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I should say first off that I love technology. I love living in a age where the impossible becomes the mundane every other month. I love the coolness of gadgets and all the great things they allow us to do. I also have been slightly terrified of machines since seeing Terminator.
My affair with technology is like dating a exotic girl that is always full of amazing surprises, yet you know she is perfectly capable of setting fire to the bed while you sleep in it.
I have been reading about Google Glass for a long while now and the buzz has died off a bit but the beta testing goes forward and we are less than a year or two away from seeing and using them on a regular basis.
My fascination with this technology is largely due to author Daniel Suarez's fantastically entertaining book's DEAMON and FREEDOM. These books lay out an amazing display of new technology being used in ways I had never dreamed, but now seem all but reality.
The books being several years old are uncannily accurate at describing Google Glass, and while fiction, it turns out that there is very little fiction involved in the technology and its possibilities. If anyone has actually read these books you will understand why my heart froze in awe and terror when I first saw a blurb about Google Glass.
The recent outing of the NSA has proven that the privacy paranoids had more than a little merit and the relative weak outcry from the general public has proven that most of us really don't care all the much about privacy. I mean we kinda care, but we don't care so much that we are actually going to do anything to change the comfortable status quo.
I guess what I am saying is that the America of today does not care in the same way that the original founders of America cared. Can you imagine how the news of government spying on private citizen emails would have gone over with the same group of people who overthrew the worlds biggest power over some taxes on tea?
"So let me make sure I have this strait Mr Government Official. Every letter I send to anyone for any reason will be opened and read by the government we just got all bloody to create because we thought the last one we had was a bit too hands on." Inquires the citizen.
"Yeah, but we just have to make sure no Natives are planning a scalping party and stuff." Says the Government Official.
"But what about all that stuff in that document that listed all these rights we are all supposed to have?" The citizen further inquires.
"Yeeaahh about that. I mean we wont use anything against you as long as you are not planning shenanigans." The government official says with an assuring smile.
"Yeeaahh, I think we are going to have to get bloody again." The citizen replies stuffing powder into his blunderbuss.
As ridiculous as that bit of dialogue is I cannot fathom the reaction to such a government invasion of privacy going any other way in that day and time.
Regardless of how much we care, privacy is an illusion. At the moment it is a good enough illusion that we would all rather play along but it seems we are tiptoeing toward the line where even this most complacent of American generations will no longer see fit to play along.
The real question of the future is not whether or not your information is private but just how many people and what kind of people will have access to it.
Google Glass brings to the masses technology that will redefine privacy. The hardware combined with existing facial recognition software and access to islands of databases that we have all happily contributed too makes some amazing things possible.
In Daniel Suarez'es book Freedom groups have formed what he calls a darknet. Member privileges of being in the darknet include a stylish pair of sunglasses that sound just like Google Glass. The heads up display offering up amazing bits of information about the world. The people you see through the glasses offer up their medical charts, credit ratings, criminal records and bank account info among other things and the ability to make use of such sensitive information in real time has some disturbing possibilities.
We already live in a world where government hackers and black hat hackers have become the new priesthood, our secrets open to their curiosity and discretion. Now imagine a world where that on the spot information can be used in face to face scenarios and not just via the internet.
Then there is the fun possibilities of people basically recording every waking moment of their day and the places they go. They are also taking in the people and events that happen in those places and just consider the massive amounts of data that can be extracted from such a fully documented day from just one person in a single location. Actually, oncoming reality gives way to another modern Sci Fi writer of note, Neal Stephenson. In his book Snowcrash he describes what he called gargoyles.
Gargoyles, as Stephenson described them were people whose job consisted of loitering about public spaces, loaded down with cameras, microphones and other real time data collecting tools. This massive amount of seemingly random bits of sound and video would be uploaded to the network for sell to news outlets, governments or anyone else willing to pay. This form of news gathering has already become the standard, the only difference is that all the idiots on twitter are happy to just give them the information instead of being compensated for it.
If anyone is holding out on the notion that anything you do online is private then you have about the same notion of reality as the record executives who think they can actually stop people from downloading songs for free. That is not a topic even up for debate, what is unknown is how people gathering real time information on people outside of the digital world will further degrade the publics privacy.
When it comes to the internet it is easy for people to delude themselves that privacy actually exist, because those intrusion often go unseen. It is when people start to realize that their real world is being recorded not just by "authorized" government networks but by literally everyone and everything around them that the facade of privacy really drops away. It will be at this point that change will come and hopefully it will be a sensible and measured change, but black powder and blunderbusses are always a possibility in America.