When Google was deciding to bring Google Glass to market, they did not stop to think of ten good reasons for people to buy them. Instead, they thought about why they wanted people to wear them. Google has a covert agenda: to collect every piece of data about every single person on the planet. It is part of their corporate philosophy: the more data you have, the more intelligent you are.
Well, that is not necessarily so. The more data that is collected, the more intelligence is needed to decipher the meaning in the data, but intelligence is very different from being intelligent. Intelligence is information that has been gathered and presented to circumlocate a problem or issue. Being intelligent is what you have to be to use that data, er, intelligently.
This is not just a word game. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Bin firmly believe that any problem can be solved if enough data is collected and analyzed correctly.
They have the collecting part down. The analysis? Not so much, and this is why:
Imagine that it is the end of the day, and Jack and Jill are talking about their weekend plans as they ride the elevator down to the first floor. It is a local elevator and, at each floor, more people get on the elevator, in pairs, speaking to each other about their weekend plans. By the time the elevator gets to the ground floor, it is impossible for anyone to hear what anyone else is saying and everyone ideas about what everyone else’s weekend plans are have become quite confused because of information overload.
This never happens in the real world, because people know that they are not supposed to talk in a crowded elevator. Try it sometimes, and see what happens. However this thought experiment proves a point. Up to a certain point, more information is good. After that point, it becomes impossible to separate the important information from the background noise.
Google Glass started out as an attempt to gather more information about where people are,what they are doing, at any given moment in time and record that information for future use. The problem for Google is that, sometimes, people do not want other people to know what they are doing.
Here are 10 examples of good reasons people do not want to wear the Google’s’ Glasses…and do not want anyone else to wear them either:
- Husbands cheating on their wives, or wives cheating on their husbands, certainly do not want to wear their glasses to their assignations. However, if they turn their Glasses off, that becomes a warning signal to the other spouses, if they usually leave them on.
- Cheaters do not want people wearing Google Glasses around them because they never know where those pictures might turn up.
- The miscreant planning a robbery probably would not want to wear Google Glass to the robbing, unless the miscreant in question was so narcissistic as to require a minute by minute recording of their nefarious activities.
- The surgeon whose hand has started to shake might not want to wear a Google Glass during a procedure but, now that it exists, the malpractice insurance company that carries surgeons’ insurance policies might include riders preventing surgeons from wearing their Google Glasses during surgery. If something goes wrong, however, the ambulance chaser representing the victim’s family might very well want to know why a record of the procedure was not made if the surgeon owned a Google Glass.
- Teenagers do not want people around them wearing Google Glasses when they are doing things they do not want their parents to know about.
- Parents do not want Google Glasses around when they are doing things they do not want their children to know about.
- Politicians do not want anyone wearing Google Glasses around them. Ask Mitt Romney about that one.
- Filmmakers probably do not want to see people wearing Google Glasses at pre-release showings of their films.>
- Strip club owners want their customers to come back over and over again rather than having them stop by once to record the proceedings and store them for future reference.
But there are some good reasons why people might want to have a Google Glass that Google might want to jot down for future reference.
- Chess players could use their Google Glass to document their chess matches.
- Someone taking apart a complicated device might want to document the steps involved in order to reverse them later.
- An artist might want to record the process of making a painting, and put the video up on YouTube to promote the sale of the painting.
- A therapist wishing to document a treatment session unobtrusively might want to wear a Google Glass to capture the sessions.
- Doting parents might want to record their offspring’s first steps, first day at school, first date, or first accident.
- Coaches could record practice sessions and review the video later to help the team improve its performance. Sure, there are other camera’s available, but none of them see exactly what the coaches see.
- Thrill seekers could capture and replay their thrill seeking behaviors to relive them later, assuming they survive, and, if not, imagine how much the bereaved would cherish a moment by moment account of their beloved’s final moments.
- Imagine a person with severely impaired eyesight being able to record an event such as the marriage of a son or daughter and being able to play that event back again….from their perspective…on a large enough video monitor so they could see what happened from that perspective.
- Imagine a pilot with severe weight restrictions limiting the gear available using a Google Glass to record the minute by minute process of their historic flight. (This one is not so far-fetched; Google is a major sponsor of the Solar Impulse project to fly a solar aircraft around the world.)
- Finally, imagine couples or families in therapy all equipped with Google Glass, confronting and reacting to their significant others in therapy sessions…and being able to see themselves as others saw them throughout the session.
There is one highly practical purpose that co-founders Page and Brin may never have thought of. Then again, who knows, they might have.
Imagine a world where everyone is required by law to wear Google Glasses all the time. Might that not result in the “virtual” elimination of all violent crime? Put another way, would the world not become more self-aware, knowing that everyone is always under surveillance, and perhaps achieve a higher level of collective consciousness as a consequence? Or would Google Glass dilute that self-consciousness enough to make it worthless?
The answer to that question might be moot at this point because everyone is already under surveillance all the time in major cities around the world like London, Paris and New York. Since everyone with a smart phone is walking around with a very powerful digital camera on their persons, the prospect for doing anything unobserved is diminishing rapidly. The Boston Marathon bombers were identified by collecting video and still pictures taken in and around Boylston Street before, during and after the explosion, along with images from fixed security cameras all over the area.
People who know that they are under constant surveillance begin to act as if there was no surveillance at all. That was one of the sub-plots in the novel Nineteen Eighty Four.
Social scientists were brought into a gated community where there was a speeding problem. The senior citizens who lived in the community were racing around the perimeter road that circles the lake in the center of the community at the absurdly high speeds of 40, 45 and even (shock and horrors) 50 miles per hour. In order to slow the old folks down, the Homeowners Association tried using an automated Radar Camera that shows the speed of each passing vehicle on a big LED screen.
It worked, for awhile, until the residents became so accustomed to the presence of the radar speed check that they stopped seeing it and resumed their speeding behavior. The scientists postulated the idea that, since there were no consequences from the radar system, people were able to ignore it.
They added a camera to take pictures of the miscreants as they broke the admittedly laughable 25 mph speed limit. That worked for a while. The speeding resumed.
Finally, the Homeowners Association fired the social scientists, sold the radar system, and installed old-fashioned speed bumps. The speeding stopped.
It turns out that, in order for feedback to be effective, it also has to be visceral. You have to feel it. Wearing Google Glasses may be fashionable in some places and objectionable in others but, in the final analysis, it is just another fad and, at $1,500 each, it is a lot more expensive than a Pet Rock.
By Alan M. Milner
Look for me on Twitter:@alanmilner