Re: Transparent Society

Wei Dai (
Wed, 5 Nov 1997 19:13:36 -0800

On Wed, Nov 05, 1997 at 04:45:55PM -0800, Damien R. Sullivan wrote:
> Brin likes privacy, but between a surveillance society and an anonymous
> society he prefers the former. I think he makes a strong case for it.

There is a difference between a surveillance society and a
transparent society. In a surveillance society only the government can spy
on people, whereas in a transparent society everyone can spy on
everyone else.

Of course David Brin's transparent society is not completely transparent,
since you'd still have your private thoughts. For that we need an
implantable chip that provides a public read-only interface to the
wearer's memories and thoughts. If these are cheaply available, should
everyone be forced to wear them? I think the world would be a better place
if everyone _did_ wear these chips, because it would completely eliminate
all waste caused by people hiding information from each other. However,
I'm not sure that the world would be a better place if it turns into
Brin's transparent society, because in it you can still hide
information--it's just more costly. It's not clear if the total amount of
waste would be larger or smaller.

I don't know how David Brin proposes to achieve his transparent society.
It does not seem like a future that is reachable from the present. I think
the mostly likely scenario for the near future is some mixture of
surveillance for the offline part of our existance and anonymity for the
online part. Slightly further off most of our activities will be online
and anonymous.