Considerations of a New ‘Ism, Dataism

Understanding the harms caused from datism

Identity Praxis and Datais

Musings on dataism. Image adapted from S. Hermann & F. Richter

Yesterday was a big day, Humanity Power™ released their Humanity Power action kit, a step-by-step guide for putting the unity that is within our humanity to work. It is a guide to bring joy, peace, and purpose to your life, the lives of everyone around you and afar, and to put an end to the ‘isms (sexism, ageism, ableism, classism, racism) that plague humanity; ‘isms that are the root of so many of our individual and social ills.

See my related post and my personal testimonial on the value of the Humanity Power framework.

As I reflect on the powerful framework and message that Humanity Power has built, I’ve not been able to not stop considering how it relates to the emerging personal information economy and the role that data plays, both positively and negatively, throughout society.

I believe that datism, data’s dark side, is one of the many ‘ism that we must strive to eradicate if we are to truly be free to thrive in today’s data-driven society.

What is an ‘ism

Lets first start with understanding what an ‘ism is and what are the ‘isms Humanity Power is taking head-on?

Courtesy of Humanity Power: Humanities ‘isms

An ‘ism origin means “to side with.” While there are many ‘isms out there, Humanity Power focuses on ending these specific ‘isms, sexism, ageism, ableism, colorism, classism, and racism. These are the ‘isms that continue perpetuate discrimination within our society.

Charisse Alayna Fontes
Founder of Humanity Power
September 2020

There is so much we can do with the energy that we’re losing to these ‘isms, energy we can never get back. We need to learn to eradicate these ‘isms that are at work within our society, communities, and ourselves. Lets band together, eradicate these ‘isms and put the reclaimed energy to work so that we can join forces and tackle the challenges and realize the opportunities that lay ahead, together.

Identity Praxis is a proponent of Humanity Power and looks to add one more ‘ism to the conversation: dataism

Identity Praxis is a proponent of Humanity Power, it is through unity that we can all find balance, joy, and achievement of purpose. Also, it is the perfect platform to discuss another ‘ism that is plaguing society, dataism.

David Brooks in his 2013 article “The Philosophy of Data,” considers dataism an ethical system. And, Yuval Noah Harari, in his book Homo Deus, suggested dataism is a new form of religion that reveres big data. I see it as something more sinister. I see it to be more in the light of the other ‘isms, in that is divides and segregates more than drives unity.

Dataism, as an economic and social movement, relates to how people’s data, their identity and personal information, is being used by society’s private and public actors for gain to the detriment of the society-at-large and the individual who is the data subject.

Today, data is being used and co-opted by public (aka government) and private (aka organizations) for economic, political, and social gain, a situation often referred to as surveillance capitalism. People, individual data subjects, are being left out of the data flow equation, they don’t have a seat at the table.

While the flow of data throughout the world brings significant good to our societies and economies, and to the individual in many contexts, the fact that individuals have largely been left out of the decision-making process as to how their data is collected and used is a problem.

As with the other isms, dataism is causing harm to individuals and society at large, impart and due to, among other things, an imbalance of the flow of data, the value derived from the flow of data, and the risks generated by the flow of data; and, sadly, most people don’t even know this is happening or comprehend the long-term implications.

It is worth noting that dataism is both independent and interdependent in relation to the other ‘isms. It stands alone, as well as influences and is influenced by the other ‘isms.

At a micro level, dataism is causing harm, both legally recognized data harm, such as identity left, as well as other data harms that are not strictly measured or recognized, such as increased anxiety, loss of time, money, reputation, discrimination, opportunity (personal, economic, social, influence), and death.

At a macro level, dataism can create class wars, generate division, stimulate distrust, discriminate, silence free speech, suppress minorities, and more. Why, because dataism is causing a disequilibrium of power (money, resources, and influence), opportunity, social good, risk, and externalities among society’s actors. The lion share of the externalities are being born by people (you, me, and everyone around us), and the majority of the value is going to private institutions, aka “Big Tech”.

Data has power. Used properly data can create great prosperity. Used improperly it can create great harm.

A screen shot of The Opportunity Atlas

Did you know a single data point, a child’s zip code, can predict their future success? See The Opportunity Atlas and learn more.

How does The Opportunity Atlas fit into dataism? Here is just one example. It is quite common for marketers to use geofencing to target their ads. If marketers know that a particular zip code is populated by the economically disadvantaged, for instance, they will hold back their advertising and not reach out to people in those areas. Individuals in those areas, that may otherwise value seeing the ad are being lumped in with the “poor,” and are hurt by this application of data. While I’m not putting forth a moral judgment to this practice, this is a form of dataism.

Get Started Today

It is time. It is time to eradicate all the ‘ism, including dataism. It is time to give people, the data subject, agency and control over their data, and to bring unity to our phygital lives.

It is through unity, the eradication of datism, and all the other ‘isms, that we’ll achieve and sustain The Identity Nexus, the equilibrium point where the value, risk, social good, and externalities of identity and personal information exchange within society are equitably and fairly shared among public institutions, private organizations, and people.

How can we eradicate dataism. We can empower people and start giving them agency over their identity and personal information. We can start giving them tools–personal information management solutions–so that they can be in control of the flow of their information and determine for themselves, who, what, when, where, for how long, and for what purpose their identity and personal information can be used. And, if they’re so inclined they should be able to charge for their data. They should be able to require organizations to have to accept their terms of access rather than only being forced to accept the organization’s terms of service.

It is upon us all to create a world worth living, working, and playing in, one that helps people follow their path, one that brings prosperity and joy without causing harm to others. It is time we end dataism.

References

Brooks, D. (2013, February 4). Opinion | The Philosophy of Data. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/opinion/brooks-the-philosophy-of-data.html

Harari, Y. N. (2018). Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (Illustrated Edition). Harper Perennial.

Humanity Power. (n.d.). Humanity Power. Retrieved September 25, 2020, from https://www.humanitypower.co

Gilliland, D. (2019, August 30). Privacy law needs privacy harm [Text]. TheHill. https://thehill.com/opinion/cybersecurity/459427-privacy-law-needs-privacy-harm

Solove, D. (2006). A Taxonomy of Privacy. American Law Register, 154(3), 477–560. https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/pnlr154&div=20&id=&page=

Zuboff, S. (2019). The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (1st Edition). PublicAffairs.

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Article Citation:

Becker, M. (2020, September 26). Considerations of a New ‘Ism, Dataism. Identity Praxis, Inc. https://identitypraxis.com/2020/09/26/considerations-on-a-new-ism-dataism/

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