Glasshouse

Published 5 years, 9 months ago

Our youngest tends to wake up fairly early in the morning, at least as compared to his sisters, and since I need less sleep than Kat I’m usually the one who gets up with him.  This morning, he put away a box he’d just emptied of toys and I told him, “Well done!”  He turned to me, stuck his hand up in the air, and said with glee, “Hive!”

I gave him the requested high-five, of course, and then another for being proactive.  It was the first time he’d ever asked for one.  He could not have looked more pleased with himself.

And I suddenly realized that I wanted to be able to say to my glasses, “Okay, dump the last 30 seconds of livestream to permanent storage.”

There have been concerns raised about the impending crowdsourced panopticon that Google Glass represents.  I share those concerns, though I also wonder if the pairing of constant individual surveillance with cloud-based storage mediated through wearable CPUs will prove out an old if slightly recapitalized adage: that an ARMed society is a polite society.  Will it?  We’ll see—pun unintentional but unavoidable, very much like the future itself.

And yet.  You think that you’ll remember all those precious milestones, that there is no way on Earth you could ever forget your child’s first word, or the first time they took their first steps, or the time they suddenly put on an impromptu comedy show that had you on the floor laughing.  But you do forget.  Time piles up and you forget most of everything that ever happened to you.  A few shining moments stay preserved, and the rest fade into the indistinct fog of your former existence.

I’m not going to hold up my iPhone or Android or any other piece of hardware all the time, hoping that I’ll manage to catch a few moments to save.  That solution doesn’t scale at all, but I still want to save those moments.  If my glasses (or some other device) were always capturing a video buffer that could be dumped to permanent storage at any time, I could capture all of those truly important things.  I could go back and see that word, that step, that comedy show.  I would do that.  I wanted to do it, sitting on the floor of my child’s room this morning.

That was when I realized that Glass is inevitable.  We’re going to observe each other because we want to preserve our own lives—not every last second, but the parts that really matter to us.  There will be a whole host of side effects, some of which we can predict but most of which will surprise us.  I just don’t believe that we can avoid it.  Even if Google fails with Glass, someone else will succeed with a very similar project, and sooner than we expect.  I’ve started thinking about how to cope with that outcome.  Have you?


  1. So pleased to read this reasoned evaluation of Glass. I have read about and pondered them with confusion (why would I want to do that?) but understand the inevitability and that I’m a terrible judge of futurescape. For example, it took me a long time to get a cellphone, let alone upgrade to a smartphone. Or iPad, laptop or Kindle Fire.

    BTW: I’m also happy to read of Joshua’s satisfaction at maturing and pleasing you.

  2. « We’re going to observe each other because we want to preserve our own lives—not every last second, but the parts that really matter to us. »

    Not sure it is true for everyone. Not sure it is true in any circumstances. When we are pushing a project, exploring the odds of new interactions, we often take the side of the good will. And that’s cool, it is what helps us to make progress. We also have a tendency to ignore, brush off the usage that will be made by others and their consequences at large scales for everyone else. Let’s not forget that a Contrat Social is working because we share it locally. We get easily used to the authoritarian society, even worse when this one is made by seduction. There are many ways to enslave ourselves.

    I wonder if our will to keep everything (or the good moments) is not motivated by our fear of death. Sometimes it’s good to just let it go. To forget. Forgetting is good.

  3. Interesting, this is a very valid point seen from your perspective.

    As far as I’m concerned, I have no interest in preserving these moments. They are just moments, if they are remembered it’s fine, if they are forgotten they are no less interesting.
    Won’t the glasses make you look differently at things, being self-conscious all the time? Shooting the documentary of your life.

    And, sorry, but as I’m thinking of this the movie “Strange Days” comes to my mind.

  4. You’re undoubtedly correct that Glass or one of its followers will rule the world (ala Transmetropolitan) but I really, really, really wish you were wrong. Of course, I’m the guy without a cell phone.

  5. This is exactly why I’ve been playing around with Looxcie for the past few years. It does this and mostly only this, continually recording a buffer of time and enabling you to save the last 30 seconds to permanent storage at will.

    What has kept me from keeping it, every time I order the latest Looxcie, is the battery life. If they could make it last all day I would happily wear one every waking second just to catch such precious moments.

    Since Google Glass will be capable of doing so much more, I have my doubts that its battery life will fare much better, but hopefully one day…

  6. […] then Eric Meyer was looking from the other side of the glass: This morning, [our youngest] put away a box he’d just emptied of toys and I told him, “Well […]

  7. This might not work outside the UK but Charlie Brookers fantastic series on future tech problems has a beautiful piece quite clearly linked to glass.

    http://www.channel4.com/programmes/black-mirror/video/series-1/episode-3/s1-ep3-appraisal

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