Symbiosis or Assimilation: Critical Reflections on the Ontological Self at the Precipice of Total Data

AI & Society: Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Communication, 2017

Posted: 18 May 2017

See all articles by Peter Carew

Peter Carew

Waterford Institute of Technology

Date Written: May 16, 2017

Abstract

Contemporary data practices are inducing a convergent saturation point (conceptually referred to as Total Data) wherein every human action, reaction, interaction, transaction, thought or desire is quantified, reified, recorded and used. Physical or virtual, all is recorded, known or unknown, seen or unseen, until data permeates every facet of our shared human existence. The implications of this eventuality are potentially so far reaching that the very notion or concept of who we are might be fundamentally altered, resulting in new ontologies of the self in a world of Total Data. This polemic paper reflects on the implications that Total Data has for the ontological self in a range of individual and shared contexts, and considers the potential it has to ultimately be symbiotic or assimilatory. It suggests that the current trajectory for Total Data is more assimilatory than symbiotic, demonstrating more potential to collectively monitor and control people than to emancipate and empower them. In response, it calls for an authentic debate and reassessment of current data practices, and for an urgent reprioritisation of core and enduring human-centred values and symbiosis in technological systems development to emancipate and empower people living in a Total Data world.

Keywords: Big data, Human-centred symbiosis, Privacy, Surveillance, Technological determinism, Total Data

Suggested Citation

Carew, Peter, Symbiosis or Assimilation: Critical Reflections on the Ontological Self at the Precipice of Total Data (May 16, 2017). AI & Society: Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Communication, 2017, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2969608

Peter Carew (Contact Author)

Waterford Institute of Technology ( email )

Waterford
Ireland

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