100% Honesty, Transparency, Disclosure - is this the “naked future” we want?

 Hank Pellissier   

Imagine: you arrive at the party; you recognize no one; but immediately your internal antennae-and-computer begins to swap mind-files; within seconds the new acquaintances are scanned; you “know” everyone you see; you know who wants to work with you, sleep with you, laugh and/or be friends with you; you know everyone’s curiosities, intentions, memories - everyone’s brain is naked… Fully informed, you enter and mingle.

this essay was originally posted at IEET.org

Total disclosure in a 100% universally psychic, telepathic, omniscient, transparent world? Before you obliterate my imagined utopia, consider the time-saving benefits. Employment interviews? Over in quiet seconds, as experience/compatibility/work ethic are electronically examined and accepted/rejected. Casual sex? No one has to waste words flirting with impossible candidates. Private files that are usually off-limits are opened to peruse priorities like “long-term loyalty,” “patience,” interest trends,” and “annoying habits.”

We all waste decades of our precious lives because we can’t intuit our fellow humans correctly. Examples abound: 1) your new boss promised a swift ladder to success, but the manipulative liar stuck you in a dead-end. 2) you wanted an easy hook-up, but now he’s your stalker. 3) your until-death-do-us-partner abandons you after five years for his secret family in Ecuador. 4) your new best friend and housemate turns out to be a penniless psychopath. 5) your new employee is selling company secrets and stealing office hardware. 6) that grad student with the A+ essays - he bought them online.

Etc., Etc. All these mishaps, and millions more, could be avoided in a totally open world.

When I proposed my 100% transparency utopia to my family, my 12-year-old daughter rebelled. “We’d be robbed!” she exclaimed. “Bad guys would know our address and where we hide the key!” No, I explained. Mind-sharing would contain options, with public or private settings for different data, like Facebook. Everyone could be as secretive as they wished.  Shy, paranoid, and mystery-loving people could mingle together, laboriously extracting information from each other in old-fashioned Luddite ways.

The world, IMO, is headed in this wide-open direction, following the mantra of technology activists: “Information Wants to Be Free”. How will these changes impact civic, cultural, intellectual life? In myriad ways:

* Someday we’ll all recognize instantaneously who the smartest person in the room is, because her huge hippocampus will be visible to us. (brain-scan devices will publicly expose our mental and emotional capabilities)
* Celebrity “skeletons in the closet” will romp wildly in the spotlight - anyone craving “public” fame
will be fully-disclosed, to satisfy fan curiosity. Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian pioneered this, with explicit sex tapes that gained them tabloid attention.
* Anyone shaking the hand of Presidential, Governor, or City Council candidates, will instantly upload their policy, integrity, and leadership mind-files. “Inside information,” so you know who you really want.

The majority of humans want to tell everyone in the world who they are, and they want to be loved for the truth of it. What is “intimacy” after all? Revealing one’s vulnerable self and being accepted for it, no matter how disgusting our secrets are.  (A short list includes: criminal and cowardly acts and thoughts, secret addictions, unsociable masturbatory fantasies, i.e., pedophilia, necrophilia, coprophilia, etc., self-hatred, neediness, self-destructiveness, fear of loneliness and unlovability, profound guilt, etc.) Humanity hides the habits that depress us with shame, but we’re ending this “burqa” behavior. here’s why: our loathsomeness is increasingly revealed as common and shared, via the internet. We are losing our alienating uniqueness, and gaining community. It’s the trade-off we want; the motivator that impels us to post crazy photos on FB, youtube our confessions, and blog.

Rick Falkvinge, Julian Assange, Mark Zuckerberg are trinity saints of transparency. Falkvinge started The Pirate Party in Sweden in 2005; today it is international, and gaining in influence. The German pirate platform calls for 100% state transparency, freedom of information, and massive opening of markets and reform of patent laws.  Assange’s WikiLeaks  email-exposes of state departments, corporations, and intelligence contractors, aim for the political democratization and radical transparency - the main message on it’s website for visitors is “remind your Government who’s in charge.” Mark Zuckerberg’s invention has been credited with aiding Arab Spring; his stated goal is “making the world more open and connected,” and he recently claimed that “the age of privacy is over”.

