Saturday, February 28, 2015

Why the swing from Privacy to Agency?

I suspect have been asked this question via the many quizzical looks I have noticed on the occasions I espoused Agency over Privacy, but I sadly I read "confusion" rather than "question".

So recently I have been considering why I was not so "into" Agency in the past, and why I am now.

I had toyed with Primacy over Privacy in the early days of the Jericho Forum, indeed the word Primacy appears in the Identity Commandments.

It has recently struck me that the reason is very similar to the deep feelings of discomfort I experienced in my early forays into Second Life. The digital and physical world are starting to converge and in that convergence we have some new things to learn, and perhaps more importantly some new things to gain control of.

So to revisit my second life experiences, my first foray was more about understanding the interface and how to build things and dress myself in this new virtual world. I was happily immersed in these challenges (I still am not sure why I chose an animal skin cat suit) when I accidentally bumped into another virtual being. It was a visceral shock, I did not like the fact that I had absolutely no identity or trust cues. In fact I hated it so much I stayed clear for a fair while, and on the odd occasions I did venture back in, I worked hard to find deserted locations to play, in order to be "in control". If I couldn't be "Private" I sensed myself going into "Tube" mode. The way I am, and act, when travelling on the underground; in close proximity to a large number of strangers, I basically work hard to ignore them, pretending they are not real!

The time I did go into second life to interact with another virtual entity, was when I was being chaperoned by "Byn". She was a virtual world expert in my eyes, and most importantly I knew and trusted her. The experience was far more akin to real life and I felt like I was there, but most importantly I felt in control. Thus I sense that my issue was not really my desire for Privacy but rather my desire to be "in control". In short, I have an innate desire for agency! So perhaps my first swing from Digital Privacy to Digital or Cyber Agency was triggered by Second Life.

With the accelerating emergence of the Internet of Things the Digital and Physical worlds are colliding again.  Instead of the Physical world being instantiated Virtually in the Digital World, as in Second Life, this time the Digital World is being Physically instantiated in the Physical World.

We are learning how to make digital things physical in a new way. We have done this mechanically and indeed electrically for a long time. After all a thermostat and a heater are two components, or a thing, that translates a desired digital outcome, or a digital intent, into physical reality: "I want the temperature in the room to be 20 degrees Centigrade."

The fact that we are networking the sensor and the heater and giving them an API does not seem too important until we realise that now anyone on the planet, with the right skills, can chose to set the temperature of our room to whatever temperature they chose. The dangerous thing about this latest Digital / Physical interconnect is that there are no means to identify the lack of trust cues.

We have no simple means of knowing if we are in control of a thing and when we lose it.  How many of you spotted the new Frequent Locations service embedded by Apple deep in the bowels of iOS on your iPhone.

As an aside: Tim Cook please also shift from Privacy to Agency,your focus on Privacy  I accept that you "are" working hard to protect our Privacy from Nasty State Agencies. May I remind you that you have also been working hard to reduce our Agency or the degree of control we have over our Cyber Space. While I accept that Apple is not the only organisation hell bent on turning people from fungible resources into revenue generators. Locking us into your walled garden while carefully and subtly reducing our degrees of freedom, is not what I want from an organisation that wants to gain and maintain my trust.

The first organisation that truly empowers me, with an agent service that acts on MY behalf, will get my vote and perhaps most importantly access to my wallet. Indeed the first organisation that helps me to monetise my information whilst keeping me in control of that same information will be a hero in my eyes.

So, why the swing from Privacy to Agency? : I want to be able to be the agent of my own destiny in this ever more connected world of Things.

Agency gives me control and allows me to select and achieve many more things than the Privacy/Transparency choice.

Light, Heat, Nutrition, Health, Making, Wealth, Learning, Entertainment, Supporting Others, Charity, Security to name but a few.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Death: The Ultimate Cyber Agency Challenge

To recap, Cyber Agency is the control an individual has over their cyber space. Most of us do a very poor job of managing our Cyber Space. This is caused primarily because today our cyber space is made up of myriads of slices of enterprise Cyber Space, In the battle to win bigger shares of control over us, our Cyber Space providers are trying to attract us to use more and more of their "free services".

As an example, where is all the music to which you have license? In the past you might have said "music you own", that was however when we purchased physical objects containing the music. (In my own case, I find the answer to be unknown to me, I remember 3 service providers and have control of two but have an inkling that I have forgotten a couple, there was that incident in the last century where a disk crashed on my PC. I never really did recover from that, emotionally or archivaly. When I take into account the devices that contain my music, and then There was also that Russian Music service that provided cheap music...

