OMG Seriously, Google’s Glasses Won’t Destroy the World

Ever since Google announced in February they were going to choose a select number of people to test their Google glasses, +ProjectGlass, there’s been many blog posts and news stories about how Google Glasses will destroy our privacy, be used to scam women on dates, and spy on would be celebrities in cool but dive bars.

For example, the 5 Point Café in Seattle, Washington, one of my favorite hangouts, has declared their space a “No Google Glass Zone.” That’s right, you must leave your pair of Google Glasses at the door if you wish to enter this establishment. Why?  Well your blind date might just try to scam you using his Google Glasses: How Guys Will Use Google Glasses.

Then there’s the many news stories about how Google Glasses will destroy our privacy – I will point out a few of the more popular ones this afternoon:

Putting Google Glasse in Perspective

I have two words for you – technological determinism. Technological determinism puts forth the following premise: “a reductionist theory that presumes that a society’s technology drives the development of its social structure and cultural values.”

Every since Plato ranted against the new technology of his time, writing, proclaiming loud and fiercely in the Phaedrus that it would destroy our ability to remember anything, technological determinism has had many a spokesperson.

But this barrage of negative press against Google Glasses, and pretty much any form of technology, misses the bigger point – the problem is us, not the technology. Where was all this negative press when cell phones came out with tiny little cameras? Indeed, the problem isn’t the technology it’s how we decide to use it – it’s also about our personal and social ethics.

What we should be worried about is the fact that people are willing to film us without our permission and put that film on YouTube, or other public video spaces.  Remember this lovely video of the girl texting and then falling into a fountain at the mall? Google glasses were not needed by the security people who edited and then uploaded this video – embarrassing the poor woman even further.

Or how about the drunk man in the convenience store? Here’s an oldie but a goodie – let’s make this man’s life a total living hell by posting our surveillance video on YouTube. Screw the man, he got drunk at 10AM, he deserved to be to have his actions broadcast without his permission, as one commenter suggested, rob2049:

The man put himself in that disposition, it may be sad, but there are much worse episodes in this world. Some comedy, is good for all of us, no matter what your view may be, it happened, and whats done is done, so enjoy!”

Next, Google Glasses were not needed to make this mass list of “upskirt” videos easily found on YouTube. Nope, all you need are some shoe cameras for this task.  These can be purchased quickly on Amazon or many other places on the internet.

5 Point Cafe, as Dmitry Maksimov recently commented on their website, will you also be banning cell phones? ipads. Tablets? Shoe Phone Cameras?

What we need to be concerned about is what we do with the technology we have, from writing to Google Glasses and beyond. This is an old argument – and goodness knows it’s one we’ve heard before. But the bottom line comes down to this: Google glasses will not destroy our privacy. We are destroying our privacy. We should ask permission before we take somebody’s picture – we should ask permission before we use someone’s image in order to advertise a product (this one’s for you Facebook).

We should also consider the fact that our society is becoming empathically hungry. Indeed, the above videos I pointed to demonstrate a lack of empathy – regarding both the woman who fell into the fountain, and the drunk man at the convenient store. The people who uploaded those videos did not consider how that woman and man might feel, or how that video might impact their lives.  No time was taken to consider the following: what if that was me? Would I want that video uploaded to YouTube for thousands of people to watch, laugh at, and remember for the rest of my life? No.

In the end we will determine what we decide to be public versus what we decide to be private content. Part of that determination is going to be how we decide to use the technology in our lives. Google glasses will not destroy privacy – we will destroy our own privacy. I hope to get a pair of Google Glasses, but if I start videotaping people, I will do what I do now: I will ask permission, especially if I intend to publish it anywhere!

But make no mistake about it, this is not new. From the moment humans started painting public spaces – the 1884 “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat, to the moment the camera became available, movie recordings, video recordings, instant polaroids, video cameras on our phones, and so on and so forth. Google glasses is not new, it’s just a new step in the ongoing evolution of technology.


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