Nightmare fuel

It’s morning here, so it’s probably safe to post this now. I read this article just before bed last night, and then I had a nightmare.

I dreamt that I walked into my classroom, and 50 pairs of eyes all turned to me, and they were all wearing Google Glass, and there were all these little red cyborg lights blinking at me. And there I was torn between the horror of my every word and expression being uploaded to Google’s servers, and…wanting one myself.

Don’t worry, though, I knew it was a dream, so I just flooded the whole room with salt water and shorted out their gadgets, and then I turned them all into mermaids and we…well, you don’t need to know.

But still! After the conversation about privacy yesterday, it was a bit worrisome.


  1. bcmystery says

    I suspect Google “Vehicular Homicide” Glass will lead to many violent altercations.

  2. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    Google glass does seem like a cyberman plot doesn’t it?

  3. birgerjohansson says

    I want it to include a head-up display for sighting the laser built into my cranium.

  4. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    that said if they have a They Live ap I will buy a pair

  5. birgerjohansson says

    Will powdered gold work to choke the cybermen, like the Doctor did? Or are these ones a separate species?

  6. says

    And once again, science fiction is way ahead of the curve: in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, Neil Stephenson saw a future where some people were basically walking 360 degree cameras and microphones. The idea was that these freelancers might be in the area when something interesting happened, and they would sell their video/audio to news services.

    We are seeing that idea coming to reality.

  7. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    also I want a modded version that has one red circular lends and one green square lens

  8. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    Also the potential deterrent value is high. we should make mock ups and distribute them to LA NY etc so the police are faced with a population that might be recording them

  9. Artor says

    No need to lie, PZ. We all know there were no mermaids in your dream- you changed them all into squid, and then got jiggy with that cute sophomore in the front row with the long, sexy tentacles.

  10. thumper1990 says

    Nightmarish indeed :-S Put a camera in it, fine, but why on Earth would you make it so it records constantly? And automatically uploads to cloud? And then add all the facial recognition stuff… jesus, I really hate all the “Big Brother” hyperbole and slippery slope arguments that normally form the basis of anti-surveillance arguments (and I’m not a big fan of surveillance culture myself, I just see no reason to be so histrionic about it) but in this case it seems it may actually be justified.

  11. says

    @7 Gregory:

    CNN already uses “iReporters” that do pretty much the same thing with their smart phones. That’s kind of cool because it’s voluntary, but this is some creepy Skynet stuff.

  12. says

    @bryanjohnson #13 – Smart phones must be pulled out and activated as cameras. The… I want to say “gargoyles”, but that might have been something else — in Stephenson’s novel were literally wired as eyes and ears. Imagine eyewear like Google Glasses making a binocular recording of everything you see. Built-in microphones make binaural sound recordings, with a noise filter to clean out the background and clarify conversation. Plus a cap with cameras looking forward, to the sides and behind. All attached to a vest with high capacity solid-state storage and battery backups. Everything strapped on and in, of course, and the few exposed wires wrapped in heavy, cut-proof insulation, to prevent someone from shutting down the Public’s Right To Know. And several people like this in every crowd, on every busy street, in every park; dozens at every demonstration and media event and public happening.

    It was laughably absurd when I read Snow Crash a few years ago. Now, though…. Well, I ain’t laughing any more.

  13. harvardmba says

    I’m not surprised at all that P Zed wants Glass. The good professor has shown he’s a good little fascist, so for him — what’s not to like about Glass?

  14. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    Oh for fuck sake. Ban the idiot

  15. says

    Google glass seems like a great way to show people how irrelevant and foolish most of the internet is, except for some core services (that most of us do not need to consume in real-time) …

    Imagine eyewear like Google Glasses making a binocular recording of everything you see.

    When Facebook is filled with endless clips of “this is my penis, urinating at 11:34am, duration 35sec” pictures, will “The Great Unfriending” finally happen?

  16. Asher Kay says

    It’s possible that when “always on” cameras come out from the dark corners and the reflective semi-spheres, people will have a much stronger negative reaction to them.

    Also interesting is the idea that the sheer amount of video data makes anything that happens within it less remarkable.

  17. Olav says

    Thankfully, these devices from Hell have not yet appeared where I live. I am not sure what my reaction will be when they become a widespread phenomenon. Become a hermit & stay out of public places, most likely.

  18. says


    And once again, science fiction is way ahead of the curve: in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, Neil Stephenson saw a future where some people were basically walking 360 degree cameras and microphones.

    I’m more reminded of Macx and his glasses in Stross’s Accelerando.

  19. ryanb says

    I don’t find this such a strange idea to be honest, I pretty much expect to happen if wearable tech like glass does ever get introduced (and the bandwidth/data storage become cheap enough to be viable). Some people have already been doing this for a long time (look up Steve Mann and Lifelogging) and in many situations it would be beneficial, especially for crime and personal protection.

    Also it’s unlikely this kind of thing will stop at video and audio. With GPS and accelerometers that are integral to smartphones (and so either will be with goggles or they will link to smartphones) location and physical attributes could be read. Throw in apps and a whole range of things become possible; speech-to-text apps that transcribe every word heard, auto-tagging AKA facial recognition via social media, calorie counters/food diaries via accelerometers and food package barcode reading etc.

    Speaking of Charles Stross he gave a talk featuring this several years ago

  20. fastlane says

    A lot of us bicyclists are already recording almost all the time we ride. Of course, very few keep the recordings, and simply delete them at the end of a ride. It has helped to secure convictions, make insurance claims, and when the camera’s visible, many riders think it actually prevents or reduces potential hostile actions by the homicidal maniacs driving around in 4 ton deathmobiles.

