Returning to the topic of transparency...
An article about “Our Transparent Future: No secret is safe in the digital era” - by Daniel C. Dennett and Deb Roy - suggests that transparency will throw us into a bitterly Darwinian era of “all against all.” What a dismally simplistic, contemptuous and zero-sum view of humanity! That we cannot innovate ways to get positive sum outcomes.
Oh, I confess things look dark, with some nations, such as China, using ‘social credit' to sic citizens against each other, tattling and informing and doing Big Brother’s work for him. That ancient, zero sum pattern was more crudely followed in almost every past oligarchy, theocracy or kingdom or Sovietsky, where local gossips and bullies were employed by the inheritance brats up-top, to catch neighbors who offended obedient conformity.
In contrast, this notion of transparency-driven chaos and feral reciprocal predation is just nonsense. In a full oligarchy, people would thereupon flee to shelter under the New Lords… or else…
…or else, in a democracy we might actually innovate ways to achieve outcomes that are positive sum, based on the enlightenment notion of accountability for all. Not just average folk or even elites, but for those who would abuse transparency to bully or predate. If we catch the gossips and voyeurs in the act and that kind of behavior is deemed to be major badness, then the way out is encapsulated in the old SF expression "MYOB!" or "Mind Your Own Business!"
Yeah, yeah, Bill Maher, sure we have wandered away from that ideal at both ends of the political spectrum, amid a tsunami of sanctimony addiction. But the escape path is still there, waiting and ready for us.
It’s what I talked about in The Transparent Society… and a positive possibility that seems to occur to no one, especially not the well-meaning paladins of freedom who wring their hands and offer us articles like this.
== Talk of Tradeoffs ==
Ever since I wrote The Transparent Society (1997) and even my novel, Earth (1990) I’ve found it frustrating how few of today’s paladins of freedom/privacy and accountability – like good folks at the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) – (and I urge you all to join!) – truly get the essence of the vital fight they are in. Yes, it will be a desperate struggle to prevent tyrannies from taking over across the globe and using powers of pervasive surveillance against us, to re-impose 6000 years of dullard/stupid/suicidal rule-by-oligarchy.
I share that worry! But in their myopic talk of “tradeoffs,” these allies in the struggle to save the Enlightenment Experiment (and thus our planet and species) neglect all too often to ponder the possibility of win-wins… or positive sum outcomes.
There are so many examples of that failure, like short-sightedly trying to ‘ban” facial recognition systems, an utterly futile and almost-blind pursuit that will only be counter-productive.
But I want to dial in on one myopia, in particular. I cannot name more than four of these activists who has grasped a key element in the argument over anonymity - today's Internet curse which destroys accountability, letting the worst trolls and despotic provocateurs run wild.
Nearly all of the privacy paladins dismiss pseudonymity as just another term for the same thing. In fact, it is not; pseudonymity has some rather powerful win-win, positive sum possibilities.
Picture this. Web sites who are sick of un-accountable behavior might ban anonymity! Ban it... but allow entry to vetted pseudonyms.
You get one by renting it from a trusted fiduciary that is already in the business of vouching for credentials... e.g. your bank or credit union, or else services set up just for this purpose (let competition commence!)
The pseudonym you rent carries forward with it your credibility ratings in any number of varied categories, including those scored by the site you intend to enter. If you misbehave, the site and/or its members can ding you, holding you accountable, and those dings travel back to the fiduciary you rented the pseudonym from, who will lower your credibility scores accordingly. ...
... with no one actually knowing your true name! Nevertheless, there is accountability. If you are a persistent troll, good luck finding a fiduciary who will rent you a pseudonym that will gain you entry anywhere but places where trolls hang out. Yet, still, no one on the internet has to know you are a dog.
I have presented this concept to several banks and/or Credit Unions and it is percolating. A version was even in my novel Earth.
Alas, the very concept of positive sum, win-win outcomes seems foreign to the dolorous worrywarts who fret all across the idea realm of transparency/accountability/privacy discussions.
Still, you can see the concept discussed here: The Brinternet: A Conversation with three top legal scholars.
== Surveillance Networks ==
Scream the alarms! “Ring video doorbells, Amazon’s signature home security product, pose a serious threat to a free and democratic society. Not only is Ring’s surveillance network spreading rapidly, it is extending the reach of law enforcement into private property and expanding the surveillance of everyday life,” reports Lauren Bridges in this article from The Guardian.
In fact, Ring owners retain sovereign rights and cooperation with police is their own prerogative, until a search warrant (under probable cause) is served. While the article itself is hysterical drivel, there is a good that these screams often achieve… simply making people aware. And without such awareness, no corrective precautions are possible. I just wish they provoked more actual thinking.
See this tiny camera disguised in a furniture screw! Seriously. You will not not-be-seen. Fortunately, hiding from being-seen is not the essence of either freedom or privacy.
Again, that essence is accountability! Your ability to detect and apply it to anyone who might oppress or harm you. Including the rich and powerful.
We will all be seen. Stop imagining that evasion is an option and turn to making it an advantage. Because if we can see potential abusers and busybodies...
...we just might be empowered to shout: ...MYOB!