Data Workers of the World, Unite
This article explores why and how people might get paid for their data. Data produced by the masses is an increasingly important economic resource – technology companies will only continue to obtain and use more of it, especially as artificial intelligence depends on it to advance. Yet, the masses are rarely compensated for their data since it is difficult to own and sell. In their new book, economists Glen Weyl and Eric Posner draw a parallel between this situation and that of labor in the past. They argue that data is a new kind of labor, and that like the workers of the past, it is only by forming unions that the data-producing masses of the present could enjoy a future in which they control their data and earn money from it. This would require legislation and technology that better tracks and accounts for data flows, and a change in social attitudes favoring greater control of one’s own data. Ultimately, the wealth created by AI needs to be distributed, and data unions might be a very even way to do so.