A new digital economy started less than 72 hours ago. And it’s simply amazing.

Riccardo Zanardelli
6 min readOct 1, 2018
Great news today!

Tim Berners-Lee made his proposal for a new Web based on strong data ownership. Could there be a better start? Now everyone has the opportunity to do their part, even those who seem to have no convenience.

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We breathe digital oxygen.

Digital cityies breath, and their oxygen is data. Individual and collective data, open or connected through APIs, define a space where everything is possible, provided that it can be programmed.

In this space the data are mixed and recombined through the algorithms, increasingly complex “processing organisms” which in addition to processing data must first find and combine them according to the context. It is not a simple thing, indeed, it is the most difficult.

Data and algorithms are everywhere! But where?

Service is life, at the beating of bits.

The push for an organic data-processing comes from the need to create, transform and consume value. For companies it is a growth factor, for individuals it is an economic-organizational achievement that often goes by the name of “smart (something)”, but that is above all another step on our evolutionary path.

The need to adapt to the environment today takes on a computational meaning: we are biological organisms that have a digital twin.

Human and digital relationships merge through the service, subject to rules that are still largely to be defined.

The life itself of the digital society is expressed through the service: it can be a social app, a ride hailing service or diagnostics through artificial intelligence, but the substance of transformation is clear: we are organisms in which blood and bits flow seamlessly, we are cyborgs without implantations (or at least not yet).

Unique, standardized, personalized, algorithmic.

Technology has always changed us and it has also changed our expectations as consumers. In its first 3 phases, the industry has transformed the uniqueness of the artisanal product into industrial standardization, with data being used to manage efficiency and to design for the mass.

Standardized as a synonym of universal, of averagely perfect and perfectly average.

With the Internet, data imposed the value of personalization. Are you connected? Then you produce data and this data describes you. If I offer you a product that is selected especially for you here and now, then I win. Here and now: if the difference is personalization, loyalty matters much less than before… the transaction (online) is for the brand that “fits” here and now.

It took a while to understand this, but today data is in the rooms of the balance sheet. And the algorithms too.

Yes, because the algorithms have been assigned with a key task: extracting value from data and delivering it straight into the income statement.

The algorithm is at the center of the world and is nurtured with care, because it represents both an asset and the UX at the same time.

The algorithm can also go beyond personalization and be an instrument of understanding of a reality which way too complex to be decoded. The algorithm is synthesis ante litteram, it is synthesis through a vast processing of the very little. A very useful little.

From a secret recipe to a free ingredient: the new life of the algorithm.

In this logic, the future of the algorithm is to become an elementary particle of every “processing organism”.

More than an engine to be installed in the engine room, the algorithm is an ingredient for data-recombination reactions running “on the edge”.

We are facing an incredible transition. The algorithm, from the central engine of customization of a standardized service (business-centric approach) becomes the agent of individual personalization, the ingredient of a personal service recipe. The two things might verbally resemble each other, but they are radically different.

In this new human-centric logic, the individual (not the business) is the recombination node of data through algorithms and must be enabled to perform this role with ease. For this, however, we need a new type of applications: the “personal agents of elabo-relation”.

An agent of “personal elabo-relation”.

Intelligent recombination-agents, personalized by design.

Symbolically, the service factory of the future is in our hands. (No, I’m not referring to the smartphone).

I refer to the ability to put together data and algorithms with a personal formula, to meet specific individual needs of the here and now. Too simple to entrust this role to the smartphone as the center of peripheral intelligence.

To deploy the idea of “personal agents of elabo-relation” we need 3 elements:

  1. A strong data ownership platform that separates data from algorithms and makes data secure and interoperable at the same time;
  2. A marketplace of algorithms through which to compose the solution as a specific need, facilitated by the interface and community;
  3. A virtual environment where “to execute” the services in the form of a contract-code, combining data and algorithms according to rules of ownership governable in real time (goodbye dear policy, sorry not sorry).

The smartphone becomes a pure interaction tool, an interface like any other and whose usefulness is defined by the context.

In the era of personal elabo-report agents, the ingredients of digital service are combined at the lowest point possible and this is the last frontier of personalization.

“Broadcast” citizenship (from the mainframe to the marketplace).

Digital citizenship goes beyond the concept of smart city as a product of visionary administrations: it is the digital representation of the community as a group of interacting individuals.

The modern version of agora and casbah is the marketplace of data and algorithms, separately managed and available for (re)combination in self-service customized micro-services.

Less than 72 hours ago, Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the World Wide Web) presented his proposal to redefine the rules of the Web in this direction through an open-source framework (Solid) and a company (Inrupt) .

Sir Tim Berners-Lee (ph. By Paul Clarke, CC BY-SA 4.0)

A new data-driven economy is being formed by recombining data and algorithms in a different way than before.

Now it’s up to us to use it to build the city and the citizenship of the future. There are no more excuses.

Riccardo is Beretta’s Digital Business Development Manager. Graduated in Engineering, he has served in various marketing roles before focusing on business transformation and digital platforms since 2016. In the last decade, he has developed a personal interest in exploring the potential of computational privacy/trust towards a more effective and sustainable data driven society. With the aim of contributing to a wide and open conversation about MIT’s OPAL project, he published “The end of Personalinvasion” (2019) and “OPAL and Code-Contract: a model of responsible and efficient data ownership for citizens and business” (2018). He is a member of the advisory board of “Quota 8000 — Service Innovation Hub” at TEH Ambrosetti. Since 2000 he experiments with digital art as an independent researcher. Some of his projects have been acquired from the permanent ArtBase collection of Rhizome.org — NY (2002) and exhibited at the Montreal Biennial of Contemporary Art (2004), as well as at Interface Monthly (London, 2016, by The Trampery and Barbican). In 2015, he released FAC3, one of the first artworks in the world to use artificial intelligence. He is married and father of two. Want to drop a line? → riccardo [d ot) zanardelli {at} gmail [ do t} com

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Riccardo Zanardelli

Digital Platforms @ Beretta | PhD student in Statistics & Data Science @ AEM, UNIBS | Engineer | Only personal opinions here | Code is Law (cit.)