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Devil’s Advocate: According to Google, Your Data is Not Yours, It’s Everyones, Forever After.


And your data will be used to refine and manipulate the consumer choices and personal decision-making of all future generations of people. From this video, a leaked internal video from Google, we can see that right now, Google’s data profiling capabilities are truly remarkable. Their all-encompassing power is now omniscient, and ever-present in every aspect of our lives.

As old institutions of power fall like churches and universities and other analogue relics – so too the digital institutions rise, and have unprecedented levels of power and control of every minute aspect of our lives.

The Facts 

On the 17th of May, the Verge published a 2016 internal video from Google that examines the possibility of collecting a kind of digital genetic code, or “ledger,” for a person that could be passed from one generation to the next, similar to genetic information.

The video was created by Google employees Nick Foster and David Murphy.

The video is inspired by a 1809 book about evolutionary theory by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. The “Lamarckian epigenetics” theory.

The essence of this theory is that an organism during its lifetime modifies its genetic code, and that is passed to the next generation.

Although the video then states that the Lamarck’s theory is “biologically inaccurate.” In the area of biology, and was later replaced by Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, after he published “Origin of the Species” in 1859.

Then the video states that the Lamarckian theory is a useful metaphor for thinking about a so-called “ledger” of data, or a kind of digital genetic code. The ledger would contain information on users’ “actions, decisions, preferences, movement and relationships” obtained by analyzing data from technology such as phones and internet search engines. The ledger would evolve with time as more user data is collected, and this information could be passed to future generations after the user died.

The narrator then dares to ask whether or not such a data ledger could have its own purpose and volition that’s separate from the individual who created the data. Such a ledger could provide completely comprehensive behavioural predictions of people.

Drawing parallels with another evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkin’s idea of the selfish gene – the selfish ledger could be similarly fashioned from a ledger of data.

This ledger of data could potentially outlive its creator and provide rich  multigenerational data could be used to “make increasingly accurate predictions” about human behavior and decision-making.

According to the video, people in the future cold benefit from the  preceding generation’s behaviors and decisions.”

A Google spokesperson had this to say about the video and told the Verge

“We understand if this is disturbing — it is designed to be. This is a thought-experiment by the Design team from years ago that uses a technique known as ‘speculative design’ to explore uncomfortable ideas and concepts in order to provoke discussion and debate. It’s not related to any current or future products.” – Google.

Well of course that’s going to be the appropriate response from Google. But why then generate and distribute such a strange idea internally in Google then? To what end was this video made? Was it designed to motivate and inspire people to create the kind of products to serve this kind of reality?

In terms of dangerous ideas this has to be one of the most creepy and quite frankly terrifying possibilities there is. In a time of increased sensitivity to data and increasing reliance on Google’s products for every single mundane action in ours lives – the insane possibilities of the future are starting to grow mutant legs and gain strength enough to bolt straight out of the gate into our lives. And it seems that nobody in our current world is adequately prepared for the consequences of this kind of reality.


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