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I heard a report on NPR about an auto insurance company giving drivers the options of putting GPS tracking devices on their vehicles to lower insurance rates by as much as 30%. The idea is that, for example, the device could confirm to the insurance company that the car wasn't being used in high risk situations, such as commute traffic. Safe driving situations would be rewarded with lower rates.

This made me wonder how much money could be saved by creating an entire city with no privacy except in the bedroom and bathroom. I will stipulate in advance that you do not want to live in such a place because you're an urban pirate. You want the freedom to do "stuff" that no one ever finds out about.  I get it. This is just an economic thought experiment.

Although you would never live in a city without privacy, I think that if one could save 30% on basic living expenses, and live in a relatively crime-free area, plenty of volunteers would come forward.

Let's assume that residents of this city agree to get "chipped" so their locations are always known. Everyone's online activities are also tracked, as are all purchases, and so on. We'll have to assume this hypothetical city exists in the not-so-distant future when technology can handle everything I'm about to describe.

This city of no privacy wouldn't need much of a police force because no criminal would agree to live in such a monitored situation. And let's assume you have to have a chip to enter the city at all. The few crooks that might make the mistake of opting in would be easy to round up. If anything big went down, you could contract with neighboring towns to get SWAT support in emergency situations.

You wouldn't need police to catch speeders. Cars would automatically report the speed and location of every driver.  That sucks, you say, because you usually speed, and you like it. But consider that speed limits in this hypothetical town would be much higher than normal because every car would be aware of the location of every other car, every child, and every pet. Accidents could be nearly eliminated.

Healthcare costs might plunge with the elimination of privacy. For example, your pill container would monitor whether you took your prescription pills on schedule. I understand that noncompliance of doctor-ordered dosing is a huge problem, especially with older folks.

Without privacy you would also begin to build a database of which drugs are actually working and which ones have deadly side effects. Every patient's history would be meticulously and automatically collected. The same goes for detailed diet and exercise patterns. Healthcare today involves an alarming amount of educated guesswork. In time, with a total lack of privacy, we'd know precisely which kinds of choices have better health outcomes.

Now imagine that your doctor has a full screen of your DNA so together you can modify your lifestyle or healthcare choices to avoid problems for which you are prone. This city would need to have universal healthcare to make this work. No one would be denied coverage because of an existing or potential condition.

Employment would seem problematic in this world of no privacy. You assume that no employer would hire someone who has risky lifestyle preferences, or DNA that suggests major health problems. But I'll bet employers would learn that everyone has issues of one kind or another, so hiring a qualified candidate who might later become ill will look like a good deal. And on the plus side, employers would rarely hire someone who had a bad employment record, as that information would not be as hidden as it is today. Bad workers would end up voluntarily moving out of the city to find work. Imagine a world where your coworkers are competent. You might need a lack of privacy to get to that happy situation.

Public transportation would be cheap in this city of no privacy. Once you know where everyone is, and where everyone wants to go, you can design a system that has little wasted capacity. That means lower costs.

Now let's say that your house is aware of your location and even your patterns of activities. Smart systems in the home can turn off your lights whenever a room is unoccupied, power down your computer as needed, and generally manage your power consumption smartly. And if you insisted on being an energy hog, your neighbors would be aware of it. Studies have shown that peer pressure has a huge impact on conservation. It's not as bad as it sounds; if your neighbor is elderly, and using a lot of energy for extra heating, you would understand. In most cases your neighbor's excessive energy use would have a perfectly good explanation.

At tax time, you'd be done before you started. All of your financial activities would be tracked in real time, so your taxes would always be up to date.

Advertisements would transform from a pervasive nuisance into something more like useful information. Advertisers would know so much about your lifestyle and preferences that you would only see ads that made perfect sense for your situation.

This lack of privacy would extend to businesses as well, although the better description in this case would be transparency. As a consumer, you'd know where to get the best prices. You'd know how long the wait is at your favorite restaurant. And you'd know how every consumer felt about his experience with every business.

When you considered applying for a new job, you'd have access to the latest employee opinion survey for that business. Bad employee practices would be driven out and best practices would more easily spread.

Confusopolies wouldn't be tolerated in this city. Confusing pricing plans are a weasel method of hiding information from consumers. If a company wants to offer cell phone service, or insurance, or banking, in this city they have to meet standards for pricing clarity.

On the personal side of things, a complete surrendering of privacy means it's always easy to locate and hook up with people who have similar interests and similar schedules. Dating, and every other social activity would become far easier. And cheating would be nearly impossible.

You worry about the slippery slope of zero privacy. The government could easily abuse this information. But that problem is somewhat minimized because the situation is limited to a single city, and the residents can simply leave if they don't like how things are going.

I know you don't want to live in that city. I'm just curious what sort of price, in economic terms, and in convenience and in social benefits, we pay for our privacy. My guess is that it's expensive.
 
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Mar 15, 2011
Interesting article, and right where a number of existing business efforts are headed.