Business and government transparency needs to precede personal disclosure, to avoid totalitarian oppression. IEET writer Jamais Cascio decried the opacity of big oil companies, and he warned readers about:

“a world of asymmetrical transparency, where those with money and power can hide themselves but know whatever they want about you.”

Giulio Prisco’s article on March 25th - “Watching Big Brother: reality politics” - proposed an inventive, turn-the-tables surveillance solution. He suggests that:

“Let’s put all politicians and administrators in a large glass house tulle of television cameras and let’s watch them 24/7… Everything they do, everything they say in official meetings and behind the scenes, everything they write, every wink and every smile, every fart and every belch, must be captured by cameras and microphones, streamed to the world, and recorded.”

Prisco’s radical, satirical proposal successfully illustrates the brewing demand for absolute transparency in high high places - the 99% is beginning to insist on full access to the machinations of the 1%.

Technically, 100% inter-personal openness would be attained via a multitude of methods. Brain-scanning and mind-files have already been mentioned. The abilities of psychics might also be examined. Michael Persinger - a Canadian neuroscience researcher - has been exploring the ability of electromagnetic waves (ELF) to carry telepathic and clairvoyant information, since 1974.  Additionally, personal “nano-clouds” could perhaps be sprayed to advertise information - we’ll waft who we are in the wind.

Metaphorically, for me, the “nakedness” of mental transparency is identical to physical nudity. The complex data of our yearning craniums won’t be shrouded any longer, won’t be buried and disguised under fabricated obstacles and artifice. Like the moles, muscles, veins and glads of a free-swinging naturist, we can share everything we are in the future, warts and all. Light will shine on us and through us; our brains, encapsulated lonely and tight for aeons, will sing the songs of our selves, and we will find, past the fear, that we are all-forgiven and wholly together.

Undrape! you are not guilty…

Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!

                        Walt Whitman


I am in favor of _more_ transparency, but not of _total_ transparency, unless in extreme cases. My glasshouse scenario represents an extreme case, because politicians and administrator have too much power and are too vulnerable to corruption. Total transparency for them, but not for the rest of us nice guys.

Total disclosure in a 100% universally psychic, telepathic, omniscient, transparent world? No, thanks. My thoughts are mine, and I want to choose who has access. Since I am a nice guy I would probably give wide access to many people, but I want the freedom to give and revoke access on a case by case basis.

 Giulio Prisco    Budapest    

We should still be able to shield our thoughts from others, without shame, as a normal reflex. As long as there is a concept of “individual”, and even if we’re super-connected, this is necessary. Information wants to be free… but information contained in one’s head is “not published yet” and probably belongs to a different category.

I’m currently shielding my WiFi so that it only emits in two rooms inside my house. I don’t want people outside my house to see my network, for my own security but also for their own good (limited number of wireless channels means an increased possibility of interference or WiFi “collision”).

Sometimes you don’t want to speak, sometimes you don’t want to listen. These are two necessary components in the concept of privacy.

 hdufort    Bromont, QC, Canada    

This is definitely coming, to a reality theater near you.

And sooner than most think.

But have you followed it all the way through to it’s conclusions?

This transparency will fundamentally alter our sense of identity. And I’m not talking about a mere mid life identity crisis, I mean that a new kind of super organism emerges.

Transparency, communication, sousveillance (David Brin needs some credit in this article too): it all leads to the evolution and emergence of a completely new order of intelligence on this planet.

It’s not just that we’ll all be living in glass houses soon. This kind of sharing turns us into a planetary meta-organism.


I agree with Giulio, regarding the idea that we should feel entitled to ‘turn the table’ on the ‘temporary administrators’ who run our governments, and listen in on just about everything they do… every conversation. There may be particularly sensitive stuff that they deal with from time to time which should not be completely public (because it could be dangerous for all… you know, like when they share data about deadly pathogens which could lead to someone building a bioweapon with that info)... and, however, specialized groups (independent and outside of government… more like specially trained and vetted citizen-cops, watching FOR us) should be monitoring that too.