I estimate that I have more than 25 Cyber Music Slices.

I won't bang on about all the myriads of Identities I have been forced to create on Vendor websites, I know I have forgotten more than I maintain control over, some of these are still costing me, as I regularly discover. The British Legion each year nicks another wodge of cash from my bank account. During the Iraqi war in a moment of giving I signed up to give them a donation. I must have ticked the wrong box, as the war is a distant memory, and I am still giving. However, as it is just after Poppy Day, I am reminded of the fact that I didn't buy one again, so end up not trying to figure out how to cancel the never ending donation. I did once and failed after 30 minutes of trying... and ended up frustrated and still poorer, but at least it's going to a good cause, right? But as the myriads of Identities in the main do not have too much of any import, I will focus on financially impactful identities. I lose my credit cards often enough that the credit card numbers I give to websites become quickly defunct. Perhaps this is a strategy I should actively engage in?! Yes, I think I will lose my Internet Credit Card each year, if I haven't already!

Attaining, let alone maintaining control over our Digital Assets is a task we keep promising ourselves that we will do. But the task is becoming ever more difficult as our Cyber Space is being sliced into ever thinner wedges. Too often we do not even notice our Cyber Space being split into ever more and thinner slices.We do this to ourselves when we by new and more devices, often from different suppliers. We also do this to ourselves when we attempt to file something and create a special folder for it, forgetting that we already have 3 other special folders for precisely the file type and content that this one was. A rough tally of my folders across multiple storage slices quickly exceeds 1,000... Aaargh!

Digital photos is the next domain starting to be dominated and sliced by our "free service" providers. Here I am even more confused, as Apple, just one of my providers, and with my connivance, has now managed somehow to create 11 different places where I can find our photos stored! How did that happen?! I am not even counting the 6 different iPhoto Archives I have created over the years. Last week I wanted a photo that I knew I had taken, I knew the camera and rough date, it is still not found:-( When I take into account the myriad of non Apple devices that take and store my photos the number of Photo Cyber Slices quickly approaches 50, I suspect it exceeds that number, but I have not the patience to even count them, let alone try to attain control over them. Oh yes I should also remember the myriad of storage cards of various types dotted round the house and in various devices. Many of these I can no longer even read! I still have an early Apple QuickTake? camera that creates a file type that not even Apple iPhoto deigns to acknowledge. I am sure it still has photos in it.... Oh! wait did I count the DJI drone? So yes, way more then 50 Cyber Photo slices. I just realised that of course I meant all images, moving and still! I wonder if those cine films are still readable!? I know the BetaMax tape I kept as a keep sake has long since become unreadable. I hope the Peacefull Valley Dude ranch VHS video is still readable.

Perhaps the most divisive of the Cyber Space slicers, is the growing band of free storage space providers. DropBox, Google Drive, iCloud (or whatever Apple is calling it this week) are just few of the myriad free cyber storage space providers. (Naturally I have one of every one that I can lay my hands on. After all it is free, and like my brother I encourage others to take up space in my new found storage provider as that gives me even more free space.) I am truly at a loss to define a number for my different Cyber Storage Slices, let's say 20? Seems conservative...

I can only imagine how many new Cyber Space slices will exist in my Cyber Space when the Internet of Things properly kicks in, as all things will naturally come with their own cloud data store. What self respecting thing would ever come into existence without a place in the cloud to store all it's sensor data. The number of these slices rapidly approaches a large number, today I have 15 temperature sensors in our household, that I know of, I assumed two in each car, I suspect there are many more.

So my rough prediction of cyber slices that will be in existence when I die will be well north of 5,000. I predict that at that time I will only have agency over less than 10% of them, and be "in control" of a handful.

Inside each of those slices might be between a dozen or 10,000 files.

I can only hope that my Digital Agent will attain wondrous curation skills before I die, as I know in my heart of hearts that I won't do it. I can only apologies in advance for the sad state of affairs that my family will find themselves attempting to handle.

So the next Cyber Space service industry that will need come into existence, if the Agents do not step up to the mark, is Cyber Space Curation of the Dead. Navigating the myriad of different Organisational procedures to wrestle back cyber agency of the dear departed will not be a trivial task! Just finding the slices is going to be hard enough! Whether there is anything value in all those slices is an entirely different matter! Future Data Archeologists may disagree, but perhaps the most prevalent response will be to erase the lot! To Adam and Christopher I have hidden the number of my Swiss bank account in one of those slices! ;-) (Not really!)

Now all I need is a suitable Cyber Slices of the Dead Graphic...