November 9, 2023

Data Is Like Water

“Data is the new oil!” In the last couple of years you’ve probably heard this phrase more than once. The metaphor, originally coined by Clive Humby in 2006 to explain that just like oil, data is of low value without it being refined into something useful, has formed the mental model around data.

In the years to come, the data industry showed to have even more similarities with the oil industry. The immense commercial value of the refined products caused, similar to oil companies in the 20th century, big companies to gain a lot of power that they used to enrich themselves and their position in the market, without looking at the impact their products are having on our planet.

These past decades the sentiment around the oil industry changed, putting more focus on the negative impact their activities have on the world. A similar shift in sentiment can be seen in the data industry, and although this is happening for valid reasons, we hope to show that the impact of the data industry does not have to be negative.

We have an alternative where data and AI tools can have more positive than negative impact on its users and our planet.

“Data Is Like Water”

Water is vital for life  

Just like water, data has become essential in our daily lives. Without it, participating in society is nearly impossible, and thriving in it is even harder. In all ecosystems, water plays a vital role for life. In the digital world, data has similar importance. Almost everyone on this planet is in one way or another influenced by some form of data. That’s why we feel everyone should have the right to own their own (clean) data and decide what to do with it. That’s why we prefer to say “Data Is Like Water”.

What is data?
Simply put, data is every piece of information stored digitally. It can be videos, pictures, texts, emails, clicks, GPS-information, whatsapp-messages, the step counter on your phone, audio recordings, or heart monitors. It can quite literally be anything. Combining that data, finding patterns and creating insights by using Artificial Intelligence enriches that information and makes it useful. So that, an app can tell you to leave early for the gym-class you go to every week when there’s more traffic than usual.

Data is abundant

Compared to oil, water & data are abundant. We use oil by burning it, after that it’s gone. For water and data that isn’t the case. Water is used, and as long as it doesn’t get polluted, it will find it’s way back to sea, evaoporate and fall down as fresh rain again. The same goes for data. As long as it doesn’t get polluted, it can be used over and over again for different applications, by different people. Models can be trained on different combinations of datasets to increase performance, remove biases or make products that cater to different needs.  

Data needs to be clean

Just like water, data needs to be clean so it can be used. Just like the water district sanitising huge amounts of water at once, instead of going house to house and cleaning it bucket-by-bucket for each application, cleaning data works the same. Storing the data in a way that it is structured, easy accessible and ready to use when you need it is key. That’s why we first build our Personal Online Data Storage to keep the data clean.

You can drown in data

If the data isn’t structured correctly, if there’s too much information available or if it’s simply in a format that doesn’t work for you, (e.g. your Twitter/X feed being in excel) it can feel as if you’re drowning in a sea of information. You can take “swimming lessons”, and learn to better structure and curate the information that’s being shot at you. Or you use apps and other tools to make your life easier, so you can enjoy floating around instead of getting overwhelmed.

Making it Real: From Metaphor to Reality

Metaphors are shortcuts for your brain. They help you understand complex things without having to learn everything from scratch. Metaphors can be a helpful tool, but for the goals that we want to achieve at memri, a nice sounding metaphor isn’t good enough. We feel we need to show ideas, prototypes and even products to inspire others and join us on our journey.

To do so we’ve adopted a strategy that allows us to not just build an app for individual use. Instead we made our infrastructure, both technically and organizationally in such a way that can have a positive impact on smaller and larger communities as well.

The foundation of it all is the Memri Platform. For that platform the Personal Online Data Storage (POD) is key. By storing the data in one safe place and in a structured way we can provide safety and usability for the things stored on the POD.

Compare it to a large logistic system. Like a big online warehouse when you shop online for those new sneakers. The warehouse is filled with all sorts of things, receives the products from the fabricators, stores it in such a way that they can ship it to you, has a logistic-chain set up so that when you press the buy button, the product arrives at your doorstep the next day, without you having to go through all that effort yourself.

The POD and infrastructure are somewhat similar. There are third parties feeding the POD with data (RSS feeds, Whatsapp, Instagram, Dropbox, Google Photos, iCloud, etc.) but as a user you only want to see what you need at that moment. That’s where the memri apps come in. Those apps, built around specific use cases, use the infrastructure of the POD to be able to do something with the data and make it useful. For example, a photo app that allows you to do searches based on objects or people in the picture: “Show me that picture of me where I’m next to a grey car”, delivering the output right to your front door. Or in this case, the screen of your phone.

