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Arkady Grudzinsky


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Do we need privacy?



1. The state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people.
2. The state of being free from public attention.

So, it's a form of freedom. I find it deeply controversial.

Does it mean that we should not pay attention to each other? There are stories on internet of people dying in subway from heart attack in the midst of a crowd passing by.

Is it possible? We leave traces behind us every minute - online, when we use credit cards to buy something, even by walking in the street with a cell phone in our pocket. Why are we outraged or feel threatened when we find out that someone "is watching"? Perhaps, it goes deeper in our psyche that we think or can explain.

What is the difference between privacy and secrecy? When and why do we need them?

Some people put their whole life online. Some are cautious about giving any personal information to anyone. Ironically, we can protect ourselves from oppression and crime both ways.

What's your attitude towards privacy? I would appreciate the links to videos and sources on this topic.

Topics: privacy secrecy

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    Jun 23 2013: Hi Arkady,

    I think there is a component of privacy that is a primary need.
    That component determines the very basis of the individual.

    Just what is it that individuals find threatening when they are surveiled?

    We can approach it this way:

    A self is not a self if it does not have the capacity to act for sufficient self advantage (survival).

    In the absence of privacy, one's advantage is constrained to the advantage of the most dominant entity.
    Thus, surveillance destroys all selves except the dominant entity.

    Those who are surveiled become tools of the dominant entity and totally lose any self-ness as their self becomes entrained to the advantage of the dominant entity.

    There is a big difference between a tool, and a self. It is this aspect which is the fundamental threat.

    The dominant entity can not be trusted to respect the advantage of the individual.

    It's different in close social settings - we learn to trust each other and support each other's right to act for survival.
    If the dominant entity is beyond the close social setting it is a massive threat - both to survival and self-ness.

    So .. in this regard, the word "privacy" is far to general to support the analysis - it needs to be divided into close social and broad general settings.

    So perhaps we should talk about surveillance as violation of trust rather than intrusion of privacy?
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      Jun 24 2013: I also think that privacy and security are issues of trust. I've heard that in some countries, in some towns, people never lock their doors, because theft is so rare. But, perhaps, people still would not like strangers snooping in their homes. Some people put all their private life online, but, perhaps, they would be still upset to find out that someone is secretly collecting their information.

      Voluntary disclosure of personal information is different from government collecting the same information secretly or forcing people to disclose it. It feels like theft or robbery. Perhaps, my attitude towards it is same as my attitude towards government entitlement programs - I support voluntary charity, but I believe, taking money by force from one group of people for the benefit of another group is not right. It also is similar to robbery.
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          Jun 24 2013: Hi Lamar,

          I totally understand your stance in this.

          But the thing we all get fooled by is this notion that humanity can cope with great numbers in our society - as I observe, we simply haven't a clue .. so we abstract.

          And the instant we abstract, we lose it.

          I simply do not believe that humans have the physical brain capacity to truly understand a social group more than about 200 individuals.

          So if we talk about abstracts of fairness or compassion, we lose the reality of what these words actually mean . and this leaves us vulnerable to those who have learned how to derive advantage through our failure to see the flaw.

          I do not lock my house because I live in a small community - although we are sundered by the general social paradigm, we all understand that we each can damage each other about the same - so a simple complaint is powerful. Our only enemy is the blow-through stranger - and .. mostly, it is only those who live within walking distance of the highway, supermarket or railway station who lock things.

          Some of my neighbours are retirees from the city - they make their complaints via the police - but they get soon educated how the power over the fence is not what it is in the city - I can hurt them beyond their wildest dreams - but I am not as murderous as I could be .. they will learn.
          I go to folk music festivals where a tribal town erupts for a weekend or a week - and I do not lock anything - I have never been robbed - because community does not rob.
          My friends say - be careful .. and I say - are you here? Or are you yet to arrive? I have one friend who takes care of violence - he does it in the community, and he is the gentlest man I know.

          We are in a dream - we have lost our tribe. But it is right there. If you look, you will find it at your side .. it never left. It is not the savage that was told to us - civilisation is a lie.
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          Jun 24 2013: LaMar,

          The problem with all things "general" is that everyone has everyone has their own idea of what "general" is. It's not up to the government to decide what people may benefit from. It's up to the people. Providing benefits to selected groups of people at the expense of other groups of people does not seem like "general welfare" to me. It feels more like social manipulation. It's not done for "general welfare". It's done to gain the votes of those who benefit. And if I benefit from plunder, it does not make plunder moral.

          You quote Article I Section 8. It explicitly lists the powers of the federal government. They are, mostly, related to regulating currency and foreign affairs. But these days, feds feel free to meddle in every single aspect of society down to reading personal emails of U.S. citizens lest they commit acts of terrorism. If you support that model, how come you don't support Walmart?

          Arguably, Prism promotes "general welfare". Don't you think so?

          Yes, I use public parks and libraries, but, as Mitch mentions, these things are much better managed on a local level, from voluntary donations from citizens and local businesses, and from fees for, actually, using the services. It's a strange idea that someone in Washington D.C. can decide what's best for a community in Beaverton, OR.

          It's a lot better when needy people are taken care of by their neighbors instead of federal government. When federal government takes money from neighbors to give it to the ones it considers "needy", it kills charity.
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        Jun 24 2013: @Arkady,

        We have empowered meta entities that exceed our perception. This is a big problem.

        If a community behaves as the default that is what our species found to be the way to survive, then we will survive.

