I was driving Riley home from karate when he asked me, "What if the Earth was 150 degrees all the time?"

There are two answers to this question, and one isn't very interesting.  I went with the second, more interesting one, "If it was 150 degrees all of the time, then when life evolved on this planet, it would have evolved to survive in 150-degree weather.  ...  It probably would have looked a lot different from what you see around here today, too."

I return to this conversation a lot because this answer challenges the pre-supposed notion that the present is - and will always be - the status quo.

Some online articles have expounded on the privacy concerns around Google Glass.  I suggest that we instead consider that the epoch of default privacy is comping to a close, and a new era of always-on personal surveillance is emerging upon us.

We grew up in a world where certain kinds of privacy existed, a default position of privacy.  If we had not been born into this state, we wouldn't know any better.  It would be as if the Earth evolved at at 150-degree temperature -- things would just be as they are.  Since we knew privacy, we expect it, and so we complain when we think we are being deprived of something we were born into.  I think the evolution of technology and the perception of privacy requires a new mindset, since future generations will have a steadily declining surety to privacy.

I used to think that there might be a market for private data, wherein you could sell your private details like your soul to the highest bidding demon. But people aren't prescient enough to assign appropriate value to that which they themselves take for granted, and the tools that might allow this to happen are too clumsy or outright don't exist.  In the end, everyone will have frittered their privacy away before anyone can be convinced to protect it.

It is useful to worry about privacy.  The information gathered by Glass will not (mostly) be used for good, I am certain.  I expect some of it to be used for evil and much of it to be used questionably.  But I think things are out of our hands now.  The avalanche has begun.  I can only hope that the dissolution of privacy is spread equally, while simultaneously empowering us in other different, but important ways.

It seems pointless to stare back up at the oncoming snow, yelling that we should have done something, rather than looking out for hazards while speeding downhill away from it.


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