I’ve written a good deal about the impact of robots and the electronic world on everyday life. (Most recently Blogs 10/2/14,10/15/2/2/15) Like Bill Gates, who helped develop and advance computer technology, I fail to understand why people aren’t more worried about where it is taking us. (Click here) Gate’s concern should be our concern because Microsoft, the company he helped found, is about to draw us closer into a brave new world with its HoloLens. HoloLens is a hologram-projecting headset that seamlessly blends our surroundings with the digital world. (The Week, 2/6/15 pg. 18) The head set isn’t meant to be worn at all times, like Google glasses, but will enhance conference calls, web designing, 3D printing, video gaming and aid collaborations with colleagues across the globe. One doesn’t need a crystal ball to predict that from this advance more change will follow.
Voicing similar caution as Gates, David Carr of The New York Times admits this and other cutting edge technologies “creep” him out. He worries that when virtual reality blurs into reality, this new vireality (my term) may take us to a tipping point where we are less inclined to venture out into the real world. (Ibid pg. 3.) Carolyn O’Hara dismisses Carr’s worry and lists other technologies that were predicted to degrade the world but didn’t. When the phonograph was invented, for example, composer John Phillips Sousa warned the machine would lead to a “marked deterioration in American music.” (Ibid pg. 3) Likewise, the telephone, radio and television were considered dangerous influences and the automobile was condemned as an invention that would lead American youth to become rootless hoodlums. (Ibid pg 3)
O’Hara is right to pull us back from the brink of our dark imaginings and remind us that the brain is a highly adaptable organism. Except for hip hop music nothing dire has occurred. The human race has survived for thousands of years and despite the shift from stone axes to the atomic bomb, we are still clinging to the surface of the earth and multiplying.
Still, I think it would be nice if humans got ahead of the technology curve, enough to anticipate consequences instead of merely responding to them. Standards might be considered that would allow us to recognize which changes represent progress and which pose a threat. For example, there should be no fiddling with reality when it comes to pleasures like chocolate, wine and 5 star dinners. A virtual hug should never substitute for a real one. If tears need to be shed let them be wet and not illusory. Finally, if any innovation encourages us to be indifferent to one another or less kind, it should be tossed into a real trash heap and not a hologram.