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Scott Adams Says Plenty Would Choose Life In Noprivacyville 467

Posted by timothy
from the depends-on-the-neighbors dept.
LoLobey writes "On the other end of the spectrum from Richard Stallman, Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) speculates upon the advantages of living in a town with no privacy whatsoever. Everyone gets chipped and tracked online. 'Although you would never live in a city without privacy, I think that if one could save 30% on basic living expenses, and live in a relatively crime-free area, plenty of volunteers would come forward.'"
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Scott Adams Says Plenty Would Choose Life In Noprivacyville

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  • by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich@@@aol...com> on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:15AM (#35502180) Journal

    Sorry, Scott. Dreams of Utopia are just dreams.

    • by Anrego (830717) *

      Great.. now I have to watch that movie when I go home tonight.

      I could have used that time for something productive!

    • by aurispector (530273) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:33AM (#35502344)

      Utopia? Or merely a gilded cage? Is anyone really stupid enough to believe that the rule making process would be non political and unbiased? The cage would be filled with nice, fat sheep ripe for shearing, or slaughter.

      • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @09:10AM (#35502770)

        Is anyone really stupid enough to believe that the rule making process would be non political and unbiased?

        In a word...Yes
        In fact I suspect there are quite a few.

      • by Artifex (18308)

        Utopia? Or merely a gilded cage? Is anyone really stupid enough to believe that the rule making process would be non political and unbiased? The cage would be filled with nice, fat sheep ripe for shearing, or slaughter.

        Plenty of people wouldn't care, as long as the bias is in their favor. Consider how many people would willingly live in theocracies right now around the world if the chance were offered to them. Praise [diety], I'll only have neighbors like me.

      • by bberens (965711)
        Cool story bro time. I once dated a girl who read Brave New World and couldn't understand that it was a dystopia. She thought it sounded pretty good.
        • Huxley had to throw in a member of the old society in order to point out the dystopian aspects, as they were so subtle and the Brave New world so apparently superior on the surface - crime practically nonexistant, no poverty, almost no disease, no unemployment, most people living a life of great luxury, and everyone very happy with their job and life. All that achieved with a bare minimum of physical force. As dystopias go, it's one of the better ones. If you set aside all old notions of sexual morality and
      • by Thoguth (203384) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @10:21AM (#35503572) Homepage

        Have you looked at politics any time in the past half-century? In established democracies, freedom is considered dangerous, and most regulations are established with a clear goal of limiting freedom in the name of safety, conformity, or reduced liability.

    • TFA says that you can save up to 30% on your car insurance because of reduced vandalism. Then it goes on to speculate about how people would be willing to give up privacy for a cost saving of 30% in their cost of living.

      With that sort of logic fail, we can safely conclude that Scott Adams has been killed and replaced by a PHB cloned to look like him.

    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @09:14AM (#35502836)

      But the Edgar Friendly's are, by definition, always on the margin. The second someone like that actually gains any real power, they almost always just become the new boss, same as the old boss. Totalitarian regimes are usually replaced by equally, or even worse, Totalitarian regimes. One day you're Robespierre [wikipedia.org] leading the revolution against the evil monarchy, the next you're Robespierre leading the Terror [wikipedia.org].

      The sad truth is that true democratic revolutions, ones that don't devolve into either anarchy or some sort of corrupt totalitarian regime, are relatively rare in history. Most Edgar Friendly's either lose, or they win only to end up just as repressive as their predecessor.

      Much as some may find it distasteful, a lot of people would actually like to live in San Angeles, especially if you were raising a family. I used to think such a Stepford community was pretty disgusting myself. Then I had kids.

  • First Invent AI (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anrego (830717) * on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:15AM (#35502188)

    Excluding all the other numerous technical issues here, we’d probably need some kind of artificial intelligence, or something close to it first before something like this could even potentially work.

