While millions of consumers carry on unawares, powerful corporate groups are racing to gain more knowledge and data than anyone, including any government, has ever had. The goal is to know in detail the behavior, desires, and dreams of every single person, from mundane matters to the most private and intimate affairs in our lives. This massive trove of data represents an immense prize for its owners, in money terms the most valuable asset yet conceived. In a momentous shift the economics of information will turn the consumer economy on its head.
In All You Can Pay Anna Bernasek and D.T. Mongan show how companies use what they know about you and what comes next. Big data and powerful analytics allow companies to analyze and predict your needs and behaviors, and to shape them. Simultaneously the mass market is collapsing into ever tinier pieces where consumers are segmented more and more finely. Where the two trends collide, a few powerful actors will know the most they can charge for every single purchase, and extract all you can pay .
Bernasek and Mongan show how the accumulation of data threatens the very icon of the American way: the free market. That’s not to say that capitalism is threatened, nor that markets will cease to exist as they have for millennia. But the ability to understand everyone on a granular level, in real time, and simultaneously to control what each person is able to see, shifts the balance of power so dramatically that the freedom of markets is at risk.
The trend is alarming and left unchecked the destination seems clear. Yet consumers and companies can still choose a different path. Bernasek and Mongan show how by re-conceiving the rights of individuals a more balanced and ultimately more free economy can be achieved.