There are only two reasons to have privacy and both of them involve dysfunction. You might want privacy because...

1.       you plan to do something illegal or unethical.


2.       to protect you from a dysfunctional world.

I think we can agree that if the ONLY reason for privacy were to make it easier to get away with crimes and unethical behavior, society would be better off without privacy. So let's ignore the first category because it is only useful to criminals and scumbags.

The second category is more fun. My hypothesis is that in every situation in which you can think of a legitimate use for privacy you will find that the root problem is a lack of information about something else. My hypothesis is that if you fix the root problem, society no longer needs nor cares about privacy, and that is the best situation of all.

For example, let's say you have a medical condition and you would prefer that your employer not be aware of it. Is that ethical behavior? I would argue that it is unethical to withhold that information if you have a reason to think it will impact your employer in the future.

But let's say you know your medical condition will NOT impact your job performance but you fear that your boss will discriminate against you anyway. That situation feels like a legitimate use for privacy. But imagine a world in which all employees know the track record of every potential boss, sort of like Yelp for managers. If you add that information to the mix, potential employees will avoid bad managers, or at least keep the bad ones under control, and that removes some need for privacy. No boss wants a Yelp-like review saying he fires people because they have treatable cancer.

You can also alleviate some of the privacy risk in the employment realm by having better information about job openings. In the United States, we have plenty of jobs unfilled because of an information gap. If we solve that situation with better information an employee with a medical condition will have more options. Perhaps a work-from-home job would be a better fit for both the employee and the employer.

Let's pick another example.

Suppose you have some non-mainstream sexual preferences that you prefer to keep private. I would argue that this is an information problem not a privacy problem. If you remove the magical thinking about our bodies and our alleged immortal souls, we are nothing but moist robots pushing buttons and seeing which combinations feel the best. I think you can educate away any shame about people's sexual preferences. The ubiquity of Internet porn is making that happen now. Twenty years ago if someone asked you if you watched porn you probably lied and said something such as "I don't need it." Today if a male says he doesn't enjoy Internet porn at least occasionally he is presumed to be a liar.

Now let's assume that in exchange for losing your privacy about your non-mainstream sexual preferences you improve your odds of satisfying those itches by a factor of ten. Once the world can see your preferences, people who match up with it will be drawn to you. Now instead of dressing as a "furry" in the privacy of your home, you can easily find likeminded people in town to join you. Your loss of privacy makes your life far better, at least on the weekends. It seems to me that gays have followed this path, cleverly giving up their personal privacy in order to gain power, respect, legal rights, and access to potential partners. The history of the gay rights movement is probably the best example of privacy being the problem and not the solution.

Most of you fear losing privacy to the government because that invites abuse. But here again the root problem is a lack of government transparency. I'm a little bothered that the government records all of my conversations, but I agree that it might make me safer. However, the fact that the government didn't tell me it was taking my privacy is unforgiveable and in my opinion impeachable. As a practical matter, I don't see how a dysfunctional and corrupt government can heal itself and become more transparent. But in principle, I think you can see that adding transparency to the government process would remove a citizen's need for privacy.

If a government employee decides to snoop into my personal data, I want an automatic email that gives me a link to see everything about that employee. If he sees my stuff, I can see his. And he will have a hard time getting a job once he is known as a creeper. So here again, adding information to the system reduces my need for privacy.

My larger point is that society should not be looking for ways to maintain privacy. It should be looking for ways to make privacy unnecessary. We will never be free until we lose our unnecessary secrets and discover we are better off without them.

I know this sort of topic gets massive down votes because you don't want to risk losing privacy. But please do me a favor and rate this post on the entertainment value alone. I'm trying to gauge how interesting this topic is to you. Thank you!

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book


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+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 12, 2014
Not everyone will ever find all behaviors acceptable.

And even if they did, there would still be things that are embarrassing.

I don't want to live in a world where people are incapable of feeling embarrassment (I believe that's a pathology).

So even idealistically, there would always be a need for privacy.
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 11, 2014
Imagine you have a really small dick, like 99.9% of the other guys have it bigger/larger than you.

Now imagine that's public and you're also not good at sex (because of the anatomy and your lack of confidence that the statistic gave you).

