Internet firms gather these data from users every time they click on a Google search result, say, or issue a command to Alexa. These data become part of the firms’ capital, and, as such, a fearsome source of competitive advantage.
Firms trying to develop useful applications for AI must hope that the data they have are sufficient, or come up with ways to coax users into providing them with better information at no cost.
Rather than being regarded as capital, data should be treated as labour-and, more specifically, regarded as the property of those who generate such information, unless they agree to provide it to firms in exchange for payment.
In such a world, user data might be sold multiple times, to multiple firms, reducing the extent to which data sets serve as barriers to entry. Payments to users for their data would help spread the wealth generated by AI. Firms could also potentially generate better data by paying.
Would people really be interested in taking the time to describe their morning routine or office habits without a substantial monetary inducement? Might not such systems attract data mercenaries, spamming firms with useless junk data simply to make a quick buck?