Thinking about how people might act in the future is all part of Rachel Hatch’s job as the research director at the Palo Alto, Ca-based Institute for the Future. One area she’s focused on is the financial world—where Hatch believes what clients share online, from Facebook to shopping, may eventually be a financial asset.
“We are moving into a world where people are starting to monetize their personalize data. Economists are starting to think in those terms, and people are starting to behave that way. The classic case study? Facebook. People are creating alternatives like [social network] Tsu, where the more you share grows your account balance. At this stage, it’s pretty early, at the scale of micro payments.
We’re getting more clarity about how much data we give each other inadvertently. But people are realizing that data is worth something, and you can start to imagine financial balance sheets a decade from now. A financial advisor’s intake form could change and include that as an asset class. There may be strategies to monetize it that may be part of a comprehensive plan.
Maybe when someone is settling an estate at the end of their life and determining how to distribute digital assets. Right now I would describe this area as focused on the end of the human life cycle. That’s where the attention is now. We’re starting to recognize it as a something to pass on to your next of kin. That norm is starting to change culturally. Next will be digital assets and what I can do with them.
It’s not how to get access to someone’s Dropbox of photos but how to make smart use of your digital assets when you’re living and what that means.”