A Bolder journey
It feels as though I’m looking at myself in a funhouse mirror that appeared without me lifting a single finger. Only that it’s not fun and lifting a finger is exactly what I have done. Every swipe, scroll, click and tap, Google was there to record and store it. In front of me are my Google ad settings. They can report back my living status, parental status, relationship status, age group and line of work. Presented as a simplistic list, I find my interests bullet-pointed as indie music, galleries, visual arts, yoga, cooking, green living, politics, the list goes on. It has even recorded my jazz phase from the summer of 2021, my surfing obsession of 2017, and last week’s search for swimwear. Things I had completely forgotten are looking back at me and informing the advertisement I’m exposed to on the daily…
Working towards a more ethical digital future is just one of the things Bolder represents. At first glance, it can all seem a bit lofty and muddled, either too technical or too philosophical. At least that was my starting point. After all, my background is in journalism, not tech, as compared to many of the fascinating people I shared an office with when I first started my bolder chapter. GDPR had come into force a year prior, but like most people, I did not take a particular interest in this abbreviation, any more than the other headlines of 2018. However, joining Bolder was nothing short of an immersive experience.
Regardless of my lack of tech knowledge, I joined Bolder with the understanding that its foundation is built on a tightly woven net of values that align my own. Bolder is much more than the mission to take back our personal data, it also means rewriting the rules. And that starts from within. For example, the company operates on the belief that talent is not something you are born with. Skills can be taught and acquired through experience as long as you have passion and grit. This idea goes hand in hand with the organizational structure ‘holacracy’ which Bolder embraces. In contrast to a hierarchy, this means there is an emphasis on decentralization and distributing the power between employees. That way, there is more freedom to define your role as there are no traditional job descriptions and rigorous power structures.
Another key point is the focus on human value creation in a society that is constantly chasing profits. After all, it is in the name of money that surveillance capitalism and the Facebook – Cambridge Analytica scandal have been excused. Those who “make it”, and who we oftentimes celebrate as “inspirations”, are the same people that gain their success at the expense of others. But the truth is that not everyone can be the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. Under the current system, someone needs to be exploited in order for an Elon Musk to shine. It leaves us with the question of whether any true value creation can exist under capitalism.
Bolder asks us to explore what an ideal society would look like from the very basics. If we take control of our data, there is immense potential for value creation, just as there are opportunities to use technology for the worse. Orwell’s 1984, where we meet a dystopian and totalitarian regine that controls what people read, speak, say and do – and Big Brother, who is always watching – is becoming far too relevant as big tech continues to amass as much information as they can, only to use it against us. But what if the power of machine learning and analytics previously only available to global corporations and specialists was in your hands?
Admittedly, the Bolder onboarding never sees an end. There is always something new to be introduced to and try to grasp but that is also the beauty of it. With every eye-opening experience I have at work, it reaffirms the greater mission. If you are like me, initially feeling a bit removed from the world of tech, I recommend taking a look at your own Google ad settings. Actually seeing the profile that Google is building is a good starting point (and wake-up call) in terms of understanding how pressing the question of data exploitation is – and what that can tell us about the society we live in. Just because it is happening in the digital realm, does not mean it’s not a very real issue.