When pointing out the importance of privacy, a common rebuttal is "Well, I don't have anything to hide, so I don't care". This is a very grave misunderstanding. You do have something to hide. Something very important. Your soul.

The human mind and soul is a formidable thing, paradoxically powerful and fragile at the same time. A human being can be deprived of a surprising number of things, and still develop and prosper, but some human prerequisites are so essential that we will surely degenerate into malice without them. One of these is connection. Genuine connection to other human beings.

When opening up to the possibility of connection with others, we make ourselves vulnerable. To connect is to allow yourself to be seen, truly. This baring of ourselves is at the core of establishing trust, and trust underlies all connection. To shed your armor and let your own vulnerability be known to the other is a powerful gesture.

It is a leap of faith into the possibility of a shared reality. It is a risk every time, and exactly because of this, we prove our commitment by, at least temporarily, staking a part of our own security in the other. It is a brilliant and beautiful behavior, and we know it by heart because it is utterly essential to our individual and collective survival. It is at the core of voluntary unity and association. And without that - divided - we fall.

We also know intuitively all the subtle signs and signals that tell us when it is safe enough to engage in this behavior, and when it is not. Our attentiveness to these signals is razor sharp, and swift is their regulation of our behavior. This is a survival instinct after all.

A great number of different things will signal to us that it might very well equate to suicide to drop our defenses and make bare a piece of our soul. One of the most powerful danger signals would be the presence of the veiled observer: A third party that does not disclose their person, cannot be held accountable, and as such obviously does not stake any human commitment.

We know immediately and intuitively the danger. Information gained from our vulnerable state by the observer can be used to do great harm against us. In fact this, our intuition will tell us, is most likely the exact intent of the observer peering from the shadows, hence we wisely raise defenses, putting our soul and vulnerabilities back into hiding - back into protection. And thus, any real connection becomes impossible for the time.

If we wish to allow for human connection once more, we must escape to somewhere else. We must place ourselves and the people with whom we want to build trust and connection, within measures of protection: A place that allows in the others that are willing to participate in the reciprocal dance of trust, vulnerability, connection and human development, while keeping the veiled exploiters out. Only in such a place can human beings develop and manifest connection, truth and love.

Privacy, fundamentally, is this place.

Without privacy, human connection is impossible. Without human connection, we will degenerate into malevolence. We will die - and a prolonged, terrible and gruesome death it will be.

As a civilization, we have already walked too far down the path leading to this reality, and we are all responsible if we comply with its implementation. Digital surveillance is intruding into depths of our private lives unthinkable even a decade ago. Governments are eagerly pursuing the criminalization of end-to-end encryption, and attempting to mandate all communications providers to surveil human communication with an AI-supervised hotline directly to the police apparatus.

This is not the beginning of the end. We are already halfway there, and we must act now. The dismantling of privacy is an existential threat to civilization and to human prosperity.

You may believe you have nothing to hide, but you cannot hide from the reality that you have everything to loose: Every connection to everyone you have ever loved and cared about.

7 thoughts on “Surveillance and Your Soul, or Why Privacy Is Essential

  1. I routinely ask people who ignorantly believe they have nothing to hide “OK, what’s your Social Security number, birth date, and Mother’s maiden name?”.

    Shockingly, every single time they have declined to answer.

    “But it’s not the same!”

    Yes. Yes it is.

  2. Thank you so much for expressing in such a clear, profound and moving way what so many need to understand.

  3. We need to move underground. Underground waterways provide hydroelectric energy. Join your local NSS to see the underground. Learn wilderness survival. Learn machine learning.

    We also need public resources on electromagnetic security, protocols that use constant bandwidth, free tools for sousveillance to observe systems of surveillance, logging to immutable public stores, and ways to foster independent decision making and detect things eroding it, to manage digital influence.

    Nothing is private when AI can simulate human behavior. A single datapoint can speak volumes.

  4. This is an extraordinary text, and of surprising philosophical depth for a website dedicated to tech devices. I will share it with privacy-minded people in my local area. I already shared the Reticulum stuff with radio amateurs that are trying to enhance their radio communication and mutual help network in my country. They are a very geeky, experienced team and yet the Reticulum stuff made them really curious about possibilities they weren’t aware of before.

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