The coming transparency wars: Part 2

“Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress.
Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.” – Thomas A. Edison

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Failure

Rule breakers need to be able to make mistakes, but transparency increases the pain threshold for making those mistakes. It sounds good when business people talk about wearing failure as a badge of courage, and how we can improve our success ratio by failing faster and failing smarter. But, in all likelihood, the next generation of transparency won’t even let us get to that point.

As Thomas Edison so aptly reminds us, there are valuable lessons to be learned from the things that don’t work. Failures are not inevitable, and failure to one person is success to another. When the learning process that comes from failure is aborted prematurely, the failure is destined to repeat itself.

The Coming Collision of Transparency Advocates and Rule-Breakers

Transparency is entering our lives at a relentless pace. As we continue to transform into human information nodes, we find ourselves constantly radiating information. And this information is being detected, logged, and analyzed for use in unusual ways.

1. In the design of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg has invariably chosen to err on the side of transparency. While there are always options for controlling individual privacy, the default settings tend to be the more open choice. Data mining of Facebook profiles has become a growing source of concern.

2. Major retailers are investing heavily in creating shopper profiles from tracking signals emitted from cellphones and other handheld devices. While the individual remains anonymous, their movements are tracked throughout the store with a careful record being kept of any action that may signal an interest in a particular product.

3. The Wall Street Journal published a report on the use of cookies, and the growth of consumer-tracking on major Web sites. In this report, they analyzed big websites and found that many dropped more than 100 cookies into visitors’ computers, with a 64-cookie average on the 50 largest sites.

4. Video surveillance has become a huge industry as camera prices and installation cost continue to drop. Intelligent surveillance cameras now have built-in features like instant analytics. This means that less video data needs to be streamed to a central location for viewing, which reduces the chance of bandwidth constraints and requires less human monitoring.

5. Low cost thermal security cameras are a fairly new phenomenon. Innovations in sensor technology have led to a significant reduction in the cost of producing thermal cameras, paving the way far more thermal video surveillance.

6. China is now setting the pace for the world in video surveillance. City-wide installations of over 100,000 cameras are not uncommon, dwarfing even the largest projects in Europe and the U.S.

As transparency grows, we are approaching a logical breaking point. When we do, look for the small-time rule-breakers of the past to become the full-scale turbo-charged rule-breakers of the future.

The driving forces of those wishing to monetize transparency will find themselves in a full-scale cyber-war with those who have reached their limit. And it may involve much more than online battlefields.

Testing Our Limits

Growing up as young people we are constantly testing our limits. We are testing the limits of how much we can eat or drink, how little sleep we can get away with, how fast we can run, and even how many people we can date simultaneously. We structure competitions, such as track and field events and academic challenges, around finding who has the highest limits.

Without testing our limits, we can’t possibly know what they are. We are all terminally human, and our learning styles and thought processes vary tremendously from one person to another. As such, we need enough runway to fall on our face a few times before we understand our limits.
The world is changing and limit-testing is our way of informing us how to behave in the future. Our understanding of these evolving new rules are valuable insights worth learning.

Transparency has an insidious way of encroaching on our space and exposing our foibles to the rest of the world. Those with the greatest upside potential also have the greatest risk of downside exposure.

Most of humanity has a built-in lemming gene that causes them to go with the flow. But once the pain threshold reaches a certain point, even the lemming genes won’t contain the fury.

Strap yourself in, it’s about to get messy.

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