As defined by that consistently roughly-accurate resource, digital exhaust is:
- “The output of human beings using the internet.
- The"aggregation of [consumer] data through the digitization of processes and activities" in the commercial sector which generates metadata supporting corporate profit generation.
- The production of vast amounts of information in binary code, represented as words, texts, videos, photos and other mediums, expressed on computers and websites, and distributed across the internet.
- The individual representation of a person using the aggregate of their past interactions on the internet.”
And the trendline does not seem to be going in the direction of greater individual privacy, offline and online.
Personal exhaust is the individual representation of a person using the aggregate of all past behaviors and choices. In a sense, it is the “stuff” of our identity– we form the masterwork of how we see ourselves by placing our own artistic imprint and interpretation on this “stuff.” In the same way, other people form their perception of us using the subset of “stuff” about us available to them, and placing their own imprint and interpretation. And of course, there’s this back and forth dance where I know that you know that I know that you know, and we tweak, act, live.
Our personal exhaust has always existed but so little was ever captured. For the first time, the trajectory of information capture is making it relevant. What does it mean for us? How do we use it? How will it change our behavior? And how will it reshape our identity? It goes beyond the new businesses that will emerge or the adaptation of individuals to this new paradigm. I don’t know what the future holds but I have an inkling as to the tremendous power of identity. In my mind, the surfacing of all our personal exhaust has the potential to redefine our society as a whole, how we interact with each other, and shake the foundations of our institutions.
At the very least, it will redefine leadership. Forgive me for beating this dead horse again, but in a world where relationships are becoming more important, and relationships having always been based on trust – defined as the intersection of past evidence and future extrapolation – then strategy dictates that you consider your personal exhaust and be trustworthy. Leadership based on charisma alone is over. It was a bullshit strategy that only ever worked because of asymmetric information. Times are a-changing.