Re: Truth Machines and Open Networks

Hal Finney (
Thu, 5 Feb 1998 22:31:17 -0800

David Brin has a similar idea in his Transparent Society. He had an
article about this in a recent issue of Wired, and is coming out with
a book on the subject in May, 1998. He envisions widespread use of
surveillance cameras and other kinds of monitoring devices. This will
prevent many forms of crime and dishonesty.

One problem with the idea is that people do like their privacy, and so
they may try to use technologies to protect it. Encryption, anonymous
communications, digital cash, and similar tools can be used to allow
people to interact while preserving privacy. No doubt you are right that
there will be costs involved in using these, but there will be those
who find the costs worthwhile. You then are faced with the prospect
of using coercion to prevent people from using technologies to protect
their privacy, in order to achieve your desired result.

That's where I draw the line. If people want to voluntarily give up
privacy, that's fine. But they should not force others to do the same.

As long as you or David want to predict that society will voluntarily
move into a culture where there is no more lying, no more adultery, no
more secrets, and no more privacy, that's fine. I'm skeptical, because
this would be such a total change in human culture that it is hard for
me to imagine. Most of the conflicts explored in classic fiction would
become impossible. (I accused David of wanting to make stories about
illicit sexual affairs the exclusive domain of science fiction writers
like himself.)

The problem arises when people become so excited about this marvelous
new world that they are willing to use force to get there. I think
most of us would agree that these changes should be adopted voluntarily.
People should be free to expose more of their private lives to public
scrutiny, with the decisions being made on an individual basis.