Wise Guys on WHO Radio - May 18, 2013
Brian Gongol

Ten things we're all going to have to think about before Google Glass goes mainstream
It's becoming more and more apparent that Google Glass is going to be more than just a stunt: Facebook and Twitter have both signed on to produce apps for the device, which means there's at least some buy-in from parties other than Google. That doesn't change the fact that Google Glass-wearers are going to face a lot of social scrutiny for a while (and that's putting it nicely). Once you've seen your product lampooned on "Saturday Night Live", you know it's going to take a while to hit mainstream acceptance. But even something that doesn't reach the mainstream can still have an impact on virtually all of us. Here are ten things we'll all need to think about before we start seeing Google Glass out in the wild:
  1. Society has to come to terms with the difference between what is literally said and what is materially said or intended. Reporters and writers have long adapted and edited what people have said in order to get to the intent of a conversation, rather than the literal words. People say "uh" and slaughter their grammar and mis-use words all the time.

  2. Image, video, and audio searches are all going to have to get much better before people who go around life-recording themselves are able to really get any use out of recording all that video and audio.

  3. Every public place is going to need rules on recording -- and an enforcement mechanism. And both the rules and the enforcement mechanism will have to achieve the intended results for privacy and intellectual property without turning off the Google Glass users whom they may be trying to win over as "social influencers".

  4. Copyright rules will need serious re-examination, not only for what is recorded (for instance, by a Google Glass wearer who goes to the movie theater), but also for what is shared and how. Will people embrace things like Creative Commons licenses for their entire archive of life's events?

  5. The law will need to decide whether erasing a recording of someone's own errors automatically constitutes destruction of evidence? If you record some things, are you obligated to save them all?

  6. Individuals will need to decide whether to modify their behavior whenever they're out in public (or even in private, if a Google Glass-wearer is around), or to simply own everything they say and do -- even if it's unpopular or subjects them to scrutiny. Politicians have been learning the hard lesson about things that they may have thought were said in private for a long time -- at least since LBJ recorded his phone calls. Now, so will the rest of us.

  7. Parents will need to show ten times the restraint they already need to display in order to keep themselves from over-sharing every moment of their children's lives online. It's not just a matter of embarrassing the kids (which should be cause enough for extra care and caution), it's also a matter of long-lasting effects on the child's digital identity and online security.

  8. Individuals will need to find ways to negotiate the terms of their experiences with their friends and families. "Are you recording this?" is an uncomfortable question to ask every time you see an old amigo.

  9. Some kind of clear public indication of recording will have to be agreed-upon...and, meanwhile, people will have to learn that whatever that signal is, other people will find a way to record secretly, anyway. The classic red light above a studio TV camera may not cut it, and people may choose to just cover the light with a piece of electrical tape, anyway.

  10. Employers will need to consider how it will affect them when Google Glass-wearing employees quit, are fired, or decide to go rogue, if those glasses went around recording endless streams of the company's proprietary information.
Incidentally, AJ Jacobs's first-person story about living an overly-documented life (or "lifelogging") is great reading on this subject. But just because life-logging isn't going to be for everyone (Google's "how it feels" video might just give you vertigo) doesn't mean we won't all be affected by it (and the many spin-offs, competitors, and copycats that will follow). Think about the consequences now -- before you end up being surprised.

Where does Internet searching stand today?
While we're thinking about Google Glass and its ability to record hours and hours of the mundane and profound experiences of daily life, we need to think about how all of those recordings will be made valuable. After all, most people don't even bother to keep diaries, much less label all of their digital pictures. Documenting, labeling, and tagging all of the videos from daily life would be vastly more than any reasonable person could undertake while still living life. So being able to search quickly and effectively is going to be a major chore, requiring big advancements in search technology beyond what we have right now. Here's a look at the world of searching as it presently stands. Keep in mind that for anything to really be "searchable", it has to be converted somehow into language that computers can understand -- and, for now, that means converting sounds and audio recordings into text, and doing the same with the letters and words we see that show up on signs, billboards, books, magazines, and handwritten notes.

1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Text search Yahoo starts as a directory service Google incorporates Yahoo adopts Google search engine Wolfram Alpha makes early promises about natural-language searches Wolfram Alpha starts delivering reliable natural-language results
Image search Google introduces Image Search Google starts book-scanning experiments
Audio search Google announces voice-to-text transcriptions in Google Voice Apple integrates Siri with iPhone 4S
Video search Congress requires closed captions on most television programs Google announces video search Google acquires YouTube

Google places caption options on YouTube
Google adds automatic captioning to YouTube

Federal authorities go after Bitcoin
What does it mean to be a publisher?
Google plays a stunt with a newspaper ad