The spyglass and the jetpack

My post yesterday asked what it might be like if we actually had the instant knowledge upload capability from “The Matrix”, In response, J. Peterson commented:

“Your Google Glass frames could handle this. Start face recognition on the person your talking to. Listen for voice and context cues (”…I write for the New York times”, GPS coordinates in the city). Then it’s just a matter of managing the awkward stare as you try to skim the articles floating just above her head.”

It’s an insightful comment, but one could argue that what Google Glass is, in a sense, the antithesis of Trinity’s skill upload. The former provides a tantalizing glimpse into a world of knowledge, whereas the latter actually delivers that world.

Imagine, for the sake of argument, a future society where everyone is “wearing”. In such a world, my conversant would expect me to know, mere seconds into our conversation, the titles of her articles in the NY Times — they would be showing on my heads-up display. But I would still know none of the substance.

In reality, I spent more time reading those articles after the party than we had spent conversing. Google Glass and similar devices, such as the Vuzix M100, cannot replicate that experience. Whereas an actual brain upload (which is most likely decades away), might indeed provide true in-depth knowledge in real time.

In a way it’s like the difference between a spyglass and a jetpack. The spyglass will let you see the contours of a distant mountain that remains tantalizingly out of reach. The jetpack will take you there.

4 thoughts on “The spyglass and the jetpack”

  1. I would say that the defining difference is in the *rate* at which information can be downloaded to your brain via Google Glass vs. direct brain upload. For information which can be quickly and easily digested by reading it off your display while you maintain a conversation, Google Glass is effectively a low-bandwidth brain upload, and as far as that type of information goes, there is no meaningful difference between someone who learned these things offline and the composite human+Google creature. To say otherwise gets into some wacky metaphysical territory.

    As you said, information which is deeper than can be assimilated in an instant still requires offline study… But it would be very interesting to see if it would be possible to push the bandwidth of what is possible to convey to the user through their senses. Text and speech as a method of conveying meaning are fundamentally based on the limitations of the human voice, the hand, and the page. I wonder if you could invent a new form of audiovisual communication that could communicate information and meaning to a human at a higher rate than words and text can. It would probably require people to be brought up with it from childhood, but it’d be a pretty good step toward the singularity.

  2. My point was that the difference between the “low bandwidth upload” of a Google Glass-like interface and the high bandwidth upload of a true direct-to-brain uplink is not merely quantitative, it’s qualitative.

    It’s not a metaphysical difference. To acquire an entire knowledge base in a moment, in the middle of a real-time interaction with another human being, would be a fundamental game changer. Mere augmented reality goggles, even if accompanied by speed reading technology, would not be a game changer of that sort.

  3. Well, the first issue would be wading through all of the Google Ad sponsored links to even find the relevant articles to read. By then, you’d be onto the next bit of conversation and it would be moot.

    I don’t see the info delivery getting any better in the short term. By the time Google gets better AI for contextual relevance, Glass might be an old platform.

  4. I thought that the comment about Glass yesterday (which was also my first thought when I read yesterday’s post) was in the context of opening up potential topics of conversation rather than already having all the knowledge of what was in the articles. If you had known that she had worked in that area then you would have know to ask her about the work. It is not as awesome or sexy as the Matrix type technology, but it could be really useful to help create connection between people. Almost as if the party host had introduced you to each other and provided that seed of a conversation starter.

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