Google Glass and different reactions to our cyborg future

DSCF6364Today I went on a tour of the Google campus at Palo Alto, arranged as part of a family holiday in California.  It was, of course, inspiring.

(Ray Kurzweil was hired by Google late last year, and we were told that he works in building 42, but I did wonder if that was no more than a jokey reference to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.)

When I told Eryka, our charming Google staffer guide, that the first group of Google Glass users are now able to invite their friends to join the second wave, she gasped and reached for her phone to see if she could snag an invite.

The excitement generated by Glass is palpable here in northern California, and not without reason: placing the functionality of our smartphones permanently within eyesight is an important step in our progress towards our cyborg future.

Not everybody likes the prospect, though, and already the early adopters are being labelled “Glassholes”.

At the moment, opposition to Glass is usually based on the supposed threat to privacy. Assuming that Glass and its competitors and successors become commonplace, we will all have to get used to the possibility that we are being inadvertently photographed or video-ed a good deal of the time when we are in a public place.

But the dislike of Glass is more visceral than that. Glass is an important milestone in the gradual process whereby we merge with our machines. This process is not without danger, and perhaps at some instinctive level, a lot of people understand this – although they may well have no clear idea why.

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2 thoughts on “Google Glass and different reactions to our cyborg future

  1. I don’t object to being watched in public. Obviously the worry that somebody may compile a list of top ten nose picks or something, but in public? Hey, I’m in public, what am I going to do? Walk around inside a mobile shower-curtain?

    What I object to is being spied upon in private by organizations with little to no oversight and no compulsions against selling data to other, private organizations with even less oversight and even less compulsions.

    Personally, with the rise of “civil servants” who act more like “uncivil assholes”, I think more recording by the public of what goes on in public, the better.

    • I like the mobile shower curtain idea. Perhaps an un-Google will be set up to sell them.
      Monitoring of the un-civil servants by the public (armed with smart phone cameras, and now Glass) has been called “sousveillance”, by contrast with “surveillance”. One of the dangers is that the un-civil servants are likely to help themselves to that data feed as well. A harrowing example was given in The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

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