Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Magical Science, Fanatic Devotees, and Augmented Reality Glasses

Google's Project Glass has created quite a stir in tech circles. As usual, a wild frenzy is unleashed as geeks dream of a science fiction world where they have super powers. Augmented reality glasses seem to promise yet another step toward this fantasy.

Enter Technological Inevitability also known as the Technological Imperative -- the faith that what can be made must be made -- and humans must submit to it without question.

When something new is invented, everyone must cheer and applaud. "Awesome" is the only acceptable response.

This is the religion of science worship. No dissent is permitted. "Progress" is what they call the march of new devices and new theories. To question the rationality or benevolence of a new development is taboo.

"We have all the tools we need now for a perfect society" is the chant of some devotees. Science will set us free. Oh really? I see governments trending toward totalitarianism, in spite of the so-called democracy movements and the rapid evolution of technology.

We see this mythology of Magical Science now in the silly hysteria over Google Goggles or the Glass Project. Smart glasses with augmented reality. Everybody wants them. Everybody is wild about them. No one is allowed to rain on their little parade. You must not disturb their fantasies or debunk their desires.

I don't care. I'm going to do it anyway. I reject the "everything is happening but nobody is happy" moaning. We critique technology because it often goes wrong and results in horrible consequences.

Here are the potential problems I see with augmented reality glasses that are internet enabled:

(1) Messages distract the person and make them less aware of their surroundings, thus resulting in accidents and injuries. Applying a layer of visual information on top of physical reality has positive aspects, but is similar to people wearing headphones and listening to music as they walk, or paying too much attention to car stereo music as they drive. More attention on the augmentations equals less attention on the environment itself.

(2) Hackers, user error, admin error, or viruses cause bad information to be displayed on the glasses, subverting the wearers and causing harm to them.

(3) People become too dependent upon smart glasses guiding them and telling them what to do, and thus become inept at what used to be easy and natural behavior, like walking to destinations.

(4) Eye ailments caused by the smart glasses, similar to the prevalence of dry eye in long term computer screen gazing.

(5) Internet integrated too obtrusively into a person's consciousness, so that independent thinking and detached, non-internet perceptions become rare.

(6) Ads and spam clutter can be distracting and cause loss of awareness of surroundings.

(7) As with most new communications technology, the danger of privacy-violating surveillance and intrusive tracking of individuals via augmented reality glasses is to be considered.

ADmented Reality - Google Glasses Remixed with Google Ads

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