What if we could control our data with digital contracts after it was shared?
What is Rule of Law?
John Adams “A republic is a government of laws, and not of men.”
John Adam’s words pointed toward a fundamental proposition at the core of America as new nation: that no one was above the law and everyone under it must be treated the same. At a minimum, that’s the big idea every generation tries to achieve and sustain.
America’s founders had just emerged from the rule of King George III, and sought to establish a nation governed by the Rule of Law carefully designed to replace the need for a monarchy to maintain order and peace, and intended to avoid the arbitrary and corruptible rule of a powerful few often under the control of an authoritarian God/King/Ruler.
Prior to America’s founding, rebel barons challenged the absolute authority of King John in 1215, forcing him to sign the Magna Carta, which in Latin means the Great Charter. Five centuries later, our founders more fully realized the promise of the Rule of Law in America by creating a government of laws that John Adams had described.
Just after Washington had been elected the first president, Benjamin Franklin said to Elizabeth Powel the wife of the Mayor of Philadelphia, “The first man put at the helm will be a good one. Nobody knows what sort may come afterwards. As the executive will be always increasing here, as elsewhere, till it ends in a monarchy. You have a republic, if you can keep it” as noted by James McHenry, a Maryland delegate to the Constitutional Convention. [1 Washington Post]
Creating and sustaining “self governance” as a free people and a free society requires creating and sustaining Rule of Law. Our continued liberty depends upon each generation redefining and recreating the Rule of Law within their evolving social and technological landscape. Today we face unprecedented technological disruptions urgently pushing this conversation of digital and data rights into heightened global awareness.
Digital & Data Lawlessness
After 30 years of commercial Internet development, we’ve created a global digital marketplace guided and powered by capitalist free-market ideas but paradoxically paired with lawless data flows.
This digital marketplace is increasingly powered by AI driven personalization operating at global scale where all our thoughts that frame our reality are captured as data points and used to alter our beliefs and behaviors. By 2023, Gartner predicts that the individual activities of 40% of the global population will be tracked digitally in order to influence our behavior. That’s more than 3 billion people.
The Internet of behaviors (IoB) will challenge “what it means to be human in the digital world”. [2 Gartner]
Taken together this paradox results in increasingly powerful data monopolies creating addictive digital experiences, reality altering media, pervasive surveillance, invisible biased AIs, and oceans of user data iteratively optimized and eventually monetized into manipulated behaviors carefully crafted by the highest bidders. These horrors are simply the default price for free, convenient, and personalized digital experiences. Our personal data is the blueprint of our individual reality, without which technology cannot interoperate with humanity nor humanity with technology. Our data are both the keys or inputs to the control of the technology around us as well as the keys or inputs to the slow manipulation of our beliefs and behaviors. Over time, in aggregate, and at global scale our data is also the inputs for the future “guided manipulation” of entire societies.
As Aldous Huxley author of ‘Brave New World’ pointed out in 1962 in his speech at Berkeley, titled The Ultimate Revolution [3 Aldous Huxley]:
“…we are faced, I think, with the approach of what may be called the ultimate revolution, the final revolution, where a man can act directly on the mind-body of his fellows… we are in process of developing a whole series of techniques which will enable the controlling oligarchy… to get people to love their servitude… this will be done not by using violence, but by creating a prison of the mind using the combined tactics of Pavlovian conditioning and propaganda on a population made more malleable… by direct electrical stimulation of the mind by machines.”
Google surprisingly states this very idea as the core purpose for their very organization and for our collective personal data in a leaked video intended only for Google employees titled The Selfish Ledger [4 Google]:
Defining Digital Rule of Law
Digital Rule of Law extends the ideas of Rule of Law into our digital landscape. Let’s explore what this might look like:
- Rule of Law is a set of principles, or ideals, for ensuring an orderly and just society. Where all laws and contracts apply to everyone equally, there are clear and fair processes for enforcing laws and contracts, there is an independent judiciary, and human rights are guaranteed for all. [5 American Bar Association]
- Digital Rule of Law is a set of principles, or ideals, for ensuring an orderly and just digital society. Where all laws and contracts apply to everyone equally and automatically, there are clear and fair automated processes for enforcing laws and contracts, there is an independent judiciary, and human rights are guaranteed for all.
