But let’s consider Pseudoworld’s near opposite.
What if the law were tightened up with more accountability for bad actors in an attempt to make us feel more comfortable sharing? Or perhaps Pseudoworld never worked, as the hydraulic pressure of disclosure overcame all the strategies of resistance? We could end up in Transcriptworld.
Here, Facebook’s real-name requirement will have become near universalized. Those who can’t or won’t identify themselves will be excluded. But identification, unlike pseudonymity, won’t be technically burdensome. It will be built into everything we do. An Uber or Lyft ride will record the ID of the driver and the passengers through a fingerprint or facial recognition (thanks, Apple!), along with the exact route they take and at what time. All other cars will too, especially self-driving ones, with such sensible biometrics as those we use to unlock our smartphones today. Indeed, identification will be belt-and-suspender: Even if the car doesn’t record who and where you are, your phone will, and you’re not giving up your phone. In Transcriptworld, high-profile privacy cases such as United States v. Jones, in which the police were required to get a warrant in order to place a tracking device on a vehicle, will be quaint, because vehicles will already have multiple tracking devices, and acquiring that information will be as easy as sending a business-records demand to the relevant companies, such as Apple, Tesla, and Verizon—or smaller and sketchier startups such as Clearview AI, designed solely to transact in data.
Read: The age of misinformation.
Doxxing someone in Transcriptworld will be even easier than it is today—Google’s database is hardly shrinking—but here, anyone in the country who engages in it, or harassment based upon it, will face swift and sure punishment in a newly energized legal system, especially because the bad actors’ own anonymity is so hard to maintain. (For those outside the country, it will be a different story.) And short of law enforcement, Transcriptworld will allow private platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to enforce permanent low visibility, or outright bans, for those said to be violating their terms of service, wherever they may be in the world. It’d be as easy as an airline banning an unruly (and vaping counts as unruly) passenger for life—and far less costly to the company.
To get to Transcriptworld from our current time, most alternatives of anonymity simply need to be removed for most transactions, online and offline. That could happen, as with the move to Pseudoworld, through commercial decisions as much as through government action: If identification can be made even easier, storefronts and social-media platforms might decide to try to help themselves to it through facial recognition and other involuntary tools, or require it before serving anyone, especially if identifiable data collection is part of their business model. Already we see a move in physical retail spaces toward the rejection of cash as more and more people have credit cards.