The Age of Radical Transparency

On Tuesday I went on Annie Duke’s internet TV show to talk with her and Jason Calacanis about Wikileaks and what the implications are for the future of privacy.  I made some radical claims:

  1. Privacy is dead: it’s only a matter of time now before we all have to face this eventuality.
  2. In a radically transparent society, personal willingness to share everything is a source of power/wealth; unwillingness is a personal liability.
  3. In a world with strong privacy rights, the exact opposite is true.
  4. We’re all better off in a radically transparent world than one with strong privacy rights; this is true whether you look at the individual, the corporation, or the sovereign nation.
  5. Worse than both extremes is where we are now, in transition, where some have privacy and others don’t.
  6. Those who insist on having privacy will have to pay an increasing price for it; and because of #5, this is a good thing.
  7. In the mean time, as the walls of privacy come down, we will see great turmoil; power is shifting.
  8. Part of that turmoil involves true ethical dilemmas, as the Wikileaks controversy is demonstrating.
  9. Privacy is dead; this is not something we can choose to stop, the trend is as unstoppable as technology itself.
  10. Those who embrace the trend and stay just one step ahead will benefit; those who resist will suffer (like diplomats), as will those who get too far out ahead (like Julian Assange).

I’m curious what you all think.  Here’s the interview, we start discussing these matters around minute 28:

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  • Zwackone

    Imagine, I wonder if you can…?
    Great post :)

  • ace

    My wife’s company operates as though everything they do is printed on the front page of the New York Times. It is an interesting way in which to self-police their actions. If people made their decisions based on the same idea the world would be a better place.

    The increasing transparency is moving us towards this.

  • Anonymous

    Typo. Calcanis should be Calacanis.

  • Marisa Suescun

    “In a radically transparent society, personal willingness to share everything is a source of power/wealth; unwillingness is a personal liability.” I’m not so sure. I would amend, “Willingness to share everything that can contribute to the public good is a source of power/wealth.” There is something to be said for restraint and self-editing in a world in which access to information is, largely, no longer the problem. In fact, unfettered access to information – an overload of information of greatly varying value – has become a problem in and of itself. The powerful in my mind are those that give open access to useful and accurate information. “In the end, journalism is just going to be crowdsource, public information… You don’t need journalists and editors.” I feel the opposite; we will need thoughtful editors in that world more than ever. These are the people and institutions push us towards, I think, a world of “perfect information.”

  • Marisa Suescun

    “In a radically transparent society, personal willingness to share everything is a source of power/wealth; unwillingness is a personal liability.” I’m not so sure. I would amend, “Willingness to share everything that can contribute to the public good is a source of power/wealth.” There is something to be said for restraint and self-editing in a world in which access to information is, largely, no longer the problem. In fact, unfettered access to information – an overload of information of greatly varying value – has become a problem in and of itself. The powerful in my mind are those that give open access to useful and accurate information. “In the end, journalism is just going to be crowdsource, public information… You don’t need journalists and editors.” I feel the opposite; we will need thoughtful editors in that world more than ever. These are the people and institutions push us towards, I think, a world of “perfect information.”

    • Rafe Furst

      so you as the source of information know better than the billions of people who you are keeping it from how useful (and accurate) it is for them? i didn’t know you were such a megalomaniac ;-)

    • Rafe Furst

      so you as the source of information know better than the billions of people who you are keeping it from how useful (and accurate) it is for them? i didn’t know you were such a megalomaniac ;-)

      • Marisa Suescun

        :) Funny, I wasn’t thinking about myself as a giver of information so much as a consumer of it when I wrote that comment.

        True. I can’t know better than billions of people what is useful to those billions of people. There is a democratizing power and honesty in a transparent society. I’m really a giant fan of transparency.

        In celebrating editing and restraint in an increasingly transparent society, I’m thinking about the proliferation of the following: “doing my laundry” FB/twitter posts; “10 free things to do in NYC” content farm pieces; viral media that spread inaccurate, factually incorrect information. I want less of these things. Perhaps, you are suggesting, they will simply go away with time, with billions of people as the arbiters. Still, Google had to change its algorithm to make the content farm stuff go away. I was appreciative for that editorial gesture.

        • Rafe Furst

          there was a really sobering talk at TED this year about the “bubbles” created by editorial and algorithmic filtering. it’s not to say we don’t need to create filters for ourselves, just that it’s dangerous when others do it for us (with or without our knowledge/consent).

          True Enough by Farhad Manjoo also has this message.

          Personally, I’m of the opinion that radical transparency is not so much a value as an inevitability. Leaning how to cope/navigate such a world is important to me personally and I suspect it will be to others.

          • Marisa

            “I’m of the opinion that radical transparency is not so much a value as an inevitability.” Indeed. And in my current paradigm, I view editing and filtering as important coping mechanisms in such a world. It’s possible my paradigm needs to shift. I think I’m a little stodgy on certain things. :)

            I’ll check out the TED talk on filtering bubbles.

          • Marisa

            “I’m of the opinion that radical transparency is not so much a value as an inevitability.” Indeed. And in my current paradigm, I view editing and filtering as important coping mechanisms in such a world. It’s possible my paradigm needs to shift. I think I’m a little stodgy on certain things. :)

            I’ll check out the TED talk on filtering bubbles.

  • Anonymous

    I have to agree. As a poker player, Rafe, you have seen first hand how a willingness to share previously heavily guarded trade secrets believed to be done for a person’s financial best interest has, in fact, had the opposite effect. Many people criticized Doyle Brunson, David Sklansky, Dan Harrington, and Taylor Caby for revealing their strategies in the belief that they would ruin the profitability of poker. In fact, they did all of us a benefit by raising the art form and popularity of the game.

    By staying a step ahead of the competition by overlooking short term greed (aka privacy), they have assured their legacy and added substantially to their personal wealth.