Nino Lancette recently shared a fascinating essay that had been submitted to Gartner’s crowdsourcing project, Datatopia 2028.  The topic was future scenarios on the role of information and technology in our business and personal worlds.  I found the content to be extremely interesting, challenging us about our desires, expectations, and assumptions about the use of our business and personal data and how it all should affect our daily lives.  This excerpt is a hypothetical reflection back to 2013, from the year 2028:

Back in 2013, people still led two lives.  There was a ‘real’ life and a not-so-real online life.  Back then people kept separate personalities for their virtual life.  The Great Convergence was already under way but, in 2013, most people were still reluctant to give up the perks afforded by online anonymity.  Eventually, the desire for a better quality of life prevailed and today, no one talks of online profiles.  There is only one life and one identity merged into a single persona that exists in rich, complex and ubiquitous digital environments.

Amazing!  Do you envision a day when we would come to that place?  While I remain deeply concerned about every person’s intrinsic right to privacy, I also am very excited about the benefits and efficiencies that occur when personal data is integrated into our business algorithms and processes.

I think when we simply observe where big data and its trending are today, this kind of a future is inevitable.  Let’s face it—we each have more personal information sitting in servers all around the world than we could ever imagine.  Big data and its trending are already being used throughout the business community.  The hypothetical world of 2028 is very likely closer to reality than we imagine:

The unified persona flourished on the back of an explosion in data technologies that started early this century.  Back then, companies, governments and people grappled to understand the power of ‘Big Data’ analytics.  But large-scale data harvesting had already started capturing every aspect of people’s lives, from how they spent money to what movies they watched and where they worked.  Now, data harvesting is pervasive: persona data is collected from dozens of touch points every day, 24 hours a day.  Today, the recorded history of one’s habits, movements and decisions is what makes up their unique persona.

Ultimately, I see this being successful, primarily because most people want convenience, reliability, and quality.  Shopping for products and services, supporting a lifestyle, entering into business relationships with various organizations, all prompt consumers to vote for big data.  This means that their lives improve:

The Great Convergence towards the single persona gave rise to massive Persona Companies (PCs) whose primary role was to collect, safeguard and process persona data.  Today, these companies are the guardians of this data: they collect and store everything from banking transactions to medical records.  People encourage these companies to collect intimate data about how they live.  The more data that is harvested the better the quality of life people can enjoy.  Persona data determines one’s access to a range of personalised products and services from personal computing to banking to healthcare services.

Some people denounce all this personal data sharing.  I do agree that proper safeguards must be constantly managed.  The classic need-to-know basis must prevail in every situation.

On the other hand, as I have previously posted (“Who Are You?”, February 9, 2012), maybe our movement into this data-rich world will produce a side effect of enhanced integrity among all, both businesses and individuals.  There was a day and a time in which you did business with someone because you knew that person.  What you knew about the person contributed to your judgment of the person’s business.

Big data and social media have redrawn the map.  Perhaps in redrawing the map, big data and social media are taking us back to a time when you will know more about every person.  That knowing will enhance all your business relationships.  Should our online persona really be different than whom we are in person?  Should they not be the same?

Some folks do not like the new cartography.  I cannot argue that.  But I do suggest the new cartography just might introduce a new era of integrity and wholeness in us and in our relationships.

About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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