I’m writing about the privacy issue because it is so much an underlying theme of The Lightstream Chronicles. In the story, which takes place in the somewhat far future of 2159, there really is no such thing as privacy—neither physical nor cerebral. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem to bother anyone. It is a throwback to another era. Of course, one of the objectives of my science fiction crime drama is to provoke us to think and ask questions. Would a total loss of privacy be psychologically catastrophic? Is losing your privacy as bad as losing your freedom? Some people think that losing your privacy is not such a big deal, and if anyone wants what is yours badly enough, they are going to get to it anyway. They think that privacy is an illusion. I discussed some of these issues in Part 1 on this topic.
But maybe this is the bigger question: Could such a thing happen or is it purely a device for interesting fiction? My focus in Part 2 is not to debate the illusion of privacy but to analyze how such a thing might come to be.
In Part 1, I looked at whether or not privacy is actually a right, and while there are some strong legal arguments to the affirmative, it is not explicitly stated in our constitution or Bill of Rights. I believe this lack of clarity adds to our general assessment that privacy is beyond our control. The idea being, if it is not even expressly guaranteed in the Constitution, then what hopes have we? In my opinion, our strongest concerns for privacy are in regard to malicious intent, such as hacking our personal data in order to steal our identity or our money. But at the same time, I venture to say that we also feel that we have some control in this area, either through constantly improving technology at our disposal or at the disposal of the legal system. Stealing is still a crime.
Powerlessness comes, in my assessment, from our distrust of power. It could be government or corporate. According to a recent Gallup poll , distrust in government is at an all time high. We are just not sure that government, or other people are always going to do the right thing. But I’m not writing this from a political perspective, rather more of a social one. When we feel less competent to resist change, and more and more fundamental changes are gradually introduced, we are more likely, as a society, to accept and adapt. Just go with it.
We’re living in an age where technology is coupled with everything. Everything. New technology therefore carries with its wonderful promises a host of capillary downsides. Hence, as soon as we are able to share our thoughts (telepathy is not that far off, folks) we are setting ourselves up for having them taken from us. The question then is probably not whether my privacy will disappear, but how I will deal with it the day that I realize it is gone. How will it change my behavior if I no longer care whether you know what I do, or even that you know what I’m thinking?
More fodder for thought and conversation. What do you think?