February 07, 2012

The Forced Morality of our Diminishing Anonymity

I pulled into a drive-thru ATM today at lunch. There was an error message on the screen. "Your deposit could be not be accepted." And $25 cash left sitting in the cash tray.

I took the money. Canceled the prior customer's deposit. Started and completed my transaction. And then walked inside to return the money.

What's the morality lesson here?

The fact that I realized security cameras would be witnessing my actions.

Now, if I had found $25 outside the door of a Target...well, I suppose it would depend on how far outside the door the money was? If it were physically inside the building, I probably would have brought it to a cashier. If it were on the sidewalk, just outside the store, I probably would have done a quick glance for the owner, and then pocketed it.

Today, I learned nothing about my morality. Only that as our privacy diminishes, our lack of anonymity is going to force us to do better things - in fear of punishment.

Of course, this does not make us better people.