As far as governmental bodies and ‘cops’ watching us, the citizenry… I also agree that nobody should peer into your inner (psychological) life, unless you consent to it (except maybe in special circumstances… like the use of a hypothetically perfect ‘truth machine’, in criminal cases and such)... but I am more for relatively radical transparency, as far as brick-space. Given plenty of safeguards, of course. It should not be ‘just anyone’ who can look inside my apartment. However, when I think of horrible crimes being committed, children getting abducted, raped and murdered, etc etc… and when I think of people planning mass murder, for instance (be it with nukes, bioweapons… in the future, nanoweapons…)... my love of privacy goes out the window. Above all, I want *protection* of the innocent. Life is too valuable. With potentially highly enhanced and extended lifespans… I want everyone to be safe. That requires some serious level of transparency and some serious policing. And, eventually, very able (and smart) utility fogs.

 Sergio Tarrero    

It’s interesting to me that this article has received support from Swedes (via my Facebook) because that nation is rated 1st in the world in Transparency. Perhaps where there’s trust in government, the notion of additional openness is not viewed with distrust. Sweden is also where the Pirate Party originated.

Will today’s most-Transparent nations lead the way in developing greater levels of honesty, disclosure, etc..?

iPan is right that the “sharing” that would evolve with increased openness would turn the planet into a “meta-organism” - that’s the topic of my article next week, which is titled:

“Advanced Civilizations - existence beyond biology, property, and self”


@Hank re “Advanced Civilizations - existence beyond biology, property, and self”

Then a group of rocks is an advanced civilization?

 Giulio Prisco    Budapest    

Why do I have to wait until next week for this article?

 CygnusX1    Samsara    

@Giulio (and others)
I may be wrong but I read Hank’s vision precisely to include the possibility of hiding what we don’t wish others to view, but the idea seems to be that in practice most of us won’t want to do that.

The parallel with physical nudity is indeed “revealing” . What I think we are finding is that the shame involved with nudity is declining as people realise how silly it is, but this doesn’t mean that everyone is going around naked, and not only because of temperature. Applying this to mental “nudity”, the implication seems to be that nothing much will in principle be off-limits, but most people will indeed want to be selective in what they reveal, depending on the situation.

In the mean time iPan’s point about identity is crucial. As I’ve written elsewhere, as bandwidth between individual brains increases individual identity seems destined to blur; indeed it may well evaporate altogether. Currently we worry about privacy because there is still a “we” to worry about it. Once our individual identities melt into overlapping corporate or distributed identities that make use of human brains but are not identified with specific individual ones, the battle for privacy will be between corporate individuals and not between individual humans. And if we want to avoid this (and thus reject iPan’s sense of inevitability about it) then we need not only to maintain the possibility to for individuals to hide what they want to hide, but more generally to put in place measures to limit the bandwidth of communication between individual brains and safeguard individual identity.

This battle between individual autonomy and transcendence goes beyond mere questions of privacy and transparency, and may well turn out to be the main battleground of the next decade or two.

 Peter Wicks    

@ Cygnus - I haven’t written the above article yet, so we all have to wait, but you can help. What do you think civilization will be like here on Earth in 100 years? Or just post-Singularity? 

I’m interested in what happens to the “self” - like iPan and Peter Wicks are. I agree that the “self” will be threatened, but I’m not sure I regard it as a totally terrible occurrence. It confuses my mind, I haven’t figured it out at all… perhaps the menacing purple blob of light in the video game “Mass Effect” is where we’re heading… today’s billions of “selves”  evolving into entity…


Hank.  Actually, your kids missed the point about the 100% transparent world, and so did you.  You would not be robbed, because you would have the reciprocal power to know everything about the thieves.

Indeed, that power of reciprocity is the fundamental aspect of transparency that makes it possible (though not more than 50% probable) that we might pass through such an era and reach the other side still having freedom, self-respect, and a little privacy. 

This won’t happen because of “privacy settings” which can always be hacked.  Heinlein said “privacy laws only make the spy bugs smaller.”

