Data is key to, well, our future. How we use it and who it ‘belongs to’ matters hugely. And, as Jouko Ahvenainen says, it will (or should) dictate how we build metaverses.
One fundamental problem is that we have already lost control of our data. Our data is in the hands of others.
It is in the cloud, and the cloud is not a cloud – at least not in any kind of fluffy, friendly kind of way.
The cloud is, in reality, a vast array of fiber optics and data centers and cables that stretch around the world. And all this is owned by the companies that are building the metaverses of the not too distant future.
Our data is no longer in our desks or on our shelves. When we used to look through photo albums, we owned those photos. We put them into the album, labelled it ‘holiday snaps’ and put it on the shelf above our desk.
Now, our photo albums are in some data center in Alaska or Luxembourg. And to get it off the shelf, we have to ask permission from someone else. A very big someone else. We have to prove that we are who we say we are, and if we forget the magic password that allows us to get our photos off the shelf, the process of proving that we are who we say we are is unbelievably slow and painful.
And yet it is our stuff.
If you described the process of getting your stuff to someone from 20 years ago, they would think you had gone mad. “Why,” they would say, “have you given your stuff to someone else?”
It is a good question and might well attract the answer, “At least your data is safe and, anyway, we want to talk to younger people now.” But it does highlight the fundamental problem of ownership.
Already, companies have made merry (and a ton of money) by beating us to the realization that our data is valuable. And it is probably too late to do anything meaningful about it, except take everything offline and put your photos back on the shelf. People have tried and it takes a long, long time.
The concept of metaverses has sprung up so fast, with many companies suddenly announcing their plans, out of nowhere, that you have to wonder whether the giants who will control it have decided to move so fast we just get caught up in the wild and exciting moment of it all and, as before, agree to whatever they dictate, or not be allowed in to the brave new realms.
Let us hope that this discussion about data is not over. It certainly should not be, but you have to worry that it, really, kinda is.