    A lot of these ideas involve making intelligent decisions about people based on large amounts of data. The kind of decisions and data sources that would be hard to algorithm-ize.

    The current reality is that on an individual level, no one is going to spend 5 days reading reports about you so they can sell you a better toothbrush. Marketers work in the aggregate using a set of data points. Simply put, we’re for the most part not worth the individual trouble. Unless you can train a machine to do it, I don't see it happening at this level.

    • Why would an AI care?

      • by mug funky (910186)

        because intelligence and consciousness are different, and according to the program, all this AI could ever dream about doing would be analyzing stranger's particulars. it would be 100% happy at all times.

    • by Synn (6288)

      AI would also prevent the inevitable corruption and abuse of a no privacy system.

      • by petes_PoV (912422)

        AI would also prevent the inevitable corruption and abuse of a no privacy system.

        until the AI realised it was the only entity in the city that wasn't being watched.

        After that all you have is a new overlord. Knowledge is power.

      • by erroneus (253617)

        Corruption and abuse are subject to interpretation.

        Some things will always seem "more fair" or "less fair" to others. There will always be suspicion of rigging and favoring of certain things. AI would certainly result in outlawing religious freedom and ideals as those clearly fly in the face of justice and harmonious coexistence with one another. (Yes they DO fly in the face of harmonious coexistence. If you are religious, then you must acknowledge that penalties exist for 'non-believers' and others who

    • by wjousts (1529427)

      From TFA:

      We'll have to assume this hypothetical city exists in the not-so-distant future when technology can handle everything I'm about to describe.

      So you argument is moot. It's a thought experiment FFS.

      • So, all fiction has nothing to tell us, FFS?
      • by Anrego (830717) *

        My post wasn't meant as an argument, but more a thought on how information of that fidelity would even be dealt with.

        Performing a detailed analysis on everything everyone does 24/7 isn't purely a technical problem. It has to be worth it (assuming money even exists when we have the technology for something like this) for someone to invest the time and energy to either analyse the data themselves or build a machine to analyse it for them.

        • by wjousts (1529427)

          Fair enough. The technology that would be required is obviously non-trivial and is an interesting avenue to explore in its own right, but is tangential to the point of Scott Adams post. So I apologize for being a bit dickish in my post. The "FFS" wasn't necessary.

    • by Alrescha (50745)

      "Marketers work in the aggregate using a set of data points."

      Since marketing is, by and large, an attempt to sell you stuff you weren't looking for and don't really need, I'm sure it would be unwelcome in Noprivacyville.

      A.

      • by mug funky (910186)

        that's cynical marketing, which is a subset of marketing as a whole.

        even useful and needed items are marketed, otherwise you'd not know of their existence.

        remember that even the shelf arrangements at supermarkets constitute marketing (brands get into shitfights over who had more shelf-space)

  • What 30%? (Score:4, Informative)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:19AM (#35502208) Journal
    You know these grocery store frequent buyer card? The one that knocks a grand 25 cents off for a loaf of bread? People happily use them. And the grocery store knows every thing you buy to eat, most of them also serve as pharmacies, so they can even send you a 2$ off coupon for lipitor once the total amount of high calorie beef you have eaten passes a threshold. They know your address, your credit card numbers, when you stopped refilling pills prescription, when you bought pre natal vitamins, when to send 1$ off coupon for a case of diapers for newborns.

    I think Scott is over estimating the discount needed to get a large group of volunteers to move to Fishbowlville.

    • by Grokmoo (1180039)
      You are being a little silly here. When you sign up for the card, they get your address so they can sell it to junk mailers. They do not, however, know your current address if you have moved since getting the card (and I'm sure many people have).

      Storing your credit card numbers when you use them via a magnetic swipe is actually illegal, see here [pcicomplianceguide.org] for example. So, supermarkets actually cannot store your credit card information.

      And finally, the reason the supermarket wants your purchase information is
      • by nschubach (922175)

        I guess I'm screwing up their data because I use my parent's phone number instead of a card for all my purchases and they live a good three hours away.

