Data Sovereignty is Not a Left or Right Problem. It’s a PEOPLE Problem.
By Michael Ashley and Robert Edward Grant
It’s the day before Christmas and bitterly cold outside. Your relatives have flown in to spend the holiday with you. Mounds of presents lie beneath the tree. Hot cocoa brews on the stove. And you prepare to watch family favorites like It’s a Wonderful Life.
Suddenly you get an alert on your smart thermostat: “Due to an energy emergency, your heating is restricted.”
Seconds later a sea of faces turn to you in surprise.
“Did someone open the door?”
“It’s freezing in here.”
Desperately pressing your digital display, you can’t override the lockout. To your horror, the digits fall like snow as the temperature drops to 50 degrees.
The “happiest time of the year” just became a lot less cheerful as you and your family hastily pile on sweaters and blankets, huddling for warmth.
Before you brush aside this tale as some dystopian blackpill, let us draw your attention to an article from August 31 from ABC Denver 7. According to the outlet, Xcel energy customers were cut off from changing their thermostats due to an “energy emergency.” In the brutal dog days of summer.
Responding to not being able to adjust his temperature in a heat wave, customer Tony Talarico said, “To me, an emergency means there is, you know, life, limb, or, you know, some other danger out there—some, you know, massive wildfires. Even if it's a once-in-a-blue-moon situation, it just doesn't sit right with us to not be able to control our own thermostat in our house.”
Temperature control—or the lack thereof—is not a political issue. Republicans and Democrats alike will suffer if/when central authorities restrict our ability to heat and cool ourselves with smart tech. It is one of many universal threats we expose in our upcoming book Neuromined: Triumphing over Technological Tyranny (Fast Company Press 2023).
Unfortunately, this is not the mainstream message the public receives. Using a divide and conquer strategy applied as far back as the Roman Empire, powerful interests keep us apart. Example: we’re led to believe it’s only the right who is opposed to governmental overreach like vaccine passports.
Such beliefs keep us pointing fingers at each other. Instead, we must wake up to the reality that technocracy threatens everyone.
It’s a people issue.
This was activist Maajid Nawaz’s message when he appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast to discuss growing tyranny via the social credit system, digital IDS, and a cashless society. As pennybutler.com reports, “FYI: Maajid Nawaz is double vaccinated with Pfizer, but the media calls him an anti-vaxxer.”
Nawaz—a onetime hero to the left—now branded as a rightwing conspiracy theorist—is an example of a larger PR campaign to make technocracy and data misappropriation into tribal issues: Things that only one political side cares about and are affected by.
They are not. And we can prove it.
Earlier in August, Vice, itself a left-leaning publication, published a story on how Facebook gave the police a teen’s private chats about her abortion, leading authorities to seize her devices to aid in her prosecution:
The state’s case relies on evidence from the teenager’s private Facebook messages, obtained directly from Facebook by court order, which show the mother and daughter allegedly bought medication to induce abortion online, and then disposed of the body of the fetus. While the court documents, obtained by Motherboard, allege that the abortion took place before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in June, they show in shocking detail how abortion could and will be prosecuted in the United States, and how tech companies will be enlisted by law enforcement to help prosecute their cases.
As we know, abortion is a controversial topic that’s been heavily in the news. So often the media depicts this issue along partisan lines. According to the prevailing narrative, the right opposes abortion. The left favors choice.
Facilely accepting this viewpoint allows us to view the world in black and white terms. It would be easy for those on the right to dismiss what happened to the teen and her mom as “justifiable punishment” for engaging in an (illegal) abortion. But it’s not so simple.
Right now, a social media platform is collaborating with authorities to vacuum up personal data to prosecute those who engage in abortion. (This presumably affects those on the left.) Tomorrow, another company could just as easily target someone on the right for their actions.
Decades ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned us to beware of tyranny, whomever it first affects because it will soon impact us all. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to liberty everywhere.”
Nowadays, tyranny occurs in the form of the incredible power the state and big tech wields over private citizens, specifically over our data. For as these examples show, technological oppression doesn’t threaten one political party and its adherents. It endangers us all.
Harvard professor and social psychologist Shoshanna Zuboff made this case years ago, sounding the alarm on tech outfits profiting from our data: “The age of surveillance capitalism is a titanic struggle between capital and each one of us. It is a direct intervention into free will, an assault on human autonomy. It is the capture of our intimate personal details, even of our faces.”
We bring this up to draw awareness to the true challenge of our time: Technocracy, especially concerning data misappropriation. A digital curtain is descending upon humanity. And no matter how you feel politically, everyone should be concerned about our shared threat.
Fortunately, platforms like our very own Substack understand what we are up against. We chose to launch our blog here because of its decentralized model. Company founder Chris Best also recently spoke to Joe Rogan about his “why” for creating the subscription-based journalism site.
Best explains that he’s always been an avid reader. His father was an English teacher, and he was surrounded by great books growing up. These shaped his worldview, giving a greater understanding of life. “What you read matters. It shapes who you are and how you think. It creates who you are as a person and so great writing matters a lot… If you write a great essay, a great book, a great thought—you can change who a million people are.”
Yet, this tech visionary soon realized they weren’t enough to turn things around. Words had to be combined with action. To this end, Best established a platform for free speech at a time when our words can get us canceled, financially de-platformed, or worse. His business model enables influencers on the left and right to shape how others think—without tech interference.
As fellow entrepreneurs, we also believe in the power of the free market to aid the flow exchange of ideas. This is why we were so encouraged to have Fast Company, a publisher known for business disruption, get behind our book. We also so connect with Best’s thoughts in a recent Q&A with Verge that we will give him the last word on how economic innovation, a great unifier, can show us the way out of our political divisiveness:
The only way to make a real change is to change the underlying laws of physics that apply, change the rules of the game, change how people are making money, have a new and better business model for independent writing and make that thing work….
Start a blog, an email newsletter, have people subscribe directly to somebody you trust. You own your content, you own your audience. Even a few thousand people paying five or 10 bucks a month turns into a real business very quickly, and it completely upends the economics of writing on the internet.
Here’s to a bright shared future of digital citizens (encompassing the full political spectrum) changing our world. Beginning with our words.
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Thank you for raising awareness about technological tyrrany, the "digital curtain descending upon humanity".
Everyone should be concerned about our shared threat of technocracy and data misappopriation.
Love that last statement "Here's to a bright shared future of digital citizens (encompassing the full political spectrum) changing our world. Beginning with our words." 🙏💚🕉
Excited to read your new book
Keep up the great work
Love from Kentucky 🍀
Tysm for sharing 😃🙏🏽