I find it interestingly congruent with a principle I try to live by: act as if everybody is watching, even when they're not. The operative word for me is "try." I'm not perfect, nor would anybody else in no-privacy-land be. What mechanisms would we construct to forgive each other for our transgressions? Would they be any different from what's done today?
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 15, 2011
http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/03/13/roy.tapes.childhood/index.html
To summarize the link, it talks about language development for a baby in a similar format as your Noprivacyville. It found out by data clustering, which words were used where & re-experience old memories.
Personally I like idea of Noprivacyville, it sounds like a major step in science, technology, economics, etc. but one main fear is becoming a homogeneous culture. A culture about $$ and not drawing attention to one's self. One question that I'd ask is if we'd still revolutionary ideas. Would people be too scared to present new efficient ideas because it may damage their reputation?
If yes, then I don't think it's a good idea. If not, then why limit the data? Somebody would probably start doing crimes in bedrooms or bathrooms. I wouldn't mind a robot watching me in the bathroom, so long as there weren't any perverts on the other end.
 
 
Mar 15, 2011
I hope you have read 1984.
In your city there will be NO happy man left. Somebody monitoring my driving speed, health choices, energy usage and I monitoring the same of my neighbors all the time? People will get sick of this society in little time. All the cost savings sacrificing my freedom is not worth it.
"People" intelligence and data mining will have new dimensions that was never before. The "system" would know more about you than yourself. The system can predict all kinds of things that I am not aware of myself. It would know what would make me angry, what would make me commit mistakes. The person who has "control" over the system would if he desires to amuse himself - can totally play with my life and ruin it. I am not up for that.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 15, 2011
Hmm... Sounds about like living about 100 years ago. (Ok, I'm getting old; call it 150.) Everyone that mattered to you lived within walking or riding distance, everyone knew everyone else, and everyone was aware of anything of consequence in each other's lives. Technology has done nothing to make us more "societal," and no amount of it will ever do so. It's only driven us to take refuge in tiny, extremely-focused interest groups that have no real connection. Your idea would only work if complete, but, as pressure mounts, more bad actors will break the system, and render it a waste of taxpayer dollars. ;-)
 
 
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 15, 2011
The problem is not that your semi-personal details are exposed. I have no true interest in hiding where I travel. The problem is that this data will be misused. Both governments and business care not about you, only about your money. You're giving them hundreds of way to collect, yet not pay.

The same trend is true or may be coming in healthcare. You charge the smokers extra and the rest cheers, for they do not want to pay for such lifestyle choices. Next, we move on to the fatties, and suddenly over 50% has a problem. Then we move on to the workaholics, people who do not exercise or do risky sports, which basically means any sport. Finally, there will be nobody left with a discounted charge, only people paying extra. All of us.

One of the other commenters mentioned an example from the Netherlands, how exposing the privacy of your family was considered social. Allow me to give you a counter example. When the Germans invaded the Netherlands, they had no problem tracking down the Jews. Why not? Because "religion" was part of the population records. I'm sure none of these people had any real issue sharing their religion, but it became an issue when it was misused for an unforeseen event.

This is not paranoia or a farfetched example that is outdated. Watch the news and learn how ugly the world really is. I will die before being chipped.
 
 
Mar 15, 2011
Although none of us would probably want to do it, here's a way to save an additional 10%-20% on living expenses in Noprivacyville. If all residents there were to have their eyes put-out, there wouldn't be any need for fancy architecture, landscaping, ladie's makeup, orthodontia, house paint, or even socks that match.

Think of the savings! You could get away with a plain-looking, low maintenance wife. And she would love her cubic zirconium wedding ring.

There would be less family arguments. If your kid looked a lot like the African-American mailman, who would know?
 
 
Mar 15, 2011
Here's a follow-up thought experiment you might want to consider, continuing with what I said.

Create a walled town with a 100% transparent public sector. Anybody who works for the public sector has to agree to the transparency as far as their income is concerned as long as they serve as well. Mandatory term limits. All laws need to be re-approved every four years (so you can't get sloppy archaic bad laws that hang around for centuries). All cops on film when on duty; all government officials on film when having meetings with two or more people, etc. Anything requiring policy changes has to have the data backing it up online (TSA claiming a new procedure will stop terrorists? Show me the data.)

Any citizen living here pays more in taxes - say a robust additional 10 of their income on top of already existing state and federal. Then step back and see what happens when government is finally accountable.

With an accountable government, I bet you don't even need the 10% more - half the overage, waste, etc., would be shamed away fast.I bet after a while nobody would want to work in the government any longer, in which case you fall back to a required service as a cost of being a citizen instead of taxes.

 
 
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 15, 2011
Here is where the system falls apart: as soon as there's a system that can use the data against you, i.e., a government. And I don't think you (Scott) want to live like that. I mean, the concept of living in an anarchy coupled with the lack of privacy is a concept I actually like. Living with a lack of privacy with a controlling government simply won't work. Thought experiment fail.

