Published on 1 April 2021
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New book on an optimist’s guide to our digital future

We are currently living in a moment of extreme pessimism about big tech companies and data. Sam Gilbert’s new book may make you rethink everything you assumed you knew about data, privacy and the future of Big Tech.

Almost everything we do generates data. Digital technology is now so pervasive that it’s very hard to escape its influence – and with that growth comes fear.

Bennett Institute Affiliated Researcher, digital expert and tech insider Sam Gilbert has published a book to explain why the data revolution could be the best thing that’s ever happened to us.

Good Data looks at how the explosion of information is changing our world, “for the better”. For example, it could be used to tackle inequality, create jobs, advance the frontiers of knowledge, and work to protect us from novel diseases.

It explores topics such as: How Google Trends data has uncovered some surprising facts about the coronavirus pandemic, including that some lockdowns were good for people’s wellbeing; how Twitter hashtags, Facebook groups and YouTube played a substantial part in political uprisings and revolutions around the world; and whether tech companies can really be ethical.

The book also includes cameo appearances by the Bennett Institute team (Chapter 4, ‘Data abundance’), discusses work on digital communications in Africa (p286), and acknowledges the inspiring work of the Bennett Institute (p275).

“When it comes to digital technology, much policy debate is framed by surveillance capitalism theory. But there is another, more optimistic side to the story. Treating data as a common resource is already helping us respond to the pandemic and develop a more nuanced understanding of well-being. At the same time, re-thinking the way power operates in the digital era shows there are ways to reform big tech companies without destroying the many benefits their products bring to everyday life,” says Sam.

Diane Coyle, Bennett Professor of Public Policy, highly commends the book: saying: “Good Data brings a breath of fresh air, an invigorating blast of common sense, to the debate about our digital world. In place of scare stories about surveillance and exploitation, the book provides new insights from an expert, and pragmatic suggestions about how we can make data work for us as a shared resource. This is an essential read for anybody interested in shaping a positive digital future.”

Hear more from Sam and ask him your questions in our forthcoming event: Rethinking how we regulate big tech.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy.

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