Data are to the eAge what oil was to the last one- a driver of growth. Wells of data have created new politics, infrastructure, economics, businesses and monopolies. Digital information is mined, refined and commodified. Data are the ultimate externality; we will produce them whatever we do.  However, the quality of data has changed.

The old static warehouses of information on age and sex are not the drivers of the data-economy. The trend is in analysing rapid-real-time flows of unstructured streams from sensors in taxis, trains, turbines, toilet seats, toasters, jet engines, hybrid cars, snapchats, tweets and reams left behind by hurrying-humans who drop a digital trail of crumbs everywhere.

The start-up ‘Element AI’ (EAI) allows tenured professors from the Université de Montréal, British Columbia, McGill, Toronto, Polytechnique Montréal and University of Waterloo to work on Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions to corporate problems. In June 2016, EAI raised $102m from angels like Intel and Nvidia. Jean-François Gagné of EAI is converting the world’s most important AI research into transformative business solutions. Peradventure, Grazprom wanted to use image recognition to identify corrosion in pipelines, but lacks the image resources to train the algorithm; Element AI will use work in adjacent areas to train the algorithm. Grazprom will then be able to predict leaks and to rank pipelines for repairs.

Uber recently poached 40 researchers from Carnegie Mellon and Google’s ‘DeepMind’ continues to lure AI academics – creating a brain drain from academia. ‘Predix’, which is owned by GE-Digital, pools data from devices and mixes it with other data to train algorithms to avoid shutdowns. Wildcatters of the data-economy like ‘Nexar’, an upstart in Israel, has an App that turns a smartphone into a dash-cam that tags footage of a commute using the normal actions of the driver. If numerous drivers hit the brake unexpectedly in the same location, it signals an obstacle or pothole. ‘Nexar’ aims to offer driver-services to avoid accidents which are costly to both insurers and owners. To compensate drivers who use their App, ‘Nexar’ offers free dashcams and free incident reports to its users.

Viktor Mayer-Schönberger of the University of Oxford has been arguing however that data collection must be regulated. He reasons that antitrust agencies should reconsider the traditional antitrust concepts of agreement and tacit collusion, as well as whether any antitrust liability can be imposed on the algorithms’ creators and users. New legislation in Germany will soon permit the Federal Cartel Office to intervene in cases where network effects and data assets play a role.

The European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect in May 2018, requires online service providers to facilitate transfer of personal information to competitors. Elon Musk has often tweeted cryptic messages referring to “neural lace”, a sci-fi concept that is, in essence, a machine interface woven into the brain. Neuralink is a Musk company that is working on invasive devices for treating or diagnosing neurological ailments. Theodore Berger of the University of Southern California has proposed that brain implants might be used to store and retrieve memories.

Musk himself, more ambitiously still, imagines an implant that would let the wearer tap directly into the internet and all of the computational power available there. Musk repeatedly argues for artificial augmentation of human intelligence.  ‘Kernel’s’ engineers aim to build devices to treat neurological conditions such as strokes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Ultimately they want to create cognition-enhancing implants that anyone might care to purchase. Polina Anikeeva at MIT observes that miniaturisation of electronics has brought devices down to a size where their insertion into the brain can be considered; however, the rigid silicon-based tools of computing do not mesh easily with brain tissue.

The fact that we have not finished making this world is all that our children need to know and the colonial fuzzy logic around the ‘old schools’ simply cannot hold. The connected curriculum and the connected classroom are already enmeshed and can only augment the intelligence of the connected child. An impatient future is ahead of the West Indies and it promises to look very unlike the present.