shiny things in messy little piles

Loving Grace

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.)


1 Comment

  1. AG

    So glad you enjoyed the piece! You’d prob­a­bly be inter­est­ed to hear that it inspired a whole book: