Radical honesty, radical transparency

Steve Knight writes books. He's one of those people who talks for hours onstage about self-improvement and how to change your life using some radical technique. Steve talks a lot about radical honesty, like he invented it. He didn't. He's just a character on Ray Donovan, a kind of magical helper who comes into Ray's life to aid the hero confront his demons. By the end of season 2, Steve turns out to be in need of some help himself, caught up in a messy divorce and suspected of abusing his younger girlfriend, but by then his mission has been accomplished - the hero understands that to stop lying to oneself and to others is a powerful shortcut to some seriously life-changing emotions. 

Truth hurts, but it can also heal. Mr Knight, by way of Dr. Brad Blanton, may have a point when advises us to just come out and say it, whatever we mean or think, regardless of the consequences. In our personal and professional paths, the white lies that pervade and pad our relationships end up having a life of their own, they first create a buffer between people and then a full-grown artificial reality that we learn to navigate in spite of our better instincts, because it's easier that way. When we burst that bubble by bluntly stating that "you're hot" or "I know you cheated" or "your sneezing makes me think of Ebola", we're not only being innapropriate and rude - we're reaching out, cutting across the maze and daring to be present in ways usually only allowed on late-night texts or drunken confessions.

A closer look at Steve Knight reveals more than cardboard screenwriting. His bravado, his recklesness, his apparent willingness to bare it all, his troubles with law-enforcement because of personal sexuality: turns out Julian Assange continues to inspire the entertainment industry in more ways than one.

"Radical transparency is a phrase used across fields of governance, politics, software design and business to describe actions and approaches that radically increase the openness of organizational process and data". From sousveillance to co-veillance, from accountability to Wikileaks, the idea of transparency has got the culture in a chokehold. Try having a 5 minute conversation about responsible and ethical behavior these days without using the word transparency and you're bound to look like a lego-brick from the 80's. Or Ray Donovan. To be transparent is now the equivalent of forward-thinking and  being mature, capable of withstanding criticism, the nothing-to-hide argument. We've come a long way from Collateral Murder and Cablegate. What a difference a Snowden makes.

Mr. Assange is still rotting away in the Ecuadorian Library, prisoner of his own device but capable as ever of articulating a perspective on openness like few others can. He's got a new book out, the product of his infamous conversations with Eric Schmidt, and for what it's worth the book reminds us just how deep the Wikileaks phenomenon cut into mainstream awareness. Secrets, in certain contexts, became a dirty word again. In others, they regained their cool.

What does it mean to be fully transparent, to be radically honest?

To governments and corporations, it now means to publish data sets and APIs, to talk a good game about remix culture and again, accountability. To media organizations it often means the same, plus Twitter accounts for writers and interactive infographics, although it could also mean sharing traffic analytics or mailing-list statistics. To the computing industries, it's all about open-source, perhaps rightly so. To the connected billion, it means to be known like never before, by peers and software in extremely different ways. As Benedict Evans so eloquenlty put it, we have now entered an era where for the first time the majority of the people on Earth will have access to computers, and have their lives affected by them. The internet of everything is nigh, and with it are approaching new degrees of freedom and new kinds of honesty and transparency. Kevin Kelly is right when he says the technium wants specific things, and to track everything is one of those wants.

What would Steve Knight do, in the face of ubiquitous tracking, life-logging, social accountability, corporate sincerity and an ecosystem of big datasets? Look no further than Episode 10 of season 2: faced with possible jail-time and a fractured family life, his absolute loneliness becoming unbearable and undeniable, Ray Donovan comes to fix yet another problem at the house by the beach. Unflinching, almost delusional in his relentless optimism, Steve looks out into the morning Californian ocean and tells him that sometimes you just have to dive right in, stop trying to shake your troubles and jump head-first into the waves. That's honesty, soaked in bright blue.

After dealing with whatever issues a hero of his stature has to deal with throughout the course of the day, still torn inside, Ray stands for a brief moment on the beach and then jumps in the water, swimming towards the horizon. Steve cheers him on, smiling.