Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Privacy and Immortality

Keywords: Steve Paikin; Justin Kan; Facebook; The Agenda; privacy; immortality; Bertrand Russell; Ervin Laszlo; Akashic field

Steve Paikin’s TV show “The Agenda,” tonight was about the decline of privacy. Much of the program dealt with a 23-year-old guy named (see photo), who has been wearing a on the side of his head, 24 hours per day for the past 18 days. It records what he is seeing and all the sounds around him, and he presumably posts that on ,” for all the world to see. He says he even wears it in the bathroom and in the shower. Everyone else had a qualified acceptance of this new openness, which they say is prevalent among young people who carry on a good deal of their social life on-line. I myself am not quite sure what to think of it. Steve Paikin joked that he will be very embarrassed late in life when this record of his youth is viewed, for most people are not proud of their lost youth.

Justin says it has made him a better person. He no longer talks about other people much behind their backs. He tells the truth more consistently because he knows he will get caught if he lies.

Other panelists said that most employers now look over the web sites and Facebook or MySpace pages of candidates for jobs. Some employers even say that they would not hire someone he lacked any such evidence about his interests and personality, for that is the best way to tell how trustworthy a person is.

There was some discussion as to whether it’s a good idea to let your own name and personal identifying information be posted on-line. One panelist said that it is not essential to use one’s real name; what matters is the establishing of a “persistent identity,” even under a pseudonym. By operating publicly in an on-line community over time, you build up a reputation because other people talk about you and say what they really think. It might be good for lots of us to know what other people were saying about us -- or then, maybe not.

I guess I tend to be relatively unconcerned about . I was naming my friends here in my blog for a long time until someone told me that it is unethical or maybe illegal. That surprised me. Since then I have made up a name once or twice, but generally I just describe a conversation I had with “a friend” or “a colleague” without naming them. To me it feels normal to post stories about conversations and even disputes with others, but now I know that I should not do so, except in the case of friends who are famous and therefore have forfeited their privacy already – as in the case of politicians and movie actors. Legally I think these people are called “public personalities.”

Am I a better person for having a blog? No. But I think the motivation for keeping a blog is the same as Justin’s motivations for living his life completely transparently. I like the idea of leaving footprints behind me – as permanently as possible. I don’t expect to experience personal in the sense of continuing my individual consciousness after I die. I don’t expect to attain “immortality” in the way that a great writer or painter may hope to become respected for hundreds or even a thousand years. But I like the idea of leaving my fingerprints and footprints – evidence that I did exist and had experiences.

I’ve just finished reading ’s marvelous book, , which is relevant to this idea of leaving footprints. I consider Laszlo extremely credible. He says that consciousness is part of every physical particle in the universe. Moreover, he says that underlying the physical universe is a field of information that pervades the universe and perhaps all universes that have and will exist.

Now, within this field, picture two boats that leave wakes behind them. Where their wakes meet, a new is created. In the case of water, the ripples die down after a while because of friction, but there are elements in existence that have no friction whatever, so in such a medium, the wakes and the interference patterns that they create will be permanent. A is that kind of thing: an interference pattern.

That is also the kind of thing that the is, according to Laszlo. It’s permanent and frictionless. Whatever we do in the world creates a “wake” that is multi-dimensional (not just on the flat surface of a lake) and that makes interference patterns with all the other wakes that are created by others. These wakes and interference patterns are immortal – they last forever.

I find that notion heartening. Unfortunately, the evidence as to my past misdeeds will also be there in what others called “the book of life,” (along with Justin’s photo wearing nothing but whipped cream) but we must just accept that as the price of having a kind of immortality. Derek Paul said the other day (here I go, using his name without his permission) that he arrived at a notion similar to Laszlo’s from . Although Russell called himself an atheist, he said that after he died he expected to rejoin the great field of consciousness. (Or something close to that notion.) Derek liked the concept and has believed it ever since. I think I do too. And I’m not even an atheist — nor is Derek. I don’t know whether Laszlo would call himself an atheist or not.

But lest Laszlo and Russell are mistaken about the frictionless information field, I hope to leave my blogs and books behind for as long as possible after I’m gone. (Not that anyone is likely to search through them.)

And Justin is leaving behind a video recording of his daily life. I looked a few minutes ago and he was walking down the street in San Francisco. The sidebar said he was annoyed because his date had been fucked up by the Canadian TV appearance. Let me check in again before leaving him now. Ah, so. He’s rummaging through his backpack in his apartment and watching TV with a friend. This is his grab at immortality without privacy and, I hope for his sake, without regrets.



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