Foresight 2020

By Marc Solomon posted 07-29-2012 10:35


From Handhelds to Eyeholds

You might have heard about Google Goggles. It's the first shot across the new mobile bow. Here devices crawl out of pockets and frame themselves between our ears. The welcome message boots to the thumbnail radar of our extended nerve centers, a.k.a. smartphones. Once we first strap them on, we'll be eye-to-eye with our restless pursuits of today: (1) surprise prevention, (2) boredom suppression, and (3) loopy phantoms from the gamification arcade.

But that may vanish in the newer versions. A world of electrical eye sockets could make today's apps and interfaces look like passing distractions -- as relevant as a pair of reading glasses on an illiterate alien in some remote century to come.

Come 2020 that won't be some personal digital assistant which pulses in your pocket. Those glasses will function dualistically as the OS of our perceptions and tactile ranges. That's right. We're talking wish-fulfillment central, the gratification engine the hovers over the bridge of our schnozes.

Setting the Terms and Conditions

Much psycho babble has been expended by the clinical study health claims complex that sees our obsessions consuming us alive, if not online:

  • "Our brains are being rewired by our web addictions."
  • "Oue attention spans have tumbled off our to-do lists."
  • "The waiting period to buy a fully loaded IPhone 4.5 sent her hurdling into a catalectic fit."

These critiques could grow moot by 2020. A point and a click may become a wink and a knod. We're transitioning in the next iteration of gadget life from the second nature of messaging roulette to the second skin of the ultimate designer lenses.

It's the ultimate testiment to our technology that we'll be making insistent eye contact with our most esteemed distractions to the exclusion of what's happening all around us.

Check that.

Our immediate surroundings may soon recede behind some destiny hook-up delivered by a revered algorithm. Whether it’s mystery dates or fantasy football, it's true that we'll see what we want to see more clearly than ever. What we may fail to see is in front of our noses: that our next generation raybans acutely conceal our rough edges, our cognitive impairments.

Will the dream be as good as the reality? What will the hit be to our BS detectors when literally our views of the world are filtered through Google glasses?

If seeing is believing can our radars bypass the skepticism we need to separate word from deed -- and what we're told from what we do? Of course nothing impairs judgement more than stress but we can chill under these shades. This crisp, sensory enhancement is not just a hedge against uncertainty. It's a crutch for our inability to exist along the periphery of a dull, indifferent, and turbulent world.

The Inward Gaze

Is it that our smart glasses help us to see? Is it that their sights are set on us? An artful hack chipping away at our surface memories and deeper deliberations? What could be more valued by a marketing organization or a Batman villain? What could be more revealing or vulnerable to the human under those cool, floating lenses?

In college my senior thesis addressed the 1939 New York World's Fair as a time capsulized slice of the future envisioned on the cusp of an apocolypse (World War II). In addition to nylons, robots, A/C, dishwashers, and driver-free cars barreling down ribbons of virgin superhighway, the Fair introduced TV. The first event TV ever covered? The birth of itself. But the drug-induced solopsistic after-effects were too remote to appear as even a glimmer on anyone's global meltdown horizons in those dark, sacrificial times.

Harper's Magazine was more dubious of TV than Transatlantic dirigibles. Afterall, you could multi-task to your favorite radio programs. But TV viewing required ... viewers. A viewer would need to sit upright in their recliner and pay rapt attention to track and rationalize these moving images on a screen. That was too stiff a price to the editors at Harper's. And while their naivete sounds quaint to our jaundiced ears, we might reserve some scarce humility, if not sophistication, about our own digital destinies and the settling-in of some emerging "new normals."

Looking in for Number One

Beyond the latest SharePoint service packs and iOS6 projections, our own cognitive tuning is on the verge of a dramatic and wholesale swap-out: from corrective vision to an augmented reality filtered through the prism of our custom settings. Call them our care packages, our goodie bags ... our experiential preferences colored by the pre-selects we promote or suppress through our one:one interactive readings.

Is it a major upgrade or abdication when we consent away our powers of concentration to big social and search media? In 1939 our elders were transitioning from big cinema screens to small cathode ray tubes. Today we're evolving in our use of pocketware from ...  

  • Our personal digital look-outs to becoming looked-in on
  • Completing templates and forms to having our very thoughts completed for us
  • Trying to stay informed to becoming "the information" itself

These distinctions may seem clear to visual creatures who only know contact lenses and bifolkels. That's all part of our first lives. But who needs Second Life when our 2020 visions will look at the world through Google Glasses? These dream screens will soften the blow. And neuter the rawest realities we’ll ever know.


#futuristic #World'sFair #Harper'sMagazine #SharePoint #history #self-delusion #consumerism