Transparency Kills Privacy (and why this is a good thing)

Sitting here at my desk, I want to make you consider that privacy will be a thing of the past within three decades. But how to do this? From transparency, to technology, to evolution, to symbiosis.

When I turn my head left, my gaze turns to the clouds above. My vision is unhindered by the glass boundary between me and the garden, yet I feel nothing of the chilly breeze outside. What is let through by this semi-permeable membrane, is in most cases all we need, in terms of light, warmth and information. We call it transparent.

We use transparency every day of our lives not only in this literal, physical sense, but also in a behavioral sense in science, business, engineering and basically anywhere in the social field. Here transparency takes the shape of making visible or knowable any process that is also somebody elses business. Recently, researchers Schnackenberg & Tomlinson actually equalled transparency to “the perceived quality of intentionally shared information from a sender”. (2014)

Have the guts to be transparent!

Have the guts to be transparent!

Lines of communication are short in any networked environment and this enables transparency, by leaving out filtering stations.

However, the above definition of transparency does not hold up when you consider that the prominence of transparency in society is not restricted to “intentionally shared information”. Our lives are becoming transparant, also the parts of it we would maybe not share. Some calll this endangerement of our privacy. I think here we must tread carefully. Not so much for the presumably precious privacy, but not to fall into the trap fear has set for us here.

We all have petty little secrets in which we have wrapped our original sin, our shame. But the days we can keep secrets are numbered. The disappearance of privacy is going to confront us with all our well-kept secrets, there is no escaping that. In less than two decades technological development will have made it possible to track your every move and thought. (Yes, also our thoughts will be transparent by then. Maybe even sooner.) So it is up to us to detach our fear from the observation: privacy is disappearing. Debating whether or not we want this to happen is not very fruitful, since the evolution of technology is unstoppable, like the evolution of life.

Biological evolution and technological development are becoming so closely entangled and interdependent, that we could see them as different aspects of a single evolutionary process. Heck, using technology makes us human! And not competition, but cooperation or symbiosis is the main tool for evolving. I did not make that up. If you want more, Lynn Margulis‘ book Symbiosis is a great starting point. You can check out this book and a number of others on related topics in one of my earlier posts.

Now I did not write this article to convince you to give up your human rights. I am not a corporate-sponsored blogging troll whose sole purpose is to make you succumb to the lure of technological ease in exchange for your soul. There’s plenty of those around. No, I would like to nudge you in the direction of acceptance, which is quite different from giving up on something. You need to accept in order to be able to transform.


Big Brother ís watching us. That’s neither good nor bad. It’s just technology rubbing our faces in the secrets we keep, from others and from ourselves. That’s only a problem in a competitive world. In a cooperative world, surfacing secrets are great opportunities to move on.

It is going to be quite a ride, this lifetime of ours. Technology will forceably remove all veils that cover our senses and our secrets. Embrace this thought, ponder it, elaborate on it, share it and love it: for what remains when all veils are lifted? Truth. It will out. It shall set you free.

Transparency, by my definition, is the quality to give from within. It is a prerequisite for thriving in a new world.





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