Via Andrew Sullivan, I watched this moving video... No one can watch it without tears, I think. I certainly didn’t.
I was deeply moved. And then I thought. Not about pro- or anti-intervention positions, or the consequences and costs of sending troops abroad for extended missions. But about privacy.
I was moved by a private and personal moment. And I was moved, perhaps more than by great art. Any artist who could stimulate emotion like this would be regarded as a genius.
This is probably one of the most significant events this girl has ever experienced. What right do I have to participate in it?
I think this girl had a right to feel this emotion completely and utterly in private. I don’t know what to do about the fact that she couldn’t, that she was compelled against her will to share it with millions of strangers, and that I participated in that violation, but I’m trying to figure it out. I think we all need to figure it out.
And I linked to it. And I encouraged you to watch it. I have participated fully in violating her privacy. Maybe she doesn't mind. Maybe she's even proud, or will be someday. But that is all beyond the realm of her own choice.
We’ve been spared all sorts of ethical decisions simply because it was previously technically impossible to do any number of things, from examining fetuses at early stages to uploading videos of private moments. We didn’t have to take a position on texting while driving in the past, because there was no way to do it. There was no way to quickly copy and distribute music, or text, or images. Now there is.
If the meek inherit the earth, it’s because they lack the power to do evil, not because they have decided not to do evil. Virtue implies the ability to do otherwise. With power comes responsibility. We can’t duck the technology, and we can’t duck the need to decide what to do about its consequences. The answer may be “nothing other than moderate regulation, with an occasional hysterical overreaction to some egregious edge condition”. That is likely, in fact, to be the only possible answer.
But we have to make the choice consciously, with full knowledge of what it entails. We cannot evade it.
This particular little snippet is a useful place to start thinking. It is entirely positive. No one involved has anything to be embarrassed or ashamed about. It is really quite wonderful. I think everyone should see it.
Should it be private? Or do we have a right to share? Who decides, and how? The fact that the questions are hard to answer does not mean they shouldn't be asked.
All good points, and thanks for taking the time to think about it. I'm not just ranting about our vanishing privacy in a kind of generic way--we've invented the concept only recently, and there was a time not too long ago where that girl's emotion would have been witnessed, and shared, by her entire family and village, with no idea that it would be any other way.
I don't really know why I responded the way I did. I just felt so...intimate. I felt like a voyeur. And yet, even knowing what I know now, I wouldn't say I should have foregone the experience.
My main point stands, however. What were previously limits imposed by physical reality must now be replaced with limits that are chosen. This doesn't just apply to privacy, but to any number of other areas, from reproduction to large-scale manipulation of nature. Who choses and how?