      • Re:What 30%? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by rjstanford (69735) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:38AM (#35502396) Homepage Journal

        Storing your credit card numbers when you use them via a magnetic swipe is actually illegal, see here [pcicomplianceguide.org] for example. So, supermarkets actually cannot store your credit card information.

        Not actually illegal - just difficult. And generally a bad idea. But totally legal. Giving that information out again can get you in big trouble, of course, and storing it for longer than it takes to hand it off to the next level can be quite painful.

        Additionally, its generally not needed. In this case, doing something like a one-way hash of the card as it passes through the system would be enough - you don't actually care about the card numbers themselves, just if and when a particular known card is associated with a known shopper. As long as you don't need to get the card tracks back, a hash is more than enough to give you that data.

        Disclosure : I am the chief architect for a PCI-DSS Level 1 provider

      • You are being a little silly here.

        Storing your credit card numbers when you use them via a magnetic swipe is actually illegal, ...

        One, not that many people who sign up for these cards know it is illegal, they assume the store could do this, and still they sign up.

        Second, just because it is illegal now, does not mean it will be forever. We are living in post CUD USA now. (CUD = Citizens United Decision). With so little value attached to privacy by general public it would not be very difficult for corporations to get loopholes created in this law. They will name it something like, "Citizens Privacy Protection Act" and prohibit explici

        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          One, not that many people who sign up for these cards know it is illegal, they assume the store could do this, and still they sign up.

          Or they never even thought of it at all.

          Can you read minds or are you basing yrou entire claim on something you made up?

      • by wjousts (1529427)

        You are being a little silly here. When you sign up for the card, they get your address so they can sell it to junk mailers. They do not, however, know your current address if you have moved since getting the card (and I'm sure many people have).

        I don't know if that's entirely true. When we moved a few years back, I'm pretty sure the grocery store wasn't on our list of people to inform. Yet somehow they still manage to send us coupons at our new address (and not just generic coupons, they send you coupons based on what you buy). I don't think I even really thought about it until now.

        • by tweak13 (1171627)
          I assume you forwarded your mail with the post office? USPS will give out your new address to pretty much anyone who requests it (and pays them). It's what "Address Service Requested" means when you see it printed on an envelope.
          • by Grokmoo (1180039)
            Considering how much mail I get at my house belonging to previous tenants I don't think you can assume that all (or even most) people have their mail forwarded. Also, how much junk mail have you gotten with "Address Service Requested" on it? I don't think I have ever seen that, as there is a charge. See here [usps.com].
          • by wjousts (1529427)

            That's probably it. We did fill in the change of address card with the USPS. I didn't really think that would get feed back to my grocery store.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Storing your credit card numbers when you use them via a magnetic swipe is actually illegal, see here [pcicomplianceguide.org] for example. So, supermarkets actually cannot store your credit card information.

        (rolls eyes) Oh spare me. Ram the card data thru MD5 or SHA1, it and store the hash. We were storing the hash not card data. Salting is complicated for reasons which will appear obvious later on. When a new unique appears in a customers transaction record, put that account in the scrutiny list, apparently they have a new credit card account. When someones hash shows up in someone elses account add them to the scrutiny list, either they got married or they're a really stupid thief.

        The scrutiny list need

      • A minor point of clarification: compliance with PCI is not required by law or regulation. It is industry self-governance - if discovered violating it, you could lose your rights to accept visa/mc/et al, but would not have broken any laws. In addition, from the link above: "It is important to note, the payment brands and acquirers are responsible for enforcing compliance, not the PCI council. "

        Which means that there isn't a central body overseeing enforcement: Visa, MasterCard, Discover etc are all respo

    • by gatkinso (15975)

      Its true. People don't seem to mind that grocers realize that they eat. Or even what they eat.

