Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Rethinking normal 10: looking ahead and at currently emerging change 3

Posted in business and convergent technologies, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on October 19, 2013

This is my tenth installment to a series on change, and more specifically about our understanding of what is normal, and how normal and assumable change (see Reexamining the Fundamentals, Section III for other postings to this series.)

And I find myself thinking of my two grandfathers as I write this, and the world of their youth in the early years of the 20th century, and how vastly different the world and normal are now from what they were like then. The reason why I make note of this here, is that our sense and understanding of what is normal and to be expected forms what amounts to a smoothly continuous, seamless whole – usually. And when we see gaps or discontinuities, or disconnects and inconsistencies in what we see and think of as our normal, we feel a sense of disorientation and experience something at least closely akin to cognitive dissonance, at least until we can find ways to resolve, explain or cover up and overlook these challenges to our basic mental frameworks – or until we adapt and accept a new normal.

I have been discussing change and the rapid pace of change and of our sense of what is and should be normal. And I have been arguing the case that the pace at which normal is changing is such that an awareness of a lack of smooth consistency to normal has become all but inevitable, and so has awareness of how different people can and do see normal differently. In a fundamental sense this can even be seen as a situation where normal itself is forced to become overtly visible where it is usually more taken for granted.

I began writing about wearable computers, and more specifically about a next step forward for them with Google Glass in Part 8 and Part 9 of this series and left off at the end of Part 9:

• Envisioning the mainstreaming of small, unobtrusive, always-on, ubiquitously connecting computer and communications technologies, and
• How this can and will blur the “what is normal” boundaries for many, between virtual reality and more conventional empirical reality, and between space and cyberspace.

My goal for this posting is to at least to begin exploring some of the issues that come up from that, and I would do so in the context of my above comments on the pace of change and how we no longer in any way all see or understand the same normal, and even when we come from the same cultural heritages and would “normally” start out so connected.

But for purposes of this discussion I will simply focus on the early adaptors who would be inclined to accept and use this new technology quickly, and those who have significant access to this new technology to do so, and who immerse themselves in its new and rapidly evolving normal. That cohort, at least as of now is not simply defined by conventional early versus late adaptor criteria plus living in a country where it is available, plus having the financial wherewithal to buy into it. I wear glasses – conventional vision correcting glasses with lenses. Google Glass does not fit over or otherwise accommodate regular glasses and my guess is that at least some people who would otherwise try and use Glass cannot do so with any effectiveness for other vision issues as well – besides this technology not working for the blind. The range of people who this can work for will expand, and yes I expect to see a “with glasses lenses accommodated” Glass or comparable solution come out. But for purposes of this discussion I simply assume people who can and who chose to wear and use Glass.

• As wearable computers built out from this early Glass example go online and as they become commonplace and more user-friendly as a result – from competitive pressures to develop and offer user friendliness if nothing else,
• More and more people will spend more and more of their waking time engaging in more and more of their waking activities viewing reality with a virtual reality overlay.

Consider driving as a simple working example, and particularly when you might be seeking a route to a place you have not driven to before – or to one you drive to all of the time but where you really need real-time traffic updates to avoid rush-hour or other slow-traffic delays. If you have Glass or one of its soon to arrive relatives you are going to want to be able to drive with something like Google maps or a traffic app running for this, showing real-time and right in front of you, just off to one corner in your field of vision so you can check it rapidly and frequently.

You are walking along an urban street, and with time will come to expect to be able to see something like a Yelp-like crowdsourced review of essentially any and every business that you pass. And you will also be able to locate precisely the right type of business that you need right now out of all of this, to meet your immediate current needs – a hardware store that has some specific item in stock now or perhaps a Japanese restaurant where you can scan in advance its menu and prices. And apps will show you the shortest route there and if you are driving, where you can park.

You go to a party and find yourself already knowing a few people there, but meeting many more for the first time. But you can easily and even automatically tap into your social networking apps, and with your Glass or other wearable device you can smoothly and unobtrusively identify everyone you see with your online connectivity offering you a summary of their online profiles with names and other information that you might want.

• My point here is not to note a brief list of special if perhaps commonly recurring usage examples,
• But rather to make note of the fact that automatically and even essentially always participating in activities such as these will become the new normal for people who live with these devices,
• And with a de facto fusing of real and virtual reality in this ongoing process.
• And so will concerns from everyone else that the people they see around them wearing these and similar devices might always be taking photos of everything and everyone, and that all of this data can be organized for real-time tracking and performing surveillance on essentially everyone by online data aggregators and collectors. (I write that with my currently running series: Learnable Lessons from Manning, Snowden and Inevitable Others, in mind – see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 as postings 225 and loosely following.)
• And with that I raise both the issues of blurring the lines between reality and virtual reality, and the issues of how this can and will impact upon us all, and whether we ourselves use this technology or not, as far as our sense of personal privacy is concerned.

People can and do take still photos and videos with smartphones but these devices in general, have to be handheld for that and this makes their activity both obvious and at least a bit delayed. When people are wearing a device such as Glass, and particularly when it does not show with a light glowing when it is in use, there are going to be no delays or warnings for anyone in the vicinity.

I am going to continue this posting with a next installment, there considering the blurring of boundaries between people and their tools and particularly where those tools are used automatically and essentially all of the time, and for enhancing and enabling more and more everyday tasks and activities. I will also have more to say about this impact of all of this on personal privacy and confidentiality. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Reexamining the Fundamentals. I am also including this in Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and also see my first Ubiquitous Computing and Communications directory page.

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