Another entry in the rapidly growing literature about how big data will soon transform capitalism as we know it.
Expect “a fundamental reorganization of our economy, one that will be arguably as momentous as the Industrial Revolution,” write Mayer-Schönberger (Internet Governance and Regulation/Univ. of Oxford; Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age, 2009, etc.) and Economist contributing editor Ramge. In this thoughtful, provocative account of the coming impact of big data on human transactions, the authors note that economic activity has long been coordinated by markets and firms, with price serving as a convenient way to distill information about the value of goods and services. In the process, valuable details were lost. Now, as we enter a new age of data capitalism, digital innovations are allowing “massive amounts of data…[to] flow quickly, easily, and cheaply between transaction partners,” helping them make better decisions. At the same time, we have the methods and tools to work with that data. This emerging economy has already given us such enterprises as BlaBlaCar, which helps millions of people share car rides each month. “From internet travel site Kayak to online investment company SigFig, to digital labor platform Upwork,” write the authors, “more and more markets that use data to help participants find better matches are gaining traction and attention.” Such improvements in transactions and efficiency will soon reshape markets of all kinds and allow us to address climate change and other complex issues. With price no longer the chief focus (machines will negotiate with sellers), there will be less need for money and banks (many will be gone by the late 2020s), and firms will have to reinvent the way they do business. The authors cover the inevitable upending of the labor market and the possible need for constant worker retraining or a universal basic income.
An unnerving yet plausible portrait of a future in which “finance capitalism will be as old-fashioned as Flower Power.”