It will happen because, when discourtesy is routinely caught, people tend not to be discourteous.  Witness how folks ‘Mind Your Own Business’ (MYOB) at restaurants, where eavesdropping is trivial… but so is getting caught eavesdropping.  The result?  Very little eavesdropping.

“Rick Falkvinge, Julian Assange, Mark Zuckerberg are presently the trinity saints of transparency.”

Um… and what am I, chopped liver? 

In fact, in The Transparent Society I have a chapter devoted to how crucially important having some degree of privacy is to human beings.  The world that’s coming - the choice we face - will either be open to all or it will pretend to have walls protecting every citizen… walls that elites will see through and pass through at will, like gods.

If we don’t make that mistake… if we choose the brave city of general openness… then people themselves will negotiate rules of courtesy, and mostly leave each other alone.  That is, if we are a species at all capable of and worthy of freedom.

The book is The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? One of the few public policy tomes from the 20th century still in print and selling well. 

A very complex subject.  Challenge preconceptions.

David Brin

PS… a lot of these tradeoffs were illustrated in EARTH.  More are presented in EXISTENCE (in June)!

 David Brin   

sorry David—!

I am/was not familiar with your work on the transparency topic.

I am posting one of your Contrary Brin blogposts tomorrow on transparency, and I will look for more -

thanks for the info—I will tell my daughters too.



“...you know everyone’s curiosities, intentions, memories - everyone’s brain is naked… Fully informed, you enter and mingle…”

A Trayvon Martin will know a George Zimmerman will want to shoot him.
But in a way, we already live in a glass world: virtually everyone gossips about everyone else, all the time. People almost know more about others than those others know about themselves.


David—I just bought your book on Transparency - it is on my Kindle -



“@ Cygnus - I haven’t written the above article yet, so we all have to wait, but you can help. What do you think civilization will be like here on Earth in 100 years? Or just post-Singularity?” 

100 years.. This is tough one? Post singularity, quite possibly homo sapiens would need to evolve radically, certainly at least merge with machines to facilitate existence, as technology would be essential for longevity and quality of life? We cannot live without technology even today.

But then, if it all goes tits up, we could face total annihilation of species through poor administration/management/government. A CEV or supercomputer may err and send the globe into socioeconomic chaos, disrupt mining and distribution of resources, cause poverty, starvation, pandemic disease and death through error in algorithm and priority? By some kind of catastrophic mistake or calamity perhaps? I don’t go for the Skynet terminator scenario any longer - do you?

Humans as a species will most likely become diverse, with some conservatives and puritans preferring non-enhancement of homo-sapien, and “the old ways” with the “old books”, and wearing furs and making fire with twigs - certainly they may not expect any good cell phone reception in the manner they take for granted today, (you can’t have it both ways?)

Many have written of trans-human social divisions and discord, and based on the duopoly politics that we currently understand and uphold today. I see no end to human, and X-men political and social squabbles.

Best guess, like others, is that Post-humans would either disappear into the digital ether, (like me), or give up on Earth and travel to the stars. Solar energy is abundant wherever you go in the Galaxy, so this should not be a problem.

I must admit 100 years is beyond my limited imagination, I have enough problems speculating what will happen next year. Of course we may not make it to the singularity? Perhaps there are those that will orchestrate and perpetuate socioeconomic failure to prevent the singularity and reinforce their positions of power, wealth and status? (this should be impossible with kind of transparency as David Brin proposes). It seems unlikely that anyone, bodies, groups, elites would be able to hold back technological evolution, anymore than they can hold back Moore’s law, except perhaps through the orchestration of global warfare, which also has the added benefit of downsizing global civilization?

“I’m interested in what happens to the “self” - like iPan and Peter Wicks are. I agree that the “self” will be threatened, but I’m not sure I regard it as a totally terrible occurrence. It confuses my mind, I haven’t figured it out at all… perhaps the menacing purple blob of light in the video game “Mass Effect” is where we’re heading… today’s billions of “selves”  evolving into entity… “

The Self is a construct, (a necessity of evolving mind and intelligence?) The Ego, although set in it’s ways, is ever evolving. Despised by some, valued by others, the Ego perpetuates the “veil of ignorance” and justifies/ enforces it’s own existence. How can it not? YOU are the Ego. For the Ego to deny or attempt to overcome it-Self YOU would not, could not exist? Denying the Ego is tantamount to mental suicide? (and I’m not just talking about subjugating the Ego).

