If you haven’t seen The Social Dilemma, you should. It shows how technology companies have gone from making products and services to selling our data to advertisers, predicting our behavior, encouraging rage, and monopolizing our attention.
The guy behind it, Tristan Harris, has started a nonprofit called the Center for Humane Technology to advocate for fairer media and encourage companies to be less evil:
They are doing important work, but there is much more to do. My goal is to create a new digital ecosystem for consumers that puts them at the center.
The Personal Data Locker
I have been writing about this for 20 years. In 2017, I raised $21 million to build it as a blockchain project, but that wave of innovation was hurt badly by regulators. The personal data locker gives you control over all your data. It puts things in the right perspective:
It lets you construct your own personal social graph:
In this world, you don’t need to log into any web sites or apps; everything comes to you. Every person, organization, and company has a personal data locker. The connections represent relationships and agreements.
Your personal data locker collects all your data as you go about your life:
- Work & Career
- Friends and relationships
- Transportation & Travel
- Shopping, Purchasing
- Education and Learning (these things are not the same)
- And much more
But in the 21st century, we don’t manage our own data, we use personal digital assistants. At first, we may have one digital assistant, for simple tasks, but then we will have many:
The Market for Personal Assistants
Yesterday, I wanted to send my dad a copy of Jerry Seinfeld’s new book, Is this Anything? I had to go to Amazon, find the book, put it in the cart, and then check out by changing the send-to address. It’s no easier than it was ten years ago.
I should have simply said “Hey personal assistant, send my dad a copy of Jerry Seinfeld’s new book.” I shouldn’t have said it to my smart phone. I could have said it to my car or my kitchen, and in either case, the reply would be “Done. I’ve taken it out of your gift budget.”
But wait. We can do that today — using Alexa, the handy search bot from Amazon. But try asking Alexa for an Apple Homepod. You can’t get those on Amazon, because Amazon wants you to buy their Alexa assistant, which helps keep you on the Amazon platform.
Today, we have three digital assistants: Google, Alexa, and Siri. Those assistants don’t work for us; they work for the shareholders of three very large corporations. They make sure to show us the high-margin stuff first. There are some products on Amazon I can find via Google search but are impossible to find using an Amazon search (yes, really).
In the world I want to create, your personal data locker collects all your data. Then you hire all your personal digital assistants in the personal digital-assistant market:
The marketplace is where you can rent assistants. You rent an assistant, pay its developers by the month, and it works with your personal data on your terms. This is like hiring your own personal doctor or financial advisor but a) much better and b) much cheaper. They can advise you on what to do, and they can execute on strategies you agree on. Hire as many as you like. Run them head-to-head and see which perform better. Some of them will even keep an eye out for new bots that could outperform your current bots. Others will watch your bots to make sure they are behaving in your best interest.
Companies that make these personal assistants and bots will be for-profit entities that make money in any number of ways. You could hire their products and pay them by the month. Or you could have a performance-based fee schedule. Or anything that’s mutually agreeable.
Everything on this platform comes in the form of a request, an offer, and an acceptance. If you accept an offer, that creates a standard contract between you and the other party. This includes sharing contact details, sending messages, purchasing a pair of jeans, getting a blood test, having a drug custom made, buying a vacation, or hiring a lawyer. The world of offers puts everyone and everything on a level playing field, so you can see everything available. It makes the world your platform.
These are the main two innovations I propose: the personal data locker and the market for personal assistants. I’m starting a nonprofit called the Giordano Bruno Institute, not to do advocacy and advisory work but to build a nonprofit ecosystem of products and services that could replace today’s advertising-driven world of vampire platforms.
I’m looking for allies, team members, supporters, and donors. Please continue learning:
The web site:
David Siegel is a serial entrepreneur in Washington, DC. He is the founder of the Pillar Project. He is the author of The Token Handbook, Open Stanford, The Culture Deck, Climate Curious, and The Nine Act Structure. He gives speeches to audiences around the world and online. His full body of work is at dsiegel.com.