Since the beginning of the 20th century, oil has been known to be one of the world’s most important resources. From our cars to the electricity that runs through our houses, it is involved in almost every aspect of our lives, but what if I told you that there is a resource that holds the potential to be even more valuable than the black gold we have been worshipping? Over the past decade, thought leaders and tech experts everywhere have been trying to tell the world just that by exclaiming that data is the new oil of the 21st century.
Data is Everything & Everywhere
When someone says the word “data,” what is the first thing that comes to mind?
Maybe you think of pages and pages of binary code of 1s and 0s, or maybe you just imagine a giant data center hosting millions of servers.
Well, in both cases you are not wrong, but there is more to data than just that. What most people forget to realize is that everything around you involves data. From personal data such as your gender or birthdate to unstructured real time data such as how long you waited at that traffic light today on your way to work, there is data flowing through every moment of your life, and it is being collected at a higher rate with each passing year.
According to the International Data Corporation, the estimated amount of data created every year will reach 180 zettabytes by the year 2025 (that’s 1.8 x 10^14 gigabytes).
To put this into perspective, 1 zetabyte is equal to the entire volume of the Great Wall of China!
AI and Data Analytics are the Refineries
Okay you may be thinking that “yea, we have a lot of data. so what?”
Data at its base is just as crude as oil when oil was first starting out. Without the proper refinery tools, the oil could hardly be used for anything, but once it was refined, it was a premiere source of energy around the entire world.
Data is similar in this way. It needs the proper tools in order to refine and turn it into something of value. Thanks to data scientists over the past decade, we now have many new and exciting methods such as predictive analytics and machine learning to further “refine the crude data.” These tools can generate revenue through an assortment of different ways. For example every time you like a post on Facebook, that data is collected and refined algorithms to further predict your own personal behavior from what tv shows you like to watch to what you like to buy on Amazon, and companies everywhere are willing to pay top dollar for this insight to better there own businesses.
Who Should Own The Data
We are all aware of the major oil corporations that hold an oligopoly on the oil industry like Exxon Mobil and Shell.
Many analysts and critics are worried that the digital resource of data will follow in the same footsteps as the five largest tech conglomerates – Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google – are trying to be the sole players in the growing data economy.
This is where the key difference lies between oil and data arises. Oil is something that companies have to go out and find, while data is something that we are openly handing over to these giant tech companies for free.
Companies such as Google or Facebook allow us to use there platforms freely in exchange for collecting data about every aspect of our lives and our behaviors which is leading to more power and profits to these major companies.
While anti-trust laws were able to limit the power of oil corporations in the past, the digital resource of data and the use of these tech company platforms makes it much harder to regulate the control over the “new oil.” While there are no current solutions to limit the power of the “big five,” many of us will continue to hand over data for them to further grow their power and profits. Only the future will tell where this new resource will take us, and who will control it in the source of it in the end.
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