Through the Google Glass, into a wonderland of distraction
Just wait until the contact-lens version of this technology hits in a few years. It's coming. There's already an early prototype of a contact lens with LCD computer display capabilities.
I'm a technology enthusiast from way back. I used a computer for the first time on a grade-school field trip to the Franklin Institute and immediately thought, "We're all going to have these in our houses someday." I knew immediately they would be my livelihood, and never deviated from studying them throughout school. Pretty soon I was hanging out at Radio Shack during family trips to the mall, teaching myself how to write BASIC programs on the display TRS-80s. I don't think I ever realized how quickly we'd all be carrying around vastly more powerful computers in our pockets.
So I'm not comfortable with my growing urge to slam on the brakes before we pull into this particular express lane of the Information Superhighway. I'm still enchanted with the possibilities of ready access to a vast data stream. I remain astonished by the amount of useful knowledge I can have in a matter of moments, anywhere I go. A while back, I was trying to recall a passage from William Blake while grabbing a quick lunch at a snack bar, and asked my smartphone (literally, with its voice recognition feature) to find it for me. I had it on my screen in seconds. That sort of wonder is commonplace these days, but now and then I still find myself dazzled. Maybe it's a function of my age. If so, I'm glad I'm old enough to be amazed.
But we also live in a wonderland of distractions, thanks to the same technology. Yes, everything becomes a porn delivery system. The percentage of people using information tech for productive or enlightening pursuits is not terribly high. (Nothing wrong with having fun as well - books can be used for both entertainment and enlightenment, can't they?) More commonly, portable computer devices have become a distraction. In the case of the imbeciles who fumble with their smartphones while driving, it's a dangerous one. Just imagine what it will be like when Google Glasses are cheap and ubiquitous, and there's a good chance the first guy in line for the red light you're stuck at is wearing them. Imagine LCD contact lenses giving everyone a constant personal heads-up display.
The possibilities are limitless - it could do so many wonderful things for us. It could liberate our imaginations, much as instant desktop access to the accumulated knowledge, wisdom, and art of the human race was liberating. Now we carry those gateways in our pockets; soon we'll wear them on our faces; then we'll have them floating in our eyes, always on standby; and after that, who knows?
We are in the process of merging with data. It's a process that began with the printing press - arguably, with the development of written language - but now it's blasted into warp drive, and there's no stopping it. But are we really ready for it? Did we have adequate time to digest the last wave of wonders? My inner child says, "Faster, faster! Go, go, go! Bring on the neural interfaces!" But I've grown up enough to watch people fumbling with text messages while driving at better than sixty miles per hour, or look upon a restaurant full of people playing with their phones instead of talking to each other, and have doubts.