For the last 25 years, our digital life has been evolving at a fantastic pace. Shopping, travel, entertainment, banking, and an array of social interactions all have moved online and provide us, the digitally connected, with incredible efficiency – with the kind of instantaneity that our ancestors couldn’t ever have dreamed of.
And on the whole, most people would agree that it’s been a good thing, and the benefits have far outweighed the negatives. So far, so good.
I’ve been enthralled with the great adventures of the digital age since I began my professional career. This digital age has turned out to be a revolution as impactful on humanity as the American and French Revolutions of the late 18th Century.
We are clearly witnessing not just a change in commerce and communications, but through the targeted, measured and controlled use of information – we’re seeing a massive shift in the constructs of global society as a whole. We are, knowingly or unknowingly, living through a massive shift in the fundamental fabric that binds us as a society and defines us as individuals. I think it’s safe to say that at no time before have so many basic aspects of human life been in such flux or so challenged. And with so little that makes up our lives today resembling what was the norm in the not-so-distant past, all this creates a combination of breathless excitement with a deep sense of angst.
In the course of just 20 years, we have gone from “simple” search engines and webmail to domination by one search behemoth and the sophisticated use of marketing software and social media. We have gone from automating basic life logistics like bill paying and travel (no more travel agents, no more boarding passes) to sophisticated, personalized targeting of ideas.
As the digital revolution has moved from the more mundane “search for information” to shopping to artificial intelligence, it has gone from skimming the surface layers of our lives to moving ever closer to the fundamental drivers of human sustenance and survival, from the physical to the existential abstract.
But there is one component that has been fundamentally lost – almost continuously and unconsciously through all of this great change.
Our sense of privacy.
Over the last century – privacy has gone from something that people protected intensely but also took for granted, to something that people gave up relatively easily for convenience.
Slowly over time, the walls of anonymity and privacy have crumbled as new digital tools have continuously pushed us all to share, overshare and over trust third party sites and outside organizations with our information. There is now no doubt that companies and political parties, both big and small, have exploited individual’s privacy and personal information, with no concern – almost cavalierly – and with no sense of the risk and the bad undertow that this kind of reckless behavior produces (hello, Facebook).
At the end of the day – our private, personal information is what makes us all individually unique. Uniqueness is the thing that all of us have for ourselves, but that very few people can see. And in the deluge of data and information and success – very few can look beyond the nameless mass to care.
But it’s hard to ignore that something big is coming – ultimately leading to a dramatic shift in how people share and protect their personal information.
The distrust (and disgust) over recent data breaches and unlawful activity is at a boiling point – and new ways of thinking and transacting are already emerging (decentralization, the blockchain, etc). This revolution has been building and is gaining momentum.
And nowhere is this be more evident or prevalent than in the fintech sector. More to come on this next…