Friday, April 18, 2014


My gym has huge signs all over the locker room prohibiting the use of phones and cameras.  Of course, this being 2014, people are completely obsessed with their phones and pay little attention to those signs.  I find this rather annoying, one because I do take the effort to follow the rules myself, and two because I'd rather not be yet another one of those people whose penis ends up on the internet because someone's taking a selfie nearby.  I'm not actually sure why it feels so different for someone to see me naked, which doesn't really bother me, and for someone to take a picture of me while naked, which bothers me a lot, but I imagine it's just the permanence—someone seeing me naked is a one-time ordeal, but once that penis is on the internet it's there forever and I've lost control entirely.  Just ask that famous naked guy taking a picture of the teapot he was selling on eBay, or the myriad athletes in the background when reporters are doing post-game interviews in the locker room for some bizarre reason.  I've had many cameras pointed in the general direction of my junk at this point, and I can really only hope and assume that none of them had the camera app open.

Anyway, I had a point to all that.  Last time I was at the gym I was thinking that bans like that have a very limited lifetime.  Wearable cameras like Google Glass aren't pervasive by any means right now, but in five or ten years I'm sure they will be vastly more common, especially in tech-friendly areas like around here.  If we can't get people to keep their cameraphones in their pockets for two minutes in the locker room, objects that we have to consciously retrieve and use, what hope have we to get people to take off our miniature Bluetooth earpiece cameras or contact lenses or whatever we'll all be wearing in a decade without even remembering they're there.  It won't be practical to ban them anywhere except, like, a military base.  (And then, how much longer until they're virtually undetectable and it's not even practical to ban them from the Pentagon?)

There are already only a few places remaining where we can expect to have any semblance of privacy; it seems rather inevitable that in just a few more years the only place you can have any expectation to not be photographed will be your home.  Public perception of things like Google Glass is overwhelmingly negative right now, and almost certainly for good reason, but think of how little time it took for it to become socially normal to take out your phone and play with it when you're hanging out with friends.  Sure, it may still be douchey, but it's certainly not abnormal.  It won't be too long before everyone's recording everything.  It's foregone.

I wonder how this will affect human interaction.  Will it desensitize us over time, or will we always have a desire for places where we have privacy?  I imagine that a desire for physical privacy (not talking about keeping my address private from advertisers on the internet) is largely a cultural trait, and thus easier to change than something ingrained into human nature, but I haven't found any research on that.  On Battlestar Galactica, bathrooms are coed.  I've thought ever since I was little that gender-segregated bathrooms were a weird concept, so I enjoyed seeing that topic explored on a TV show.  A lot of people today would strongly oppose the idea of unisex bathrooms as bizarre and radical.  Will that still be true after a few more decades of technological evolution have eliminated the last shreds of privacy we're clinging to?

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