What is a “stake” and who holds one?

I once said this:

That’s Peter Cushing (familiar to younger folk as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars) pounding a stake through the heart of Dracula in the 1958 movie that modeled every remake after it. Other variants of that caption and image followed, some posted on Twitter before it was bitten by Musk and turned into a zombie called X.

After work started on IEEE P7012—Standard for Machine Readable Personal Privacy Terms, I posted this one:

Merriam-Webster says stakeholder means these things:

1: a person entrusted with the stakes of bettors
2: one that has a stake in an enterprise
3: one who is involved in or affected by a course of action

Specifically (at that second link), a stake is an interest or share in an undertaking or enterprise (among other things irrelevant to our inquiry here).

Do we have an interest in the Internet? In the Web? In search? In artificial intelligence? When “stakeholders” are talked about for any of those things, they tend to be ones in government and industry. Not you and me.

Was anyone representing you at the White House Summit on Artificial Intelligence? How about the AI World Congress coming up next month in London? Or any of the many AI conferences going on this year? Of course, our elected representatives and regulators are supposed to represent us, mostly for the purpose of protecting us as mere “users.” But as we know too well, regulators inevitably work for the regulated. Follow the money.

So my case here is not for regulators to play the Peter Cushing role. That job is yours and mine. We just need the weapons—not just to kill surveillance capitalism, but to do all we can to stop AI from making surveillance more pervasive and killproof than ever.

At this point, just imagining that is still hard. But we need to.


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