Let’s face it, right now we live under the dominion of data giants that have no interest in us owning and commanding our personal data. It’s not just Facebook—Facebook just happens to be the one that got caught red-handed exploiting our stuff and was bathed in negative publicity accordingly. If you look at a list of the five largest companies on the New York Stock Exchange (by market value on July 6th, 2018) as shown below, you can see that Facebook is only fifth.
- Apple — $923.9 bn
- Amazon—$830.0 bn
- Alphabet (i.e. Google)—$796.0 bn
- Microsoft—$777.2 bn
- Facebook—$588.1 bn
You have surely noticed that all five of the top dogs earn their living from the Internet and mobile technology. The dominance of this data-driven business sector is further emphasized when you notice who’s 6th and 7th on the list. It is Alibaba (often thought of as the Chinese Amazon) and Tencent Holdings (Chinese social networking, music, e-commerce, internet services, payment systems, smartphones, and multiplayer online games).
Now take a look at the table below showing the most valuable companies on the NYSE over the decades since 1970, and you can see how the world has changed.
In 1970 the business giants seemed to spread out across multiple sectors, technology, retail, manufacturing and oil. By 1980 oil companies were pre-eminent, due partly to the oil crises of the 1970s which drove up the price of oil. 1990 witnessed the rise of the pharmaceutical businesses. By 2000 it was all about the Internet and associated technologies. By 2010 a mixture of sectors seems to have re-established itself.
Then here we are, a mere 8 years later, and it looks as though a massive cull took place that left only the Internet and personal technology companies standing.
Look back over half a century and you can’t find any year when the top seven companies came from the same sector. The closest you come was in 1980 after the massive hike in oil prices, when six of the top 10 companies were oil companies, and even then IBM and AT&T still ruled the roost.
How Data Giants Got Their Chops
In 2006, Clive Humbly, a UK Mathematician working for the large UK supermarket Tesco was the first to claim “Data is the new oil.” His proclamation has since become a regularly repeated mantra, and it’s true, in the sense that collections of data can be very valuable. But how come all this valuable data mining is only happening now?
We can see it as being provoked by a confluence of the following technology trends:
- The cost of data storage came crashing to the ground like a meteorite, year after year after year. It fell from about $1 million per megabyte in 1966 to $0.02 per gigabyte in 2018, and the costs are still falling.
- The costs of processing data, the cost of CPUs and GPUs also fell year after year after year, and did so even faster than a meteorite, with the cost per Gigaflop falling from $18.7 billion in 1961 to $0.03 in 2017.
- The advent of cloud computing in 2006 cut the costs further making it possible to run computers less expensively by building huge data centers in areas of cheap electricity—classic economies of scale, applied directly to the cost of computing.
- The advent of massively parallel computing using Hadoop, Spark and other software technologies, coupled with cloud computing and rapidly falling computer costs made it possible to statistically analyze extremely large collections of data in ways that had not previously been possible—and cheaper and faster.
It doesn’t matter whether you fully understand the technology trends described above. When you boil it all down, it adds up to this:
If you collect large amounts of data as part of your business, then the odds are that you’ll be able to mine the data very profitably.
The Moral of the Story
The moral of this story is that champions of personal data, whether individuals or businesses like Permission.io, formerly Algebraix, who are trying to enable the rightful owners of personal data are up against a giant or two, or four or eight…
But no need to be downhearted, these data giants that stand on the top of the mountain have probably climbed as high as they can go.
And anyway, right is on our side.
And by the way, so is the blockchain!!!