But here’s the thing.. I don’t think it is any big thing! To recognise that the Self is a construct, that the mind is an aggregate of processes - “I” have already accepted this myself right here, and right now, and can thus die contented with “peace of mind” and with the knowledge that this Self will expire as my bodily energy level/organs fail.

If I can do it, if I can reconcile this Self as a construct, this centre of intellect as “illusion” even now.. I don’t think many others would have problems with facing this either? For me the question as to “who am I?” was the greatest cause of suffering and struggle, the answer above is the relief from suffering? Each of us will have to face this question at some point in our lives. Those that are not content with the antiquated answers will seek as I have, and find their own peace of mind. I do not foresee any social disorder or chaos from science unravelling the truth of Self - and each mind will reconcile the facts for it-Self, (the Pope may not be so happy however, as he will be facing redundancy!)

Of course, there is a possibility that we could all be wrong about this, and that there really is a pure and perpetual spiritual body, Self, that is eternal and ethereal, (after all, isn’t that the whole goal of longevity through uploading anyhow - don’t fret it’s only the Ego speculating/substantiating its future prospects?)

Once humans have figured out “who they are”, we can then all focus on “what we want”, value mortal existence over the perceived moralities of war and conflict, and drive towards a “post scarcity” society perpetuated by the abundance of solar energy?

Concerning your article here, I do not wholly agree that humans would easily relinquish their personal thoughts, emotions, feelings through the kind of transparency you hint at? I don’t think that any human would like their neuroses laid out like a menu at a restaurant? Seduction is a most stimulating and exhilarating part of any sexual encounter, and the fun is in finding out “what the score is” the old fashioned way?

Yet I could envision clubs where you could enter, tap/upload your facebook details, sexual history, health, preferences, dislikes, hobbies etc at the touch of a personal password and pin. Folks could spot you from across the dance floor, take an interest, and check you out on a readily available terminal - rather than just read your mind, which kinda takes all the fun out of life?

 CygnusX1    Samsara   

“People almost know more about others than those others know about themselves.”

Indeed they do, but mainly because we tend to make relatively unbiased judgements of each other, whereas we all tend (to varying extents of course, and with some exceptions in the other direction) to have an inflated sense of our own worth.

 Peter Wicks    

@ Cygnus—thanks for your valuable comments!  I will definitely use them in my followup article, but it might not be next week…

There are so many “believers” like Alex and Lincoln writing on the site now, I’m feeling compelled to write something atheistic.  But when I get back to “Advanced Civilizations” I’ll use your opinions and credit you


I am glad to see someone on this website acknowledge the neglected results coming out of parapsychology   Sometime it seems like fringe groups stay away from investigating each other for fear of being even more intellectually marginalized by the mainstream, this is understandable but unfortunate.  Any new paradigm will require incorporating multiple source of anonymous and likely marginalized information.  If IEET wants to get a grasp on what the deep future looks like they needs to look at both unexplained aerial phenomenon and ESP more seriously.  No one knows what these phenomena are, but we do know that they aren’t explainable in anything remotely close to our current world view.


@ karl—I agree - “unexplained aerial phenomenon and ESP” deserve attention - thanks


“deserve attention”, perhaps, but “aren’t explainable in anything remotely close to our current world view”? That is a strong, and - as iPan might point out - unfalsifiable claim.

 Peter Wicks    

@Peter wicks

I agree that it is a strong and difficult argument to make, but it is clearly falsifiable.  Just show that the phenomenon are explained within a paradigm that is not qualitatively different from the current world view and you have falsified it. 

I am curious, what do you see the current mainstream worldview as being and how would you fit in the corpus of parapsychology research as well as the corpus of UFO research?  Every time I try i either have to omit significant features found in the phenomena or I have to throw out a normal worldview.



