…and our data is the real cryp­tocur­rency

The Times

The Week - - City - Philip Aldrick

There’s an­other “mod­ern means of ex­change” which, un­like bit­coin, has no of­fi­cial value, yet “is any­thing but use­less”, says Philip Aldrick. And that’s our data. “Since the turn of the mil­len­nium, we’ve built a 21st cen­tury ver­sion of the barter econ­omy,” swap­ping our per­sonal in­for­ma­tion for free ser­vices like Face­book and Google. But while “peas­ants in the Mid­dle Ages knew what two loaves of bread would buy them”, we haven’t a clue what the data we gen­er­ate on a daily ba­sis is worth. There are ways of “ap­prox­i­mat­ing a value”. The $1bn that Face­book paid for In­sta­gram’s 30 mil­lion users in 2012 trans­lates into $33 for each user’s pic­tures, lo­ca­tions and friend­ships. Com­pa­nies are “hoard­ing data like trea­sure” as an in­vest­ment in the fu­ture. What do they need it for? “Even they don’t know yet.” But as both a medium of ex­change and a store of wealth, data is “money, in an­other form”. None of this shows up in the of­fi­cial GDP fig­ures, sug­gest­ing that in to­day’s dig­i­tal econ­omy, the meth­ods we use to mea­sure out­put are “in­creas­ingly ob­so­lete”.

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