This dystopian video from Google says goodbye to privacy and shows a future of massive data collection.

Google constantly monitors us. Like many others, true, but to the beast. And like those others, it does it to improve the services it provides and, of course, to offer better contextual advertising. All these data, however, could end up serving for something else.

This is what reveals an internal Google video that has just come to light. The short of just 9 minutes entitled ‘The Selfish Ledger’ shows us how the idea of ​​building an ‘accounting book’ about our activity is useful for disturbing things, such as influencing us and our future choice.

This dystopian video from Google says goodbye to privacy and shows a future of massive data collection

We are what we do

The video raises a singular vision of the future more typical of an episode of ‘Black Mirror’ than of a reality with which we live day by day. It does so from a series of theories and reflections that lead those responsible to worrying conclusions.

The creator of the video is Nick Foster, who was responsible for design on that secret R&D division called Google X. The video, created in 2016, begins by talking about the theory of evolution and derives its title from Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book ‘The Selfish Gene’.

This dystopian video from Google says goodbye to privacy and shows a future of massive data collection

In this case the basic premise is that each person would have a “ledger” with a constantly growing record of collected data which Foster calls ‘Selfish Ledger’. In the future, he explains, that book would not only allow us to record our actions and behavior in the past, but also “offer directions towards a desired result.”

That book would be inherited to future generations, not only to your ‘lineage’, but even to the whole of society, which would also be ‘enriched’ and influenced by all that data. Evidently privacy implications reappearBut big time: now it turns out that our data could be the subject of study forever?

This dystopian video from Google says goodbye to privacy and shows a future of massive data collection

Data that serve to influence us

What does that mean? Well, one of the examples indicates how custom 3D printers could be used to collect more data and multigenerational transactions that will help solve global problems such as poverty. Those data would make this system anticipate our needs and those of the account book itself, which for example would use that 3D printer to manufacture a scale and thus be able to track our weight to complete that monitoring with more and more relevant data.

That personal ledger would also be used to direct us to that global solution through local actions. For example, I would recommend us and suggest to buy locally grown produce instead of imported.

This dystopian video from Google says goodbye to privacy and shows a future of massive data collection

The video leaked by The Verge has caused some uneasiness among those who have seen it, and it certainly seems a very coherent reflection with that branch of research of a company that does not stop collecting data.

In Google, yes, clarify that “we understand that it is disturbing”, and they explain that it uses a technique called ‘speculative design’ in which “uncomfortable ideas and concepts are explored to provoke debate and discussion.” Of course: this video “is not related to any current or future product,” they conclude.

Where is the privacy?

The video has re-shot the debate on privacy and data collection which was also reactivated during the last Google I / O 2018.

This dystopian video from Google says goodbye to privacy and shows a future of massive data collection

Features like Gmail email autocomplete or the ‘terrifying’ Google assistant who almost calls only on the phone did not help reassure those who worry about the future of our data.

They do not do it because all those characteristics are nourished, of course, by our data. Not only that: make decisions on their own: how do I complete this sentence, what time do I book the hairdresser. They certainly do so with the intention of making our lives more comfortable, but to what extent should they do so? Where are the limits of that ambition?

The video seems to point not to a relaxation of that ambition, but to push it to limits that we had not imagined until now. One in which everything we do ends up in that transgenerational record that affects our future choices, but also asks us for even more data to collect when it ‘feels’ something is missing.

This dystopian video from Google says goodbye to privacy and shows a future of massive data collection

Suddenly quantifying everything at all times is not the exception, but the norm. And that, at least to some, gives panic.