Class 1

Andreas Weigend | Social Data Revolution | Fall 2016

School of Information | University of California at Berkeley | INFO 290A

Video: Social Data Revolution: Topic 2
Transcript: sdr2016topic02.docx
Audio: sdr2016topic02.mp3

Topic 2: Data for the People

Main Contributors: Jimmy Liu, Zuhayeer Musa, Ashkat Bhat

Let’s think about how the world would look like in 1 year, 3 years, 10 years, and 30 years. In order to look into the future, we must learn about the past.


Andreas talks a little bit about what has happened in his life. In 1986, he was in school, working on his undergrad thesis. He lived in a trailer with three other students and served as the Resident Assistant. What he didn’t know at that time was that the officials were looking into him, creating a document known as the stasi file (Turned out to be because his father was suspected of being a spy). Rumors in East Germany claimed that 10% of the population spied on the rest of the 90%. There was a lot of information due to this and they did not have the capacity to process it.


Data is like particles, while by itself, it isn’t very exciting, but when intermixed with hundreds of millions of other data points, they interact and create interesting ideas. While the CERN is called a large hadron collider, we believe it is more large human collider, where human information collide, interact, and create interesting combinations.

An example is Facebook, where billions of users share their information, or data. Facebook came under a lot of fire recently due to deploying experiments to unknowing users. They discovered that by displaying happy content, people were more likely to post happy thoughts. On the other hand, when shown depressing content, people would be more likely to post sadder news and stories. This came under scrutiny due to the fact that the users participating in this experiment had no idea they were test subjects. This begs the question-- should people have to give consent for data experiments?


Let’s take a look in the past. 30 years ago, data were stored on punch cards. 10 years ago, Andreas was able to see online every single flight he has been on. In addition, 10 years ago, when he debated Jack Ma (co-founder of Alibaba), both parties did not mention mobile. Yet now, everybody talks about mobile when describing the internet and data. 3 years ago and 1 year ago are not much different, just working on his brand new book.

People tend to both overestimate and underestimate future predictions. Just keep in mind, just 10 years ago, there was no iPhone.

At this point, the class divided into smaller groups to discuss predictions in 1 year, 3 years, 10 years, and 30 years.

Here is a preview of some of the best predictions created by students. The full document can be found here:

1 year:
  • AR/VR
  • Health Insurance
    • Look at health insurance for discounts
    • DNA sequencing to see what you are likely to encounter
  • Free Smartphones in Developing Markets
  • More home automation
  • Better optimized ways to scale data processing

3 years:
  • Real time emotional data
  • Mental illness
  • Predicting where police cars should go
  • Predict symptoms of mental illness through activities on the internet
  • Formal Self-education of technical skills using the internet
  • Humans will trust machine more along their day to day life

10 years:
  • Data from multiple devices will be integrated to tell companies what you want
  • Mass opt out of social media because of data breaches
  • Entire world has a smartphone, hence the social data will be representative of entire human race
  • 3D printing organs
  • Massive data collection fro the human body

30 years:
  • Exposing private or more personal information won’t be embarrassing anymore, the overall insights gained will overwrite it
  • Mobile integration into the human body
  • Paper money is completely replaced by digital money or digital bartering systems
  • Language barriers no longer an issue; translation is nearly perfect

Google and Facebook provide daily services to people and opting out is not an option because of its value as outlined in the letter sent to Eric Schmidt. David Holtzman who wrote Privacy Lost, was consulting with Andreas and one of their projects was to have a woman completely disappear and not have any digital traces. It’s essentially an illusion that someone can disappear. Thinking 30 years into the future, we might see something similar to Generation P which actually may even be the case now.

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Here’s a brief history of privacy - there was no privacy, technological advances happened, for example chimneys were built and people could have a fire in their home and not freeze to death or have smoke in the household, which allowed people to essentially close their doors and get a temporary period of privacy. They could live in the cities and not know their neighbors. But then Facebook and other technologies rose and privacy was just a blip in history. We need to find ways to deal with it now instead of looking for more privacy - if all data was public it might be better. In the US if you are a politician then it might hurt your career to have an affair, in France if you don't have an affair can you really run for president?
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What are some embarrassing things that we'd not want released today? Different material that we may be embarrassed to post include FB posts from when you were younger or text messages from last night. Think about your best friend - do you have pictures of them not appropriate for right now - would that be appropriate 30 years from now, would it be a different context? It actually may become incredibly difficult to blackmail people in the future where all data is public and people cannot hold you hostage for hidden information. One theory is that society evolving from "how much would you pay me not to post this?" to "be my guest and post it".

One of Andreas’s friends, Richard Kim, posted a screenshot of an intimate conversation of him with another guy and an interesting thought is whether the post could be fabricated to make one party feel embarrassed. Who can we trust? Andreas is also on the board of Skout, a dating app with a messaging feature that also kept massaging away from people who weren't useful to the platform. Dating app user behavior in Singapore is observed to be different from practices here in the US as private conversations reveal different characteristics and features that people are looking for. Energy is certainly non-trivial, significant part of storing data and keeping technology up for years to come into the future.