Science contra privacy / autonomy

Science has structural components that lead to undermining privacy and personal autonomy. Two arise from the way in which it increases the reach of the nervous system.

1a.) The presumption for use. Hey, if you’re not doing anything wrong, why are you worried? You wouldn’t object to having a cop monitoring that area, why not a camera? We’re just collecting data/ trying to do our due diligence/ avoid litigation…

1b.) The value of the shocking. Novel and bizarre information has power to catch and keep attention and has always been used as an attempt to hold a crowd.  But when these crowds go to the size that science allows, whole societies of the novel, bizarre and shocking become possible. Outlier cases like child abductions, freak deaths, or terrorist attacks are seen as urgent public problems to be addressed. But one can’t catch outlier freak cases without being a good deal more invasive, making a presumption for surveillance, and going on mass fishing-expeditions for data.

2.) Limitations of case study. The double-blind case study has pretty significant limitations in studying certain populations (see “Gender and Physiology” here for difficulties in studying the transgendered) though these limitations can be overcome by forcing everyone into observational structures, i.e. making everyone a participant in a longitudinal study. This turns at least some defenses of privacy into defenses of ignorance, which sets up a ratchet effect away from privacy or autonomy.


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