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Aral Balkan: we've all become cyborgs

Designer and social entrepreneur Aral Balkan has long argued that it's time for us build an alternate future where we own our own tools, services, and data - rather than letting large tech companies control our information.

To do this, he believes, we must work to redecentralise the web and to create a new breed of technologies that are independent of big corporate interests.

So last year he launched Codename Prometheus, an open platform that competes on user experience in the consumer space, as we reported here (this has now been retitled Indie Phone).

We are cyborgs

But exactly why is it so important to build an alternative to entrusting our data to the likes of Facebook and Twitter? In a talk given to The RSA last night, titled 'Free is a lie', Balkan gave an impassioned and keenly incisive analysis of the new relationships we have with social networks and other.

"Today it's not too much of a stretch to say that we are cyborgs," he said. "Not in that we embed ourselves with technology necessarily but in that we extend our biological capabilities via technologies. These technologies are what we use to manipulate and control the world around us.

"Whether or not these technologies work well or not - well that's really important because they are essential to our lives. And when they work well they empower us. When they don't work well they enfeeble us.

"So the question becomes who owns these tools. And the answer is a handful of companies - Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter. And what's common with these companies is that they're all closed silos."

Having set out the problem, Balkan set out a pathway to solving it, by creating a new category of design-led, experience-driven technology. It's a fascinating talk that you can watch in the video above (although because it's a recording of a live stream it's best to skip ahead to the 8 minute mark).

Is Balkan overreacting? Do you trust Facebook and Google? Let us know in the comments.

Tom May
Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specialising in art, design and travel. He has been editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. He has also worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including The Sun, Radio Times, NME, Heat, Company and Bella.