The topic of privacy has frequently been discussed within the context of digital information. What kind of information can individuals or organizations collect from us, and how can they use it to gather intelligence about our activities and behaviors? The purpose of this paper therefore is to investigate privacy, and what privacy will mean as technology advances and integrates more tightly with humans. The definition of privacy will adapt and change based on our new involuntary disclosure of information as gathered by new sensors and modalities.
The design of this study is strongly based on the structure of a conceptual paper, with a secondary focus as a literature analysis. From the context of a privacy framework, this paper analyzes the developments of two converging developments: neural implants, and the internet of things, and how these developments will reshape the definition of privacy. By analyzing the existing literature in regards to definitions of privacy, the advancements in technology in regards to modalities and new information gathered, a new definition and evolution in privacy is introduced and examined.
The findings of this paper indicate that as our technology approaches a stage of tighter integration with the human psyche, more and more of our thoughts will be available for analysis and communication. This paper therefore argues that the new definition of privacy will be significantly less expansive. An additional and important finding of this paper is the coinage and definition of a new phenomenon: Internet 5.0 (an internet enabled collective consciousnesses embedded in our pysche, connecting all humans together).
The value of this paper is in that it provides an insight into a previously insufficiently examined future. If it comes to be that humans are all interconnected via an Internet 5.0 type network, where all of our thoughts are shared, significant attention will need to be applied in the areas of privacy, and access control. Humanity will need to rethink communication on a very fundamental level, and will have to define privacy in a new way such that we do not violate the rights of others an intimately interconnected digital age.
Keywords: future communication patterns, privacy, Internet 5.0, telepathy, mind to mind communication, digital privacy
New Communication Patterns
The internet has dramatically shaped the amount and type of communication that humans in engage in. It has resulted in an exponential amount of data generated by humanity, currently at an estimated 2.5 exabytes per day (Khoso, 2016). This represents one of the fundamental driving forces in human social and technological development.
Concurrently, in the domain of neural implants, “advances ... are for the first time making viable, silent speech communication devices a reality” (Brumberg, Nieto-Castanon, Kennedy, & Guenther, 2010). That is, it is currently possible for an individual to communicate directly with a neural interface. Not only has it been demonstrated that individuals can broadcast information via neural implant, but it has also already been demonstrated that they may recieve information as well. Already in 1998, scientists successfully restored the communication ability of a patient via implant (Brumberg et al., 2010). On the recieving end, a method for sending information via the neural implant has also been demonstrated by connecting to an existing human sensory interface. An oft cited example are cortical interfaces which allow neural implants to simulate vision.
It therefore follows that there will be a convergence between internet connectivity and neural interfaces. The technology for neural interfaces will allow one, via the internet, to communicate with any device or individual, and in intimate ways.
To help us understand implications of this future therefore, we will investigate several scenarios, and what we should study to prepare ourselves for these scenarios.
Description of the Scenarios
In the following section, two scenarios will be explained and evaluated.
The first scenario involves a new collective internet that represents a superorganism composed of all humans who are on the network. Humans who are able to communicate via the sharing of qualia (thoughts) will share bonds amongst each other that have thus far never been as intimate. Humans will posess the capacity, for the first time, to truly understand each other and events that have occured. This idea is explored in Asimov’s Foundation edge: “humanity could share a common insanity and be immersed in a common illusion while living in a common chaos.”.
Humanity’s new ability to directly share, recreate, and experience qualia (thoughts), will allow humans to express and distribute tacit information. This means that we will be more capable of empathizing with each other, and conversely our sphere of empathy will grow. This growth in empathy will likely result in a decrease in the amount of crimes and acts intended to cause injury to other persons.
This interconnected humanity could represent an evolution in society that allows for a much broader and more integrated form of cooperation. Groups of individuals would be able to more fluidly work together, convey project objectives and work together unobtrusively. It is likely that such an interconnectivity will lead to a productivity boom several magnitudes more profound than the introduction of the internet.
