Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Depiction Part 33 - Depicting Privacy by Jacqueline Lichtenberg


Part 33

Depicting Privacy


 Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts of the Depiction Series are indexed here:


Privacy is an issue that leaps to the forefront of our cultural evolution in the age of cyber-spying.

We now have the tools to filter, vet, sift, or screen thousands or even millions of people for this or that behavior, trait, keyword.  The TSA screens travelers, the CDC screens for communicable disease, the CIA screens wireless transmissions (even planting fake towers to intercept signals), and "screening" is the go-to method for controlling the behavior of large groups.

In other words, the technology has given us the easiest way to reverse the maxim, "innocent until proven guilty."

This maxim was based on the logical impossibility of proving a negative -- you can not prove your innocence, but it is possible for evidence to prove guilt.

Today, modern technology reverses that and makes it easier to prove innocence than it is to prove guilt.

Big Data, algorithms, and Artificial Intelligence makes it possible that within the next 10 years, we will be able to spot and eradicate every "extremist" -- every single person who just does not fit the mold.

Science is using such data-reduction tools to prove things about humans that may be used to establish what parameters are desirable in good citizens.  And it will be impossible to have any sort of privacy (just think about drones, speed-trap-cameras).

Here is a study to think about with respect to the human spirit, and why we need both alone-time (privacy) and gaggle-time (one-on-one interactions plus group interactions).

Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach—even if it's off. That's the takeaway finding from a new study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward and co-authors conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users in an attempt to measure, for the first time, how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby even when they're not using them.

In one experiment, the researchers asked study participants to sit at a computer and take a series of tests that required full concentration in order to score well. The tests were geared to measure participants' available cognitive capacity—that is, the brain's ability to hold and process data at any given time. Before beginning, participants were randomly instructed to place their smartphones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room. All participants were instructed to turn their phones to silent.

The researchers found that participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag.

Read more at: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-06-mere-presence-smartphone-brain-power.html#jCp
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So clearly when we feel "connected" we run a "keep-warm" program in our brains to be sure we don't miss anything.

When disconnected, we function differently.

Humans (and probably Aliens) need some of each kind of "time" -- to change functional modes.

In human history, this is a well known phenomenon, though never before have we had to possibility of NEVER being alone, or private.

Privacy has always been the signature of a Family -- "what happens between these walls, stays between these walls."  Families don't wash their dirty linen in public.

Anthropologists have long studied public and private behaviors, languages, body language, etc.  Humans do behave differently depending on whether they know or suspect they are being watched.

Establishing the boundaries of a family, a Relationship of Soul Mates, requires that humans establish and share rules of privacy.

Different cultures use different rituals to do this - I wouldn't say that one method is better than another, but it must be an effective method.

In polygamy, there is still a family, a "within these walls" -- things the group knows about each other that no outsider shares.

In the Soul Mate pair bonding, there must likewise be a circle that shuts out all others, and surrounds progeny with a "nest" of privacy.  "Use your indoor voice."  Be aware of where you are and who is listening.

Executives are taught never to criticize a subordinate before that subordinate's underlings -- for a good reason.

Behavior leverages human nature.  Establishing privacy is not the same as secrecy.  What is private might easily be known to others, and is no particular mystery.  No outsider can come to harm for not knowing what is private.  What is secret, on the other hand, is secret because of its potential effect on others.

What is private is private because of its effect on those within the privacy curtain, and irrelevant to those outside that curtain.

Privacy is essential to human mental health.

How this necessity grows through the teen years is another subject, but for the moment consider signals and rituals of monogamy -- both historical and currently being developed in the technological world.

The smartphone has invaded the family dinner table -- shattering family privacy.  When in private, a group will interact with each other in certain ways that members of that group will not use when the privacy curtain is pulled aside (as the smartphone does).

So modes of dress, speech, subjects allowed and disallowed, are all components of our privacy-signals.

Take for example the ancient practice of a woman covering her hair -- some Moslem communities use this, as do some Jewish segments.

Here is an article to ponder when setting up to depict privacy among an Alien Character's people.  A simple deed can mean one thing to some people, and another to a different set of people.


Note the anthropologist's surmise in the first paragraph of that article, and scroll down to the answer:

The hair-covering was never intended to make a married woman look ugly. Beauty is a divine gift, and Jewish tradition encourages both men and women to care for their appearance and always look presentable. Jewish tradition also encourages modesty; not in order to detract from our beauty, but rather to channel our beauty and attractiveness so it be saved for where it belongs -- within marriage.
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Think about how opposite "ugly" and "beautiful" are -- and yet the exact same action can be interpreted either way, depending on cultural assumptions.

Most cultural assumptions are unconscious, so we don't even know we are assuming something, never mind what that assumption is.

But none of that matters if the objective is achieved, and Privacy is marked, curtained away, and distinguished from larger associations and public behavior.

Technology may have ripped that curtain aside, but technology may yet provide the brand new curtain to encircle the Family in privacy.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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