AI purports to know you better than you know yourself, but an algorithmically generated picture, while claiming to be an accurate reflection, can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Political commentators lamenting the effects of Facebook echo chambers identify various causes of the problem: the fact that the extremists can easily find and validate each other online, the lack of heavier “policing” of content, etc. These effects are clearly amplified by a technology that uses your data to categorize you and then uses psychology to push you further in that same direction. In this sense, the problem isn’t simply privacy but also freedom — the freedom to decide who you are.
One way to address the issue is through law, a strategy that Apple CEO Tim Cook recently lauded at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners, held at the European Parliament in Brussels Oct. 22–26. Another path would be to change the nature of the technology, itself. The development of freedom-enhancing technology, which would weaken the death grip of Amazon and Google on data storage, is a central goal of the distributed computing revolution. But only Hypernet has built a radically new computing architecture that can fully liberate us from corporate-controlled data centers. This is because it is the only distributed computing project that does not ultimately rely on the cloud and thus data centers, but rather a decentralized network of individuals, all the way down.
Cook argued for the prioritization of four key principles, cited by TechCrunch as data minimization, transparency, the right to access, and security. Hypernet offers a key technological advance that will make strides in the area of minimization, meaning that companies will be able to use data that is de-identified with the customer and that is never actually collected and held.
While the blockchain and cryptocurrency space, in general, rightly lays claim to the moniker of freedom-enhancing technology, it can do so by focusing on offering an alternative to the traditional centralized financial system and players. The result is a somewhat navel-gazing obsession with the technological basis of currency without further interrogation of its purpose or use. This, arguably, set off the great crypto collapse of 2018 when an over-inflated and solipsistic market was finally forced to reckon with the fact that it was built upon sand. Against this trend, Hypernet matches the promise of financial decentralization with a corresponding deliverance from data monopolies.
Pushing back against those who claim that restrictive privacy laws rob tech of the capacity to reach its true potential, Cook countered that our true technological potential can only be reached by working with, rather than against, the trust of our users and of humanity. Hypernet responds to this call to action by offering new solutions that actually correspond to human values and needs.
Ultimately, technology is a tool, built by humans, for humans. To claim that technology “needs” to be liberated from human concerns and values in order to achieve its potential is nonsensical and lazy. Instead, as creators, we need to develop the technological methods to navigate competing societal priorities and to correct course following the revelation of negative externalities. Done properly, this should not compromise technological progress and, more importantly, user experience, but only enhance it.