Is the ideal of transparency a fallacy?

In his novel “Men Like Gods” (1924), the English writer HG Wells, a forerunner of science fiction, tells how a group of people travel through time to a much more technologically and culturally advanced society called Utopia.

The inhabitants of Utopia have left behind the political and social convulsions, wars, inequality and exclusive selfishness, typical of any human community. The reason why this is such a peaceful society is that its inhabitants have developed their communication skills and interpersonal skills to such an extent that they are able to understand each other without speaking.

In a particularly entertaining passage of the novel, the natives attempt to telepathically explain their history and customs to outsiders. But many of them are not able to hear what they are told and some only perceive complete silence.

One of the few who manages to get the message is the character Mr. Barnstaple and the reason is simple: he is able to unconsciously connect his experiences and knowledge with those of his hosts.

A desired gift?

Imagine that you had that powerful gift and were able to read the thoughts of others just by looking at them. As disturbing as it may sound, there will be people willing to pay to have that capability. For example, those who would like to get rich using privileged information, known in advance only by seeing the faces of their partners or competitors. Or jealous spouses, who want to know what is going through their partner’s minds. In this case, it is convenient to remember Othello. The jealous have enough trouble with their suspicions to ignite them with more doubts. Better not add additional information.

You will agree that a society in which you could instantly announce what others would think would be undesirable, even unlivable. Only in a chimerical and celestial society of pure souls would it be possible to support an automatic and indisputable transparency, and it is appropriate to consider whether it would be attractive to reside in that scenario, or rather tedious and boring.

Returning to Wells’s Utopia, it is conceivable that telepathy there occurred with the consent of the participants, not automatically.

Privacy and transparency

Similarly, total transparency, the unwanted stripping of our thoughts, desires and imaginations, violates the legitimate right to personal privacy, even with those closest to us, including spouses.

I have always been dazzled by the center of Amsterdam, its peaceful canals, its balanced architecture, the charm of bicycles, the jovial pulse of the city. One of the characteristics that most attracts my attention are the large windows on its facades, without curtains, which give visual access to the interior rooms and to what happens in them.

A curious passerby could notice what is happening in a house, as if he were watching a movie. When I asked the origin of those wide openings without curtains, they explained to me that they reflected the Puritan influence, the ideal of transparency, the belief that inside a house, in the privacy of the home, there is nothing to hide, nor the need for screens. The malice does not reside in the one who acts openly, without cover, but in the one who looks with ulterior motives.

Over time, I also confirmed that the reason for those wide windows without curtains was, especially, to provide more light to the interior, given the scarcity of sunlight during the day. On the contrary, in Mediterranean latitudes, where there is an abundance of clarity, the windows are dressed in curtains, friars or mats to contain the radiance.

subconscious and transparency

Transparency, physical or intellectual nudity, is not an instinctive attitude. By living in society we train ourselves to dress, restrain bodily excesses, take care of our language and treat others with courtesy.

We understand these patterns of behavior not as restrictions on a supposed natural freedom, but rather as containment of wild spontaneity, which we consider rude. That is why the idea of ​​mental or verbal transparency in individual conduct transgresses the most essential civility, something that manifests itself in avoiding saying the first thing that comes to mind, especially when we want to project a good image.

Even from a psychological perspective, one might question the possibility of consistently acting transparently. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, explained that a large part of our decisions are determined by desires of which we are neither fully aware nor fully aware. Freud specified the subconscious as the origin of many of those desires that, for example, reveal themselves more freely in dreams.

Although many of the proposals of psychoanalysis have been revised by subsequent psychology, the concept of the subconscious continues to be accepted and questions the possibility that most mortals, even if they try, are capable of unraveling and truthfully sharing what they feel in the bottom of their hearts.

Transparency, trivialization of communication

The truth is that we live in a time in which transparency has risen to the ideal of personal and institutional conduct, especially in the environment of social networks. The South Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han published a book a few years ago in which he offers convincing arguments for why the ideal of transparency is fallacious and its defense inadvisable. In his opinion, “transparency is a systemic constraint that seizes all social events and subjects them to profound change.” It would be a phenomenon that, far from favoring interpersonal relationships, makes them trivial and difficult. In his opinion, it is precisely the lack of transparency that makes it easier for a relationship to last.

