Privacy Going the Way of the [Finch]

Posted on June 4, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I’ve been thinking a lot about the debate around privacy these days, and it occurs to me that the very concept of privacy is at odds with a much more powerful evolution in our species which I would broadly call systemic functioning.  There is nothing new to the idea that humans are social creatures, and as I look over the course of our development as a species, individuals grouping together first in the form of family units, then groups of families cohabitating, all the way up to and through urbanization, it becomes clear that our ability to preserve and perpetuate our species, compete for resources, and generally further ourselves relative to competitive species within our environment is vastly enhanced when we work together.

Over time, as we have grown to become more collaborative, our duration of life and rates of reproduction have grown in kind, and there is undoubtedly a correlation between our advancements as a population and our progression to functioning in systemic ways.

Wikipedia defines a system as:

System (from Latin systēma, in turn from Greek σύστημα systēma, “whole compounded of several parts or members, system”, literary “composition”[1]) is a set of interacting or interdependent entities forming an integrated whole.”

It used to be that our species operated in groups of small systems, and then advents of transportation mechanisms initially (wheel, boat, car), and the communication mechanisms such as the telephone began to connect these small systems and allowed them to become part of a larger system, where learnings, advancements, and general best practices for preservation and perpetuation of human life were shared across these small systems.  Still, data was largely transmitted physically or verbally, and was not easily disseminated to all members within these small systems.  In essence, there was still a massive chasm between the volume of data one member of a system in Mongolia learned and knew, and what another member of a separate system in Peru could leverage and implement.

Obviously, with a common backbone which enables all individuals to push data into and pull data out of a shared repository (the internet), our species has largely become networked into one giant system, sharing learning and data in a way that has already and will undoubtedly continue to enhance the metrics around preservation and perpetuation at the species level.

Given this trajectory, there is no evolutionary advantage to having an individual human being value their “privacy.”  The idea that I am not a part of the system is not an idea that is “selected for” in a world where our species thrives and advances at a more productive rate as one collective system.  Granted, as we, and Mark Zuckerberg, push the limits of this movement toward one singular and fully networked system, we will continue to come up against small backlashes (hi diaspora), but the general curve is going in a single direction both within the existent population, but even more prominently in new and future generations that are coming down the pipe.

Privacy is not just less important to younger generations, it is actually at odds with our advancement as a species.  Younger generations don’t consciously view it this way, but that concept is digested by them through the everyday value they extract from parting with it.

My prediction is that 100 years from now people will look back at the concept of privacy as we know it today and perceive the societal and individual value placed around it as an absurdity.

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3 Responses to “Privacy Going the Way of the [Finch]”

RSS Feed for Jordan Cooper's Blog: startups, venture capital, etc… Comments RSS Feed

While I agree with your analysis of our direction towards increased public sharing, I do not see the value of privacy ever going away. When someone takes a dump on the sidewalk, while the neighbours have sex in their parked car in broad daylight, I’ll know you were right. 🙂

The key over the next 10 years will be supporting all levels of privacy, so that people can participate in the way they choose. Empower your user. Don’t assume they want something and force them to do it that way. If you want to be public, great. If you want to keep it to your friends, awesome. Even anonymous is going to make a comeback and it will allow us to actually talk about and deal with some of the most terrible problems: like terror, hatred, abuse, and depression. I don’t see many people posting this stuff now, so we must assume it is still being suppressed and causing all kinds of hidden damage. Public anonymity is still public, but the privacy of not knowing who it is will give people the courage to explore, share, and grow beyond these things.

I said this at my first business pitch and they laughed at me: “I think Mark Zuckerberg is very naive.” I expected the laughter, but I stand by the statement. If he was really, truly interested in promoting sharing he would do it in a way that worked for his users, not the way he assumes is “best” for society. He may have a brilliant product at the right time, but he is risking a partial market and giving others room to wedge. I for one am glad he’s screwing it up enough to give other entrepreneurs a chance.

Thanks for writing!

hahaha. nice visual w the dump and neighbors

Yes, but not 100 years. More like 10 – 20 years.

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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