Social Cooling

Social Cooling

This talk explores the question: what are the long term negative effects of living in a data-driven world?

While still invisible to most people, our data is starting to seriously affect our lives. Our chances to find a job or a cheap load are increasingly affected by the profiles that databrokers have created about us. They know more than we realize: using algorithms that compare our data to that of others, our deepest secrets are deduced. Our IQ, psychological profile, religious affiliation, real sexuality.. even if our parents were divorced before the age of 21 can be measured (you will be more likely to like statements about relationships on Facebook).


Fear of exclusion of the dominant fear of our time

As people become aware of this digital reputation, and that this is out of their control, they will feel strong pressure to conform. We all want to be normal - as Zygmunt Bauman put it: "the fear of exclusion of the dominant fear of our time".

The question that rises is:  what does it mean to be free in a world where surveillance is the dominant business model? Studies show an increase in self-censorship and a growing culture of risk-aversion. For example, we see students not partying as hard. We see people not clicking on links because they think “someone” might record that visit, and it could ‘look bad’. We see doctors hesitating to operate on difficult diseases because a death will affect their score. China is loving it: form 2020 onward all Chinese citizens will receive a ‘social credit score’ that basically reflects how well behaved they are, and which will affect their chances to get a good job, loan or even a date (as the largest data website in China is already integrated into the first version of the system)

As oil leads to global warming, data leads to social cooling
- Tijmen Schep
Picture taken at the Border Sessions festival in 2017 by Wouter Vellekoop.

Comparing data to oil begs the question: what then is the new Global Warming? As oil lead to Global Warming, data leads to Social Cooling. This is a warning, but it also offers hope. How we are dealing with global warming and 'big oil' can serve as a blueprint for dealing with big data.

The new social pressures that our data-driven world is creating will force us to renew our understanding of what it means to be human, and how we can protect our human rights in a digital world.

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Ethical innovation consultancy Pineapplejazz helps organisations gain deeper insight and critical foresight into new technologies and the questions they raise. We are a network of experts with backgrounds in law, philosophy, ethics, policy, technology, art and design. Together we paint bigger pictures that are nuanced and hype-free, which helps you invest your energy wisely.