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Sunday, May 12, 2002


Jaron Lanier has wondered whether we should take stock of our current notions of privacy in favor of a more stable society:
"I can see a few rays of hope that dimly illuminate how a society might be pleasant and still protect itself from violent/suicidal cults. Instead of surveillance, a high degree of transparency might protect us from evil. An American supreme court justice famously proclaimed that 'Sunlight is the best disinfectant.' While this trope originally concerned censorship, it could just as easily be applied to the balance between privacy and security. The Dutch came upon a version of this. Theirs is a dense society of intense interdependence, and in it one does not close one's curtains. Perhaps we should make all our emails and phone calls freely available to anyone who is interested. Almost no one will be. Once revealed, our fascination with the private lives of other people will be so minimal that our boredom could form the basis of a stable social order."
It strikes me that the proliferation of weblogs fits into this picture somewhere as well. While I cling just as fiercely to my right to keep certain information within the confines of my household as the next red-blooded, that's-what-we-started-this-country-for independent citizen, I can see where Lanier has a point and a vision - one that might go beyond social stability to the developing (and highly centralizing) arenas of knowledge management and wireless communications. As Scott McNealy famously observed, the "jini" may already be so far out of the bottle that we might as well learn to stop worrying and love the Bomb. ("You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.") If you get Tech TV, keep an eye out for Lanier's interview on Big Thinkers - living on in reruns, and worth a look.

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