Google Glass: The First Step Towards a Nicenik Society
Red Rees writes: An interesting article in this week’s The Economist’s entitled ‘Ubiquitous Cameras’ discusses the implications of the widespread use of Google’s Glass headset.
Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display that can also take pictures. Now most of the debate about Glass has centred around ‘oh, won’t it be terrible all these Glass-equipped people going around taking surreptitious photographs of us and invading our privacy’, this countered by the inevitable ‘if people don’t want their business archived in a photo, don’t do guilty things in public’.
To me, what Glass exemplifies is the increasingly rapid miniaturisation of surveillance equipment and the thought that in a few short years it won’t just be photographs the Glass-of-the-future is taking but videos (and probably constant-stream videos at that, then we’ll all be ‘life loggers’). And once this is teamed up with facial recognition we will truly be in a PanOpticon society, where everyone will be able to see what we were doing at any moment in our public life.
The result will be a radical change in how we disport ourselves in public. Since the Rialto police in the USA began using body cameras to record incidents in February 2012 public complaints against police officers fell a staggering 88% and the use of force by officers by 60%. Body cameras, it seems, incentivise people to conduct themselves in a more civilised manner … nobody wants to see themselves looking and acting like a total prick on YouTube. The peculiar thing will be that it won’t be the State watching us that we’ll need to be concerned about, it’ll be each other.
But (and I think it’s a pretty big but) what this will provoke is a massive experiment in social re-engineering with people being obliged to act in a more censured way. They will know they are being watched and will act accordingly. A good thing, you might suggest, but the upshot will be that life, I suspect, will become even more boring than it is today.
As Jenni-Fur says in Invent-10n:
I am fed up enduring the claustrophobic, cossetted tyranny of the nice.