ICT and Big Data
Can Taking Control of Our Personal Data Change the World?

Can you measure happiness? Can you track civic duty and social citizenship? Can all this help change the world? Perhaps, and this book sets out to find out.

Imagine a not-so-distant future where you are waiting in line at an exclusive nightclub and as you enter, instead of scanning your ID, the bouncer scans your face using his phone or tablet. Using facial-recognition technology, the phone immediately displays how socially conscious you are: What causes do you care about, what organizations do you support, and most importantly, what have you done for other people? Without the right credentials, you don’t get in.

This is one of many future scenarios that author John C. Havens explores in his poignantly personal book, Hacking H(app)iness (Tarcher, 2014). Havens believes in a world where if we truly understand our personal data’s use and value, we can use it to help drive change for good.

Our personal data is being collected both willingly and unknowingly by us and by companies at an alarming rate, a rate with which we often cannot physically keep up. From wearable technologies such as FitBits and Nike FuelBands, to Facebook’s facial recognition and Google Glass, data is being collected by you and about you whether you know it or not.

“We as consumers tend to want the best of both worlds: We don’t want to be tracked or have our data sold to third-party brokers. But we’re also not willing to pay for content, so we unwittingly keep a broken advertising model afloat that erodes consumer privacy while profiting a diminishing number of Internet services that don’t want things to change.”

So what do we do about this?

Havens argues it begins with understanding how our data is being used. Once we are made aware of its usage and intrinsic value, only then can we begin to put it to good use. Through measuring and tracking our own happiness and by redefining our connections with one another and the role we play in society, we can begin to change how we define wealth, success and our global society.

Hacking H(app)iness uses a plethora of articles, quotes and personal stories to create a framework that allows the reader to take a deep dive into the meaning of personal happiness, explore the economic implications of moving towards a system based on Gross National Happiness rather than Gross Domestic Product, and take a peek into a sustainable future and the role technology and data will play in getting us there.

The power is literally and figuratively in our hands. It’s now up to us to do something about it.

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