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New Social Classes
Economists use the term “production factors” for elements that allow the economy to move and, to create wealth. In traditional economies, production factors include assets, both tangible and intangible, and the labor of individuals. Today, data is undoubtedly a production factor as it also allows the creation of wealth, just as monetary assets, infrastructure, equipment, and human labor do; it is a new production factor, a new form of capital, which we can call “Data-capital”.
Data capital is not a traditional production factor. It has own features, that impact the interaction between old and new social classes. Such features include a mobility different than other type of assets, and different types of ownership (common ownership impossible to other type of assets), along with the possible (re-)creation of data in several cases almost ex-nihilo (e.g., from autonomous sensors or cameras). These features dictate new ways of creation of wealth.
Social classes exist because they can create wealth based upon the production factors which they own. The social class of capitalists exists, because capitalist can create wealth from the smart usage of the production factor that they own, which is capital. The social class of workers can create wealth because it uses the production factor that workers own, human labor. The existence of production factors induces, and in a way dictates, the existence of social classes.
Data capital as a production factor creates new opportunities and risks. Thus, these new opportunities contribute to the genesis of new economic classes, which are simultaneously new social classes. This new class can be subdivided into two subclasses. These subclasses correspond to the two social classes of the nineteenth (and much of the twentieth) century.
One corresponds to the “traditional” capitalists, and we may refer to members of this new subclass as “data capitalists.” These are the data owners. They own companies or other types of legal structures with direct, unhindered access to data. These companies and structures access, control, and process that data. The owners of companies like those that constitute the GAFAs (Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple) are members of the subclass of data capitalists.
The second of our new social subclasses corresponds to the “traditional” working class, and we may refer to it as the social subclass of “data workers.” This “data working class” encompasses all those knowledge workers who create the algorithms, programs, and applications that extract, process, communicate, and exploit data. Software developers working in the GAFAs are members of this class for example.
These new subclasses are made up of a tiny minority of the general population. tiny minority today constitutes one of the cornerstones of the global economy. the role this tiny minority plays in the structuring and restructuring of our societies
Finally, we may find it helpful to split the working class into two subclasses—the traditional working class and the social subclass of knowledge workers., within the class of knowledge workers we find a further subclass, that of data workers.