I listened to a TED talk recently and absolutely loved the premise. The speaker, John Wilbanks, spoke on pooling medical data. Living in the age of social media and internet cookies I completely understand the problem to which Wilbanks suggests a solution, and I agree with him. He spoke about creating a sort of data commons where people can search through free data collected from volnteers across the country. And therein lies the problem. Who's willing to give up such private medical information to the public. Yes, there's an obvious greater good to be had but like any radical movement in history there has to be a handful of of people to start the ball rolling. People who are comfortable stepping out in front of the heard, trusting that the rest will follow.
Today we are wary of Facebook and Google sharing information with advertisers and find tailored ads to be creepy. It may be a while before this great medical research commons that could be will become a reality, but I do believe in it. And what's more is I believe in the push people need to get there. I believe in personal accountability. Before social media it was dealt with by every individual as a private character trait. But now, when people can see what you do and who you are on the "privacy" of your own computer we are suddenly more aware of our actions. Our first reaction is defensive. We feel like it's wrong for advertisers, Facebook, the world to have access to our private lives but really we're just upset that we got caught. I think that this new idea of digital accountability will ultimately lead us to becoming a more open society and hopefully self-correcting. And when we reach that point, we will find ourselves with great tools like Wilbanks's medical commons.