A thought experiment: everything about you and everyone else is made public knowledge. Anyone can look in on your life and see everything you do. They can see what you eat, they see all of your interactions with other people, and they even see all of your sexual peccadilloes and when you masturbate. All affairs are revealed and all theft, fraud, and corruption free for anyone to sort through. The only things that you can hold secret are those things you keep in your own brain – never expressed to anyone or written down. Your diary is open.
What would you be ashamed about? What would you not want other people to know? This goes straight to what you consider to be right and wrong. This dives deep into religion and even sense of self.
This is essentially the state we find ourselves in with the most recent revelations of the extent of the spying ability of the United States government. And with the exponential advancements being made in technology – artificial intelligence, ubiquitous cameras and drones, aerial surveillance, facial recognition software, DNA storage capabilities – it is only a matter of time before all of our activities all of the time from birth to death will be captured in some huge database. Of course the spymasters will say that the only access to that database will be through judicious use of warrants. But if the policeman can get access to the database, certainly hackers will get access to the database, and sooner or later it is going to be fair game for everyone.
There are people who say ‘I have nothing to hide. Only people who have done something wrong need to worry.’
I fear the implications of this are much more dire. When employers can know all the employees’ medical results, when businesses can pull up the dirty laundry on the executives of their competitors, and when governments can monitor any activity that they may not approve of, where will we be? Forget about negotiations and market tactics – useless. Economies would crumble.
There are fundamental questions here. It all has to do with the power some people hold over other people. I wonder whether humans can live and work together without any personal privacy. I don’t know that I would want to live in that type of society. I don’t know that I will have any choice. This may solve the question of why we have not been contacted by other advanced civilizations. This may be why civilizations die.