Yes, you’re right, it is falsiable, and I’m slightly annoyed that I made that mistake. What I should have said was that it is unverifiable, since I don’t see how we can be sure that there isn’t an explanation lying within our current worldview that we haven’t yet thought of. So it is the opposite claim - that it CAN be explained within our current worldview - that is unfalsiable.

You ask what I see the current mainstream worldview as being. It’s a good question, and one that I’m tempted to throw back at you. What did you mean when you said that these phenomena aren’t explicable in anything remotely close to our current world view? I suppose that, going with Occam’s Razor, I tend to assume that reported UFO sightings are the result of some mixture of hallucinations and misinterpretations of events that have essentially banal explanations (some possibly involving military research), while findings of parapsychology research that appear impressive are the result of methodological flaws and the like. As someone has said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

When I say I “tend to assume” this, however, I in no way mean to rule out the possibility that there is more to the story. It’s just that I have witnessed or heard of so many apparent miracles or weird “inexplicable” phenomena that turn out to have perfectly banal explanations (usually involving some combination of fraud and gullibility) that I have built up a rather strong resistance to taking such claims in any way seriously. One does not want to close one’s mind to the possibility of being wrong, but neither does one want to waste time pursuing phantoms.

 Peter Wicks    

Funny, really. I talk about this all the time, even had a extremely long convo with Nikki over it. Discussed all these pros and cons and why and wherefores as to it’s inevitability, and all I usually seem to get is howls of outrage and claims I am supporting dicatators, because no-one can envision a world in which total transparency ENFORCES total accountability, and eliminates the possibility of tyranny by preventing secrecy and avoidance of accountability.

will have to read this in depth later and all the comments. got five minutes before work right now.

 Valkyrie Ice    

Oh, and quick P.S.

If you are reading this Nikki: Does it make more of an impression when David Brin points out the exact same thing I kept trying to tell you about RECIPROCAL KNOWLEDGE?  Ie. that “guy spying on you in the shower” would be instantly identifiable, and instantly held accountable, so would therefore be unlikely to spy on you in the shower since he would KNOW he would instantly be penalized?

Increased ability to spy means INCREASED ABILITY TO BE SPIED UPON. David is worried about elites erecting “walls” which only apply to non-elites. I am not. I know they will TRY, but such efforts can succeed for only a very limited period of time before being overthrown and eliminated.  The very nature of the mindset which demands such one sidedness makes such efforts self defeating.

 Valkyrie Ice    

I agree with Valkyrie.

Intruding upon someone’s privacy, for example watching them go to the bathroom, or have sex, will be equally transparent, and will, for the most part, be considered a social blunder. Repeat offenders will get attention (mental health).

People will have privacy because we all choose to respect the privacy of others, except in cases where an emergency demands we break this rule for expediency.

I also agree with Valkyrie that the elites will TRY to erect one way mirrors - watching us while we see nothing they do - in fact, this is the state of the world today - but they will fail, as technology spreads faster and faster, and gets cheaper and cheaper.

The oligarch’s cannot build a security infrastructure fast enough to contain this. The maths are not with them. We copy, and share our tech much faster than anyone could possibly build a defense against it.


Hi Valkyrie, nice to see you again.

Incidentally, I do understand your point regarding mutual watching. To be honest I don’t find the topic all that interesting or worthwhile to discuss further given I think a more sophisticated understanding regarding the emotions surrounding this topic will depend upon a more completed neuro-endocrinology. Recently I have been reading about sensory gating and the endocrine system and it has caused me to reflect on this particular topic - considering the physiological effect the presence of a unfamiliar observer has on the brain and body. I also understand that for people with social anxiety there appears to exist an underlying physiological dysfunction such that the condition cannot be entirely attributed to being poorly socialized. Given this information I am inclined to infer that macro level explanations/discussions citing social norms and morality do not suffice - that there may also be relevant neuro-physiological aspects to the question of why the idea of living in public tends to produce anticipatory feelings of discomfort, as well as why it produces more anticipatory feelings of discomfort in some. 

