The NSA collects data on everyone in the USA. Probably the world. All forms of communication, from social media to texts to financial transactions, are tracked and stored. This information exists through the NSA, and almost certainly every intelligence apparatus in every nation does the same. There is a mountain of information on us as individuals and collectively.
What if we put it good use?
There is an untold treasure trove of goodness in it. In that data is information, when properly interpreted, that could tell us what is working and what is not. Education, religion, political views, public policy, banks. We could measure stability of relationships when compared with any other variable – city, marital status, number of children, religious affiliation. We could look at whether attending church every week, versus twice a month, versus never affects positive social outcomes. We could study whether red-state policies increase community engagement, or decrease it.
Instead of the intelligence community using it to predict behavior, we could instead give it over to the public for the common good. We could objectively, with data and research, ascertain what works. What is the relative wealth of the Islamic community in the NE United States? What kind of attitudes work best? What denominations, or local churches are creating the healthiest, or more stable families? What religions in the world are getting better ORS results?
Data measuring social outcomes is possible. Imagine a computer simply tracking life span, health costs, birth-death ratio, prenatal care. Softer measures like parental engagement, quality of communication, fidelity, porn use, drug use, prescriptions, counseling services… it is all available. The information is out there.
I am not offering a paranoid view by saying the NSA already has this information. I am saying, this is the case, and we can do some good with it.
Governments the world over already have unimaginable amounts of information. Why not put it to constructive use?