Martine Paris is a freelance tech reporter who covers AI, consumer tech, crypto and blockchain for Fast Company, VentureBeat, CoinDesk, The Block, Modern Consensus, Pocket Gamer and other media outlets. She is a frequent speaker at leading tech conferences and serves on the CES Digital Money Forum programming committee. Follow her on Twitter @contentnow.
Picture a world where there’s a composite “mini-me” of you running around the web, interacting with your favorite sites, logging activity into your digital brain, and compiling a comprehensive personal data store of all of your interests, likes and dislikes, whether you’re naughty or nice, when your Uber driver dinged your rating because you asked him to turn right, which Instagram stories you’re watching, what you ordered from Postmates last night, etc. Every thought, feeling, preference you ever had forever inscribed on the immutable ledger of life.
In this utopia, you, of course, get the keys to you, with the ability to keep all of your data private or monetize it across an ecosystem of digital delights. Here there are intelligent agents that you can permission to use your data to act on your behalf across the web. Perhaps to find you clothes that match your selfies, in your exact size, shipped to your exact location in time for that event you need to attend. Would you do it? Would you trust a bot you hardly know to represent you online and not do something nefarious with your most intimate data, like copy it and sell it to the highest bidder?
Sounds a bit Orwellian but it’s the actual investment thesis of Internet pioneer, Brad Burnham, and his partners at Placeholder VC. Burnham founded Union Square Ventures with Fred Wilson in 2003 after the dot-com crash. The two became legend when their first fund returned 14x and became one of the best performing funds of all time.