Why Hu.manity.co’s “My31” is Not a Sustainable Data Economy Model

Very true: but does IBM’s My31 deliver on its promise to give your data economic value?

The “buying” and “selling” of data as part of a “brokerage” arrangement is what we fundamentally object to in any form.

The very fact that data needs to be “bought” and “sold” is an immediate red flag — one that hints at a digital future that is an even more opaque, pseudo-decentralised version of the present. Hu.manity.co’s economics speaks to a system of data storage and retrieval mired in the murky shallows of an antiquated post-industrial business model, which is underpinned by the sneaking spectre of centralised currency that benefits the system while benefiting from said system.

The question is, if not a new marketplace or economic model, what then — broadly speaking — is the point?

The two don’t mesh. Think about it: how is decentralised data storage supposed to square off with a centralised payments system — without the integrity of the system (and possibly the data) not being compromised?

There is no getting round it: any form of “buying”/“selling” by definition requires a third-party medium of exchange to facilitate the activity — and whoever issues that medium can, and usually does, control those to whom it is issued.

Moreover, as our R&D has demonstrated in repeated trials, market forces potentially make such a system as the one Hu.manity.co proposes prone to data siloing — this time not on a corporate level but on an individual or collective social level.

The outcome for society, alas, is the same: a negative sum game whereby siloed data decreases in value due to it remaining unstructured by dent of being non-exchangeable at ever-lowering, “fair” market “prices”.

For example, Hu.manity.co outlines the scenario of users “selling” medical data to assist with cancer research. Sounds fine on the surface, right? Who doesn’t want to help with cancer research? The issue is, the motivation to do so is bizarrely inverted. To us, the “selling” of data for medical research purposes is an abhorrent, quasi-Dickensian proposition. It has about it the moral whiff of latter day body-snatchers who would in the Victorian era dig up corpses and sell them to doctors for medical research.

“Going once, going twice…” My31 “auctions” user data for medical research

Meritocracy be damned, long live meritocracy!

To be fair, the drive to line users’ pockets with money, fiat or digital, is yet to present itself as an overwhelming motivation to download the My31 app — and that is not necessarily a good thing.

Not exactly: users are paid in a “currency” called “Hu”, which is apparently only redeemable for, er, T-shirts.

You read that right. So… is Hu.manity.co suggesting T-shirts are in some way a “fungible” reward for top prices paid by pharmaceutical giants? Is there any chance of viewing price comparisons between the wholesale price of the T-shirts and the amount the pharmaceutical giants paid (presumably not in T-shirts) for the data in the first place?

The point is that the motivation to trade user data for cancer trials should be the cure of cancer itself, not the acquisition of units of monetary exchange.

My31’s economic system is open to — at best “interpretation” — at worst misuse and abuse on too many levels to be sustainable.

Remember, this is against the backdrop of a global “data market” in which we are yet to see anything more formalised than a Wild West-style free-for-all with participants picking over looted spoils.

Presumably, a centralised system of some kind at some level (if only the economic system determining value) will be dictating/setting/modulating “fair market compensation” levels, as My31 is patently a marketplace…and we’re back at square one as regards the system being hijack-able by the vested concerns of large (pharmaceutical) corporate interests and tech incumbents.

On Decentr — as we give user data itself a payable value — the motivation to choose to share information is the increase in a user’s payable and tradable data value that the sharing of data on our platform promotes.

In the cancer research example, as applied to Decentr, the motivation to share information thus becomes the motivation to realise the progression of cancer research, due to the fact shared user data achieves ever-greater value for the user who is sharing it as the research progresses. This puts in place a cycle whereby the generation of ever-greater amounts of useful data is a payable and tradable “reward” in and of itself, further encouraging the user to maintain updated information as part of ongoing cancer research — a positive reinforcement cycle that will inevitably expedite clinical trials and lead to new, life-saving treatments.

My31: claiming a “Human Right” that does not exist

How can you set up human rights around a system whose central construct has been explicitly used for millennia to oppress?

That system is any system backed by centralised money issuance, plain and simple.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store