Future signage and its implications

I made a claim here a while back that eventually, when everyone is wearing cyberlenses, it might be illegal to walk around a modern city without such lenses. I argued, essentially, that people will come to expect to be publicly seen with their digital make-up on, and to see them in public without that make-up might be seen as an invasion of privacy.

Today somebody asked me about that assertion, as part of a larger discussion about the eventual social and cultural ramifications of such a “Rainbows End”-like future reality. I had already pointed out that buses will no longer have signs telling you which bus to take. Subways entrances won’t have signs, and neither will restaurants, traffic control, convenience stores or any other places or services in the public sphere.

After all, everybody will be able to know know far more just by looking with their own cyber-enhanced eyes than any static sign could ever tell them. We will no longer need physical signs, any more than New York City any longer needs a way to feed the horses that used to draw carriages through its cobblestoned streets.

Today you are perfectly welcome to stay in your own apartment in a state of helplessness. You can go all day at home without clothing or any form of spending money. But the moment you walk out into the streets of Manhattan, neither of those options is viable. If you are naked, you will be picked up for public indecency. If you travel without money or credit cards, you can be arrested for vagrancy. The public sphere does not tolerate people walking around in a state of deliberate helplessness.

One day, to walk around the streets of a major city without your cyberlenses will be to be in a similar state of deliberate helplessness. Don’t expect it to be legal.

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