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What Sci-Fi Can Teach Us About the Present and Future of Information
Evan Selinger   Jan 25, 2013   huffingtonpost.com  

Combine growing attachment to smartphones with advances in cutting-edge goggles (think Google Glass), and what do you get? Acceptance of augmented reality (AR), which supposedly became ready for "prime time" last year. With the technology out of the incubator and in our living rooms, Silicon Valley's mouthpieces are becoming increasingly comfortable generating hype about the exciting new world it will create. Get ready, they say, for a "more information-rich, more navigable, more interesting, more fun" existence.

Equating more with better is an old advertising trick. The message is so deeply burrowed in our psyches that it sounds less like Madison Avenue and more like an ancestral call. Is it shallow? Yes. Is it easy to pick apart in academic discussions and stern parental lectures? Sure. Does it reek of the idealistic Internet coverage that we've been long bombarded with? Absolutely! But, let's face it. The ideal wouldn't persist if it didn't work. We're suckers for the supersized.

Persuasive jingles need desirable products, or at least evocative references to them. According to one article, AR will improve urban exploration, museums visits, shopping, our experiences of travel and history, customer service, safety and rescue operations, and home decoration. Another suggests AR can breathe new life into reading by adding "great depth and additional understanding to the narrative". AR cooking, gaming, andautomobiles are targeted too, as is the hallmark of human uniqueness:our mind.

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Evan Selinger is Associate Professor of Philosophy and MAGIC Center Head of Research Communications, Community & Ethics, both at Rochester Institute of Technology. Evan publishes extensively in the areas of philosophy of technology, privacy, and ethics/policy of science and technology. To enhance public debate about ethics, Evan regularly supplements his peer-reviewed scholarship with outreach articles in places like The AtlanticWiredSlateForbes,The Wall Street Journal, and The Nation.



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