The Self and Contributing to the Ecosystem of Knowledge

Jeff Jarvis’s column in the Guardian is fascinating. Will there come a day when not sharing information publicly will be seen as a selfish act? Jarvis predicts yes, and chose to share details of his prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment.

By revealing my cancer, I realise benefits, and so can society: if
one man’s story motivates just one more who has the disease to get
tested and discover it, then it is worth the price of embarrassment
. If
many people who have a condition can now share information about their
lifestyles and experience, then perhaps the sum of their data can add
up to new medical knowledge. I predict a day when to keep such
information private will be seen by society as being selfish.

Collectively, we will use the internet’s ability to gather, share
and analyse what we know to build greater value than we could on our
own. That is the principle of transparency that I want companies and
governments to heed: that openness in their information and actions
must become their default, that holding secrets only breeds mistrust
and robs them and us of the value that comes from sharing.

This makes a lot of sense. If we believe that the sharing of information and openness creates a net benefit for society (and I do believe that), than it’s incumbent upon each of us to be judicious in what we hold back and keep private. That’s a change in default behavior – usually we choose what to share and what to release to the world; rather, we should be choosing what *not* to share.

(I think there’s also a link to Douglas Rushkoff’s thoughts on separating our idea of self from the corporation, but I’m not exactly sure how it fits yet and I think it’s a bit tangential. If we share information and ideas about ourselves, there is an enormous potential for that to be co-opted by corporate interests, but there’s also the opportunity to rebuild community connections outside of that sphere.)

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