Friday, May 28, 2010

How would an implant computer change my life?

I'm still very ready for an implant computer. And for just about every step between what I have now and that. But it's hard to make really complete and accurate predictions about how such a thing would really change our lives. Most predictions of the impact of technology on the future make the mistake of taking what we would use it for in today's environment and projecting that onto tomorrow, rather than considering how that act also changes the environment itself. Ask someone in 1980 what Google would do to the world and you'd be likely to get answers focused on how to use Google to solve 1980's problems, but nothing about the many ways ubiquitous access to robust search has changed the kind of things we do, not just the way we can do them. And implant computers would be like that ten times as much.

My first reaction is to think of doing the things I do now, but more ubiquitously, and more efficiently. So instead of wondering something, I could look it up, no matter what I was doing or where. Not just because I was curious ("who was that in that movie?" still comes up while driving down the highway...) but whenever I need information to do whatever I'm doing (imagine how much easier travel would be with ubiquitous access to maps, GPS, flight time updates, restaurant reviews, and my calendar, right in my brain). Instead of trying to remember to do something, I could make a note right then, as easy as thinking; or just do it, depending on the task and my circumstances. I could fill in all those vacant times, like riding in the car or waiting for people, with writing, coding, exercising, or doing any number of other things that don't use up my mind.

See how I'm just doing what I do with technology today, but in more times and places, and with some inconveniences (like having to use a keyboard) removed? The next step then is to think of new things an implant computer would let me do. One of my favorites is HUD-style "augmented reality". Walk down the street and overlaid on my view would be information about the people and places I'm seeing. This shop has 78% positive reviews and is currently having a sale on such-and-such an item I have flagged on my wish list. That person walking towards me is identified by facial recognition as someone I met at a meeting last year at work, so I can respond appropriately if she greets me. As I drive, "turn left in 100 feet" is replaced by a highlight on the actual route I need to be taking, along with emphasis on important things (like stop signs and pedestrians) and de-emphasis on unimportant things (advertising signs filtered out automatically... or replaced by better advertising for those willing to pay enough for it). Anything I'm looking at, from a menu at a restaurant to a national monument, becomes a hyperlink I can drill down to find out the calorie content or historical significance (respectively, one would hope).

But I wouldn't be the only one with an implant computer. That's where things get really hard to predict. Once implant computers are in common usage, that woman is not going to be impressed that I recognized her a year later; she'll take it for granted, since she also has an implant computer and is currently looking at my Facebook page (by then, maybe Facebook will finally have figured out privacy). Would my boss expect me to be working 18 hours a day since I am "plugged in" that long? Would it be impossible to play in trivia games (or would they invent a new form of trivia to suit it)? What would advertisers be doing to try to take advantage of implant computers to make sales? How could con artists use their implant computers for cons -- since simply adapting them to the old cons would be helpful only for a little while, until we all got used to using ours to avoid those cons?

We've barely scratched the surface of ways that implant computers would change society, and we already see that the ways an implant computer are far larger than anything you'd think of by just taking what you do with a smartphone, laptop, or iPad now, and extending it by removing the keyboard and adding ubiquitous connectivity.

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