The Banality of Data

‘ Data ‘ and its collection has become the ultimate justification for the Neoliberalism virus’s existence every other one of its practices having failed. The incremental progress of ‘ digital everything ‘ has been begrudgingly accepted by the population at large as inevitable . Like the sun coming up in the morning. The Coronavirus has stalled this progress for the time being with the extensive disruption it has caused.

Data collection as a means of exercising control over society is nothing new. The societies over which Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin ruled collected data which was used to murderous effect eliminating all those members of society it deemed enemies of the state. Super computers and the Internet have extended the reach of data collection over the last twenty five years. Much of this data is given voluntarily , embedded as it is in consumer society. Primarily this is the province of the Silicon Valley giant corporations – Google, Facebook and the rest for whom data is the raw material which they obtain for free. The contemporary version of an enemy of the state is anyone who does not subscribe to the onward march of digitisation as inevitable. This is a utopian vision in which the human being, indeed consciousness itself is seen as a barrier to progress.

The pause caused by the Coronavirus has enabled an antidote to the computer colonisation of our minds by Data by evoking in us those human and only human characteristics of kindness, altruism and the need for person to person connection that digital control seeks to eliminate as being inimical to its purpose.

Hannah Arendt wrote a book titled The Banality of Evil about the Eichmann trial in 1961. Her thesis was that evil isn’t something outside of time and space, but when anything is taken to excess it becomes evil . Eichmann was unexceptional except for the fact that he possessed considerable organisational skills and oversaw the organisation of the Nazi death camps which required the collection of large amounts of data to be effective.

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