State of the Web: In defense of lying

State of the Web In defense of lying

Honesty is the best policy, the saying goes. But in this harsh, connected realm of 1s and 0s, where virtually every click and scroll is recorded in stark black and white, where each step you take outside your front door can be tracked, the expectation of pure, unrelenting honesty could cause more harm than good. Because of this, we as a culture need to loosen up our people-wide policy that lying is never acceptable.

On Monday, Digital Trends contributor Bruce Kasanoff correctly pointed out that “pervasive new technologies will make lying or even bending the truth impossible, ushering in an age of ‘extreme truth.'” This rigid reality has already begun to build itself. Websites and advertising networks collect what we do online. Our cell phones serve as personal tracking devices. And when offline data brokers like Acxiom build profiles about each of us for the purpose of making a buck, well, “extreme truth” is a good way to put it.

But I fundamentally disagree with Kasanoff’s next point: that we must “embrace” this impending new world, and get ahead of it by always being completely “honest” in every little thing that we do. Such unadulterated honesty is not only impossible, it’s dangerous for both individuals and society as a whole.

What is “truth?”

The first problem with total honesty is simply a practical matter: “Truth” is a slippery beast. As Internet forums have taught us, what might appear true in one context seems completely ridiculous when other factors come to light. And while much of our lives will surely be recorded — are being recorded — the databases will likely never contain every facet of existence, all the imperceptible bits of reality that make up a true human experience.

Go ahead, give “honesty” a try

Second, as Kasanoff writes, “Human beings are used to living with perceptions of facts, not facts themselves.” This, he explains, will change when all facts about our lives are recorded — when someone (an employer, for example) can look back at each moment and know precisely what happened: where you were, who you talked to, how many of those TPS reports you actually processed on Sunday night. In order to combat the negative effects of this hideous new reality, we must, “Do things right. Do the right thing. Proactively,” writes Kasanoff.

Problem is, the human brain is woefully ill-suited to pure honesty. Study after study has shown that human memory is imprecise. But computers remember exactly. And because of this, we have no chance to be “honest” about our past — at least not if “honesty” means always reflecting the cold, hard facts — no matter how proactive we try to do the right thing. Failure is guaranteed.

The “real” problem

The empirical limitations of truth, honesty, and human memory serve as easy ammunition to fire against a fact-only future. But they are only the first layer to the problem with honesty as a default. Dig deeper, and your shovel will clang into other, tougher issues.

Take anonymity, for example. Using your real name for online activities, as Facebook presently requires, would appear to be a natural starting point for this implausible “Do right” society Kasanoff envisions. As 4Chan creator Christopher “moot” Poole explains, however, mandating that people always link who they are in the “real world” with what they say and do online has the chilling effect of pushing the truth — gritty, uncomfortable, real truth — further down, beneath the waves of polished information we sheepishly choose to expose.

Lying for truth

Plow deeper still, another troublesome feature of humanity comes to surface: If lying no longer becomes possible for most people, then we as a people will be at the mercy of those who can still distort the truth.

“When we get better at deception, we get better at detecting deception,” explained Ian Leslie, author of Born Liars: Why We Can’t Live Without Deceit, to the National Post in an interview last year. (He was paraphrasing Machiavelli.) “And it gets us better at understanding other human beings which requires a huge amount of mental fire power.”

Last word

In the end, Kasanoff’s point is not that the coming dystopian, surveillance future will be a good thing, but that it is inevitable, and we should prepare for the worst. Fair enough. But this attitude — that it is OK for our lives to be known to anyone who has an interest in knowing — also adds legitimacy to such a frightening future. And it suggests that you are not “doing the right thing” or telling the truth simply because you wish to have some privacy.

So prepare to have your pants ripped off, if you must. Get ready for the camera’s prying eyes, and the Web’s bottomless databases of facts about your life. But please, for those of us who like to remain clothed, fight back against all those who wish to rape our privacy and grind us into submission. Protect your truths and keep your honesty sacred. Don’t expose your hand. Do the right thing.

Image via olly/Shutterstock

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Mobile

As Wear OS ticks to a stop, Google needs to wind it back up

Google’s Wear OS should be competing with the Apple Watch, but instead it has been left to stagnate without useful new features, or even any attention at Google I/O. Wear OS can be saved, and there are companies out there trying to do it;…
Photography

Starting a vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

Any camera that shoots video can be used to vlog, but a few models stand out from the crowd thanks to superior image quality, ergonomics, and usability.
Computing

Saving your favorite YouTube videos for posterity is quick, easy with these tools

Learning how to download YouTube videos is easier than you might think. There are plenty of great tools you can use, both online and offline. These are our favorites and a step by step guide on how to use them.
Product Review

Say goodbye to the snooze bar. Amazon's Echo Spot is an alarm clock for 2018

The Amazon Echo Spot, the newest member of Amazon’s smart speaker family, is cute, fun, and sleek. But if you use it for an alarm clock, you might want to turn off the camera. Find out more in our review.
Mobile

Find your way around Google Maps with these handy tips and tricks

How good are your navigation skills? We've got a delectable menu of Google Maps tips and tricks for you right here, to take the pain out of your trips. Go from newbie to mapping master and learn how to use Google Maps.
Mobile

Swapping an iPhone for a BlackBerry made me appreciate the physical keyboard

BlackBerry is preparing to release the BlackBerry KeyTwo, a new phone with a physical keyboard. If you've never used one, and are a touchscreen typist, what would it be like to swap? We changed our iPhone to a BlackBerry KeyOne to find out.
Mobile

iOS 12 is more evidence you should buy an iPhone, not an Android phone

The next version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 12, will be compatible with devices all the way back to 2013’s iPhone 5S. Android phones from the same era didn’t even see 2016’s software update. It’s further evidence you…
Smart Home

4 reasons my love affair with Amazon is fizzling

I used to be an avid Amazon shopper. But some things have happened recently that’s made me question my loyalty to the retail giant. And to be honest, I’m not sure if I can trust them any longer.
Computing

Can we get an apology? Two big MacBook fails that Apple should fix at WWDC

WWDC is just around the corner, but if you're hoping for a new MacBook Pro, don't hold your breath. Even though it'll probably only be a CPU bump, there are two significant problems with the current MacBook Pro that have been ignored for…
Smart Home

Is Apple showing up late to the smart home party, or just not coming?

Apple’s WWDC 2018 featured a lot of little announcements, but what was largely missing was news on the smart home front. Is Amazon planning on being late to the smart home party, or are they planning on attending at all?
Mobile

5 obviously stupid iPhone problems that iOS 12 doesn’t even try to fix

At WWDC 2018, Apple took the wraps off the latest version of its iOS operating system. iOS 12 introduces quite a bit of changes -- visually and under the hood -- but there are still some basics that it doesn’t address. Here are a few of…
Health & Fitness

Ugh. I’m done with fitness trackers, and so is the world

In 2016, everyone was tracking their fitness. In 2017, people grew tired of it. In 2018, I’m done with it. I’m going tracker-free in my workouts from now on.
Computing

MacOS Mojave brings evening elegance to your Mac experience

The MacOS Mojave public beta is out now, with an official release coming later this fall. Chock-full of quality-of-life upgrades, we took it for a test drive to get a sneak peek at what you can expect from the next major update to MacOS…
Gaming

Google might be planning a game console. That doesn’t mean it will happen

A new report suggests that Google is working on a game console, code-named Yeti. The reports about Google's game console are likely true, but that doesn't mean we will ever see it.