In today's world you'd still have a chance of mating (since you could charm someone into liking you first, before it gets known), in your proposed world I really doubt it.
Aug 11, 2014
I formally accuse Mark Naught of being a straw man, ie Scott Adams signed in as someone else. I base this assertion on the following evidence: 1. He is the only commenter to fully agree with Mr. Adams, and 2. Mr. Adams has used such tactics in similar situations in the past.

Should Mr. Naught be real, I ask that he post the following for us to peruse:

1. His email account (username and password so we can read everything)
2. His facebook account (or similar profile)
3. Any other evidence supporting he is real.

Naturally, as he is anti-privacy, he will not mind sharing his whole life with us (if he's real).
Aug 11, 2014
Fundamentally, "privacy" is nearly a synonym for that Yang worship word "freedom".
+18 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 11, 2014
I want privacy because I like to be alone. Not criminal/unethical. Not socially dysfunctional. Sometimes I just don't want people looking at me or being in view while being alone with my thoughts. That is all.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 11, 2014
[I don't advocate a loss of privacy because there is no plan to make the transition risk-free. I just think we are fighting for the wrong goal. -- Scott]

Goals are for losers.

And Phantom II is right. You go first.
Aug 11, 2014
You're sort of right about part of this - privacy protects you from a dysfunctional world, and eliminating the need for privacy is a better goal than improving privacy. I think there is a lot of opportunity there.

Prejudice and greed will keep the need for privacy alive into the foreseeable future, but that's no reason to stop working towards eliminating privacy.

By the way, I'm not surprised that our government is monitoring us. I'm more surprised the government does not effectively use their combined data sources to track our movements and activities. There is no "right" to privacy in the United States - at least not guaranteed by the constitution. In most cases, the government has no legal obligation to report their activities to the public.

I gave this post a thumbs down because it's neither interesting nor entertaining. The only reason I read the whole thing is so I could reply without looking like I hadn't read the whole thing. Just because you're right doesn't mean it matters.
Aug 11, 2014
Since every example of a desire for privacy can be framed as disfunction, your hypothesis is tautology.

It's true that if all men were angels we would not need privacy, or laws of any kind. However as long as we live in a society of humans governed by humans, we continue to need laws and privacy.

(Apologies to James Madison)
Aug 11, 2014
Can't say it's entertaining. As a concept it misses the fact that a dysfunctional government (tautology there) will abuse all public transparency and hide everything they do. The reason being that when they make a catatrophic mess-up of something, they want deniability. With transparency and loss of privacy, you can't have that.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 11, 2014
A long time ago, you invented a holiday "Negative Christmas" where instead of giving gifts, you could have someone give something up. I recommend this topic. Ho ho ho.

Aug 11, 2014
How interesting this topic is to me? 10/10, but I don't think it falls under "entertainment".

It's just the continuation of the coming-out of individuals faced with the resistance to change of society-at-large led by the media.

Your first example just builds on how society (in Europe anyway) has gradually rolled back big companies' b a s t a r d treatment of employees. Slowly-slowly, but long may it continue - however any individuals who take on the system do so at their own risk.

Second example, see above. Gays were massively overdue recognition for equality, yet it took nearly a century (remember Queen Victoria still denied their existence). Do big breast-men or MILF fans deserve that kind of recognition? I have nothing against their niches, and they are now at least being referred to openly - up to them to fight their corner (against little society media), and it will take a while... But individuals sticking their heads over the parapet, appearing on reactionary TV channels? I don't think so.
Aug 11, 2014

I suppose what you're saying is: If people weren't so darned wired to want privacy, we wouldn't need privacy. Umm OK. Then you suggest that this "problem" only exist sociologically, not biologically or psychologically. Thus through handwaving, you can create a completely social cure. Sorry, No.

The biggest problem with your argument is that you miss a 3rd reason for privacy: People want Discretion. Basically we dont want stalkers. On a small or large scale

Regarding your "preferences" example. Have you thought that there's more than just shame to make you not want to broadcast it to the world? Maybe it's intimate and you only want to share it with your partner. Maybe you just don't want it to be the topic of conversation around certain groups of people, cause it's annoying or they are trying to get in on it or use it to undermine you (Something doesn't have to be shaming to use it against you).

