Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Google Glasses and the Feed

Google Glasses are man's answer to so many things.  Imagine no longer needing to fumble with your phone when you want to take a picture.  You just command that your eyes (glasses) take a picture of what they see.  Imagine if, instead of having to fumble with your phone or GPS, you could see the directions to get to wherever you're going in your field of vision.  Imagine getting instant messages, chats, reminders for appointments, news updates, and who knows what else, all in your field of vision--instant, constant reminders so that you never forget anything again.

It sounds, to be honest, completely remarkable and astounding.

I have a terrible memory.  I'm constantly forgetting things.  It would be amazing to be able to look up information, schedule reminders, and other things, by using my eyes and voice recognition software.

And yet.

And yet, I can't help but imagine a few problems.  For one thing, our phones have chained us to the online world.  If we forget our phones, we are screwed for the day.  Not only do we go through withdrawals from not being able to check and see what someone is having for lunch on Facebook or Twitter, but we also feel we must remain in constant contact with our peers and family.  If we have radio silence for too long, we start to panic, to wonder is something is wrong.  People who unplug from the internet are often viewed with the same odd, judgmental distrust of people who don't have a TV--like there must be something wrong with them.  Like they must be a Luddite.

I also can't help thinking about the dangers of having things pop up in your field of vision.  Can you imagine having a news report pop up when you're driving in the middle of a rain storm?  Or when you're busy trying to have a private conversation with your friends?

And really, the worst thing of all--can you imagine what will happen when advertisers are inevitably allowed to broadcast to your glasses?

It makes me think about the book by M.T. Anderson, Feed.  The book is set in a futuristic society in which everyone has a chip implanted into their heads from a young age that lets them access the internet at any time.  Here's a relevant passage:
Image from: Barnes and Noble 
We got there and it had been torn down.  They had built a pretty nice stucco mall there, so Loga and Quendy said we should go in and buy some cool stuff to go out in.  That seemed good to us.  I wanted to buy some things but I didn't know what they were.  After we walked around for a while, everything seemed kind of sad and boring so we couldn't tell anymore what we wanted.  Our feeds tried to help, and as we were walking around we were getting all the prices of things, but really the only thing that I wanted to get was a pair of infrared knee bands, and I could get better ones off the feed, and have them sent to my house, than in the stupid physical moon stores.  Quendy bought some shoes, but the minute she walked out of the store she didn't like them anymore.  Marty couldn't think of anything he wanted, so he ordered this really null shirt.  He said it was so null it was like ordering nothing.
Imagine going to a store and having everything you look at be cataloged and used to gather data on you.  We get all pissy about Facebook doing it, but this would be a thousand times easier.  It would make marketing to you easier, but I can't imagine having advertisements being shoved in my face all of the goddamned time.  Every time I want to look at something, hearing the business scream at me about their amazing deals, slapping banner ads in my field of vision, begging me to come inside.  It's like we're trying to make life more like a Futurama episode.

Honestly, it creeps me out, man.  Another relevant quote:
"They’re also waiting to make you want things. Everything we've grown up with - the stories on the feed, the games, all of that - it’s all streamlining our personalities so we’re easier to sell to. I mean, they do these demographic studies that divide everyone up into a few personality types, and then you get ads based on what you’re supposedly like. They try to figure out who you are, and to make you conform to one of their types for easy marketing. It’s like a spiral: They keep making everything more basic so it will appeal to everyone. And gradually, everyone gets used to everything being basic, so we get less and less varied as people, more simple. So the corps make everything even simpler. And it goes on and on."
Edited to add:  I don't want anyone to think that I really some old man huddled up in his home, terrified of the future.  I mean, I have a smart phone.  I'm a member of the 21st century.  I just saw that add adn thought, Holy crap!  That's Feed!  And the next thing I thought was, What happens when advertisements are allowed to pop up periodically in your field of vision.  How annoying will that get?  And then I thought, Holy crap, that is Feed!  

Anyway, blah blah blah, I'm a Luddite and totally terrified of the future.  Enjoy these hilariously well done (mildly NSFW) spoofs of the Google Glasses promo.