To tackle these problems, they have a radical proposal.
Rather than being regarded as capital, data should be treated as labour—and, more specifically, regarded as the property of those who generate such information, unless they agree to provide it to firms in exchange for payment.
In such a world, user data might be sold multiple times, to multiple firms, reducing the extent to which data sets serve as barriers to entry.
Payments to users for their data would help spread the wealth generated by AI.
Firms could also potentially generate better data by paying.
Rather than guess what a person is up to as they wander around a shopping centre, for example, firms could ask individuals to share information on which shops were visited and which items were viewed, in exchange for payment.
Perhaps most ambitiously, the authors muse that data labour could come to be seen as useful work, conferring the same sort of dignity as paid employment: a desirable side-effect in a possible future of mass automation.
The authors' ideas need fleshing out; their paper, thought-provoking though it is, runs to only five pages.
Parts of the envisioned scheme seem impractical.
Would people really be interested in taking the time to describe their morning routine or office habits without a substantial monetary inducement (and would their data be valuable enough for firms to pay a substantial amount)?
Might not such systems attract data mercenaries, spamming firms with useless junk data simply to make a quick buck?