Sunday 20 October 2019

Why I'll pass on the tech glass

Glass half empty: You won’t see Ian wearing the new device
Glass half empty: You won’t see Ian wearing the new device

Okay, I think this is my stop, I'll think I'll get off here. You can include me out. I'm referring, of course, to the latest tech-glasses – just the latest in a seemingly relentless attempt by new media to utterly eradicate any sense of privacy we might have once had.

You know the drill by now – new tech gadget comes along, offers something that has never been done before and nerds everywhere start to behave like One Direction at the thoughts of getting their hands on the latest toy. And, boy, are these new tech glasses one much coveted toy.

But as people continue to spend an increasingly large proportion of their time hunkered in some digital dungeon, be it hours on social media or just blindly trawling online on their iPhone, there is the real sense that we are witnessing a tectonic shift in how we relate to the world and how we see things.

And, increasingly, a person's self-worth seems inseparably linked to how they are faring in electronic life – if it's new we want it.

Don't get me wrong. I'm no Luddite. Well, not really. Okay, maybe I am a little bit.

But I never wanted to be this far outside the loop. In fact, I was obsessed with computers as a kid and like anyone who saw War Games as a youngster, where Matthew Broderick almost inadvertently causes global thermonuclear war when messing around with his home computer, I was hooked.

But . . . enough, man. Come on, give us a break.

One of the things that has surprised me about Google Glass is the way so many people have hailed its arrival as potentially the next big breakthrough in human/electronic interaction. As you know, these new glasses contain a small(ish) monitor allowing you to film and record what you're looking at and, if you want – and what would we be the point in wearing them if you didn't? – you can either upload the footage you have stored or you can stream it live.

This has been hailed as a massive game-changer and we've seen numerous tech bloggers rhapsodising about the gadget and saying that this is going to forever alter how we live.

Right, let's walk through this one, shall we?

You buy a pair of glasses fitted with a recording device (it's noticeable on the specs now, but by the second- or third-gen models, they'll just look like any other glasses) and you become the director and star of your own movie, where everything is shot from your POV.

This, in itself, should not be a cause for alarm – if anything, it sounds pretty neat.

But it has been telling that those who have questioned the potential ramifications for trifling issues such as privacy have been roundly and viciously condemned as unevolved mouth-breathers who dare to question the greatness of the social media giants.

G oogle has plenty of form when it comes to snooping on us, of course (although I'm writing this on Gmail, so I should probably be careful I don't annoy them) and it seems hopelessly, witlessly naive to assume that such a powerful piece of kit won't have a massively negative impact on us.

We're already recorded in almost everything we do. It's one of the reasons I don't have a credit card. I don't buy online and I have no supermarket loyalty cards. In fact, my electronic footprint is about as small as it can get. It's not exactly off the grid, but it's as close as I can manage and still keep a job.

This isn't because I'm worried about a shadowy global cabal who can track my every move simply by checking my receipts.

Frankly, I would imagine that any self-respecting shadowy global elite would have better things to do than keep tabs on any of us. I just don't like leaving a recorded trace of everywhere I've been.

But for many people, perfectly reasonable fears and objections about being unwittingly recorded or leaving an electronic trail are dismissed as hysteria by supporters of the new tech glasses who use the old argument that if you have nothing to hide, what should you be ashamed of?

Well, look at it like this – you're in a restaurant and you cop the guy at the table beside you wearing the glasses. You're not having a secret assignation and eating with someone you shouldn't be – not that it would matter if you were – you're just having lunch. And you don't want to be recorded.

Do you make a scene and ask the guy to take them off? Do you put yourself in a position where you automatically look like you have some guilty secret?

This is the passive aggressive brilliance of Sergey Brin's latest electronic imp. It asks: "Why do you object to being filmed? What have you got to hide?"

Well, nothing really. But that's my business and not yours, just as your business is yours and not mine. At least when someone is recording you on their phone, you can see what they are doing. Not with this.

Because by the time they nail this Glass thing, we're going to look at everyone wearing glasses and worry that they're just streaming the entire conversation on their website.

We've already handed over our purchasing privacy, we're looking into the gaping maw of a 'cash-free' society (that really does freak me out, I have to admit) and now we're going to have to worry that everything we say or do could potentially be recorded by that speccy git in the corner?


Four eyes bad.

Two eyes good.

Irish Independent

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