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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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How governments are responding to the public's demand for more data transparency

Innovative use of blockchain tech, data trusts, algorithm assessments, and cultural shifts abound.

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  • A study published last year by the Pew Research Center found that most American's distrust the federal government, and there's plenty of evidence to suggest that the situation has yet to improve.
  • Governments have more access than ever to our private information, which creates an inherent tension between how they can use data for the public good while ensuring they aren't abusing citizens' privacy rights.
  • As emerging technologies mature, it will become more evident to the public which models are the most effective ways for governments to achieve the levels of transparency they've committed to delivering.

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Fact-Based Browsing: What If the Internet Could Not Tell a Lie?

The Internet is all shadows and mirrors—but what if it were the central source of truth? Thanks to Blockchain technology, it's a future that's possible.

Imagine a world where facts rule the Internet, and lies and rumors are stripped of their disguises before they can do damage. That's actually possible, explains tech expert Brian Behlendorf, the executive director of the Hyperledger Project (who was also a primary developer of the Apache HTTP Server, the most widely used web server in the world). Although a completely truthful Internet might be dull, and a little totalitarian, it would be sweet relief for all digital citizens if someone could end fake news. Distributed ledger technology like Blockchain could do that, says Behlendorf, by changing the way organizations collect and store data. If data were decentralized or transparent on an unmodifiable Blockchain, it would be almost impossible to attack the source or integrity of someone's data on that open ledger. "I view distributed ledger technology as the closest thing we have in the technology field to being able to say something is a fact," says Behlendorf. A distributed ledger system could also be used to help us check our confirmation biases in response to fake news. Currently, central providers like Facebook and Google can alert you to news sources that may be less than factual, but imagine a decentralized version, like a Yelp for news media, with experts who score platforms on their integrity, as well as crowd-contributed ratings. In the future, what if the Internet helped resolve controversy instead of cranking the rumor mill?

Shooting the Messenger: Why the Media Can No Longer Safeguard Democracy

“We love, as a culture, to attack messengers when the message is something that makes us feel uncomfortable,” says journalist Wesley Lowery.

It’s no coincidence, says Wesley Lowery, that freedom of the press was one of the first things that the U.S. founders enshrined in the Constitution. It was people of that time’s ability to report on and openly discuss their situation that sparked the revolution. It became clear then that a free press is the ultimate safeguard for democracy.

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