Democracy or tyranny?
Every day, we must evaluate risk. Our entire lives are a balancing act between what we want, and what we are willing to risk to get it.
As children, we start to learn this lesson. For example, you might want to express yourself by something you say or do or wear. But are you willing to risk being embarrassed in front of other students?
Later on as adults, the risk/reward calculation continues. Maybe you want a better job, that pays more or offers new challenges. So, are you willing to risk leaving your stable, current job?
Sometimes, risky actions are rewarded. You might risk rejection by approaching a romantic interest, but are rewarded with a date. But risk sometimes leads to negative consequences. Maybe your offer of a date gets rebuffed.
As a result, we get used to figuring out: is the reward worth the risk? Can I live with the odds of failure versus the odds of success?
Now, more than ever, we need to perform these internal calculations. Unfortunately, we don’t have much experience in determining the likelihood of contracting the disease. No one does, because this virus is new and unknown.
As some restrictions are loosened, we all must weigh the risks against the reward. For instance, let’s say I want to eat out. Is the seating indoor or outdoor? How close will I be sitting to other customers? Will my server be wearing a mask? Are the kitchens cleaned routinely?
And pretty much all public activity will have to be evaluated in this way. Do I have pre-existing conditions? Am I likely to end up in the hospital — or even die — if I get sick? Similarly, how likely are my loved ones to survive an infection? How badly do I want these groceries, or that paycheck, or to hear that band?
This is something that is going to play a more important part of our lives going forward. How do you evaluate risk?
When someone commits a crime and they are convicted, they may be put in prison. What do we hope to achieve through this incarceration?
Incarcerating criminals, particularly violent criminals, might make our society safer. If you remove the dangerous individuals from the general population, so the theory goes, those that remain are the law abiding ones.
(This, by the way, is one of the reasons some people support the death penalty. If the most dangerous criminals are put to death, they will not be able to re-offend, and we are therefore a safer society.)
A second possibility is one of reformation. If someone who has committed a crime is isolated until they experience and show remorse, that person can be rehabilitated. They can then be reintroduced to society.
Yet another is putative. If someone has wronged us individually or as a society, that person needs to be punished. That punishment can take on different forms: removal from society at large; kept in confining or restricting quarters; forced labor; removal from any human contact; etc.
Incarceration can also be seen as a potential deterrent to others. If you break the law, this will happen to you. So you’d better not break the law!
There may be other possible reasons as well. Each one of these has merits and flaws. However, to answer this question we need to answer a different question first: what are we trying to achieve? What is the outcome we want, and what is the best way to get that outcome? Do we want punishment? Do we want rehabilitation?
In other words, what is the purpose of incarceration?
Privacy as it relates to social media is a hot-button issue. How much you share, who can see your data, and how the social media companies use what data they collect? These are all problems that concern us every day.
Privacy or convenience?
But even beyond our social media presence, we have been trading privacy for convenience regularly over the years. Credit card companies, for example, can track you geographically via your card usage, as well as knowing how you spend your money. We accept this intrusion into our lives because it keeps us from having to carry cash or to write checks.
As technology advances, the ability for companies or governments to know more about us has increased drastically. Our smartphones give us the entire Internet in our pockets, accessible at the touch of a finger. However, the flip side is that we carry a GPS tracking device with us wherever we go.
New artificial-intelligence devices, like Amazon’s Echo or the Google Home system, are enabling new so-called “smart homes”. They can control things like lights, thermostats, and can even be wired to connect to appliances like the stove or the refrigerator. But they also raise some serious privacy concerns, as they could potentially allow companies to listen to everything that happens in your home. It could also make your house susceptible to hackers.
Generations are now being raised with these devices, with their resulting loss of privacy. If you grew up before these devices were introduced, you may feel quite differently about them.
Different people are more comfortable than others regarding sharing their lives. Some have no problem posting every detail of their day to Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram, or any other social media platform. Others can be quite possessive of their own personal data.
What are the risks?
To be sure, we can see that there can be consequences to this data being collected and shared. With everything from the Snowden revelations to the accusations of targeted election meddling, countries or corporations that do not share your interests or values are abusing data.
Even if you have nothing to hide, if you are not cheating or stealing or deceiving someone, is there a certainly level of privacy that we each need? Are there some things that we need to have just for ourselves, things that we don’t share, even with our closest friends, family, or other loved ones? Or is it a shifting target, subject to social norms?
How important is privacy?
The past is fixed. Is the future flexible? Or are we locked in to a certain path, unable to escape? Can we use our free will to make our own choices, or is the universe a giant game of billiards, with the final outcome determined by the initial set-up?
Share why if you wish.