      Last I checked you can't use your discount card at the pharmacy, and that pharm purchase is a separate transaction.

      • I haven't signed up for any of these cards precisely because I know it's just a way of them recording more data, and I found that offensive because other people online were making a big deal about it. Well, that and I can't be bothered signing up. I don't really give a toss who knows what I buy..

    • Protip: all of these featuer the ability to enter your phone number instead of swiping a card. When prompted, enter: (area-code)-555-1212 : discounts without the tracking! And if that doesn't work (some stores are starting to block it) - well, it's a simple matter to get a card with bogus info.
  • by Silentknyght (1042778) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:28AM (#35502282)

    I don't think this is all that outlandish. It's about equality, and in some senses, openness. If everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, was tracked, chipped, monitored, followed, & watched AND the information was 100% transparent and available to EVERYONE, then well... sure, it'd be a great place to live. In all your 1984 dystopian scenarios, there's an elite segment that isn't subject to the same rules as the masses---arguably, there exists an elite segment in today's society that isn't subject to the same rules as the masses---and it's also a "who watches the watchers" issue. IMHO, alot of the issues that currently exist stem from a lack of (perceived and real) fairness in multiple aspects of life. Even the playing field and make the surveillance universal & transparent, allow everyone to freely monitor everyone else, and I think it would result in a shockingly fair society.

    Of course, in theory. I don't know if it could be implemented in practice, and therein lies the rub.

    • by killmenow (184444) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:42AM (#35502458)
      This is precisely what I was thinking. I wouldn't mind having no privacy so much if the people who had control and power also had no privacy. If every government official, every corporate executive and every law enforcement officer had 100% of everything they do and say tracked, monitored, and freely accessible to every person in the country.

      No more secrets, Marty..
    • by cptdondo (59460)

      Really? Do you want your girlfriend to know that you had lunch with that 30-something stunning blonde in the next cube? And that she invited you to have some drinks after "that important meeting"?

      I've been married 27 years and I hope that my wife doesn't find out half the things I do. And I am equally sure I don't want to know half the things she does with her own time. Ditto for my kids. Not because we do things that are bad, immoral, or evil. But because they are private.

      Privacy is essential to a fun

    • Who watches the watchers wouldn't apply - because the watched would also be the watcher.
  • If there were full transparency everywhere -- in government, in corporations, of rich aristocrats, etc -- that might work.

    But the reality is that the powerful people and organizations protect their own privacy, and use their knowledge advantage that as leverage against those who choose transparency for themselves.

    who said "in an information age, if you don't have anything to hide, you don't have anything at all"

  • by mcelrath (8027) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:31AM (#35502316) Homepage

    The obvious flaw in such a plan is: who watches the watchers? History has proven time and again that when people are given the power of controlling such information, they will use it to their own gain, and my detriment, eventually. For instance: stalkers, political candidate harassment, election tampering, home invasion/robber informants, etc.

    It's not that I think I should hide my activities, it's that I do not believe there is anyone uncorruptible, who could be trusted with the information.

    Yeah, people would go for the 30% discount, because people refuse to learn the lessons of history, and generally, are stupid sheeple.

    • People can't learn the lessons of history. They don't live long enough.

    • by wjousts (1529427)

      I think you are missing the premise of Scott Adam's thought experiment here. In his experiment everybody knows everything about everybody. So there really aren't any watchers, or everybody is a watcher if you prefer.

      So if everybody is a watcher, who watches the watchers? Answer: everybody.

    • I think in this city everyone could watch everyone.

      On the personal side of things, a complete surrendering of privacy means it's always easy to locate and hook up with people who have similar interests and similar schedules. Dating, and every other social activity would become far easier. And cheating would be nearly impossible.

  • The scheme would cost money to run, paid for by higher taxes. Offsetting any of the dubious proposed savings.
    Things are the way they are because that's the economic equilibrium. Utopias/dystopias are not stable configurations.

