We live in a new era. One of radical transparency. Wikileaks is exposing state secrets. Facebook is reconditioning us to share more of our selves, even if we don’t want to. Whether it’s making your buying preferences known to fuel smarter advertising delivery systems or leaking war strategies, the global democratization of information is forcing our hand — good or bad — to be one important thing: honest at all costs.
While I personally believe many of the secrets shared on Julian Assange’s Wikileaks to be appalling and detrimental to the greater good, he is serving as a conduit for supposed whistleblowers within organizations and governments. If (or dare I say when) he is stopped, 10 more like him will pop up. Wikileaks is the modern day equivalent of the Pilgrims setting sail for America. Those sharing the information (protesting the Catholic Church) are willing to pay ultimate sacrifices (freedom, perhaps death) for the right to share it (worship freely).
Facebook, while several hues below on the terror alert scale, is merely trying to convince us that giving them unfettered access to our habits, preferences and likes allows them to serve up smarter, more relevant advertising to us. The more relevant, the more we respond, the more effective their platform is, the more revenue they generate. They also think there’s no separation between people at work and people at play and that no one should have a problem being tagged in an image with someone else. You were there, weren’t you?
- My son Grant with a real reindeer.
He said, “That thing can’t fly, Daddy.”
Image by Jason Falls via Flickr
While in theory the openness of our lives certainly can produce greater user experiences, connections and the like, radical transparency is very uncomfortable for many. Sure, many of the many are older generations who see no value in gathering information about people from someone other than the people in question, but why should we trust the Zuckerberg Zeitgeist when we don’t trust our governments, or even each other, to protect our privacy, our data and keep it holy?
The notion of radical transparency offers an interesting ethical dilemma. We acknowledge in our relationship with governments, companies and brands that we want complete honesty. Yet we hesitate to share of ourselves in similar ways.
Do you consider yourself an honest person?
Let’s put a different spin on what radical transparency means in today’s world. If we demand transparent honesty from our government, our churches and synagogues, our companies and brands and perhaps even each other, who will be the first to stop lying to our children about Santa Claus?
My son’s kindergarten class wrote letters to Santa last week. The teachers wrote responses and mailed them out shortly after. Since my son attends a private, Catholic school which is partially administered and governed by the Archdiocese, I can connect enough dots to offer the opinion that the Catholic Church is complicit in the lie of the commercialized version of Christmas.
And for the record, my son’s class wrote letters to Santa Claus, not St. Nicholas. The patron saint of Russia was said to leave coins in the shoes of people who left them by their door and was an inspiration for the modern manifestation of Santa Claus, but the Catholic adoration of St. Nicholas is aimed at a person far different that what you think of as St. Nick.
As I consider the notion of radical transparency and what its implications are on our world, I worry that we aren’t seeing the contradictions in all of us.
Companies breach our trust and we don’t buy their products. Our government breaches our trust and we elect new leaders. Software breaches our trust and we stop using it.
What happens when our children treat us that way?
My hope on the eve of this holiday, regardless of whether you practice it or not, is that we can come to terms with the fact that sometimes, misinformation or even non-information is not bad. Or that we can declare it to be such and truly free ourselves from the binds of untruth.