Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Six Years On And Pragmatism Has A New Frontier

I see this blog has reached the ripe old age of six, so I felt compelled to squeeze in at least one post to celebrate.  

It's fitting that the reason for my absence has been the need to get to grips with the FCA's proposals to regulate P2P lending and investment-based crowdfunding - not to mention the revelations concerning the Chairman of the Co-op Bank. After all, this blog set out to chart the rise of facilitators who help us wrest personal control of our day-to-day lives from the one-size-fits-all experience imposed on us by our institutions. Rumbling the 'Crystal Methodist' marks the continuing plunge of faith in those same institutions, while the decision to finally let the 'crowd' into the regulated financial markets shows that even Parliament recognises you and I are better off dealing with each other directly than simply entrusting our life's savings to the banks and investment funds.

Of course, these are just a few examples of the punishment being doled out to our financial institutions. And they aren't the only ones under pressure from the trends sweeping society, as we struggle to figure out a more sustainable form of capitalism. All our institutions, from the BBC to the Police to the Church, unions, political parties, government departments and so on, face the choice of becoming facilitators or withering away. 

So is there anything 'new' to write about? 

Six years on we are still seeing the dawn of where these trends will take us. But to get a sense of the future, I've been following the rise of 'open data' - or open access to data in machine-readable form. This marks a new frontline between institutions and facilitators. Big Data vs You. Not only has it already created new facilitators, in the form of "personal data stores" or "personal information managers", but it may also redefine some of today's facilitators as the institutions of tomorrow... 

As a taste of things to come, last week a senior advertising executive insisted to me that "Big Data can accurately predict human behaviour." To be fair I made him repeat the assertion in case it had slipped out by accident. No one else at the table seemed to find that truly weird, and it wasn't until the end of the week, when I met up with some people working at the sharp end of data gathering, that I was able to fully enjoy the hilarity of that statement.

This is going to be fun.

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