Re: poly: Why so much anonymous virtual reality?

From: Hal Finney <>
Date: Fri Feb 20 1998 - 14:41:10 PST

Robin Hanson writes:

> We currently enjoy correlating our many personas. We tell our lovers
> about our work, we tell our friends about our lovers, we tell our
> children about our hobbies, we go drinking with co-workers, we watch
> movies with friends, and tell co-workers about books we've read.

It's a good point that there may be leakage among the various faces we
try to present to the world, causing them to be linkable. However,
Robin may be overstating the degree to which we need multiple faces and
the kinds of transfers which must occur.

Frankly, I don't do much of the kinds of correlation Robin lists
above, and yet I enjoy my life very much. My wife's work and mine are
sufficiently different that neither of us could understand the meat
of it, and we are left with hearing about office politics and gossip.
But since I work remotely, I don't have much personal contact with people
at the office, and so there is not much to tell.

I don't currently have any friends other than my wife, so I don't tell
them anything or go to movies with them. I'm hundreds of miles from my
co-workers, so I don't go drinking with them. My children have their
own lives and I don't discuss my hobbies with them much, etc.

Granted, I'm more introverted and less social than the average person,
and at other times in my life I did have a wider network of interactions
than I do now. But still, I find emotional stimulation and support at
home, intellectual challenges at work and on the net. It may well be
that in the future, more people will be able to structure their lives in
this way.

> But if do very much of this sort of correlating behavior with persona
> pairs where one of them is a virtual persona on the net, and the other is
> in the familiar increasingly-documented real world, your virtual persona
> will no longer be private. If even the times when
> you go into your tempest-rated room correlate with the active times
> of some virtual persona, the connection can be made. If the cadence
> of your speech at the grocery store correlates with the cadence of
> your speech in a virtual world, the connection can be made.

These kinds of involuntary linkages are more difficult to avoid. If you
really have a VR for interaction that uses video and speech, then there
will have to be masking programs which alter these enough so that you
are not recognizable. It's not clear that such technology will be

Even today, where people use anonymous email, analysis of style and
word usage could probably identify many of the authors, if people cared
enough to look. And I don't think there exist any programs which will
effectivelly mask these patterns, at least not without considerable
manual effort.

> It seems to me that to have a long-lived yet private virtual persona
> requires an unusual discipline regarding keeping this persona's behavior
> uncorrelated with your other ones. To most people, I don't
> think privacy is worth this effort.

It will depend, too, on the invasiveness of the surveillance technology.
You suggest that people who want to defeat your privacy will know when
you go into your comm room. Is that really reasonable? Granted that
the technology will exist to allow this, this level of monitoring may
not be legal.

At the extreme, there could theoretically be brain monitoring devices
placed in everyone's skull, with periodic downloads to government
monitors of everything you've done. If this technology is applied,
then there will be no privacy for anyone.

The issue of whether privacy will be possible seems to depend on still
unresolved questions of what technologies will be available in the
future, and how they will be used.

Received on Fri Feb 20 23:03:26 1998

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Mar 07 2006 - 14:45:30 PST