It was revealed today that Google Glass can now be equipped with a peripheral piece that, once attached to the user’s forehead, can control the device with the power of thought alone. As Google Glass technology grows in sophistication and user application, more and more people are questioning the ethical liabilities of the evolving technology. Initially offering users an intriguing and yet relatively benign set of functions, such as the ability to receive on-screen information relating to buildings of importance and real-time navigational assistance, Google Glasses are now starting to take on a more impressive, and yet, some say, equally more sinister form of sophistication. Does Google Glass, which now comes with thought control, represent a tech revolution or the complete end of privacy?
The new addition to the glasses raises numerous questions about the ethical responsibilities of the Google device – and it does not look like these concerns are gaining the attention that they perhaps should. As with any new technology, concerns regarding its use are normal. When the steam engine was introduced, physicians came forward to express concerns that the human body may not tolerate traveling at speeds greater than the body itself could move. Time has proven that hypothesis wrong, and so perhaps concerns regarding this technology are equally speculative. After all, there are many who already love the device and wear it everywhere they go.
Although Google Glass remains, at this point, a technological marvel, some see it becoming an inevitable part of their everyday lives. What has basically occurred at this juncture in America’s technological history is a wearable piece of technology that analyzes brainwaves and understands them in great depth. The work of UK based design firm This Place, the attachment relies on thought alone to control many of the Google Glass features previously controlled by touch or voice recognition software. Does this symbolize a tech revolution of the end of privacy?
Dusan Hamlin, chief executive of This Place, offered a positive and relaxed attitude toward what is potentially a highly invasive addition to an already technologically reliant society’s plethora of tech-based amusements: “The challenge of connecting Google Glass to brainwaves was one we could not resist … imagine a world where you can interact with a digital device just by thinking about it…That’s the world we are building,” Hamlin states. The notion that a design company is currently working on building a world based on such technologies is a harrowing concept to grasp for many people, but others feel entirely comfortable with the prospect.
Hamlin appears aware of the impact of this technology on the way society will operate and grow to rely on such a system, but fails to address the ethical significance of how the technology operates, how it can remain open to abuse and how the most personal of data sets may be gathered without the user’s full understanding of what this really means.
Given Google’s general focus on targeted advertising, it would not be a surprise to discover that Google Glass technology when partnered with the new This Place enhancement was gathering more than just real-time information on a user’s thought processes. This opens a series of doors that suddenly engage a wealth of philosophical, ethical and social considerations that have currently had little airtime in regard to this announcement.
Opposition to this technology has begun in San Francisco, where enraged citizens, due to privacy concerns, have been attacking people sporting the glasses. The objectors consider Google Glass to be a gradual social introduction to notions of thought monitoring and policing. Whether or not this may actually provide a range of social benefits has yet to be thoroughly tested, but it seems unlikely that consumers will instantly place their faith in a device that openly claims the ability to read their thoughts in real time. Google glass now comes with thought control. Is it a tech revolution or the end of privacy? What about hackers? Will all of a person’s thoughts also be captured by the NSA? One thing seems certain—Google should anticipate a significant backlash against the glasses by those who wish to keep their thoughts to themselves, and a ready and willing audience in technology enthusiasts unconcerned with personal privacy.
By: Rebecca Savastio