  21. says

    There’s a bit of hyperbole, but worst case scenarios are still worth talking about because we need to be able to talk about what’s possible with technology, how it can be abused by those with an agenda, and which lines can be established to prevent those abuses. What really irritates me is all the people who naively assume that people like me wanted privacy because we’re all easily embarrassed stupid klutzes, impolite assholes, or criminals.

    No. Just no.

    Entirely innocent things can be made into “crimes” to be punished. I want privacy because, for example, I don’t want to be turned down for a job. I don’t want my potential boss to able to enter my name into Google and find someone’s passive recording of an overheard conversation that did a bit of facial recognition and transcription, outing me as a liberal. Or an atheist. Or an anime fan. Or a D&D fan. Those things aren’t my boss’s business and right now, I’m not confident I can trust him or her to disregard my personal life if he’s got an agenda that makes him think I’m satanic for having certain opinions or hobbies show up on a search engine. I don’t want him to have easy access to my innocent conversations because he or she’s in a position of power and may have a corrupting agenda. They can punish me by turning me down for the job and manufacture a plausible rationalization for the courts if they get involved. I shouldn’t be shamed into hiding my politics, atheism, or hobbies at a dinner table and I shouldn’t have to cede the power of discrimination to people who will abuse technology to get that information.

    I’m fine with general security cameras. They’re above eye level. They usually don’t record sound. They’re usually in a context where I wouldn’t expect a semi-private area. In principle, the records are generally only looked at if there’s trouble, otherwise, they get overwritten or thrown out. They aren’t shared in the cloud. They’re not so easily searchable.

    I’m fine with people having smart phones with cameras. It takes some level of conscious effort to start recording, and when not in use, they’re usually in a pocket or a case with the camera blocked. Casual recording is a bit on the conspicuous side, since users commonly hold up the device to consciously get a good angle for their recording, which can serve as a notification for me to watch myself. The user has case-by-case control over the recording and the sharing of information in the video. I carry a not-so-smart phone with a camera, and in the rare instances I do use it, it’s in a generally obvious manner. If someone objects (assuming we aren’t talking about a crime or something extremely or necessarily public), I’ll politely delete the recording. If I post it online (not likely), I’ll blur out faces if I suspect there’s a reasonable chance of negative consequences for those people.

    Without automatic facial recognition, my opinions are more likely to be viewed as from “that guy,” rather than attached to my uncommon name, which could direct people’s attention to a video if they entered my name as a search term. Without automatic electronic transcription, my words are more likely to be heard as background noise, rather than potential search terms. If a human has to request that information be added to a recording, it’s going to add barriers to people looking for excuses to discriminate.

    I’d rather regular people not make a habit of carrying around hidden cameras for casual purposes. If they do, I’d rather have a socially accepted rule that they make it clear that they’re recording so people can be aware of it so they can modify their behavior if they don’t want certain things recorded, get out of view of the recording, or object to being recorded so the user can find a better time or place without treading on anyone’s toes. If they don’t know they’re being recorded, they can’t object until after the damage is done.

    Thinking about this, there should be some degrees of privacy, rather than a simple dichotomy of private and public. I shouldn’t have to retreat into my home if I don’t want my innocent activities or minority opinions to be searchable. Going to a restaurant and having a natural conversation with my family and our private context-sensitive in-jokes and rough ideas overheard by the next table shouldn’t be viewed as equivalent to proudly posting the same content on a public blog under my real name with a photo attached.

    It’s not the technology that I object to, it’s short-sightedness, naivete about the potential for corruption, lack of empathy, the Just World Hypothesis rationalizations for social retribution, sense of entitlement, privilege blindness, and so forth that some people display when they talk over-positively about surveillance technologies. We need our culture to advance so that people are more aware of possible abuses so that we can better guard against them and have appropriate laws and social mores to mitigate the problems. From my point of view, the problem isn’t that I’m a Luddite who wants to hold back technology, it’s that they’re holding back our culture, condoning or rationalizing new means of discrimination without realizing it.

    If you don’t want us to worry about the abuses we can conceive of, focus on telling us what’s in place to prevent them.

  22. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    What Bronze Dog said. I’ll admit, I’m terrified of Glass. Triggery as fuck. Oh well. Going out is overrated.

  23. says

    the full-scale introduction of glasses that record everything and link it to you via facial recognition will be shortly followed by the sudden emergence of face-veils, ski-masks, extreme makeup, and similar face-coverings as new and widely popular fashion-statements (until they get outlawed for some bullshit reasons because they prevent corporations from nosing around in people’s business)

  24. vaiyt says

    @27: Well, at least I will be lining up to buy one. Preferably whatever is most popular, so I don’t get identified by an unique mask anyway.

  25. Rip Steakface says

    Well, there is at least one bright spot – Google’s voice transcription software sucks. Try turning on the automatic captions on YouTube sometime. It’s… it’s bad.

  26. Olav says

    Jadehawk #27, veils, ski masks, baclavas and such are already illegal in some countries where this is known as the “burka ban”.

  27. says

    Well, chummers, we’re one toxic spill away from corporate sovereignty. Once that happens I’m strapping on my ARES Predator and running for the shadows.

  28. Rick Pikul says


    the full-scale introduction of glasses that record everything and link it to you via facial recognition will be shortly followed by the sudden emergence of face-veils….

    This even has historic precedent: Venice, a city where privacy was long in short supply, had masks and concealing cloaks as a very common fashion choice.