The Evolution of Privacy, We Aren’t There Yet

For those looking for a considered, well researched, and unbiased post on the ACTUAL evolution of privacy, you will be disappointed. This is an opinion piece based on my own theory of WHY people want privacy as much as they do, and whether or not they truly understand its implications. Well, my interpretation of those implications anyway.

I do not believe human beings to be either civilised, or that intelligent. We’re heading in that direction, but need to get out of our own way first. From a continued reliance on religious dogma, to a universally accepted misunderstanding that we are more than just another mammal, to the overwhelming prevalence of ignorance, we are no closer to any form of enlightenment than were the people ~1,000 years ago in what we call The Dark Ages. 1,000 years from NOW we will be seen as The Dark Ages – Part II, and you just have to read the news each day for a hundred examples of why.

So what are the benefits of privacy? Why did we evolve the concept of privacy to the point now where it’s a Human Right ratified by the UN as Article 12; “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

As far as I’m concerned, the only reason for this is that NOT having privacy puts you or yours at some kind of risk. Regardless of our sentience, we ARE just animals, and subject to the exact same primal urges as every other mammal. The need for food, water, sex etc. are at the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but security of body, family and property is only just above them.

If we had truly evolved as a society to the point where these basic needs are provided, there would be little need for privacy. If we didn’t go through life knowing that our ‘secrets’ could be the cause of ridicule, alienation, resource loss, or even physical harm, then the requirement to keep-it-all-to-ourselves would be unnecessary. But we are still in the position where the bad outweighs the good, and the ignorance perpetuated through religion, sex / sexual orientation / colour biases, and political doctrines ensures that these fears are far from unfounded.

The challenge we face is that privacy is one of the biggest reasons we HAVE a perpetuation of ignorance. Human nature does not fall on the side of trust, what we don’t know scares us. At its mildest form, this mistrust keeps us from having as many friends as we’d like, at its extreme, we end up trying to destroy what don’t understand.

All human interaction is based on one thing; trust, and no-one trusts words, only actions. For example, if I was to open my life up to detailed scrutiny, then recorded the results of that scrutiny in a way that’s irrefutable, everyone who ever met me, for any reason, would know exactly with whom they were dealing. My values, level of integrity, likes, dislikes, aspirations, biases and so on would be my permanent and openly available CV/resume. Business partners, employers, potential friends, ANYONE would be able to make a fairly immediate decision as to whether they wanted to proceed. Even if they didn’t LIKE what they see, which is entirely possible, they’d still know enough about me not to be scared of the unknown.

If nothing else, it would save a great deal of time never talking to someone with whom we fundamentally disagree, or whose personality is one we would find offensive.

Finally, if we all have the right to privacy, then NO-ONE has the right to complain about those with bad intentions using it to cause harm. Until Human Rights are a currency – which they should be – our evolution as a species will be stunted by fear, uncertainty and ignorance.

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