The net present value of your baby, born today in a world of data

We are now in a new world, which the vast majority of consumers do not yet perceive as such.

This is a world where you should think of everything physical you see, including yourself, as invisible data which represents, surveys, tracks and analyzes things, people, movements, and yourself.

We are no longer just our physical manifestation of ourselves, and the internal thinking and emotional world which our senses tell us we are.

We are entering into the modern manifestation of what the French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin used to call the “noosphere”. A world made of ideas, concepts, dematerialized value attached to information about us.

Two analysis must be drawn from this observation.

1/ This data about us has a lot of value, and humans should own and control their value

What if we were to allocate a Net Present Value to the data noosphere of a new born baby?

Consumer electronics companies calculate that the patent pool royalties value bearing on their product represent about 3% of the costs of goods sold.

So what if we calculate the net present value of your lifetime cable subscription… medical insurance payments… home insurance… banking loans… home security subscription, Netflix subscription, transportation costs etc etc… applying the same 3% “value” for the data which drives them?

A rough estimates comes to about $225,000 for the data value of a baby born today, for a life expectancy of 100 years (since current medical advances can arguably let us think we’ll live that long):

Surely, my assumptions can be refined. Surely, you may suggest or point me to better “average” amounts on those categories. Surely, there is a huge discrepancy of income level, standard of living… Surely, we can start drawing interesting economic lessons as to where the biggest data impact (and data value) lies, for all the Silicon Valley start-ups which are looking at unbundling and dis-intermediating incumbent industries.

But my point is that I did not have to work very hard to make the numbers look substantial. Because they are.

Yet, no human being can claim this value now: the shrinkwrap agreement you accept at the bottom of the “sign-in” button actually gives away that value to the companies you enter into business with.

Indeed, Facebook sells YOU. Large social sites own the so-called “first party” data about YOU, because you gave them a license to exploit it.

I predict that one day, a large company will reverse the model and actually accept to PAY YOU for clicking that “sign-in” button and get your business.

2/ It should be a human right to have the power not be to tracked

Also, as we enter into this new age of the “data noosphere”, I posit that the legislator will have to tackle legal, ethical and moral implications as of yet never imagined.

Should the data ownership describing a human taken for granted?

Should it be protected?

Should people of lesser economic background have the right to sell their data ownership to the highest bidder, the same way that reverse mortgages were invented?

Should there be an inalienable right for any human to own their data — so that they solely provide a license to their service providers, with an inalienable right to revoke that license, if they decide to?

Should shrinkwrap agreements of online services be prohibited to claim that all ownership of data posted by users becomes ownership of the social service?

I believe so.

Because in a world of machines, I believe (maybe naively) that humans, and their capacity to make trust decision (at the risk of being wrong) must remain in control of the process.

And hence, let me propose here the Second Article of my Digital Rights Constitution, which I will continue to develop over future posts.

“Every human has an inalienable right to own their data, and no institution, government, or private entity shall deprive them of those rights. No exploitation of human data shall be permitted without the explicit consent of the human, including the right to create data about a human. Every human has the right to revoke any and all data licenses they may provide during the course of their life, at any time, and for any reason.”

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