Ken's Voyages Around the Sun

Transparent Society
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David Brin's book The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? is outstanding, and I strongly encourage everyone to read it! This book ranks #2 for the most interesting read in the last 10 years for me.

Brin convincingly demonstrates that strong privacy is a Bad Thing, because it allows anyone and everyone to do their own thing without accountability. You might think it best to conduct your communications in encrypted messages in order to keep some organization from spying on you. But if they can't spy on you, then you can't spy on them either.

He argues that anytime that the government wants to be able to monitor you, then you must demand to be able to monitor the government. If the government isn't allowed to monitor you (or others, such as companies), then those companies can get away with things. Transparency leads to accountability, and accountability leads to reputations, and striving to keep a good reputation results in Good Things (like a lack of pollution, corruption, and many other vices).

If a government cannot monitor and police individuals and companies, then it becomes weak. In times of weak government, bad people take over, and secrecy grows the point where massive numbers of people suffer grievous harm. Think about Germany, Italy, Japan, and China under those circumstances.

We need NOT choose between privacy and freedom, because privacy COMES FROM freedom. When we know what others know about us, and are free to know anything about anyone, then we can have some true privacy because no one will care, yet we will be free to find bad people. The argument's not about doing away with personal space and opening one's home to everyone, but about being accountable and responsible for one's actions.

If there's a camera on every streetcorner that only the police can use, the police can employ them to control society. But if those same cameras are employed by citizens, then regular people can keep the police honorable and watch for and report their own concerns. It's all about who controls the cameras, and who controls the information. If the information is available to everyone, accountability keeps society strong.

Well, you should let Brin take you through his argument -- I'm probably not doing a great job of summarizing. Good book. Read it.

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