I got kinda lost and didn’t finish reading this New Yorker article by Jaron Lanier, but I like him in general and wanted to capture this passage for further digestion:
For years, I worked on the E.U.’s privacy policies, and I came to realize that we don’t know what privacy is. It’s a term we use every day, and it can make sense in context, but we can’t nail it down well enough to generalize. The closest we have come to a definition of privacy is probably “the right to be left alone,” but that seems quaint in an age when we are constantly dependent on digital services. In the context of A.I., “the right to not be manipulated by computation” seems almost correct, but doesn’t quite say everything we’d like it to.
This question of “rights” becomes an extremely tough one when you ask who exactly would enforce such a right, to, for example, not be manipulated by computation? How exactly would it work, when we’re swimming in a sea of things that are constantly computationally manipulating us – even down to the level of the design of physical products and infrastructure we rely on. All of it, the whole system, the whole complex, manipulates us into the shape it wants. Everything gardens.
As the Unabomber tried and proved, you can’t simply go into the woods and live in an austere cabin and be left alone anymore. Society comes to find you. Other people manipulate the landscape around you. Who then can enforce such a supposed right to be “left alone?”
And as a corollary, in such a world, what can true freedom look like any more? What refuges are left to us and how can we access them?
Is the right to not be computationally manipulated inclusive of say, the ability to opt out of being required to us computers or internet-based services in educational, professional, and other environments? Like, can we get it to mean that analog & human-first alternatives must always be available? In other words, the right to use a rotary phone? Or, what about the right to not have to be distracted by devices, or by constant interruptions, updates, and notifications? If we’re going to innovate in this direction, let’s go all the way… All the way where?