Some days it pays to follow the bunny trails. Having just finished Peter Morville’s Ambient Findability, I wandered down the web trail and found a snarky little thing he wrote for the O’Reilly web site called UFOs and there way down at the bottom I found a reference to Adam Greenfield’s “All Watched over by Machines of Loving Grace” — pays to read the footnotes and citations, no? Greenfield’s essay should be required reading to accompany Ambient Findability.
I liked Moreville’s book, but I found his childlike delight in the rise of the always findable future disconcerting. I have that typical introvert’s gut reaction of “hey, I don’t want you all to find me…” (Which Moreville alludes to/admits to in the UFO essay if not in Ambient Findability.)
Greenfeild’s essay balances this delight in the possibilities with a dose of realistic consideration.
Greenfield believes that ubiquitous computing is inevitable; the pieces are quickly coming in to reality and the urge to combine those pieces into new implements is unstoppable. The effects of these new systems will be intrusive far beyond the reach of the current separate technologies. When the system seems inescapable the problem takes on social implications that reach far into our daily lives and require our close and careful consideration to issues beyond “how easy is it to use?”.
He proposes as the starting point for this discussion 5 principles derived from the simple first-principle of do no harm.
While the principles that Greenfield advocates out won’t lay your fears to rest it will give them shape and help you to formulate the questions you most want to ask when faced with a future of ubiquitous computing and becoming an ubiquitously findable organism.
BTW: Greenfield’s essay includes this week’s nominee for the most evocative use of the language “a truly unprecedented level of badness” Look for more nominees on a page coming to this blog near you (soon.)