Ben Dunkle’s Blog

Ben Dunkle is a designer, artist and teacher in Buffalo, NY. He writes in this blog about design, software, his family, and…

On Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma”

It’s no wonder the machine (however you want to define that, the powers that be, the man, our corporate overlords) is mining our data. It’s always mining something: iron, gold, oil, electricity (although the more elegant term for that is harvesting) – it’s just incredible how much data we produce and how easy it is to mine it.

The Social Dilemna does a good job of exposing that, although I could have done without the cheesy scripted stuff. However, it fails to point out the counterpart to our data, and what is in fact infinitely more valuable: our content.

Every post we make-video, photo, rant, tweet, comment, is like food for the machine. Without content, there is no internet. No one logs into Facebook so they can click on ads or fill out surveys or practice browsing habits. They go for content–to consume others’ and to post their own.

Content self-propagates; the machine doesn’t have to invasively collect it, analyze it, reconfigure it, or present it to its paying advertisers, as it does with data. And there’s mountains of it, and we give it away for free!

One of the interviewees suggests that we tax the machine for its data. That sounds great in theory, but I have a hard time understanding how it could be enforced. Instead, they should be taxed on their content they collect. It’s far easier to monitor.

Better yet, we could demand compensation for the food we’re keeping the machine alive with. Kind of like selling the glut of solar power you’re harvesting with your roof panels back to the utility companies. Let’s figure out how to do this.