The Googles

// Posted by on 02/24/2012 (12:35 AM)

Yesterday the New York Times published this article titled, “Behind the Google Glasses, Virtual Reality”. The article discusses google’s latest technology, thick rimmed sunglasses which will project information, entertainment, and advertisements onto the lenses. They may look something like this:

Putting aside the fact that people will look absolutely ridiculous as they bobble around the street in these because they’re paying attention to where they are walking, to me this invention is the perfect representation of Mark Mcluhan and Bernard Stiegler’s ideas. Essentially Mark Mcluhan theorized that new media functions as an extension of ourselves, that technology is literally an addition to the human body and its capabilities. And similarly, Stiegler proposed that human evolution has always been tied to technology. Through cognitive distribution, we rely on technology to increase our abilities and help us develop. An example of cognitive distribution would be how people no longer remember telephone numbers because their phones do it for them. And the more information you can distribute the more information you can consume. Unless you are the word memory champion or spend hours everyday memorizing friends’ phone numbers, it is safe to assume that your phone allows you to store a much larger quantity of numbers than your brain.

The google’s are also proposing a type of cognitive distribution which the article explicitly discusses. One example is that the glasses “could remind a wearer of when and how he met the vaguely familiar person standing in front of him at a party”. So now you don’t even need to remember acquaintances, the googles will do it for you.

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My initial opinion is that the concept of the googles is ridiculous. We already stare at our phones and text while we walk, frequently causing us to bump into things or ignore the people around us. Do we really require such instant gratification that we need information constantly available barely centimeters away from our eyes? But that thought gets me tangled up in another one of the theories of New Media which is that each time a new technology comes out, there are those who say we have gone to far. But then as time goes on, the invention becomes accepted and considered the norm. And then the next form of New Media is created and the cycle begins again.

So I think my opinion may be because conceptually, I am not progressing as quickly as the new media movement is. I just can’t help but wonder ( and I guess this is what other fellow nay-sayers have wondered as well), will there ever be a point where we actually have gone to far? That question just makes me think of this image from the Pixar film Wall-E where the humans are useless and they rely on technology for everything.

As a ponder the existence of a limit to technology, I have come to the conclusion that although I may never be receptive of all of the newest technology that comes out as soon as it comes out, I like technology which brings us up-to date information, which connects us to different networks of people, and which provides valuable aid in our lives (such as new medical technology for example. And I’m sure technology’s limit lies in a different place for a million different people but for me the limit is when technology takes away any of my basic functions as a human such as to love or to empathize.

Or another example is that there is a book called Born to Run where author Christopher McDougall talks about an African tribe which goes on weekly fifty mile runs. And everyone in the tribe goes including children and grandparents. The reason they can accomplish this is because our bodies are designed to run. They are utilizing a natural function of the human body, hence the title, “Born to Run”. So in a round about way, what I am saying is that if technology ever takes away my physical ability to run, (something my body is designed to do), like the fat people pictured above from Wall-E, then that is my limit. But maybe future generations will see it differently.

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Kelsey said...

Evocative post Renee, and I think its great that you have managed to bring the move Walle into this discussion. The first time I watched that movie I was not at all surprised at the progression of things on the ship that led to humans being fat, oblivious to the world, and basically useless. And I don’t think that it is a reality all that far off. Technology has provided us with many useful and interesting tools but when it is literally an addition to the human body or it is theorized that technology is key to human evolution I think we’ve already gone too far. When I read this article in the times and finished Wired magazine I desperately wanted to be somewhere without cell phone service or technology digging in a garden. I must be old fashioned or, as you say in your post, not progressing as quickly as the new media movement is, but when I look at these ‘googles’ I really don’t want to move any faster than I absolutely have to.

// 02/25/2012 at 1:52 pm

Phylicia said...

Like Renee, I think the google glasses are fascinating. After reading your post, I immediately thought of the movie Minority Report. It is based on a similar idea in that something (in the case of the film– eye recognition) also for certain information, entertainment and advertisements to be projected as a result of the recognition. In the film, the recognition goes on step further– there is a PreCrime police force which can arrest you for a crime you have not yet committed but will commit. Of course, this is a film, but I think it raises some interesting questions that Renee alluded to. At what point has technology gone too far? I think the film demonstrates a hypothetical point.

Here’s the trailer:

Another interesting aspect of the film which we already see today due to computer technologies is personal advertisements. Check out how it would work if there was such a thing as eye recognition:

// 02/28/2012 at 9:09 pm

Ali S said...

I guess I am the opposite opinion to Kelsey’s. I see this technology as innovative and interesting. I believe if you don’t progress with the media and how it is developing you will get left behind and continually be left along. I’m not saying you have to go out and buy the product but you have to be willing to accept the technology for what it is and understand what it is for. Nothing can take away what the body is designed to do unless you let it. The reference to Wall-E is an extreme example and even in that case people still had the choice to get up and walk. It is always your choice.

// 02/28/2012 at 11:07 pm