Every single datum you talk about would be abused by a government in order to control the citizenry. Don't say it wouldn't, because it will. It's already happened. The government sucks up all kinds of data - buying records, internet traffic, etc.

I know that technically in your scenario that data would exist for the government, but there is one major flaw: public data for the citizenry to policy each other is one thing. Public data for a non-accountable police force is another.

there is also a second major flaw. Anybody with half a brain can mine the data to expose the areas you joke at keeping private, like the bedroom. A citizen goes to a lingerie store and then comes home and dissaperars into a bedroom for a few hours? duh. A depressed citizen has his lack of life, something he wants to keep private, easily figured out? duh. Somebody wants to do something private but not illegal - say, simply have sex with multiple people, consensually - you can't.

What *you've* created is the worst combination of police state and nosy, busybody society. Unless society was a lot more lilberal to begin with - "oh, john's sleeping with four people? Who cares?" - it wouldn't work. People would be shamed into behavior that isn't natural.

As usual, tyranny of the majority sounds great to those in the majority. You have nothing to hide so why should we care if we have nothing to hide? You self-admit your personal life is pretty vanilla, so why should we care if our lives get forcibly molded into something vanilla? You don't have bi leanings that you occasionally want to indulge in private (with consenting adults) so why should we?

The only way the system even had a chance of working would be if the government was as transparent as the citizens, and even moreso. No secret police, no CIA. Every action, email, meeting, and discussion recorded and in public. Every cop constantly on film and being broadcasted.

In fact, I think your mythical town should *start* with a lack of privacy for the government and work backward. Total transparency there might correct things better and faster than starting with the citizens. What about that?
 
 
Mar 15, 2011
Scott, take a look at the book "Freedom Incorporated" by Peter Tylee. The book describes something rather similar to your Noprivacyville but slightly more futuristic. I believe it is available free in eBook format. It's a neat read.
 
 
Mar 15, 2011
Ohh so basically the world from the movie "Demolition Man." Just make sure Wesley Snipes doesn't make it into the city.
 
 
Mar 15, 2011
An interesting thought experiment, Scott. I suspect the cost savings would not be as grand as you like because if there is enough demand, the cost to be part of this city would be sky-high.

I'm quite frightened by the number of folks saying they want to live in such a place. I'd appreciate it if these folks would not give away my privacy rights in addition to their own, just because they don't care if everyone knows their business.
 
 
Mar 15, 2011
Are you kidding? I'd move to this town in a second. I don't care who knows my "dirty little secrets" like salary or medical conditions. And I'm a disgustingly clean-living, long-time-married person, so there aren't any skeletons in my closet to dig up. It would be great to live in a place where my reward for being a straight arrow was more than just the santimonious, smug feeling it gives me.

One thing I think you have wrong, though. Traffic accidents might take a bit of a dive but most are caused by inattention, not speeding. Unless you are assuming the cars themselves are smarter and can basically self-drive, which is a MUCH bigger technological leap forward than everything else, I don't think accidents are going to go down so much. The real way to force them down would be to disallow bad drivers -- which would be possible in this scenario, but we are only talking about a lack of privacy, not a lack of other rights. If we extend this system to rigorously eliminate drivers who regularly show bad habits, that would definitely help.

Also on transportation, I would assume that every vehicle in this place would have sensors to detect when drivers have been drinking and wouldn't start if they had. (Again, great for me. I do drink but absolutely never when I have to drive afterward. Ah, there it is, my holier-than-thou glow. It's like a warm blanket.)

You could probably cut more than 30% of the costs of living in such a place; but enough people would want to live there that demand would drive the cost right back up.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 15, 2011
As I was told many, many years ago; locks only keep honest people honest. Same would be said for chips...
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 15, 2011
Whatever I pay, it's worth it.
 
 
Mar 15, 2011
There was an interestin TV show back in the late 60s, maybe early 70s called The Prisoner with Patrick McGoohan (sp.?). It was set around a sort of utopian city where everyone just had a number, everyone knew each otehrs business, etc. It was a compelling show, especially for it's time.
 
 
Mar 15, 2011
Scott...would you like to ultimately have most if not all those features you mention, yet lose absolutely NO personal privacy to get there?

Launching soon: www.bne1.com
 
 
Mar 15, 2011
I think you've just described a small town in Utah
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 15, 2011
Just think, your neighbors will all know just how often you've been to church and what you've been up to. Have you been toeing the dogmatic line? Tithing enough? Your preacher will be able to tell just what you've been up to and be able to call you to task in front of the congregation. Hallelujah!
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 15, 2011
arrrrrgh, it's the end times! Your chip represents the mark of the beast! The guvermint will be able to prevent me from worshiping in the way god wants me to! Evil! Evil! Evil!

Oh wait, I'm an atheist.

Never mind.
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 15, 2011
I assume that a common practice would be go to Noprivacyville for the higher wages (and lower costs,) work for, say, five to ten years, and then retire to Hardyville to enjoy your savings. I know I would do it.
 
 
 
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