Data has become a powerful force that shapes our modern experience. It touches every moment of our lives, from the way we interact with media and entertainment, to how we access healthcare and communicate with each other. In many ways, it has been a transformative force for good. Today, organisations have the power to access increasingly relevant information, building products and experiences that effectively meet our needs. In other areas, it has begun to erode some of the privacy and freedoms that we have previously enjoyed.
We explore the world of data, along with what the future may hold, below.
Life is easier with data driving our experiences. It’s why your favourite music and streaming services know how to recommend new artists and movies you will enjoy. It’s how online retailers decide which offers to send to you. The harnessing of data means we can all live in a carefully-curated world.
Data can have a positive impact on how we access vital services, like healthcare. This year, the NHS announced its aim to become a world leader in AI and machine learning. Using data analysis and artificial intelligence to improve diagnostic processes and manage complex functions like outpatient appointment systems.
Targeted Solutions to Everyday Problems
Collecting, processing, and analysing data in real-time can provide meaningful solutions to everyday problems. From how long it will take you to get across town based on current traffic conditions to figuring the best route to take through an airport.
Data is at the core of automated creativity. By analysing art or music from around the world, Systems powered by AI are learning how to create unique works. Amper Music is an AI platform that is working with human popstars to create new hits.
The downside to living in such a carefully personalised world is that it discourages people to discover the new and the extraordinary outside of their comfort zone (or algorithm). If you never look at anything outside of a relatively narrow set of parameters, how do you discover an innovative new film or a quirky restaurant that doesn’t fit neatly within your usual preferences?
Creates a Privacy Risk
Perhaps the most well known and widely publicised risk of the mass collection and analysis of data is the threat it poses to personal privacy. It’s incredibly difficult to ‘opt out’ when your data is being collected with almost every digital interaction. The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal – where data was mined and used for political advertising purposes without consent – is an example of how data can be manipulated and misused.
As we begin to use data to power creative processes in music, art, and literature, there is an inevitable concern for what this means for human creativity. Will we need to be creative when machines can create for us? This question will become more contentious as AI technology becomes more sophisticated.
What Will The Future Bring for Data?
Using data for the greater good and minimising its negative impact is a difficult balancing act. In the future, we expect to see greater collaboration between private enterprise and the state as leaders and innovators try to enhance the positive impact of data usage while minimising the misuse of information. We may also see greater competition amongst the leading tech organisations who, today, control huge amounts of personal data around the world. This is something we are beginning to see challenged – a recent report from the UK government called for greater choice and innovation in tech to avoid an effective monopoly on data. It is impossible to predict the next step in our data evolution, but data is undoubtedly going to be at the centre of how we live in the future.
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