Do we want AR?
Are we ready for augmented reality, on our faces on the daily?
Is AR a very separate need from the visual version of distributed mechanical telepathy and jacking in to someone else’s sensorium? Will we buy a second screen for our second screens, a HUD that will show texts in our visual fields, because looking down at our Dick Tracy watches is just too inconvenient?
I’m currently re-reading Gibson’s Spook Country. Like all of his recent works, Spook Country is mostly a collection of stylistic tics (luckily, I love Gibson’s stylistic tics). However, it’s interesting in that it foresees* (in ’07) our return to the seemingly failed notions of VR and AR.
The idea of locative art has long since peaked, but the notion of enriching our awareness of the world through technology we wear is red-hot. The eversion of cyberspace has happened, is commodified. There is a wearable tech gold rush on, and HUDs are a big part of the territory. So a number of devices that compete with Google Glass are emerging.
One is the very affordable ($299 without camera) GlassUp device, which projects your phone data onto your glasses.TechCrunch suggests that price and eyelessness could push adoption of GlassUp- that people who are creeped out by the camera on Glass would feel better about buying GlassUp. This ignores the fact that GlassUp will be available with a camera for just $100 more.
The concept is similar to that of a Bluetooth earphone (actually, we have thought of a notifier earphone as well). Whatever arrives on the glasses is already on the phone, so it’s useful only to see messages without grabbing your smartphone. We see it as a first step towards telepathy, for which we couldn’t yet find the technology solution (yet :-)).
The privacy issues that horrify my boyfriend (see my “promise me you won’t wear them in the house” post) about Google Glass are related to the Glass camera and facial recognition. He is a person who is very uncomfortable about the idea that his movements can be tracked, online or in meatspace. Not because he’s a criminal, but because he read Ayn Rand at an impressionable age.
Myself, I assume that the government is tracking everything I do, and has been all my life. Because my parents were drug-taking hippies in an era when people who took drugs were the objects of a Phil Dickian surveillance state, and by the time I was fourteen all my friends were drug dealers (Stuyvesant had a lot of them in 1981), I accepted being watched as a fact of life.
Being connected to the Grateful Dead tour acid dealing network meant being connected to people whose phones were tapped by the DEA and FBI. I was lucky enough to get sober and out of drug culture as the “war on drugs” escalated and people I knew began to go to prison, in the late ’80s. But I never shook that feeling of being watched.
My boyfriend is a Millennial; he was born in ’82. He’s been online since the beginning, since chatrooms and dial-up. He’s always been in hacker culture, which is intrinsically paranoid and anti-establishment and parasitically infiltrated by the Man, so even though he’s not a druggie, we share a cellular, atavistic reaction to the word “narc”. And we share the experience of having our friends go to prison.
Yet being surveilled is enraging to him, while to me it’s undisturbing and in fact somewhat promising. Is it because I believe privacy is dead? Or is it because I believe in agency-based social compliance, enforced by alibi archives, copseyes and benevolent surveillance? Nah, it’s because I don’t have the bandwidth to care about anything ominous, and I’m basically techno-optimistic and an Internet Optimist.
I trust my friends at the EFF to protect my rights, and I trust the American Constitution to bounce back from damn near anything. I trust human adaptability and I trust the future. This is what growing up on science fiction did for me: it gave me an OS of hope. If we all wear glasses that tell us when the Colosseum was built and that mom is at the restaurant already, it’ll be no big deal. If we all wear glasses that let us see through each other’s eyes, it might change the world.
*About Spook Country: It also contains a chilling awareness of the NSA tap-o-sphere that foreshadows both Snowden’s revelations and the surprising public indifference to them.
Gibson notes that most Americans assume the government is tapping their phones, and so the idea of their digital communications being monitored as well is unsurprising.
I’m not sure what annoys me more: That the National Security Agency can tap into every major Internet service and telecom carriers and monitor everything you do online or that I just can’t get wound up about it.
Edit: in 2019, I must edit this post to note, obvs I was fucking wrong.
It never occurred to me that the tech companies would use our data for anything other than the simplest and fastest way they could make money, or that anyone OTHER than marketing people for expensive jeans and our own government would use our data, or that waves of incels downvoting Captain Marvel would actually have a real-world effect.
In 2019, I reserve my techno-optimism for a Hail Mary pass at saving the burning planet, even though I know the plastic-eating nanites will come up on the shore and eat us after they clear the water column.
My husband and I got rid our of our phones in 2015, instead of getting Google Glass.
We have a landline. We live happily without Facebook and when I take the bus Zuck doesn’t know where I am until I pass a camera. But it’s too little, too late, and I have no idea what’s gonna happen. Honestly, I would no longer get a chip, in my head or anywhere else, and I hate those fuckers for destroying my jolly vision of my 2020 cyborg self. Among other things.
Some days, my husband says he thinks the internet was a mistake.
Some days, I think he’s right.