As radar gun technology improved, and later laser speed detectors, my father used to tell me that someday it just wouldn't be possible to speed any more. You'd have to drive the speed limit all the time, because the instant you violated it a ticket would get mailed to your house. These days it might get texted to your phone, or just automatically debited from your account.
Not to worry, I said: what will really happen is that, once we're all obliged to stop pretending that we ever obey the speed limits, we'll revise them upwards according to what we really think they ought to be. The lies aren't setting us free, they're the things that are posting speed traps all over the roads. It's the truth that will really set us free.
I'm thinking about this again as the Ashley Madison hack becomes dumped on the internet. Tens of millions of people are about to have to account for their behavior. Will they be stoned to death, metaphorically, as people fear? Or will the society simply revise its standards to more honestly account for the fact that this behavior is apparently widely practiced -- the database is the size of fully ten percent of the US population, apparently.
Adultery is much more serious than speeding, of course. It's a moral offense, and not merely a formal violation of the motor vehicle code. However, our moral laws and moral standards on sexuality have rapidly eroded these last few years. Instead of the fearful punishment commentators seem to expect, I wonder if we won't see the remaining taboo against adultery collapse in the face of this exposure. That would be a grave matter for the survival of marriage -- I mean real, traditional marriage aimed at a stable family to raise and pass on a heritage for children, not celebrity-style serial marriage. Yet it seems to me a likely outcome.
None of us have any personal stake in this leak, I assume, but I'm curious as to what you think will happen as a result of it. Will we preserve the taboo by metaphorically stoning the adulterers? Or will we, as a society, elect to 'set ourselves free' of the taboo? Excepting the military, we've already removed adultery from the list of crimes punishable at law. Will we see the social follow the legal, as it so often has of late?