Below are listed several examples that show the impact they have on the individual user and larger communities.

How our system works
In order to put the examples in the right context, it will help to know something about our system. You can find all details on that here: But for now assume that:
* Each user has their own Private Online Data storage (POD) that acts as a safe where data is stored privately and fully encrypted.
* The Pod can communicate to others, privately, without that information becoming available to anyone else.
* The data on the POD can be used to use AI-tools without any private information about individuals being shared with the developers of those tools.

Health example

Use case

The heart-rate data captured by your smart watch, combined with the data from your step counter, Strava and fitness app, is stored on your POD and shared anonymously with a hospital or group of medical researchers. They can use that to train Machine Learning models that can improve recovery, make training programs, or identify risks of heart disease and strokes.

The Individual

Gain more insights in the quality of their training, will realise quicker when they’re training too hard and will be informed when potential heart diseases are found by the algorithm. This can increase the quality of life and potentially even safe life as well.

The community

On a larger level, hospitals and medical researchers can gain more insight in what training programs have effect and which don’t. By identifying risks earlier they can focus on preventive care, saving valuable time, resources and money to focus on other patients that require more attention.

If you think this is a far-fetched scenario, similar things are already happening for radiologists that screen x-rays of potential breast cancer patients. AI is already just as good as two experienced radiologists at diagnosing breast cancer. The difference being that the data, in this case x-rays, is (logically) generated within the hospital and not by the user itself.

Product Review example

Use case

You want to buy something online, but instead of having to trust online strangers, or fake-reviews added by the vendor, you can reach out to people in your network that bought that product or something similar and (anonymously) ask them for a review instead. The contact out can happen through the app, and both parties won’t know who’s on the other side until they both decide to make themselves known. Don’t need an in depth review? Just filter for star-reviews from people in your network and see how they like a certain product, movie, song or restaurant.

The Individual

Receives more reliable information about the product information and could potentially even try out or borrow the product within their network. Lowering the chance of having to go through the hassle of returning products that don’t deliver on their promises.

The Community

Communities could benefit from sharing products within their neighbourhood or network to save money and prevent unnecessary consumption.

The Planet

By increasing the chances of customers buying products that are of good quality and do what was promised, the amount of returned products and therefore destroyed products, will decrease. Leading to less waste and less pollution.

Information overload example

Use case

In our daily lives we’re being overwhelmed with all sorts of information. Articles from many different sources try to capture your attention and make you re-read things you’ve seen at other sites already. By automatically-feeding all those articles into your POD and use algorithms to sort them per topic, make summaries per article or subject, or even use ask commands like; “Give me all the names mentioned in the article” “What is the most important point in the article?” “Make a bullet list with the most important points” or almost any other request you can think of. This is one of the apps we’re building right now, if you’re interested you can join our waitlist here. The articles will just be a start, in the future more data-streams will follow, giving users even more control.

The Individual

The individual can take back their attention. They have a tool that stops them from being overwhelmed, and instead feel in control. They have new ways to extract information from articles and use it for their benefit. It will save them time, and takes away the feeling of neurotically checking your news app because you’re expecting.

The Community

Communities can benefit from the same technology, especially in the near future. Imagine being on holiday and being able to get a summary of all the things that happened in your Slack-workspace and combine it with the meeting notes on Notion that were created while you were away.

Conclusion & Call to action

Together, we are stronger. Whether you’re a designer, developer, artist, community grower, researcher, policy maker, or a conscious user, your unique gifts and perspectives are indispensable in our mission to co-create regenerative AI. Let’s harness our collective talents to empower AI that embraces diversity, fuels regenerative innovation for humanity and life of our planet. Your contribution holds the key to shaping a better future.

Join the Regenerative AI movement with memri.

If  you want to learn more, try it yourself, share cool ideas, or simply receive updates when we have them: Sign-up to our newsletter, join the waitlist for early access or share your ideas and thoughts in our Discord!

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We envision a future where individuals regain control over their digital experiences, where data sovereignty is a birthright, and where privacy and trust are foundational pillars of the online world.

By integrating regenerative AI solutions responsibly, we aim to create an ecosystem that empowers individuals, fosters inclusivity, and cultivates sustainable growth.


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