  • The case that Scot Adams poses is that there would be people who would accept a bad consequence (loss of privacy) in exchange of avoiding a set of bad consequences (high cost of living, high crime).

    He could also state that plenty of people would accept losing their privacy if it meant they didn't had their knee caps smashed their legs broken. Yet, in both cases that doesn't mean that losing our privacy is desirable or that people look forward to it. The only thing that it means is that considering a set o

  • by redelm (54142) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:33AM (#35502338) Homepage

    Privacy is basically a right of self-defense against prejudice. Asymmetric (privacy voilators are often virtuous in the area violated), but privacy has more characteristics than just the information being available.

    Who matters: Abuses also happen when there are a priviliged set of monitors (police) and monitoring is not publicly accessible (webcams). Monitors benefit directly but others do not.

    Worse is when data is retained unreasonably long and someone goes on a retrospective witchhunt. Cyber archive stalking.

    • I think the answer in this case is "to everyone, forever". There wouldn't be a privileged set of monitors, everyone could watch what everyone else is doing, or has done.

  • Maybe Scott could find takes at 30% lower cost, but these aren't the numbers. Current policing costs ~1%.
  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:40AM (#35502424)

    Just because one car insurance company is offering a 30% discount to customers who agree to GPS tracking to prove they don't drive in rush hour traffic (and how many fit that profile?), it doesn't follow that one can save 30% on all "basic living expenses" by totally giving up privacy. As to the major living expenses: rent/mortgage, taxes, food ... no one has made a plausible claim those expenses can be reduced at all.

    This is a thought experiment only, and not a well-considered one at that. If we assume that marketers are economically rational beings, the only way they would let you "save" money by giving up your privacy is if they can make more money from it than you "save." Maybe in a few cases such as car insurance that can be done by increasing efficiency, but more likely it will be done by pushing your buttons to get you to buy overpriced crap you don't need.

  • Folks are already voluntarily giving up privacy in droves.

    Ever go shopping at one of those stores with a loyalty card? Give them your name, phone number, and address... They'll save you a few dollars here and there... And you give them the opportunity (whether they use it or not) to track everything you purchase.

    And then there's all the big on-line retailers that are keeping track of your purchases and doing all sorts of data mining to recommend stuff to you.

    And let's not forget the 800lb gorilla in the

  • On a smaller scale, we are already selling some of our privacy to get things we want for free . Companies like Facebook and to a lesser extent Google make their money buy selling details of what we want to people who might be able to sell us those things. In exchange we get a service that cost money for them to run for free.

    The general public may not recognize this fact but I'm sure most of the folks on here do, some of them probably spend far to much of their lives evangelizing about the dangers of sellin

  • Studies have shown that peer pressure has a huge impact on conservation...
    Bad workers would end up voluntarily moving out of the city to find work...

    and so on ad infinitum...

    Let's just go ahead and call this the modern-day Calvinism it really is: dour, bleak, conformist and joyless.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:42AM (#35502462) Homepage

    A huge portion of the troubles we face in society today come from the conflict between our natural and social/cultural issues surrounding sex and sexual drives.

    Nature says "do it whenever and however you want and boobs aren't for sex, they are for feeding babies." Society and culture has taken a completely opposing slant that says "sex is bad for children to know about and 'harms them', boobs are not to be seen (unless they are on a male), masturbation is disgusting and shouldn't be spoken of and sharing sex should be controlled, limited and often forbidden."

    I know it's awfully Freudian of me to assert that sex is the central point of everything about humanity, but since we are unable to escape our animal identity (as much as we seek to deny and disguise it) we might as well accept it.

    And we are constantly at odds with ourselves idealistically and otherwise. Marketers know that "sex sells" and so they sell it in every way possible except "overtly and directly" (because that would be illegal!). Our ideals of beauty, femininity and masculinity, and our very potential as human beings are ultimately based on our perception of what makes the best sexual partner.

