Jerome Baum jerome at
Wed Mar 23 20:47:51 CET 2011

"Robert J. Hansen" <rjh at> writes:

> On 3/23/11 3:06 PM, Mark H. Wood wrote:
>> My suspicion is that we never had anywhere near as much privacy as
>> many believe.  A hundred years ago...
> I grew up in a small town of under 5,000, where the nearest city of more
> than 20,000 was an hour's drive away.  Forget "a hundred years ago":
> having been back there recently for a funeral, I can tell you small
> towns are still that same way today.
> In a sense, I think this validates my thesis.  In a small town the cost
> of sharing information about people within the town, to people within
> the town, is just about nil: you wind up having these conversations
> while you're at the service station filling up your tank, when you're in
> line at the grocery store, when you're ... etc.  But having these same
> conversations with people outside the town involves effort, which in
> turn means that you can travel 100 miles and be reasonably confident
> nobody there has heard of you.
> I agree that the small-town phenomenon argues against the idea of an
> idyllic privacy past.  I just think modern communications means the
> entire world is turning into a small-town phenomena.

Also consider there is a cost of storing the information. Say we brought
the cost of  information sharing with anybody down to  zero.  You end up
with the  phenomena we can  observe with "activity streams"  on Facebook
and Twitter -- people start  filtering for what's interesting.  There is
no  way I will  remember stuff  about 7  billion people  world-wide, but
people in my "small town" would be much more interesting.

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