Tim Berners-Lee
Date: 2017, last change: $Date: 2023/11/10 23:49:33 $
Status: personal view only. Editing status: Good enough. Part of a talk given to a couple of places in 2019.

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Charlie works for Bob

Bob was fed up with the AIs around him (Alexa, Siri and so on) who all seemed to work for other people, and so he got Charlie. Charlie is an AI and Charlie works for Bob. Because Charlie works for Bob, Bob gives Charlie access to much more data than he would another AI

- Charlie, Who do your work, for?

- I work for you, Bob

Good Morning, Bob. Good to see you on the exercise bike. Your fitness goals are on track. In fact because the meeting was moved do you want to stretch this to the full hour? We can do some climbs and have time to unwind.

- Ok , sure

- Ok, so lets start warming up at 100 cadence, to warm up, and we can go over a few things. Overnight a bunch of offers came in for your art but as far as I could tell none of them really make sense to you after you’ve paid the fees. I just invested a little in one new start up, mainly because it will give you something else in common with your mother in law. Speaking of relatives, you have quite a bunch of vegans coming on Saturday. I took the liberty of making up a recipe for the thing you really liked at the Indian cafe the other day.

- You made up a recipe?

Well he hadn’t published that one, but he has published a dozen books so I read those as a training set and then extrapolated how he would cook the menu you liked. Then compared it with the Linked Open Recipe data, and adjusted it a bit for the way you like things. So I propose to get the food from Whole Foods, Waitrose, and the Farm — we can get the best stuff and save 12% on the bill. OK?

- Ok. Charlie, Let’s go for it

- Ok, the recipe is in your calendar. I want to leave you to get into your workout now, When you are done there are two things: a new briefing for your meeting today, and the upcoming family birthday presents. I’ve found a bunch of things but I’m not sure they are right — I want you to look at them. OK?

- Ok, Charlie. Who do you work for?

- Legally, ethically and algorithmically, I work for you, Bob.

Two things to notice about Charlie.

  1. Charlie works for Bob, and so Bob trusts Charlie
  2. Because Bob trusts Charlie, Bob gives Charlie access any of and all the data in is life - financial, health, social, etc. Because Charlie gets access across the board, Charlie does a better job — and so Bob trusts him more.

Data is always more powerful when it is joined with other different data to give new insights.

Currently Facebook makes insights about the likes and habits of its members Here, Charlie is getting the insights on behalf of Bob

How could this happen? How could Bob get to the point where he has access to the data?

So Bob may end getting his data because he gets mad and demands it, because regulations grant it to him, or because in a new architecture it has always been his.
Bob is empowered because he can share his data with whoever he likes.
Bob is empowered because he can use all kinds of very powerful apps, including Charlie
A new very different vision of the world.
A more empowered humanity

Do join me in building it.


[2023] Since that piece was written, a couple of things have changed. The Solid platform has gone from being a project at MIT to being a signifiant movement of new standards for personal data and individual sovereignty over that data. Large corporations and governments, and organizations in the public interest have in different but complementary ways started to roll out Solid for citizens and consumers.

And AI systems based on Large Language Models have demonstrated that a fluid conversation with a human is now a thing AI can do, rather than a thing AI can't do. Now Solid gives the third layer of the web we have common standard which allows people to not only look at aggregation of data with a individual's Pod, but also to run machine learning and other insight-extraction systems over a set of pods, while preserving the privacy of the individual.

[2003-10] A 2022 company Inflection AI released their Personal Intelligence (pi.ai) product in May 2023. You can have a private conversation with it about about your personal issues, though it does not have access to your personal data.

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Tim BL