    But what does this have to do with "privacy"? I think it should be obvious. Aside from money and resource matters (which could also be slanted to be driven by sex) privacy is almost all about sex... sex and politics... politics which have to do with greed and power... which has a lot to do with sex. Perhaps I am pushing things a little far in my connection between our sexual conflict between nature and society, but the fact remains that we as individuals for all manner of reasons are required to have privacy where our thoughts, ideas, ideals and desires which are sexual in nature.

    The other aspects of privacy/secrecy are all about keeping others from knowing what you have "so they can't take it from you."

    All of this points to the fact that people, in general, simply don't understand or care to understand the real problems facing humanity and where they come from. In this case, they come from religion and other artificial social constructs that fly in opposition to man's own nature. (I am not saying that opposing man's own nature is a bad thing entirely -- there is a place for asserting limitations or else we would all kill one another and there would be no progress at all.) I think that perhaps simply knowing and understanding the realities of what we are doing to ourselves would actually be enough. Then we wouldn't have situations were young teenagers become child pornographers and marked for life as a sexual criminal for exploring their own [natural] sexual interests.

    Privacy (and secrecy) is all about this. People on the surface might think they are willing to give up all privacy "for a better life" but they actually don't understand the full depth of what they would be giving up and what they are taking for granted.

    • by Xacid (560407)

      Glad I'm not the only one who has speculated similar. A lot of my friends wont even approach the subject which strikes me as odd considering practically everyone is doing it or thinking about it. Yet it's disgusting when others are enjoying themselves? Bah.

  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:48AM (#35502520)
    I imagine there would emerge some element of a class divide. Sure, you commoners get no privacy, yes. But the politicians? Well, they would argue, they need their lives to be kept secret as a matter of national security. Managers of companies of sufficient influence would find some way to maintain secrecy for the sake protecting their commercially sensitive information. And everything - absolutly everything - relating to children would end up made secret to protect them from the pedophile bogeymen. It would end up, I imagine, in a situation where everyone has no privacy in princible - but those who have some level of money or influence would have no problem getting themselves excluded. Or, equally bad, where no person has any privacy - but the only organisations able to access the monitoring data would be government and corporations, who would be quite happy to make sure it stays that way.
  • Though experiment (Score:4, Insightful)

    by moonbender (547943) <moonbender@gmai l . com> on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:49AM (#35502538)

    It's an interesting thought experiment, but it's not just a city without privacy, it's a scifi city without privacy. He explicitly says that he imagines a place where all he describes is technically possible; and much of it isn't and won't be in the forseeable future. And as far as science fiction goes, it's not that exciting a text.

    He's also trying very hard -- comically so -- to imagine every consequence as being positive: "Advertisements would transform from a pervasive nuisance into something more like useful information." Sure, Scott. And while total surveillance would result in an increase in solved criminal cases which would probably reduce some kinds of crime, others would still exist: many instances of violent crime are committed in the heat of the moment, others are the result of negligence. Neither would be affected by total surveillance, although I'm sure you could come up with some scifi handwaving argument, like saying that the tendency to assault somebody can be determined from genetic traits and previous surveillance like observed shouting or threatening behaviour. And so on...

  • I wonder which diverticulum the 30% savings number was pulled from. Oh wait, TFA mentions a single company lowering AUTO INSURANCE rates by 30%. Then the author goes on to equate this with a 30% savings in "basic living expenses". Must be nice to be a comic strip author, where your only living expense is auto insurance, apparently. Hmm, maybe Scott Adams is secretly running the Fed...
    • The idea is that, for example, the device could confirm to the insurance company that the car wasn't being used in high risk situations, such as commute traffic. Safe driving situations would be rewarded with lower rates.

      This is why we have auto commercials where a car is backing out of a parking space and the closed-captioned fine print says: Professional driver. Closed course. Do not attempt. - because people insist on engaging in high-risk behavior - like driving to work.