The evolution of Privacy
The second scenario involves a change in the definition of privacy. Privacy is usually governed and restricted by the control of information flows. It is often reasoned by Rosen in “The unwanted gaze: the destruction of privacy in America” (Rosen, 2001) that information must be controlled to prevent injury against an individual through recontextualization of information. With a strongly diminished capacity for a misunderstanding, and a greatly strengthened capacity for understanding and empathy, we will see a significant reduction in the scope of privacy. This is because it will no longer be easily possible for information to be misinterpreted. It could be communicated in a higher level form, with all relevant details, very quickly. Therefore, a more fluid human - human interface, will greatly diminish the role of privacy as a means of self-preservation.
Another type of privacy that will change is Rosen’s “privacy as a form of freedom”. Privacy as a form of freedom describes a privacy of information that is outside of the reach of society, a privacy that allows an individual to conduct themselves in such a way as they would when unobserved. Depending on how obtrusive or connected the neural implants are with humans, this form of privacy may cease to exist. Given the ability to “plug-in” to any other human, it may no longer be possible to have “privacy as a form of freedom”.
Dignified privacy as a form of preventing harm may become more and more important as humans may develop a bias towards a communal culture. In a society where the community and the interactions of the community are ever powerful, it is increasingly important that we avoid “intrinsic offense against individual dignity” (Rosen, 2001). As culture shifts due to new communication patterns and trends, so does privacy “privacy regulation involves more than use of the physical environment alone, but includes a variety of verbal, nonverbal, environmental, and cultural mechanisms” (Altman, 1977). These cultural mechanisms, as they change, will too change privacy in regards to dignity.
Descriptions of the Research Priorities
The first study that should be conducted is about human empathy as a result of communication. How much will our interconnectedness expand our monkey-sphere. How many more people can we empathize with and understand? Furthermore, what are some of the broader implications of this expansion of our monkey-sphere? What are the kinds of behaviors excised against those in or outside a particular individuals’ monkey-sphere. This will give us clues as to how individuals of the future may behave.
The second thing that must be thoroughly examined is how privacy is moderated and effected by intimacy. This is important to understand because it is assumed that greater interconnectivity among humans will lead to greater intimacy. This greater intimacy signals a reduction in privacy, and this study will thereby enable us to measure how much or how our privacy will change.
Finally, a study must be made on privacy of freedom. How will information gathered from neural interfaces be regulated. Can it be controlled? Is there a way to create an interface that will not impinge upon the personal liberties of the individual?
Discussion of the Scientific and Societal Relevance of these Priorities
The societal relevance of these types of studies is extremely significant. If humanity is to engage in a future in which human minds are interconnected via neural implants, the implications could be tremendous. It may mean a complete restructuring of society, organizations, and traditional communication patterns. It is therefore important that we understand in advance how this will affect our psyche, and what possible pitfalls there may be to this type of intimate interconnectivity.
The research on these types of interconnected groups will possibly form the backbone of how our next generation of society is organized. For this reason we must understand it thoroughly.
With great power also comes a very large possibility for abuse of that power. The internet is one such medium where an individual may project an agenda, whether good or bad. This power carries risk. This type of freedom may be even more dangerous when devices are connected directly to the human mind. This must be watchguarded, understood, and designed in such a way that no single individual may inflict tyranny upon the majority.
“It seems to me, Golan, that the advance of civilization is nothing but an exercise in the limiting of privacy.” (Asimov, 1985)
Altman, I. (1977). Privacy regulation: Culturally universal or culturally spe- cific? Journal of Social Issues, 33(3), 6684.
Asimov, I. (1985). Foundations edge. Granada.
Brumberg, J. S., Nieto-Castanon, A., Kennedy, P. R., & Guenther, F. H. (2010).
Braincomputer interfaces for speech communication. Speech Communication, 52(4), 367379.
Khoso, M. (2016, Jul). How much data is produced every day?
Rosen, J. (2001). The unwanted gaze: the destruction of privacy in America. Vintage Books.