User Tools

Site Tools


Forecasting And Prediction

Prediction, Preemption, Presumption

Prediction, Preemption, Presumption. How Big Data Threatens Big Picture Privacy. Ian Kerr & Jessica Earle

  • “We call predictions that attempt to anticipate the likely consequences of a person’s action consequential predictions.
  • “When you permit iTunes Genius to anticipate which songs you will like or Amazon’s recommendation system to predict what books you will find interesting, these systems are not generating predictions about your conduct or its likely consequences. Rather, they are trying to stroke your preferences in order to sell goods and services. Many of today’s big data industries are focused on projections of this material sort, which we refer to as preferential predictions.”
  • “ Unlike consequential and preferential predictions, preemptive predictions are intentionally used to diminish a person’s range of future options. Preemptive predictions assess the likely consequences of allowing or disallowing a person to act in a certain way. In contrast to consequential or preferential predictions, preemptive predictions do not usually adopt the perspective of the actor.”

The power of big data’s preemptive predictions and its potential for harm must be carefully understood alongside the concept of risk. When sociologist Ulrich Beck coined the term risk society in the 1990s, he was not suggesting that society is riskier or more dangerous nowadays than before; rather, he argued that society is reorganizing itself in response to risk. Beck believes that in modern society, “the social production of wealth is systematically accompanied by the social production of risks,” and that, accordingly, “the problems and conflicts relating to distribution in a society of scarcity overlap with the problems and conflicts that arise from the production, definition, and distribution of techno-scientifically produced risks.”[13]

On Beck’s account, prediction and risk are interrelated concepts. He subsequently describes risk as “the modern approach to foresee and control the future consequences of human action . . . .”[14] This helps to demonstrate the link between prediction and preemption. Prediction industries flourish in a society where anyone and anything can be perceived as a potential threat, because it is lucrative to exploit risk that can later be avoided. In such cases, prediction often precipitates the attempt to preempt risk.

With this insight, an important concern arises. Big data’s escalating interest in and successful use of preemptive predictions as a means of avoiding risk becomes a catalyst for various new forms of social preemption. More and more, governments, corporations, and individuals will use big data to preempt or forestall activities perceived to generate social risk. Often, this will be done with little or no transparency or accountability. Some loan companies, for example, are beginning to use algorithms to determine interest rates for clients with little to no credit history, and to decide who is at high risk for default. Thousands of indicators are analyzed, ranging from the presence of financially secure friends on Facebook to time spent on websites and apps installed on various data devices. Governments, in the meantime, are using this technique in a variety of fields in order to determine the distribution of scarce resources such as social workers for at-risk youth or entitlement to Medicaid, food stamps, and welfare compensation.

–Prediction, Preemption, Presumption. How Big Data Threatens Big Picture Privacy. Ian Kerr & Jessica Earle

Specific Timeframes

forecasting_and_prediction.txt · Last modified: 2014/06/27 11:56 by nik