Of course this doesn’t change anything - I understand that nanocameras are on their way, and I well understand that various social problems will improve in the presence of total transparency. Let us hope that for people who do feel discomfort under these circumstances that there are means to resolve the discomfort with medication etc. and that their discomfort is not dismissed as an issue of immorality or being poor at adapting.


@Peter Wicks

The statement is both falsifiable and verifiable (as far as anything can be verified). 

Occams is only meant to be used in cases where all else is equal, so it doesn’t really apply to either parapsychology or UFOlogy.

The heuristic “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is a terrible rule to conduct science by (the coiner of the phrase, Marcello Truzi, later repudiated it.  The problem with it is that definitions of extraordinary are too fluid and there is often no clear way to create a consensus of what is extraordinary based on objectively measured data.

If you really want to use it as your heuristic though I am still willing to try to show you evidence that you would consider extraordinary.  First, would you tell me what about the claims is extraordinary?  Would you also tell me what would constitute extraordinary enough evidence to convince you of the validity of the claim that these phenomena represent a substantial challenge to current dogma?  I am asking because I don’t want to have a discussion with continually moving goal posts.  I am fairly confident that any reasonable notion of what what is good evidence can be satisfied.


@Valkyrie Ice, iPan, and Nikki_Olson

You all seem to have accepted the premise that increased transparency=increased accountability.  This might hold true if you magically created a new civilization that started out completely transparent but it won’t apply to our civilization.  We are starting out in a society that has extreme information asymmetry, and importantly, asymmetry in data interpretation abilities, asymmetry of wealth, and asymmetry of technical capability.  While surveillance technologies are dropping in price new, more powerful, more expensive and difficult to use ones are being created.  So while the masses will have access to the old, cheap, weak, easy to use surveillance tech, the powerful will have access to the old stuff as well as the new stuff.  On top of this the powerful will have more access to better analytical capabilities to actually make the enormous flood of surveillance data useful.  The powerful have at least one other advantage, focused motivation.  THey will make trillions of dollars using and maintaining this asymmetry, generally groups working for the masses will be less motivated because they won’t have the carrot of trillions of dollars (even if they did get powerful what would prevent the elite from coopting them?). 

As far as I can tell unrestrained fluidity of information creates a social structure that is as rigidly hierarchical as feudal Europe.  It doesn’t create a flat society with a large middle class. 

To create a diamond shaped society probably requires that there be a system in place that increases transparency requirements as a person increases in power.  People at the top should have the least amount of privacy, people at the bottom should have the most privacy.

One common counter argument is that it doesn’t matter if the powerful have an effective monopoly on analytical ability because those less fortunate can just monitor the powerful.  This argument fails because it makes the false assumption of the masses knowing who is powerful and that the masses could do anything about it even if they did. 

At the end of the day, trying to create a society that is asymptotically transparent is like trying to create a supersaturated salt solution it could probably be done but only under ideal conditions.

Back to the real world of now look at what happened with wikileaks as it tried to scale, they got inundated with data.  THey had to bring in the mainstream media to perform most of the analytics.  The MSM then acted as the gate keeper to the data, releasing only a small amount of what they received from wikileaks.  Even with this moderate threat of increased transparency the US government crushed wikileaks with an extralegal financial blockade and by abnormally pursuing rape charges against Assange. 

Mean while the NSA, google, facebook, VISA are all hoarding data on us all.  We all know it is happening, we all know that it is creating an increased asymmetry (what do you know about googles corporate strategy, what they know about you, what they can infer about you?) but we still haven’t been able to stop the asymmetry. 

What our society is creating is privacy and secrecy for the powerful, transparency and spying on everyone else. 

David Brin’s arguments are nice in principle (just like communism) but have failed in the real world.  Does anybody see signs that this trend is going to reverse?


