The Public Human

This is an pretty old post from my blog, which has been preserved in case its content is of any interest. You might want to go back to the homepage to see some more recent stuff.

One of the greatest trends in technology over the last decade seems to have been the erosion of privacy, and I don’t see this changing in the decade to come. Our greater dependence on the internet, social networking, blogging, sharing, status updates – they are all leading us towards a world where nothing is private anymore.

And I think that’s great.

By and large it’s not some insidious corporation or government that’s doing it – the NSA may have their wiretaps and Google may datamine your search history, but aside from targeted ads and somewhat dubious “protection from terrorism” neither has had any real impact on our lives. There’s no scapegoat for most of our loss of privacy, because we’re doing it to ourselves.

Everything interesting we do, we tweet. Everything we feel, we post a status update. Everything we think, we blog. Everywhere we go, we check in. Everything we listen to, we scrobble. Every minute of every day, half the world is shouting at the internet, “this is who I am, this is where I am, this is what I’m doing, this is what I think about it”.

Why do we do it? We don’t really achieve anything by it; there’s very little to gain for the amount of privacy we lose.

We do it because it feels good and because privacy isn’t worth anything.

We put our thoughts and our statuses and our locations out there because they’re essentially inconsequential. It’s spoken about in some circles as if it’s some great risk to your personal privacy if the internet knows that you’re in McDonalds and you don’t think much of the fries today. But no-one’s going to exploit your Twittered fondness for Starbucks or John Meyer. No-one’s going to wait until you check in on Foursquare before breaking into your house. 99.99999% of the world isn’t listening and doesn’t give a damn.

But the tiny fraction that is listening, and the even smaller fraction that has something to say on the subject, gives us all the impetus we need to post. There’s that little endorphin rush that comes with every comment on your blog, every retweet of your amusing status, that spurs us on. Even though it’s trivial interaction, often with people we don’t know, it’s compelling enough.

And that’s why our loss of privacy will continue unabated – most people just don’t value it that highly compared to the increased level of human interaction we gain by sacrificing it.

When it’s put like that, does it seem that bad? Human interaction, knowledge of our existence within society, makes us feel more fulfilled and ultimately happier. If that’s the net result of this trend – if the constantly-connected, sharing-everything Public Human is a happy one, why fight it?

(At this point I should probably apologise to the more privacy-conscious of my friends, to whom this post will seem awfully like I’m trolling. That’s certainly not my intention, though you are of course welcome to reply and lay into it nonetheless! Rest assured, I get my comment-buzz when I’m being disagreed with too. :P)

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