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.)

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