One weird thing about being very old is never being sure whether it’s you or the other people who are weird. It’s pretty safe to assume that it’s you.
After all, people who walked along shouting at people who weren’t there used to be considered weird. But a few decades ago we dumped them all on the streets and thus made them average, though for a while you could consider them somewhat weird. By now, when somebody goes charging past on the sidewalk in Santa Cruz bellowing continuously at the top of his voice at a broker in Wichita, and you find that weird, you’re the weird one.
Where’s “here?” Where’s “there?” We and the people we talk to or “relate with” are increasingly neither here nor there.
Thus the great weird forward march of progress is soon to bring us “Heads Up Display Glasses” — Google Goggles. These devices will look like shades, but inside the lens on a tiny screen an inch from the goggle-wearer’s eye they will display indispensable information: where you the goggle-wearer are, maps of how to get there from here or here from there, where your friends are, how to contact them, your latitude, your altitude, your attitude — everything in the world, except the world.
Obviously, this technology can offer people whose sight is impaired an immense boon. Why don’t I trust us to limit it to that, maybe not even to use it for that?
The human desire to occasionally, temporarily, replace the actual world with some kind of improvement on it was nourished in its long infancy by the arts, and in its brief teens by movies and TV. Then ever-improving electronic technologies moved in and began to feed, maintain, and incite its appetite, which by now is insatiable. If we can shout on a phone or fill our ears with music instead of listening to the sounds or silence around us, we will. If we can text our Facebook Friends instead of seeing the faces around us, we will. If instead of looking around to find out where we are we can listen to a machine tell us where it thinks we are, we will; and if we can walk into a brick wall while the machine tells us it’s recalculating, we probably will.
The Google Goggles promise only GPS-type information, but what sort of pitiful Luddite is going to be content with that? Like us, our devices must multitask. They must do everything everything else does, only faster. If, instead of seeing where we’re going, we can read the latest Dow Jones figures an inch away with one eye and watch a ball game an inch away with the other eye, we will. The GPS can be programmed to warn us about the brick wall, or the kid on the tricycle, after all. They’re very reliable. Look how well they worked at CERN, proving that things can too go faster than light, nyah nyah for that old Luddite Einstein.
The crude, primitive glasses of the olden days improved vision. Google Goggles will replace vision. Who’ll want to see anything but the endless information, entertainment, and communication all there right before their eyes? Maybe some kind of nature nuts.
After all, if for some reason we want to see what the world looks like while we’re looking at something more interesting, we can be taking pictures with the hidden camera inside our goggles. We can photograph the people who stagger past us, tilting their heads strangely as they scroll and click, until they get hit by a taxi driver whose cloud was not managing the guidance system in full synchrony with realtime. Then we can put the pictures on our smart phone, or even on one of the little screens an inch away inside our goggles so we can look at them while the other screen tells us our longitude and the latest 5/4 Supreme Court decision (declaring that Super-PACs and fetuses are human and women are not).
It’s reassuring to think that wearing Google Goggles won’t interfere with walking or running or biking or driving, or anyhow hardly any more than cell phones and texting do. After the streets and highways have been more or less rendered impassable by carnage for a year or two, a few state legislatures will pass a bill to make it an offense to wear the goggles when driving in a nursery school zone or piloting a jet plane. Anything beyond that would infringe on our self-evident Constitutional right to access information, interface with our loved ones, and play games about killing people at all times in all places simultaneously.
To be sure, the article about the goggles in Slatest says that “the technology isn’t meant to be used all the time.” Ha, ha! Not used all the time? That’s pretty weird!
A little background: The character of King Ashthera, with his dog, and his gambling streak, is derived from King Yudhisthira in the Mahabharata, the wonderful and interminable epic of India. When, towards the end of the story, Yudhisthira gets to Heaven, he is outraged to find some of his enemies are there, and some of his friends are not; and he decides not to enter Heaven at all unless they let his dog in with him.
I stole all that.
King Dog is available at the Book View Cafe eBookstore.