Suppose you crossdress, and you're not ashamed. But at the same time, you do it privately, because you really don't want your well intentioned female neighbors to constantly treat you in a certain way or ask you to go shopping or what you think of their clothes or whatever.

There are so many other reasons for privacy due to discretion, it's ridiculous:

- You have an annoying friend who you can only take in doses, but due to a learning disability, they don't "get it".
- You want to surprise someone.
- Someone literally is stalking you
- You want to be alone.
- Secrets make you and someone feel special.
- You act rashly or experiment with something that you don't want to be associated with anymore
- Others are too PC and get offended by what you consider good ol fashion ribbing with friends.

A CEO was recently pressured to resigned for a controversial campaign donation. The only way your uptopia works is if everyone resigns to wearing a "mask" for the rest of their life terrified of expressing themselves, because humans are PSYCOLOGICALLY wired for privacy
+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 11, 2014
Again the privacy thing? I am still waiting for your financial information. How much did you earn last year? Since 2) does not really apply to you (you are your own boss for example) 1) must be the reason that you do not divulge that information.

I always love people who are trying to remove privacy rights of the common people ("you have nothing to worry if you are not doing anything illegal") but don't apply that rule to themselves (and in fact if they put it into a law the law would have exceptions for them).

To be clear:
If would also prefer an open, transparent society with no secrets. But to me that begins at the top and then goes down, the top being the pope and the President of the USA. And it includes all government activities. This obviously doesn't work if not everyone worldwide participates. So this is a pipedream similar to communism, which on paper is a great idea but in the real world does not work.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 11, 2014
Robert J. Sawyer won a Hugo award in 2003 for Hominids. In this book, a race of beings have devices planted to electronically record everything they said and did. They also acted as a PDA/communication device. It made for an interesting and relatively crime-free society.
Aug 11, 2014
You are making a lot of unproven assumptions to prove your case against privacy. Still don't buy the moist robots argument, and I probably never will.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 11, 2014
You are right, Scott. If every aspect of every facet of life would all change at the same time, globally, then yes...privacy has less value. We'd have less to hide. Note that having less to hide still doesn't mean "society" has any business of knowing everything there is to know of an individual.

Needless to say, it's a theoretical discussion only. Today I read children we beheaded in the Middle East, for being "wrong-born". There is no open, 100% transparency future, this world is anti-developing.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 11, 2014
Theoretically, I agree with you Scott, but getting the rest of society to agree will be difficult. I just finished the book "The Circle" and kept waiting for the "ah-ha" moment when I say they went to far with removing privacy rights, but it never occurred...
+14 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 11, 2014
[In your example of looking for another job, that could be fixed by the boss Yelp review. Who wants to work for a company that fires you for looking at your options? -- Scott]

My cousin worked for Blizzard Entertainment as a graphic artist and designer. A head hunter suggested he might be able to find a more-senior position with a different company, so he sent the head hunter his resume to check out his options. Blizzard fired him. What digital artist and video game designer would want to work at Blizzard? Like.... all of them! And the field at large is so competitive that many people "intern" for free... on top of enduring abusive hours, and merciless judgment.

In general, if you don't have very marketable skills, or want to work in an extremely competitive industry, you probably don't want your coworkers and management to know what you think about them. Your professional relationships rely on deception. Personally, I keep it quiet that I despise sports, and I even study up on Golf, Baseball, Football and the like so I can be part of the culture among my management peers and superiors.

And those are lightweight reasons to be deceptive. I'm an atheist, I "manage" a video game addiction, and I'm not tidy at home -- I'm pretty meticulous about hiding my slobbery from coworkers. I pretty much only wash work clothes, and my interests in fashion, grooming, and maybe even hygiene are rooted firmly in their effects on my career.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 11, 2014
Ug, the word e r e c t i l e got censored in my previous post.
+19 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 11, 2014
I like almost all of your posts, but this one is very wrong.

What about a person who has !$%*!$%* dysfunction? Do you really think he would have no problem with every person at work or his country club knowing about that?

Or somebody who lost a lot of money on a get-rich quick scam?

Or a woman who is infertile but desperately wants children?

There are an almost infinite number of things that are not illegal but would be embarrassing if lots of people knew about them (sexual preferences included).

I rate this one of your worst posts on both humor and policy.
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