Kingdom of the Blind Giant

Jan - 14 2019 | By

A Parable of Privacy and Security

Once upon a time there was a a country ruled by a blind giant. In the beginning, he seemed to be a kind ruler. His subjects were contented and happy. Neighboring kingdoms readily allied with his.

Since most of the people thought that he had their best interests at heart, few objected when he asked them all to wear bells. It was for their own good, after all. A blind king must have some way to know where people were.

The bells gave the blind giant more freedom to move. He persuaded other kingdoms to merge with his, and their people wore bells too.

There were still some people who didn’t like wearing bells. And, of course, there were many more who would forget to put their bells on when they went out. People without bells were apt to get hurt if they got in the giant’s way. At first, no one paid much attention to their cries of pain. The king said that it was sad that anyone was harmed, but had he not given them bells? Surely it was no his fault if anyone was not using them.

After a while, the people who tended to forget their bells started to wear them all the time. It became a common custom for everyone to have their bells on at all times. Despite the inconvenience, they felt safer with the bells.

Those who disagreed strongly with bell-wearing were alarmed by the nearly universal acceptance. They would ask their friends, “Why do you wear your bells all day, even at home? What are you afraid of?”

The answer was always, “No, no, I’m not afraid! The bells are for my protection. The king is good, bells are good.”

But the anti-bell faction continued speak out against bells, insisting that they were unnecessary. If people accepted personal responsibility and kept out of the blind giant’s way, they would never get stepped on, they said. “Watch out for yourselves,” they repeated. “The king gives you bells so that he can avoid blame. The bells are for his convenience, not yours.” In fact, the constant jangling of bells had begun to negate their supposed purpose. In the cacophonous confusion, people who wore bells suffered injury more than those who kept their eyes open and kept out of harm’s way.

The king denied this, of course. Being blind, he knew only what his advisers told him, and he chose his advisers carefully. All of them had well-tuned bells. They never got stepped on or knocked over, which proved to them — and the giant — that bells were completely effective. If people got hurt, it was their own fault.

Life was getting harder for the anti-bell people. They were often denied access to basic public services because they had no bells. It often took them several times as long to get anything done because of bell discrimination. But there was no where they could go to escape the tyranny of the bell cult, since the giant had taken over nearly all the adjacent kingdoms, and most of the territories that still claimed to be independent had adopted their own system of bells.

The giant’s name was Google.