In 2011, six scientists were put on trial for failing to adequately predict the future.
That may sound unbelievable, but it’s true. The story starts in 2009 a team of seismologists, who’s job it was to collect research about earthquake activity, failed to alert the public about what they observe to be an anomaly in their findings. That ‘anomaly’ later turned out to be a 6.3 quake that wrecked a town and killed 309 people.
These six scientists were later charged with manslaughter for failing to alert the public. Essentially for not acting responsibly on their findings and alerting the public.
The trial is still ongoing so I can’t tell you how it will turn out, but this story is interesting to me because it’s about data.
It’s about access to data, and what lack of access means to our lives.
This quote by Alistair Croll states it perfectly. “Data doesn’t invade people’s lives. Lack of control over how it’s used does.”
This lack of control over the data that surrounds us, is very much a 21st century problem. It is arguably the biggest threat to our individual rights and society as we know it.
So with my time, I want to introduce you to the technologies that are changing how citizens and governments interact with each other through data, and the amazing things that can be accomplished.
Access to data, is an issue of human rights. Disproportionate access to information about you, is a type of power over you.
Whether or not these six scientists have been charged unjustly, and to be clear I think they have been unjustly charged, those 309 people who died never had the chance to predict their own futures. They didn’t have access to the data, and more importantly, the system for delivering that data is inefficient to begin with.
I beleive we need to put data and tools for interpretation into the hands of citizens. This is a new necessity for democracy. These data platforms offer new ways for protest and activism.