There has been a lot of talk about Google Glass recently. Some of that discussion has revolved around privacy. The problem is that Pandora’s Box has been opened and there is no going back. Congress can pontificate and Google can promise. But there will be glasses that have always on facial recognition. Those glasses will tie into databases of all kinds feeding data directly to your eyes about everyone and everything you see.
Whether this is good or bad is irrelevant – it is going to happen. I think it will happen with five years. In under a decade they will be invisible (contact lenses or implants). The two things people seem most scared about when they discuss Google Glass will be game changers.
For the sake of clarity I’m going to call the ARGs – Augmented Reality Glasses. This category includes Google Glass, future products from companies like Apple, and eventually contacts and implants, that take inbound visuals from a user and combine it with Internet data in realtime.
The Four Phases of Adoption
Early adopters will be wearing the glasses a fair amount, but the majority of people will think they are weird. Their stylishness will improve quickly leading to higher adoption. People will start to be nervous around glasses. Then they will be replaced with contacts or implants and the game is over. You either have them or are lost to modern society.
Phase I: Awkward. Everyone is a glasshole. The glasses look really geeky. Some people will wear them as a geek status symbol. Others will wear them to test them. Fortunately this phase will end quickly – probably when Apple comes out with a stylish glasses product.
Phase II: Avoidance. ARGs will be mainstream enough that most everyone will know what they are, even if they are not wearing them. At this point ARGs are still obvious – ie: you can easily distinguish that they are ARGs and not normal glasses. Most will still have red lights that show when they are recording – Congress will attempt to mandate this but it will fail or hiding that information will become the new jailbreaking. People will mistrust glasses in general for a while.
Phase III: Acceptance. Many people will have them and they will have become stylish enough that they are generally invisible. We will see the emergence of reality shows based on recordings and facial recognition will have crossed the chasm.
Phase IV: Ubiquity. If you aren’t using some sort of augmented reality device you will have a very challenging time interacting in normal situations. If you are in certain businesses they will be a requirement. This will be a much worse divide than the ones created by smartphones. Society is changed forever.
Facial Recognition with Data Augmentation
Imagine everyone you see being automatically identified and the interaction cataloged.
Many people are familiar with the CRM market. CRM stands for “customer relationship management”. Companies like Salesforce.com, Oracle, and others sell this software (or offer it as a service) and almost every large company on the planet uses some variation of it. They use it to track every interaction with customers – phone calls, emails, website visits, purchases, everything.
Someone will develop a personal CRM system for ARGs. This system will automatically track every interaction you have will wearing your ARGs. Whether it is passing them on the street, dinner, or a meeting. You will be able to playback any of these past interactions.
Just that feature changes everything. Since everything is recorded, people will be a lot more hesitant about lying. Lawsuits will be dramatically different.
Early applications will include sales and fundraising. Imagine a politician walking into a room and instantly seeing the name and a list of all past political contributions displayed over everyone in the room. That feature will silence politicians on the privacy issue. It is too powerful.
Sales people will have uncanny insight into their customers and potential customers. It will change the game. Bartenders will know your order history. You will know the net worth, marital status, and property holdings, of everyone you see.
Oh and just to be clear, if you are on any social media network it is highly likely your name and face can already be matched. From there getting the rest of the information is easy. Especially for a big company with lots of indexed information, like say Google.
So now looping back to that part about recording every interaction and having it available for playback. Since basic storage will essential be free, you can have your ARGs recording all the time. Imaging the possibilities for reality TV? Celebrity sex tapes…. Oh my.
I’m not sure how this part will be handled, but I imagine people will act differently if they assume everything is being recorded. This will become even more significant once this is all done through implants, which sound scary and futuristic but we’ll almost certainly have those by 2030. If ARGs reach Phase III fast, we could see them sooner. But that is the only real technical limitation.
Welcome to the new world where everyone see everything.