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Focus on Freedom

Anonymity - Hazard, Not Protection;
Limitation, not Enhancement

The ability to be anonymous in one's interactions with others is a situation technologically possible in the current age more than ever before. But is it really desirable? If the present situation of governments with their coercive nature, and inevitable practices of interference in voluntary interactions, were not a factor, would an individual really benefit from anonymity practiced by himself and others? I contend that he would not, but would instead be severely limiting his choices and opportunities.

It is virtually taken for granted that a person seeking a product or service will in the process obtain, study and evaluate all the information that he personally considers important before committing funds and time. This is an equally accepted practice prior to selecting a college/university, residence location, new car, job position or even vacation site.

Far less typical is the practice of researching and evaluating people under consideration for, or with whom one is even already in, any of various types of relationships. Many people one interacts with everyday are virtually anonymous, even if their names are known - store clerks, bus driver, mail carrier, co-workers, neighbors - and the only exchanges desired are limited - to the specific purchase, bus ride, letter receipt, comments made on the weather, wave on passing by. As long as these relationships are "tiny", they are "perfect" in the sense that both parties are trading to mutual benefit; no further investigation is warranted. It is when one wishes to widen the scope of an ongoing relationship or develop one anew with the hopes that it will be deeper, that investigation and evaluation is necessary. This applies to friendships on all levels; the more important the relationship desired, the more that should be known prior to considering that relationship to be in place. And since nothing - person or situation - is static, relationships should always be open for evaluation, prompted when interactions nag at one's mind even before they become blatant concerns.

In a bygone era, references were both expected to be received and provided. One didn't rent a room in a private home, get a job, or obtain a loan without a reference from a knowledgeable and trusted party; and further scrutiny from the prospective landlord, employer, or lender was often the case. Without such a reference, many a person would be rejected outright, unless dealing with another who trusted his own personal assessment skills and was more willing to take a risk. Prospective suitors of the day would need to be introduced by a friend of the family who would be, by doing so, vouching for the integrity of the young man. This was not only the case among the "landed gentry" but in "working class" circles as well. Even most of our parents and their contemporaries met each other via family or friends, not at work, in nightclubs or via the Internet. A fair amount of information was expected to be known in prior periods before entrusting one's property, business, money or affections to others. The plots of numerous books (many turned into movies) include crisis episodes centered on the failure of a character to obtain or provide vital information for a business or romantic relationship. The examples are abundant - in fact and fiction - of harm that can and has occurred with the failure to know sufficient information to judge another's character and evaluate the risk of association.

How then can such an evaluation be done if both - or even one of the - parties seeks anonymity? It can't be. The individual who does not make information available is limiting the ability of others to evaluate him. To the degree to which the information is incomplete or misleading, people will be at a disadvantage when assessing him or her. In a society based on the principles of social meta-needs (see Social Meta-Needs: A New Basis for Optimal Human Interaction.html and Natural Social Contract: A Contract Concerning Interpersonal Conduct for Mutual Benefit), the social contract executors (signers) would provide large amounts of factual information about themselves directly linked to their identities on the Internet, knowing that the more informed each is the better decisions each of them can make. In the same way, they will provide factual information about those with whom they relate in either a business or personal context. And each executor also will know that the content of the information provided - whether about himself or others - is judged for veracity by others who know these same persons. In this way a person's reputation for the honesty of his assessment both concerning himself and others, is completely open for others to evaluate.

Now to some this openness may actually be frightening - the idea of letting others know about some actions performed or ideas held in the past that are currently considered (by the person himself and/or others) to have been wrong - perhaps mere errors in knowledge or judgment. But it is the rare human being (I contend non-existent) who has not at sometime done or thought something that was later decided, based on more knowledge/experience, to have been faulty at the time. Making all the facts known - including the dates of or age at occurrence - allows others to properly assess the situation, including evidence that self-improvement followed. Such a practice of disclosure, I contend, would also promote an atmosphere of greater self-responsibility resulting in far less repetition of "poor decisions".

Currently, the ability to conceal many (if not all) facts about oneself in most transactions (especially on the Internet) allows one to hide from the "judgment" of others. This encourages many to be irresponsible in their actions and statements, knowing that those cannot be associated with a "real" person. In some cases it also allows the person to "hide" from his own self-evaluation.

Fear of interference by government agencies is a common reason given for such anonymity. However it is only by aiming for a society the underlying principles of which do not support the legalized monopoly use of initiating force (government) that any progress towards such a society will ever be achieved. Being open and honest about oneself for the exchange of value decision-making information with others can be done currently with minimal if any risk from action by government agencies. Information I would like to see and am ready to provide are:

By recognizing the need for public information sharing between individuals for the purpose of evaluating the move into or maintenance of any but the most limited relationships, a person has taken the first step towards being fully responsible for himself in his relationship other individuals. Once he steps away from the use of anonymous "handles" in his Internet and other activities and stands behind his history of actions and ideas, then he is actually demonstrating some of the essential aspects of self-responsibility. He will want to, and expectantly will, preferentially associate with others who do the same. Together he and the growing numbers of others who act similarly will benefit from their interactions and eventually a society will come about in which members peacefully and gradually reduce the amount of outside coercion that currently prevents its optimal functioning. Monumental paradigm (framework) shifting ideas do not require a revolution of violence, but only require and can occur by means of a thorough understanding of the basis and the advantages of such a change - individually, one person at a time.

1. An example of my personal implementation of this particular type of information. The entire personal section of MoreLife provides large amounts of information that allow others to judge us for purposes of new, deeper or continued interaction.