People are now treated much like natural resources. Immersed in technology, we produce vast quantities of information for corporations to collect, consume and analyze for various purposes. The purpose is often to extract even more detailed and intrusive information for the sake of some kind of high-level intelligence or predictive capability. Supposedly there is a profit motive involved, but that seems to be almost lost in the excitement of a modern gold rush.
The prevailing attitudes toward information producers, perhaps better known as human resources, mirror our old attitudes toward natural resources. Take it all, respect nothing, dominate completely, and leave behind nothing but a dry husk and generations of problems. It happened to the forests and wetlands, the bison herds, the fish stocks, our farmlands, wherever precious metals might be found - you name it, a similar pattern. Now we're experiencing it done to ourselves and it doesn't feel very good.
But natural and human resources are different - natural resources have no say in the matter, while we have our quiet voices of mild discomfort. It turns out that in practice, the effect is the same.
One thing is certain, regardless of who might be collecting and recording, each of us is continually producing information. It's like we're radioactive with a very short half-life. Bundles of fun. Information is blasting everywhere! We can thank our various gadgets and computers for that.
Since it's obvious that information has tremendous value, and we each have plenty, it seems sensible to keep some of it for ourselves. You might wonder what you could do with it, and why, since you kind of already know a lot about yourself.
The reality is that you don't know nearly as much about yourself as you imagine. An outside observer may well understand you better than you do. Frighteningly better. You expose vast amounts of information about yourself throughout your day. And there are many days. You don't remember most of what you say, type, or do, but computers have no trouble with that.
Your brain tends to focus on the present and not often backward. Rarely inward. Without a habit of introspection its contents are mostly fuzzy - especially the parts you'd rather forget about. In contrast, the digital version of yourself can be analyzed in many different ways, for a wide variety of purposes, with or without context, and without concern for your individual well-being. Everything is laid bare, in detail, forever, without a friendly coat of fuzz, and without a charitable interpreter.
That's a bit heavy, so let's step back a bit. There's hope.
Say that technology is here to stay, you are here to stay, and the information strip-mining isn't going to stop. You have no intention of trading your iPhone for a log cabin in the hills.
Consider this. What if you were the outside observer of all of this information about yourself? What if it was you doing the recording, your computer doing the analyzing and reporting, and you were the interpreter? The completeness, accuracy, timeliness, depth, and structure of the information would be far superior to what any outside observer might have. Not even in the same ballpark. Imagine what you could do for yourself.