What effect will it have on our society when privacy is completely eliminated?

What effect will it have on our society when privacy is completely eliminated - when all our thoughts are instantly public and lies have no shelter?

At first brush, I immediately recoil in horror at the thought. Privacy is integral to our society and the key to living a healthy life…you need separation from people…you need to be able to unplug.

But in thinking about it more I think that may be best way push humanity into a new world. Society will fundamentally change when there’s no ability to lie and once people adjust to all the ego checks involved.

While the beginning will be information overload, after a while I think it would level out as we adapt. After this adaptation to the new normal - to constantly living in public - people would understand nuances of communication and reasons for actions more than ever.

I would say people would be more virtuous. After all, “sin” would have nowhere to hide. But more likely is that the moral compass of society would shift to normalize these activities instead of eliminating them. Not that it matters to me.

Note: Lets assume for sake of argument that this is a universal situation. That is to say that the powerful and rich are equally exposed and privacy doesn’t become yet another class battlefield.

If privacy is eliminated that suggests that some authority owns and controls all the information about you.

That is a lot of power to for some centralised political authority. Orwell explored this idea in 1984.

Better hope that they like you or they might delete your data so you become a non-person, unable to participate in society. That has happened under regimes that want to drastically re-engineer society in the pursuit of some ideal.

It may well happen again in some technologically advanced and authoritarian society. China is is rumoured to be heading in that direction.

I guess you perception will depend on whether you are identified as an obedient clone and benefit from Big Brother or the information they collect identifies you as an enemy and are deleted.

We do not have political systems that are evolved enough to use this information to make the world a better place. It will tend towards a dystopian nightmare.

I can see ‘who owns your data’ becoming an increasingly important political issue. Who do you trust?


I, for one, expect a quick and nasty divorce.

You write as if this is an inevitable development. I know of no theory that would support the possibility of mind reading, perhaps you could supply something along that line?

But, not to fight the hypothetical, a lot would depend on who can read whose thoughts. If everyone can read everyone else’s thoughts equally all the time, including those in positions of power, then the advantages and disadvantages might even out. Personal relationships might be more difficult (or they might actually be easier), but we might have honest government. Perhaps the worst thing would be blocking out unwanted thoughts from the hundreds of people sharing your commuter train.

Also, people are resourceful and adaptable. I put my trust in mankind to find a way to live with such a development.

I don’t think people would necessarily become more virtuous - if anything, wrongdoing would be more normalized, and people would lose shame over things they still feel ashamed of these days.

See Isaac Asimov’s The Dead Past for ideas.

I think elimination of privacy was tried in Orwell’s 1984 and didn’t work out too well.

As further evidence, roughly a gazillion movies about surveillance/loss of privacy, including “The Circle”, “The Conversation” and :eek: “The Simpson Movie”.

(bolding mine)

:dubious: How the f*** would that work? Everybody get’s a direct neural implant and linked up to a hive mind?

Orwell covered it pretty well:

More likely, honest mistakes and missteps will dog you for the rest of your life. You will never be able to recover from the least wrong-doing ever. That embarrassingly bad attempt at a joke or a prank when you were 8 will still be brought up over and over when you’re 80. Rinse and repeat for every day of your life, ever.

…until we decide that maybe that silly shit doesn’t really matter all that much.

Barring a magic wand (I seem to be causing much consternation with my magic wand these days), our society will bend and adapt as we move toward a privacy-free situation. By the time we get there it won’t be our society any more, so it wont’ have any effect on our (current) society at all. Sorry to fight the hypothetical, but I really feel it boils down to “a different society will be different.”

Facebook will go out of business.

Nah, that isn’t sustainable by the general public. Think of how many people you know - current & past co-workers, neighbors, clients or customers, suppliers or vendors, regulars at places you frequent - and it seems immediately overwhelming to even contemplate a year’s worth of each person’s mistakes and gaffes, let alone everything anyone did ever.

I think we’d oversaturate so fast you’d stop NOTICING most people’s everyday missteps or mean inner thoughts.

It’s kind of already happened, and I’ve noticed there’s something of a generational difference:

People over 35 have a slight advantage right now in that the dumb mistakes made in their teens and early 20s were basically not public record, but people under that age have tweets or facebook posts coming back to haunt them.

I agree with both sides of this argument: I think for petty stuff we’ll become numb to it, as basically no-one’s history is clean, but serious transgressions could be a life sentence without any chance of parole.