Re: privacy/openness

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Mon Jul 16 2001 - 12:52:59 MDT

On Mon, Jul 16, 2001 at 10:48:05AM -0700, Technotranscendence wrote:
> On Monday, July 16, 2001 6:21 AM Anders Sandberg wrote:
> > I seriously doubt this is a major reason behind the widespread use of
> fuzzy
> > terms like human dignity, integrity, autonomy and vulnerability in ethics.
> Integrity, autonomy, and vulnerability are definitely less fuzzy, to me,
> than dignity here. See my last paragraph.
> I don't necessarily think it's a major reason, but I think it can be a
> motivating reason for some. After all, the more fuzzy a term, the less
> commitments one has to make, the less restrictions one has to put up with.

And this lack of restrictions makes the concept much more of an all
purpouse bludgeon you can hit rhetorical opponents with, with little
fear of the opponent responding (this was why I got interested in human
dignity - by having a transhumanist perspective on the concept we can
now respond back, with the added advantage of actually having some
definition rather than just a good word).

> Not to be against scholarly study -- my mode of life anyhow:) -- but don't
> you think that after X years of such, the fuzziness of the term will become
> less?

I don't know. Some concepts become more and more usable as you use them
more, but they might not become crisper. Highschool physics students may
memorise a definition of energy, but practicing physicists are actually
less likely to remember how it is defined - but at the same time they
are very skilled at using the concept.

> > That said, it is clear that the fuzziness of these termes does lend itself
> > to being stretched/squeezed to fit political aims. But this might be more
> > of politicals exploiting lack of understanding of the concepts in the
> > general public than a promotion of bendable concepts in academia. That
> > promotion likely have other causes.
> Agreed, though this still brings up the matter of whether the "bendable"
> concept is better. If it's more likely to be abused, then, all other things
> being equal, it might not be so good. Maybe all other things aren't equal
> and the payoff is higher, but this remains to be proved, don't you think?

I think bendability is likely a sign that it is a suitcase word or
otherwise not a good category; it might need a stricter definition or
better elucidation. But the bendability is as you show both a social and
inherent property, so a strictly defined concept may be culturally
highly bendable (rights) or a somewhat diffuse concept may be used in a
non-bendable manner (blueberry).

> I've always thought of integrity in two ways. One is the more physical
> usage of the term. A container has integrity when it's not been breached.
> The other is more ethical. A person has integrity when he or she practices
> what he or she preaches. This second form obviously doesn't meld with the
> first all that well. They don't contradict.

Yes. Maybe we should find different words for them.

> I tend to think a general right to privacy would include something like your
> concept of integrity anyway. After all, if we think of a private space, we
> generally don't mean one that just others can't peek into, but also one
> where the world does not impinge on. You know, one's private home is
> thought of as a place where one controls not only who can look in, but who
> or what can disturb the interior or yard.
> I'm not willing to go to the barricades over which term we use, but I fear
> some might sneak in other things by using integrity instead of privacy here.
> This seems to be the case with dignity. When people use that term it can
> mean things like choosing who to marry or not to be harassed by the
> government, but it can also mean things like the right to an education, job,
> healthcare, unemployment insurance, housing, culture, a certain living
> standard, and the like. These can be smuggled into other concepts too.

For this discussion, which at least started out in the Transparent
Society corner of the memesphere, it seems the introduction of integrity
instead of privacy would only confuse matters.

> What might be smuggled into the idea of integrity here?

One dangerous thing is that if the word integrity is used instead of
privacy, then the idea that privacy is intrinsically tied to inviolable
human rights might overshadow the practical and cultural compromises the
concept traditionally have. But this is a bit reverse to what I would
expect people to smuggle into the debate, it is more likely to try to
smuggle concepts into it that weakens the privacy concept instead.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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