LIMITS OF ALTRUISM
Self-Reported Data versus Purposeful Data Collection Through Local Involvement
Over the last decade or so, technological advancements with increasing soft- and hardware integration and the increase in the portability of increasingly sophisticated mobile devices have stimulated the vision of an ever-connected world where ubiquitous sensing of the environment would generate vast amounts of user-reported data that, in turn, can be used for better decision-making in various contexts. In this emerging technology-centric world view, passive sensing would be complemented by subjects carrying out voluntary or involuntary (paid) data collection tasks (active sensing) for the various data to be reported to corresponding databases for later use.
The figure below shows an example of voluntarily reported meteorological data from the Weather Observation Website (WOW) that is maintained by the UK Met Office. Inspecting the WOW map, two striking observations can be made.
First, people voluntarily report data to an institution that uses this data to improve global weather models. By doing this, they do not directlyderive benefit apart from knowing that they contribute to a societal good, i.e. to improve the understanding of instantaneous global atmospheric conditions of concerned agencies and societies. As a confirmation of these activities, their data is displayed on the website, always ready for others to see and for it to be integrated in weather models, among other things. The active users and ‘data reporters’ do not get any other benefit from this.