As government agencies and tech companies develop more and more intrusive means of watching and influencing people, how can we live free lives?
Masking one’s insides behind one’s outsides—once the essential task of human social life—was becoming a strenuous, suspect undertaking; why not, like my teenage acquaintance, just quit the fight? Surveillance and data mining presuppose that there exists in us a hidden self that can be reached through probing and analyses that are best practiced on the unaware, but what if we wore our whole beings on our sleeves? Perhaps the rush toward self-disclosure precipitated by social media was a preemptive defense against intruders: What’s freely given can’t be stolen.
But I am too old for this embrace of nakedness. I still believe in the boundaries of my own skull and feel uneasy when they are crossed. … There are so many ghosts in our machines—their locations so hidden, their methods so ingenious, their motives so inscrutable—that not to feel haunted is not to be awake. That’s why paranoia, even in its extreme forms, no longer seems to me so much a disorder as a mode of cognition with an impressive track record of prescience.