‘Reinventing Capitalism in the Age of Big Data’
Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Thomas Ramge, Basic Books, 288 pages, $28.


Data-rich markets are sweeping across the global economy. “Until recently, communicating such rich information in markets was difficult and costly. So we used a workaround and condensed all of this information into a single metric: price,” write Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Thomas Ramge in “Reinventing Capitalism in the Age of Big Data.” “In data-rich markets, we no longer have to condense our preferences into price and can abandon the oversimplification that was necessary because of communicative and cognitive limits.” Amazon, with its many product specifications and customer reviews, is often a data-rich market. So are Spotify, Netflix, Lyft, StubHub, Rent the Runway, Tinder and Airbnb. These markets aren’t just about first-world convenience, either. In the Indian state of Kerala, among other places, a data-rich market has transformed the fishing business. Anglers no longer have to guess which seaside market needs their catch. They can check their mobile phones. Mayer-Schonberger, a professor at the University of Oxford, and Ramge, a writer for the Economist, explain that the move to data-rich markets is for the good. However, there are some downsides such as the potential to put people out of work and concentrate corporate power among a small number of firms. Mayer-Schonberger and Ramge offer several intriguing ideas for limiting the excesses of data-rich capitalism such as taxing technology and mandated data sharing.