes significantly to this explosion. The internet is basically designed to copy things. Once something is on the internet, it is copied and this automatically creates more data. Moreover, websites today are built to provide a personalized experience based on our account details, cookies, and other parameters. We all assume that Amazon looks the same for everybody, but the products, promotions, and maybe even the buttons are personalized for each of us, based on our interests, our behavior, and our reactions.
Data is power
Currently, a few companies are jostling over who will become the ruler of all data. This is because of the “one winner effect.” With the current economic system, one winner will ultimately take it all. In this case all that data, including yours. If nothing changes or is done about it, one of these companies will most likely become the sole owner of all data, creating an enormous black box. Thinking Black Mirror-style, this single data ruler will have the power to make you digitally dead. Because they possess all your data, they own you.
When you piece everything together, you end up with only four companies that are data owners. These are:


They know you better than you know yourself and hence they can manipulate you. For example, when you delete a message in Messenger before you send it, Facebook still has that message through the cache.
What we need and increasingly want is privacy, cybersecurity, data protection, and regulations, such as a real opt-out option. When you go to your doctor and ask for your medical file, you get your file. Now the doctor who gave it to you no longer has it, let alone the data it contained. When you call her two weeks later, she has no record of you anymore. Try that with Facebook.
Clean Social Media
What we should go for is clean social media, social media where you own your data. The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a small step forward, but also may be the wrong execution of a brilliant idea. We should build a regulation containing the following values:

Know what happens to your data
Full opt-out option.

This should result in a “Bill of Data Rights,” or something similar.
It’s just like your neighbor down the street, who sits at her window all day, watching. She knows when you go to work, when you come home, when you do your groceries. But when you forget to put your garbage out, she does it for you. And if you don’t see her at the window, you check if she hasn’t fallen on the kitchen floor. Data must flow, otherwise it’s worthless. But you also want and need to know what happens to your data. No black box. Reciprocity is key.
How will you make sure reciprocity is applied in your data strategy? Contact us for an explorational meeting if and how we can assist you with that.
Sicco Maathuis is Innovation Manager NL for the Capgemini Group, Netherlands.  You can contact him at or +31 6 55485835.

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