Public vs. Private Organization + the Free Market Economics of Information

The distinction between private space and public space must be very elementary to the way humans think.

Take, for example, the Ten Commandments. There are several laws which refer to the private property of people. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not covet. And so on.

Even before Jesus had ever suggested that someone should give to Rome what belongs to Rome, people probably knew deep in their hearts that each and every person has a right breathe in the air, and that no one has a right to rob them of their freedom to breathe. Air is perhaps the quintessential public good — at least for humans and animals which stay alive by breathing it.

I would hope that there is no question whatsoever that the right to life is inalienable, and that machines have no rights at all. I expect this is not merely a Marxist view nor something like a Luddite conviction.

At any rate, modern human experience is clearly divided into both public relations and private relationships. Although some might view this as parallel realities, the distinction is both valid and important. The public reality is unavoidable — it simply cannot be denied, and any attempts to deny such obviousfacts” are doomed to fail miserably. No one “in their right mind” today would reasonbly try to maintain that the Earth is the center of the universe, or that all “heavenly bodies” revolve around it. Such “alternative facts” are obviously ridiculous. Yet let me add some words of caution: on almost any news report including weather statistics, you can expect to read or hear that the sun will rise tomorrow morning, and that it will set tomorrow evening. Ever since we have discovered “pragmatism” (as, for example, William James explained it), we know that such statements need to be interpreted in an adequate manner.

Likewise, hardly anything seems more “natural” than to set our clocks forwards for an hour in the springtime, or to set our clocks backwards in the fall. Who are we to question something so “normal“?

We are indeed responsible for our own interpretations of reality.

And this is precisely why our interpretation of reality as either a public matter or a private matter is so important. Over the past several centuries — perhaps due to the very influential ideas of Adam Smith — we have become accustomed to viewing marketplaces as optional community events rather than as enforced situations (note, however, that there are a breed of “market fanatics” who commonly maintain that the market price is always right). If I were to type a person’s name into a Google or Facebook search box and these search engines returned the information that this person was at some point endorsed by the Pope, I can choose to believe that information or not. Likewise, the choice to use Google and/or Facebook in the first place is entirely up to me. I could just as easily choose to interpret the New York Times or the Washington Post as “fake news” sources. I am completely free to choose my own “alternative facts“.

Yet I am also responsible for which facts I choose to believe. We’re no longer in Kansas, Dorothy.

Information involves many processes — including being listened to and talked to. It also involves data processing, and the degree to which so-called “results” of such processing are a matter of manipulation is open to the interpretation and judgement of the person who needs to make a decision based on that information. There is nothing inherently trustworthy about either public or private corporations (also known as “governments” or “companies”).

However, as the vast majority of most (if not even “any” or “all”) populations still lack the literacy skills required to make such judgements in anything that resembles something like a “reasonable” manner. When these vast masses begin to realize that they have been duped and manipulated by corporations they deeply trusted, these corporations can expect that these vast numbers of people will expect some explanations. Either that, or the trust bubbles will probably deflate into thin air quite rapidly.

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