The internet of threats and promise: Can big data help define an alternative transition?

Bob Thomson
Draft 12 January 2020


Social media and the internet provide us with both “information” and “fake news”. Our growing capacity to analyse old and new economic and political models brings both despair and hope that we can define new low carbon models of cooperation and solidarity. Here I look at the potential for progressive use of “big data” to provide social and cooperative movements with the analytical tools to begin this huge challenge. I begin with Mike Cooley’s learning curve within the exploding internet and Bill Rees’ note of how our “cultural narratives” stand in the path of change. The obstacles include “big data” challenges like Google and Facebook’s algorithms and sale of personal data to shape and reinforce our consumer desires and manipulate elections to maintain the status quo. But Piketty’s 1% vs 99% and Vettese’s analysis of the economy of half earth show how “popular” access to and analysis of historical economic, energy, climate and other data can be used to develop alternative models and behaviors for a transition. I briefly review some alternatives: the P2P Transition to the Commons, Green New Deal(s), Degrowth and the indigenous “buen vivir”, and the promise and difficulties of implementing them. Thousands of individual and confederated local, community and regional examples already exist as lived examples of alternatives and progressive social media and cooperative networks which challenge the capitalist mainstream. As pluralistic cultural, political and lived alternatives and systems, they show that people can live well together and with nature. 249 words

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