The National: This is from a newsletter from Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, called Reinventing Scotland. It explores the wellbeing economy. Sign up here to receive it every Tuesday at 7pm. 

Last week, I claimed that capitalism is morphing into a Big Data dystopian system of control and that this is threatening democracy and is the antithesis of the wellbeing economy that we need to create. We need to talk about Big Data.

It's telling that it was my worst performing column ever in terms of comments. The handful I received via social media ranged from saying my predictions were spot on (the majority) to a couple suggesting I was verging into conspiracy theory territory, but I'm really just observing where the economy is headed. 

The National: Mariana Mazzucato is on the Scottish Government’s Board of Economic Advisers and part-designer of the Scottish National Investment Bank

A system of control without representation 

Thus, effectively Big Data becomes the new system of control. We will no longer be citizens that are controlled by laws and regulations and policed by institutions we democratically control.

We can simply have access to life denied by companies if we do not behave the way they desire. Think of "Facebook jail", only apply that to the whole of society. Big Data will know everything about you, selling your data to credit companies and future employers. You can be categorised and pigeonholed like never before to determine your career path, credit rating and even access to healthcare and insurance. 

The National: The new rules will prevent under-18s from being contacted by adults they do not know on Facebook

You can't rebel against such a system of control – you need the access those new gatekeepers provide and you certainly can't vote a faceless algorithm out of power. There are no elections to the Big Data world but they will control the news and opinions that you view thus directing your decisions in the political world.

Socialism is dead. The western world's politics have moved to the right in the social media age and the right will not legislate to curb the power of Big Data, nor will they tax them effectively.

That is not a coincidence. Right-wing ideology works well in meaningless agreeable sound bites that trigger negative brain chemistry responses and so work better on social media than the more cerebral and considered messages of the left, environmentalists or even wellbeing economists such as myself.

How can a wellbeing economy democratise data control?

Prioritising both individual and societal wellbeing: Happiness, health, fairness and prosperity of communities are placed on a par with economic growth. By refocusing from economic measures to wider-ranging measures of wellbeing, the power of data-driven models of consumer behaviour that prioritise profit diminishes.

Ethical data practices – Ethical data collection and usage are a core value of wellbeing economics, as is legislation on the management and ownership of personal information. This gives people more control over their data and crucially enables them to opt out of data collection systems more easily. This lessens the potential for personal data exploitation.

Transparency is key – Transparent use of data, algorithms, and monitoring systems aids democracy by mitigating hidden biases or manipulation. Your phone listens to your everyday conversations and targets adverts to your social media and online browsing feeds. So if someone can buy enough data then they can control elections and if they can’t there is now democracy.    

A Real Ministry of Truth? – People shouldn't blindly trust government information, but in a wellbeing economy the politics must change and propaganda and campaigning will be radically different. I would also like to see the traditional political party model become extinct. However, I do think that there is a role for a publicly owned arbitrator of facts – independent not unlike the legal system, with the power to stop data systems trying to control behaviour and subvert democracy.

I have suggested in past articles that wellbeing economies need to promote active community engagement in decision-making and also embrace (having overcome security issues) online voting. The chosen system must not only ensure that a broader range of perspectives is available for voters than via social media or algorithmic systems.

READ MORE: Reinventing Scotland: A wellbeing expert's nine tips for a longer life

Rhizomatic networks – Last week I mentioned the 1960s postmodernist philosopher that predicted the data dystopia. Deleuze however, gave very little advice on how to respond and when he did, it was usually highly eclectic and philosophical rather than practical. However his concept of the rhizome, a non-hierarchical and decentralised network structure, fits with the desired architecture of a control system for the wellbeing economy. These networks would create distributed power, enhance collaboration, and avoid centralised control by external parties. 

Philosophical inquiry and critical thinking – This improves people's understanding and questioning of the underlying assumptions presented by Big Data control systems. A critical perspective fosters a deeper understanding of the new power dynamics.

Developing critical intelligence – Social media is currently moving the world to the right due to a lack of focus in developing critical intelligence skills in the western world's education system.

We are educating for a world of manufacturing and commerce that no longer exists and as the main system of control evolves with data and AI we need our other control systems (including education) to evolve with it. Enlightened critically intelligent people can't be easily led by corporate propaganda.