People frequently ask what I get out of writing the blog. There are a lot of reasons, but a major one is to be able to shape the debate about "the psychopath problem." I care about public perception of psychopaths because I believe that it will become increasingly difficult for sociopaths to stay hidden, perhaps through genetic testing, or even by identifying sociopathic patterns in personal information the same way that certain financial accounting practices make fraud easily identifiable. Under the headline "Upending Anonymity, These Days the Web Unmasks Everyone," the NY Times reports:
Not too long ago, theorists fretted that the Internet was a place where anonymity thrived.There are already examples of websites dedicated solely and single-mindedly to outting sociopaths, Lovefraud comes to mind. Those sites don't scare me because no one serious takes them seriously. If sociopaths could be identified through internet or other activity, though, that could mean an entirely different way of life for most of us. For better or for worse?
Now, it seems, it is the place where anonymity dies.
A commuter in the New York area who verbally tangled with a conductor last Tuesday — and defended herself by asking “Do you know what schools I’ve been to and how well-educated I am?” — was publicly identified after a fellow rider posted a cellphone video of the encounter on YouTube. The woman, who had gone to N.Y.U., was ridiculed by a cadre of bloggers, one of whom termed it the latest episode of “Name and Shame on the Web.”
Women who were online pen pals of former Representative Anthony D. Weiner similarly learned how quickly Internet users can sniff out all the details of a person’s online life. So did the men who set fire to cars and looted stores in the wake of Vancouver’s Stanley Cup defeat last week when they were identified, tagged by acquaintances online.
The collective intelligence of the Internet’s two billion users, and the digital fingerprints that so many users leave on Web sites, combine to make it more and more likely that every embarrassing video, every intimate photo, and every indelicate e-mail is attributed to its source, whether that source wants it to be or not. This intelligence makes the public sphere more public than ever before and sometimes forces personal lives into public view.