The future of Personal Recording

As some of you may have discovered by now, a few weeks back NPR reporter Scott Simon live tweeted the passing of his mother.  After he did so, many opinion pieces began to surface about the nature of this act with regards to the boundaries between the private and the public, the personal and the communal, and, of course, how all of these things are enabled or enhanced by modern technology and social networking.  I read a few of these, and this one held a particular interest for me:

Imagine a Future Where We Record Our Own Deaths on Tiny Video Cameras Implanted in Our Foreheads

As the title of the piece itself implies, the opinion piece speculates about the future of recording certain things in our lives, from birth, to every day activities, straight on through the moment of our deaths.  The author cites certain examples that whether made my accident or on purpose raise certain questions about the nature of modern technology’s ability to record just about anything.  With the arrival of things like the GoPro video camera and Google Glass, the ability to record in difficult places or during strenuous activities already transcends that of the smartphone–which is already pretty easy to use in the first place.  The development of these devices has already raised issue of surveillance, police recording, and evidence in the modern political landscape.  What, indeed, is next?

Say what you will about the public use of these recording devices, but I’ve always thought that the best use for them isn’t just “public surveillance,” but rather “personal surveillance.” As in, the ability to record one’s own point of view for whatever reason.  In the article above, the most striking example of what I’m getting at here is the George Zimmerman trial.  What if Trayvon Martin had a GoPro or Google Glass and recorded the entire incident with Zimmerman?  What if Zimmerman had the ability to do this?  How many other cases of police brutality, of regular muggings, of accidents could be resolved with greater access to the truth with the help of better recording abilities?  So far, it seems that most of the video you see on CNN or other news outlets about the latest outrages or scandals is recorded by a passerby as a matter of convenient happenstance; someone unrelated to the incident at hand is often the one doing the recording.  This leads to issues of 1st Amendment rights, lots of cases of people being incorrectly told they don’t have the right to videotape police in action, or other cases involving he-said-she-said liars and truth tellers fighting to have others believe them.  But what if everyone could easily record themselves? What if we had some way to actually record all the input our senses receive at will?  That’s something that would change the face of many aspects of society, and I do think that is where we are heading.

Google Glass is certainly the most recent of the new technology that is getting to a point where recording everything become easier.  What is the next step?  I think it does live along the lines of what is mentioned in the article above, but I think the uses are way more pervasive than filming the nuances of death.  I’m a firm believer in truth when it comes to justice, and I believe that the system is built too much upon argument than truth.  The ability to record everything will lead to more use of truth, and the ability to record these things oneself with one’s self as the subject will avoid the controversies of surveillance that are in the news today.

Google Glass, however, can be removed and/or destroyed.  The article above makes mention of an implantable bionic eye, something that has already been developed (read about one case here).  Eventually, these devices will be able to record what they see, not just act as an interface to the brain.

Will they be required one day, like the article above suggests?  That is harder to predict.  If it is ever actually required, it will be way later in the process, but at the very least implantable recording devices will be widespread sooner rather than later.  Combining them with the Cloud will make the things we record instantly savable.  At that point, aside from the interesting social projects like recording death, maybe justice can take a step forward.


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