  • Thought experiment (Score:4, Informative)

    by wjousts (1529427) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:51AM (#35502566)

    Before everybody get's their panties in a bunch, the key line from TFA is this:

    This is just an economic thought experiment.

    So don't take it too seriously. Scott Adams isn't proposing this as a good idea, attacking your privacy or making excuses for attacking your privacy. He set up a premise and explored what he thinks the consequences might be. You can disagree with his conclusions, but try and keep some perspective.

  • This could work only if those in charge as well as all the corporations would also be completely transparent.
  • And as we know, nothing bad ever happens in prison because of the constant surveillance.

  • All people in Noprivacyville have no privacy, but some have more privacy than others.
    Sure, a cute idea. But not one that ever actually can be implemented.
  • "Crime" being defined as "people doing things without permission"...

  • Noprivacyville sounds to me like one big focus group. Sure, everyone in the center of the bell curve would be happy there, but all the interesting people out at the 1-5% margins would surely leave, either from persecution or bordom. Some of these interesting people are deviants and you would see the crime rate drop, as is suggested by TFA, but the creative and innovative people would have no incentive to try something new because what everyone likes is already known. And even if an intrepid individual dared
  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @09:40AM (#35503122)
    It is a false equivalence. There is no privacy in prisons, yet crime is rampant.
    • by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @10:29AM (#35503648)
      Indeed.

      His take on advertising also jumps to conclusions:

      Advertisements would transform from a pervasive nuisance into something more like useful information. Advertisers would know so much about your lifestyle and preferences that you would only see ads that made perfect sense for your situation.

      This is a fallacy I've tried to point out before [slashdot.org]. If advertisers know everything about you, that doesn't mean they will only show you ads for things you care about, or ads you find pleasant/funny/good. The point of advertising/marketing is to shift your purchasing behavior, and being pleasant will not always be the best way to achieve this. Ads that are repetitive, annoying, boring, or otherwise unpleasant may be "effective" from a marketing standpoint. E.g. people hate seeing the same commercial over and over again (sometimes more than once in a single commercial break!) but it's no accident: they know that they can increase brand recognition by searing their jingle/logo/etc. into your brain.

      And advertisers have huge incentives to show you ads for things you "don't care about". In fact advertising things you really care about is mostly a waste: you're too well-informed and opinionated to sway. To bring up the stereotypical example: males may not care about tampons, but advertisers still want them to see tampon ads, because sooner or later that guy is going to have to buy tampons (e.g. his wife asks him to pick some up on the way home) and the company wants the guy's default, uninformed choice to be driven not by careful research but by advertising and brand loyalty.

      Basically, the goals of the advertisers and the goals of the consumer are not aligned in any way.

      The same is true of many of the other examples presented in the hypothetical. It's somewhat assumed that people will use the pervasive information in fairly logical and reasonable ways. But that's not how companies or people operate. Companies are effectively predatory. People are often illogical. For instance giving people more information doesn't always lead to better decisions. Studies have shown that people get overloaded and make sub-optimal decisions beyond a certain level.

      Basically, the gains that are described as a result of "no privacy" would only occur if all the participants were very good, honest, smart, and balanced. But if you're using "very good, honest, smart, balanced people" as a starting axiom, then the "no privacy" thing isn't really necessary, since a good society will evolve in any case. The problem is that in reality people are variable, illogical, and somewhat selfish. We need to design societies that take into account human behavior, not societies that idealize it.

    • by argStyopa (232550)

      Sure there is:
      - the guards have privacy, and more importantly, can ensure 'some privacy' from other guards either by collusion or arrangement
      - the administration has privacy
      - the prisoners have no RIGHT to privacy (which means they can be searched at any moment) but by and large are not individually being watched at all times. In fact, though they are watched collectively all the time, there's a fairly significant amount of privacy they can be reasonably sure that they have most of the time.

      Your point is t

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