Privacy is not just a matter of having something to hide. The nature of human feelings is such that privacy is an emotional necessity, without which there is disturbance and suffering. Thoughts may be misinterpreted by external subjects and this leads to a vulnerability, real or imagined, to hostile actions on their part. Furthermore, the boundary is blurry between thoughts that we endorse as legitimaly ours and thoughts which are intrusive or automatic reflexes of reactions of the environment. Being constantly on guard for the latter creates uneasiness, anxiety, and even disturbing intrusive thoughts. Furthermore, there are issues such as memories of mistakes that cause shame, visual privacy in being naked or having sex, and the issue of abuse by bad intentioned people or governments who had this technology, which, besides all that was mentioned, could steal passwords and personal security information, or use information for blackmail. It is both a matter for rational concern and worry, and purely emotional disturbance and suffering. This technology and proposal is too dangerous for humans, and should only be available to posthumans, with a level of intelligence and ethical behavior much higher, and without human emotions and suffering related to lack of privacy.

Is rape rationally bad, or is it just emotionally bad? If rationally bad, what is it that makes it so? It is similar to any other sexual act, except perhaps for more roughness and pain, though some people enjoy that in normal sex, and childbirth likely generates more pain than rape, yet women accept it. Rape is bad precisely for emotional reasons, which exist similarly for the issue of privacy. Not having privacy is in several ways equal to rape, and possibly more tormenting depending on the extent and duration of the deprivation.

I think that demanding this type of grave abuse of privacy by requesting stalking and monitoring would be an atrocity and perhaps a global catastrophic dystopia. Humans have emotional sensibilities and uncontrollable imperfections and intrusive thoughts, besides the fear and anxiety of such type of monitoring would be deeply disturbing and disruptive. To ask this of authorities would be to unfairly limit those in power. It would be like saying: “You want to be a president? Fine, but you have to accept being gang-raped once a month by your entire army.”

I dare to say that requiring this type of privacy abuse would be a crime of the worst type, equal to rape, murder, and theft. This type of transparency requirement must be severely limited, at least for humans. If we are talking about post-humans without the type of human emotions and flawed mental processes that would be problematic in this situation, then it could work out fine.

 Jonatas Müller    

@Jonatas Muller

I agree with your sentiment, well stated!

Your conclusion is inappropriate for your argument though.  Saying that society shouldn’t demand more transparency of politicians because it would some how violate their human rights is like saying you can’t ask a pornstar to get gangbanged.  Pornstars like presidents opt in to their professions, it is completely reasonable to create expectations for a profession that the rest of society doesn’t have to adhere to.  I would even say this includes expecting politicians to adhere to extremes of transparency.


Karl, this logic could work, and I don’t doubt that there might be some people on Earth who would accept such an abuse in order to be president. However, political representation should not be discriminatory, and this measure would inherently cause a discrimination towards people who would reject such an abusive privacy breach. It would be practically like excluding large segments of the population from having power, which would be very undemocratic. Since democracy is still seemingly a necessity for humans, to combat selfishness (by giving power to majorities), this seems problematic.

I think that a solution then may be to be governed by post-humans, enhanced humans or machines, with superintelligence and without many human emotions. They could take rape thinking that it is no different than taking a train ride or something.

I think that the risk of such type of surveillance is gigantic, and it increases the chance of some totalitarian dystopia as a global catastrophic risk. Come to think of it, this kind of abuse seems more and more likely as the technology appears, and I wonder how to prevent it effectively. Will the government mind-rape everyone in a city every time someone is murdered and they are searching for the responsible? This would lead to a very grave situation.

 Jonatas Müller    

Jonatas, ultimately I agree that all other things equal it is good to make leadership requirements inclusive.  Obviously however there has to be standards, do you want sociopaths, warmongers, and brain dead people to rule?  It is not unreasonable to expect more accountability from leaders.  In the context of present day US politics accountability is going to require transparency. 

The solution that we be governed by nonemotional posthumans is fundamentally flawed.  1).  Who decides at what point an entity is posthuman enough to rule?  2).  What prevents the post human from abusing us?  3).  What if we just disagree with the posthuman ruler’s goals or methods?  4).  Emotions are actually surprising useful when it comes to making snap judgements based on fuzzy data, it is not clear that an emotionless intelligence is better than an intelligence that can feel.

A solution that puts only nonhuman entities in control of government is far more harmful to democratic rule than requiring the leaders be transparent.