In addition, he explains that “transparency and truth are not identical (…) More information or an accumulation of information by itself is not true. It lacks direction, namely meaning. Precisely because the negativity of the true is missing, the positive swarms and becomes massive. Hyperinformation and hypercommunication testify to the lack of truth, and even to the lack of being. More information, more communication, does not eliminate the fundamental imprecision altogether. Rather the aggravation”.

Privacy and transparency

Faced with the claim on the transparency of people, it is worth using the right to privacy, initially invoked by two eminent American jurists, Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter, at the dawn of the written press to defend privacy, the right to reserve and Manage information about yourself. Currently, in full hybrid life between the physical and the digital, the right to privacy has made much more sense and relevance.

To cite, just three pieces of information that make you think:

u 75% of companies consult personal information on the internet for their selection processes, and in 70% of cases they reject their candidates based on this data.

u The processing of the metadata available in the profiles of the social networks and the analysis of the perceived behavior of the users (for example through the searches carried out) obtained individual information on issues such as sexual orientation, religious or political opinions, the race, intelligence and other aspects of personality.

u Lastly, a more worrying issue: the growing numbers of cyberbullying of children and adolescents.

business transparency

In the business sphere, the demand for transparency has also spread, which translates into the requirement to know performance, financial information and other data referring to remuneration, meeting minutes, decision-making and even future plans.

The obsession with bringing light and stenographers to the activity of private companies, sometimes with higher demands than those met by public bodies, constrains innovation and even raises doubts about the possible violation of the right to free enterprise enshrined in the la most democratic constitutions.

There is a reason inherent to the nature of the business activity itself that clashes with the transparency paradigm. It is usually explained that the environment in which companies operate is deliberately competitive, a circumstance that the State itself encourages through legislation and the specific ones that promote healthy rivalry. The objective is to avoid collusion, unwanted business concentration and other harmful effects for consumers, workers, shareholders and the rest of society.

However, competition entails a strategic attitude in companies that makes the management of information and communication a discretionary power of business agents. This, logically, within the respect for legality. For example, it would be absurd to require them to share information about what products or services they plan to launch on the market at the time they take the decision, thus alerting their rivals, or to publish the promotion plans of their managers for the next five years. years.

Transparency or secrets?

On the other hand, in the governmental sphere, State secrets are needed, accessible only to a small number of people who are also subject to the duty of professional secrecy. The demand for complete transparency in all State affairs is childish, and even dangerous, because it unnecessarily puts institutions and social coexistence at risk. Obviously, the maintenance of State secrets does not exclude the healthy activity of the rigorous media that, with their investigative activity, can expose the abuse of these powers.

General Charles de Gaulle, father of the French Fifth Republic, once said: “The essence of prestige is mystery.” I could not agree more. Total transparency disappoints and trivializes people. Shadows, darkness and deep angles and beauty and, moreover, they attract our attention and interest.

“We must take care of what we publish”

According to a June 2021 report from Spain’s Human Resources Observatory (ORH) publication, 50 percent of recruiters in that country consult a candidate’s Instagram profile before hiring them. “With regard to the field of employment and recruitment, there is no doubt that social networks have established themselves as a fundamental tool for the evaluation of candidates by companies,” he said on his portal. There he cites data from one of InfoJobs on Social Networks according to which 48 percent of those responsible for recruitment studies consult the social networks of professionals during the selection process.

“According to the size of the company, tendentially, those with fewer than fifty employees say they consult the networks to a greater extent (51 percent) than those with more than fifty employees, where 43 percent state that they carry out this practice” , accurate. And then, a disturbing fact: one in five companies admits to having discarded a candidate for their activity on the networks.

Although the report points out that LinkedIn (84 percent) and Facebook (72 percent) continue to be the platforms most consulted by companies, it “highlights the importance that Instagram has been gaining in recent years,” continues the study. “And it is that up to one in two companies (49 percent) today claims to examine a candidate’s Instagram profile before hiring him,” while in 2018 that percentage “stands only at 38 percent.” .

Quoted by ORH, Nilton Navarro, Brand & Social Media Manager of InfoJobs, said that social networks “are a powerful professional tool capable of opening many doors, but if they are not used properly, they can make us lose job opportunities.” Therefore, we complete, “we must take care of what we publish, the photos and videos we upload and what we say. In short, taking care of our digital footprint”.

Posted in The Conversation (

You may also like