Are We Losing Control Of The Internet?

The internet has spread around the world and seeped into the lives of billions of people as a great enabler of dreams. But it has been commandeered by a small number of companies to seize our personal information and create extraordinary wealth.

It’s all about the data

The data companies collect about us lies in servers in mega-data centres as it is trawled and twisted to extract every piece of possible value.

The internet has become an enormous web that spreads through the smartphone and other devices to record every detail of our behaviour and misbehaviour.

And the information that is collected is worth fortunes beyond avarice to those who hold it, as it is used to sell every conceivable type of product and service.

Until now the process has been grudgingly accepted as one of the many untended consequences of the rapid growth of the digital economy.

But another, more sinister, phase is about to begin as the introduction of artificial intelligence to drive machine learning intrudes to a worrying degree.

In this scenario, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Uber, Airbnb and others will control the internet even though it was designed to avoid such singular influence.

Unless, however, there is a response by government unimaginable flows of wealth will go to a reducing elite and create an unfair and polarised society.

Such a response by government could, nevertheless, return the internet to its original task which was to develop an open access information network free of central control.

But human nature gets in the way as people surrender their personal details and companies take advantage of their indifference to sharing personal details.

Does it matter?

One reason for pushing back is the loss of privacy we suffer, as our data is packaged and used to sell us things we don’t want and don’t need.

Another reason lies in the fact that the next generation of data collection will be run by machines that track us continually and make decisions about what we should and shouldn’t be offered.

Machine learning in the form of artificially infused algorithms will offer insurance cover, medical cover and even job interviews based on the data they hold in a way that includes or excludes us without our knowledge.

The smartphone and countless other remote devices will interact with each other to record our every detail and make decisions about us that affect our future.

The solution, of course, is to return the internet to its original format and ensure future technologies are unable to control access through a limited number of restrictive platforms.

The challenge, however, lies in working out how to reduce the influence of the relatively few companies that already dominate the digital arena.

So, the internet was created to set us free but has been hijacked by a few companies that control its access points and platforms.