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Scott Adams Says Plenty Would Choose Life In Noprivacyville 467

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 AT aol DOT com> on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:15AM (#35502180) Journal

    Sorry, Scott. Dreams of Utopia are just dreams.

  • 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.

  • 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 [] 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

  • 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 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 [] leading the revolution against the evil monarchy, the next you're Robespierre leading the Terror [].

    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.

  • by JustinOpinion ( 1246824 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @10:29AM (#35503648)

    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 []. 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.

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes