In all the buzz about Google Glass, some people are raising deep concerns about privacy. Mostly about the privacy the wearer of Google Glass will sacrifice.
But the issues go well beyond that. Mark Hurst’s very thoughtful article, “The Google Glass feature no one is talking about,” for instance, brings up the disturbing spectre of Google creating a world where everyone is watching YOU. In other words, non-users could be deeply impacted, and human behavior may actually shift in response to the Big Brother phenomenon of being under constant surveillance, person-to-person as opposed to camera-to-location.
Yet I think privacy concerns may be far less significant than something I don’t hear anyone discussing AT ALL: the question of whether literally seeing the world through Google Glass’s technology is essentially a radical shift in the human experience: an engineered electromechanical “mutation” that could have results as far-reaching and unforeseen as genetic engineering.
Already, we live in a world where centuries-old patterns of communication have been blown apart by computers, mobile phones, and other disruptive technologies. And for the most part, this is positive–despite idiocies like the pedestrian I saw the other day who couldn’t stop texting long enough to see if it was safe before he crossed the street. But when a device becomes an extension of our bodies to such an extent, I have to wonder: What are the consequences of seeing the world through the Internet and Google Glass, rather than through our own eyes, as we walk down the street? What happens when governments or corporations start filtering and controlling our very sensory input, even when we’re in the “natural” world away from our computers?
I’m not a Luddite. But I do believe in the Precautionary Principle, which states that we should not engage in actions that have potentially harmful consequences if we don’t know what those consequences are. Violating the Precautionary Principle has led to many calamities, from catastrophic climate change to ecosystems being thrown out of balance to the 250,000-year threat of global contamination by nuclear waste leaks. In other words, we should keep our assorted genies in the bottle until we know what we’re about to unleash. And I think Google Glass could be one such genie. Particularly if future iterations in totalitarian states make Google Glass or similar technology less optional, and less easy to remove.
Love to get your comments on this.