Retro-Active Quantification of All Human-Related Information

April 15 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future
Category: The Web   Year: 2015   Rating: 11 Hot

Prediction: Retro-active quantification will be a multi-billion dollar industry by 2015.

Information is power. Humans seek novel information because it is a tool they can use to generate income, live longer and because it satisfies their curiosity drives. As technology makes it easier to mine and piece together more meaningful information, humans will instinctively apply it to better their situation, causing much social turbulence.

One particularly disruptive result of the human information mining instinct will be a booming and widespread retro-active quantification (Retro-Quant) industry. Consuming knowledge that millions of human agents currently expect and desire to remain hidden from their peers, the Retro Quant market will inexorably bring to light precious political, business, family and personal secrets.

The broader your information footprint and the more valuable your information, the more likely it is that this market will seek your information. Unless you can obfuscate the information that you cast off, much like a spy agency does to establish cover, your past behavior and statistics will be subject to Retro-Quant.

Here are ten business scenarios (just off the top of my head) that I expect will contribute to a massive Retro-Quant industry that wants your information:

1. DNA Mapping: Both your current DNA, mitochondrial DNA and RNA and its history will rise in value as biomedical and geneology companies continue to piece together a map of mankind’s genetic information. You or your relatives will be able to sell this info, but new companies will try to get it on the cheap by collecting and correlating samples freely available in the public domain.

2. Lie Detection Based on Video Recordings: Ron Brinkmann notes that face-reading technologies will make it possible to estimate the accuracy of a person’s previously recorded on-video statements. (Jamais Cascio has posted a nice reaction piece.) This will push up the value of high-rez archived interview footage and will allow us to estimate to a high degree of certainty who was actually lying and when.

3. Meme Mapping: Emerging semantic and baby AI technologies will first pull together all of your online data, then cross-analyze it a million different ways to discover your personality type, shopping habits, and longitudinal behavior patterns. These will contribute to a model of your personality genome already begun by consumer data companies.

4. Garbage Picking: Once robots or truly robust 3D scanning and analysis systems get cheap enough, fields of human garbage will all of a sudden turn to gold. How valuable might some undiscovered Paris Hilton video snippets or a steroids tainted syringe with Barry Bonds’ DNA be 10 years from now?

5. Hi-Rez Satellite Imagery: The behavioral data contained in hi-rez aerial photographs of humans is valuable to sociologists, market researchers, product developers, etc. At some point someone will try to sell rich human history collected by satellites. Eventually this information could be opened to the public in response to a quantification uproar. (cont.)

6. Video Surveillance History: The footage being recorded by millions of cameras positioned at dense city street corners or for security purposes at businesses will get more valuable as software gets better at pairing identity with gait, clothing, audio snippets, bits of faces, etc. Some companies will try to sell this stuff, especially if their other business models are fizzling and they need to monetize all their assets. The lucky ones will discover lucrative footage of Elliot Spitzer in NYC and DC.

7. Reputation Markets: Sites like The Funded are already socially aggregating information about particular VCs. I find it likely that such sites will evolve and expand to other more mundane areas.

8. Whistle-Blower Sites: Government and private sites where anonymous tipsters can post information about suspected criminal activity already exist. We should expect these to evolve and expand.

9. Hacking Google: It’s every super-hacker’s dream to hack the Big G. Imagine the value of the consumer and behavioral information contained in Google’s various databases? The most basic model here would be to steal data, then ransom it, but I’m sure that other cleverer models will emerge.

10. Mega Surveys: As people, businesses, universities and governments seek to better their maps of the world they will begin to pay people to answer questions, provide data (photos, audio, video, DNA) and to help them draw connections. This may eventually become a big industry capable of supporting millions of part-time employees looking for some extra cash.

These ten examples are just a few of the many that I’ve contemplated since my dabbling with futurism and exponentials began. They are obviously just the tiny tip of a massive Retro-Quant iceberg floating our way. What other incentives for widespread Retro-Quant can you imagine?

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