Director Shalini Kantayya discusses in her new film ‘Coded Bias’ shedding light on the urgent threats machine learning and intelligent technology poses to individual freedoms and democracy concluding:
“Data rights are civil rights”. [6 Shalini Kantayya]
In hearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, Tristan Harris, a former industry executive who became a data ethicist and now runs the Center for Humane Technology, told the committee:
“That no matter what steps Data Monopolies took, their core business would still depend on steering users into individual “rabbit holes of reality. Their business model is to create a society that’s addicted, outraged, polarized, performative and disinformed.” [ 7 Tristan Harris]
Joan Donovan, the research director at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, said:
“The cost of doing nothing is nothing short of democracy’s end.” [7 Joan Donovan]
If we fail to sort out data rights and digital civil rights, none of our other rights as free “self governing” people will survive the unstoppable transition into an age of merged and pervasive digital technologies progressively altering what it means to be human. We will lose this final revolution and our free-will as free people. This is the “end game” scenario our generation faces and must overcome.
The Limits of Algorithmic Control of Technology
An international group of researchers warned of the potential risks of creating overly powerful and standalone software. Using a series of theoretical calculations, the scientists explored how artificial intelligence could be kept in check. They concluded it was impossible, according to the study published by the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research titled Superintelligence Cannot be Contained: Lessons from Computability Theory. The team concluded algorithmic technology control to ensure technology never harms humans with an analysis of the current computing paradigm that showed no such algorithm can be created. [8 Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research]
The scientists experimented with two ways to control artificial intelligence. One was to isolate it from the Internet and other devices, limiting its contact and data interactions with the outside world. They conclude this would greatly reduce its ability to perform the functions for which it was created because this limits its access to data inputs it requires to interoperate with humanity.
The other was to design a “theoretical containment algorithm” to ensure that an artificial intelligence “cannot harm people under any circumstances.” However, an analysis of the current computing paradigm showed that no such algorithm can be created.
Creating Digital Rule of Law
Since a “theoretical containment algorithm” cannot be created, we’re left with the only option of tailoring the connections any technology has to our world and our minds via our explicit, informed, consensual, unending and unlimited right to control the uses of our accumulated data.
To do this we need to create two technologies:
- Methods to aggregate all our data and control it’s current and future uses from one place — or centralized control.
- Methods to alter all our data and approved uses at will, via informed consent, by controlling its uses as it flows through and is acted upon by external technologies after it’s been shared — or distributed enforcement.
The first part is a problem of scale and user adoption. The second part appears impossible by today’s data technology and management practices. But having envisioned, created from scratch, and sold the first generation adtech platforms between 2005 and 2014 our team anticipated these growing problems. After many years of work, we’ve patented both parts of this solution:
- Master Data Preference Center — to control all our data uses from one convenient location
- Programmatic Data Control & Automation — to control the uses of our data as it flows through external technologies using Smart Data Contracts.
In future blog posts we will explore the major programmatic themes in technology culminating in the ideas of programmatic or software-defined data. We’ll also propose a high level architecture within which we can create Digital Rule of Law to sustain a free digital society.
Part 1 of 3 — A Blog Series Digital Rule of Law:
- Part 1: Creating Digital Rule of Law
- Part 2: Programmable Data Control & Automation
- Part 3: Architecture for Programmable Data and Digital Rights
Alan Rodriguez is an accomplished digital leader, startup founder, and patent author with a passion for innovation, strategy and emergent digital business models. He’s available to tailor an IP and digital strategy for a few select organizations.
214 476 7448
- Washington Post — ‘A republic, if you can keep it’: Did Ben Franklin really say Impeachment Day’s favorite quote https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2019/12/18/republic-if-you-can-keep-it-did-ben-franklin-really-say-impeachment-days-favorite-quote/
- Gartner — Gartner Unveils Top Predictions for IT Organizations https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2019-22-10-gartner-unveils-top-predictions-for-it-organizations-and-users-in-2020-and-beyond
- Aldous Huxley — The Ultimate Revolution ‘Brave New World’ (Berkeley Speech 1962) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WaUkZXKA30
- Accesr Commentary of Google’s Selfish Ledger Video https://youtu.be/KINIJ-xYOQw
- American Bar Association — What is the Rule of Law?https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/resources/rule-of-law/
- Shalini Kantayya, Director of ‘Coded Bias’ — https://hai.stanford.edu/news/coded-bias-director-shalini-kantayya-solving-facial-recognitions-serious-flaws
- Regulate Social Media or Risk ‘Democracy’s End’ Researchers Tell Senators https://www.pennlive.com/nation-world/2021/04/regulate-social-media-more-or-risk-democracys-end-researchers-tell-senators.html
- Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, Superintelligence Cannot be Contained: Lessons from Computability Theory https://jair.org/index.php/jair/article/view/12202