While openness is a hallmark of a wise democracy, such a democracy requires that people feel both safe to develop and express their uniqueness and also able enough to defend themselves from oppressive power. So seek to appropriately guarantee privacy while also helping people feel safe enough to be open.
Some related patterns: 10 Civil Rights 16 Consent 17 Constraints on Concentrated Power 19 Context Awareness 37 Fullness of Choice
48 Integrity and Authenticity 76 Safety First, Then Challenge
Going Deeper …
This is an edited version of the video on this page.
There’s a dynamic tension between openness and privacy.
From a collective intelligence perspective, we need people to be open in order for information to flow among them. So there’s a certain bias against holding too much information secret or preventing people from sharing all the material protected by copyright and things like that. We are trying to have things be open, but we don’t want people getting screwed because they’re being open. Being open creates a certain level of vulnerability. People can take what you have, or they can harm you, or they can know where your weak points are. Openness is risky. We need it, but it’s risky.
Centralized power can be a particular threat to people’s openness. So we especially want people to feel safe enough from oppressive power, from government power, from large corporate power, or from wherever the concentrations of power are. We can’t protect them from everything – we can’t necessarily ensure their safety from their family or neighbors, for example, without messing with their privacy – but we can manage some larger social dynamics and say “your own space is not going to get invaded and messed with by powerful forces, particularly the government.”
So that’s what this pattern is about, guaranteeing people’s safety to manifest their unique individuality. A main reason we want people to develop and express their uniqueness is to have that uniqueness as a resource for collective intelligence and wisdom. Personal uniqueness is the personal dimension of collective diversity. To the extent everybody is unique, the larger collective that they are part of is diverse. Diversity is a fabulous resource for generating and realizing wisdom and making it happen. We want to have diversity – and other aspects of this pattern language deal with how we go about using that diversity creatively. But we want to have diversity, we want to make it safe for people to be diverse, for people to be themselves with their unique gifts and perspectives, etc.
In order to do that they have to defend themselves from oppressive power, from social or governmental power that is trying to create conformity, trying to control what’s going on. So we try to find ways to guarantee their privacy while seeking to make them feel safe to be open.