Transparency: Privacy in an era of Sousveillance

For H+ Magazine, I was recently interviewed by Ben Goertzel on accountability, surveillance and sousveillance. and our chances to maintain some level of personal privacy in the coming age of transparency and light.

An excerpt: In The Transparent Society I devote a whole chapter to how essential some degree of privacy is for most people. I argue that in a society full of liberated people empowered with highly functional sousveillance technology, sovereign citizens, able to apply sousveillance toward any center of power than might oppress them, will likely use some of that sovereign power to negotiate with their neighbors, and come up with some way to leave each other alone.

This is the logical leap that too few people seem able to make, alas. That fully empowered citizens may decide neither to hand power over to a Big Brother… nor to turn into billions of oppressive little brothers.

They might instead decide that the purpose of light is accountability. And shoving too much light into the faces of others, where accountability isn’t needed, well, THAT would also be an abuse, a socially unacceptable activity. One that you can be held accountable for.

Science Tidbits:

This wondrous solar powered plane isn’t a gimmick anymore! It looks so retro nostalgic… like something from the 1920s… yet it works. It stayed aloft 26 hours on just sunlight & batteries… and looks so cool. Also, it probably doesn’t have much of a heat signature….

The world’s leading climate change research organization issued a report yesterday that has renewable energy boosters cheering, as it foresees substantial growth in alternative energy sources over the next 40 years.

The military is taking climate change seriously. A recent report for Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, said: “We must recognise that security means more than defense” — urging a strategy of sustainability as climate change is “already shaping a ‘new normal’ in our strategic environment.” The military intends to adapt, as must shipping, insurance, and even oil companies…

No one has ever floated a boat on another world, but NASA is now considering doing just that, on Saturn’s icy moon Titan. With a proposed launch date of 2016, the Titan Mare Explorer would drift upon the ethane-methane lakes of Titan, performing chemical analyses and looking for signs of exotic life.

An accidental discovery by Japanese researchers found that Red wine turns a metal compound into superconductor! Sake, beer and whiskey also appear to work! The better it tastes, the more effective it is, claims lead researcher Yoshihiko Takano.

Wow. Stunning video: NASA captures a giant comet diving into the sun. My doctorate was for analyzing the composition and behavior of comets BTW. Put a lot of this science into my novel, Heart of the Comet, which I co-wrote with Gregory Benford. And at Caltech I was a solar astronomer! So, it’s very cool to see the collision of comet and sun! Amazing.

Red colobus monkeys in Uganda’s Kibale National Park are being hunted to extinction—by chimpanzees. According to a study published May 9 in the , this is the first documented case of a nonhuman primate significantly overhunting another primate species.

Pixar as an early propaganda wing of the Uplift Institute? The relationship between human and non-human characters is central to these movies. Whether the character is an insect, robot or rat, non-humans are sentient intelligent beings — that “humanity does not have a monopoly on personhood.”

The World Science Fiction Convention will be held in Reno this August. If any of you know teachers or librarians who happen to love science fiction and also live near Northern California or Nevada, clue them in that this year’s World Science Fiction Convention will feature a college credit course on the teaching of science fiction!

Musings about life:

Finally… a clarification. Satiation? I call satiability one of the hallmarks of sanity, and it is… but only if it means you shift your longings! When you get what you said you wanted, you should be happier! And need that thing (e.g. money) less) But that should not stop ambition and longing in general!

As Mignon McLaughlin put it, “Youth is not enough. And love is not enough. And success is not enough. And, if we could achieve it, enough would not be enough.”


1 Comment

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One response to “Transparency: Privacy in an era of Sousveillance

  1. It seems to me that you have overestimated the reasonableness of your fellow man. As the relentless advance of tabloid journalism demonstrates, “privacy” is a concept that most people believe only applies to themselves and not their neighbors.

    Let us assume that two neighbors do attempt to work out a privacy agreement. What happens when one neighbor accidentally violates the agreement? Will they be reasonable? Probably not, if the internet is any example. Instead, the other neighbor will retaliate with an even larger breach, which will be met with a yet more massive intrusion, and so on – until neither neighbor has any privacy at all. As evidence of this, watch any flame war or fence dispute.

    Rather than relying on the kindness and goodwill of our neighbors, we need a strong social contract detailing what is permissible and what is not. (Consider Heinlein’s “For Us, the Living” for an example of an unworkable social privacy contract.) And we need that contract to rate personal privacy and control over personal information higher than it does governmental or corporate privacy and information control (i.e., the opposite of the current situation).

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