        If we go beyond that, then we must become another species or go extinct.

        The values of a default human tribe are not applicable to any larger congregation of humans.

        it works this way:

        In a default tribe, each member has the physical brain capacity to track every other member from the small family group to the extended tribal population - about 200 individuals.

        This is an exceptional skill because one cannot simply track the other individuals, but also track the Cartesian join between them - this is called the theory of mind - that we not only know each other, but what is known by each other about each other .. it's recursive to the limit of our grey-matter.
        A really stupid human can know what his friend thinks about his other friend, but a truly intelligent person knows what a friend thinks about another friend's thoughts about yet another .. and so on.
        This Cartesian network is the great power of humans - it makes our brains so large that our mothers often die getting that big cranium out of the birth channel. But if mother and child survive - they will do very well, even though the child will not actually become a viable mammal in it's own right until it is 7 years old - or older. That's a long time to be a foetus.

        What we talk about as trust, rights and entitlements are the default functioning parameters of a human tribe. If they are violated - then survival will end. If we do that abstraction as a species - that is extinction.

        We are not talking politics .. we are talking biology.
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        Jun 24 2013: It might help to have a look at this talk .. Ralston Saul is trying to "get at it".
        He's got a lot of the symptomatic stuff worked out, but either hasn't gotten to the biological simplicity, or is too afraid to reveal it.
        (watch both parts)

        He's very eloquent and deals with privacy in the talk (amongst a good many other things).

        So that makes him an acceptable place to start.

        I have no such qualms - I have nothing to lose - i hold no hope for humanity as it stands and look forward to seeing it disappear - thus I don't care who I offend. Because the truth is too late - it's all over anyway.

        The only hope I hold is that if any humans survive - they will have the default biological tribe which needs no history or ideology or economy - it will work if it is allowed to work and if there are a couple of dozen breeding pairs left in any particular viable zone.

        And If no such survival happens - that does not matter either - the universe will start up some other thing at some other time at some other place .. and I like that - it is the only sane hope for any lifeform anywhere..
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          Jun 24 2013: Re: "Article 1 Section 8 very clearly includes that one of those responsibilities is to provide for the general welfare."

          I think, this is where the golden rule of morality fails. "Do to others as you would have them do to you." It assumes that what is good for me is good for my neighbor. And we tend to make this assumption when we define "general welfare". It may work on a local level, as Mitch indicates, but it fails on national and global scale. In some locations people suffer from droughts, in other from floods. Nationwide standards on storm water management system and water supply just does not make sense. Some things need to be decided at the national level (foreign affairs, defense, currency), some are best left to states, cities, communities, and individuals. It takes a lot of wisdom to discern between these issues.

          I'm cautious to accept "general" statements one way or the other.
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          Jun 24 2013: Re: "Did you use student loans and grants that my and other citizens taxes paid for?"

          I have not paid a dime for my higher education. But I doubt you would like the system that allowed me to do that. I got my bachelor's degree in Soviet Ukraine. We had a mandatory course called "History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union". Every classroom had a portrait of Lenin above the blackboard. You could get into trouble discussing the advantages of the free-market system. Condemning was OK. But opinions diverging from the official position were not welcomed. I served 2 mandatory years in the military. I didn't do it for any benefits. It was an "honorable duty". Intellectuals - scientists, professors, engineers, were, sometimes, paid less than machine operators and manual labor workers. Equality and hegemony of proletariat. You tell me if it was "general welfare" or "general misery".

          Here, in the U.S., I got a second graduate degree. I had a tuition waiver and was paid research assistance. It was funded from a DARPA contract and some of the research was done for private corporations. The government and corporations paid for the research done by students a fraction of what they might pay for a similar research done by scientists in their own labs. My kids go to public schools. And I do pay state and property taxes on top of federal taxes.

          I'm ready to admit my own hypocrisy. I do benefit from the system. This is why I do not fully embrace Pat's ideology. But, as I said, the fact that we benefit from plunder does not make the plunder moral. It's up to you to judge whether the free education I got in Ukraine justifies the system that provided it.

          You can't generalize these things and judge others based on your experience and background. If you were oppressed by corporations, you wouldn't support libertarian agenda. But Krisztian in Hungary and I in Ukraine may have totally different experience with socialism.
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          Jun 24 2013: We live in an interesting age. Generations who witnessed Nazism and Communism are passing away. The generations of young people driving the social movements such as the ones in Turkey, Brazil, and Europe, have no direct experience of living under these oppressive regimes just as the revolutionaries in Russia at the beginning of the XX century have not witnessed the guillotine mass executions that took place a hundred years before that in France. Some of the ideas bounce back and the history seems to repeat itself every 3-4 generations.

          Just as Mitch mentioned that people have hard time perceiving social trends beyond their local communities, they also have hard time perceiving social trends beyond the life span of 3-4 generations that live simultaneously.
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          Jun 25 2013: Compliance with law is NOT voluntary. There is no way to withdraw the "consent".

          Libertarianism and Liberalism are different things.

          Plunder and taxation both mean seizing property by force. The word we use reflects the attitude, not the substance. Perhaps, "plunder" makes it a bit too emotionally charged.
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          Jun 25 2013: I am not against socialism or capitalism. Both can be very oppressive in their extremes. A healthy balance must be maintained. Decisions must be made case-by-case. Arguments about what is better in general are meaningless. Chicken-egg arguments can only be resolved when we talk about a specific chicken and a specific egg.

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