Who is augmenting reality out there?
Iron Man is using it to fight bad guys.
Eve uses to tell that the plant in Wall-E’s adorable outstretched hands means it’s time to summon a spaceship.
Rocket uses to locate people who have a bounty on their heads.
We use it out here in the “real world,” of course, and not just in developing tech. Our minds augment reality all the time. We keep a running tally of everything we know to help us sort through what we perceive. In that sense, we have been using augmented reality ever since we were looked up at our moms and felt good. We look at something and our brain provides us with a running tally of info – it’s not visual, but it’s there nonetheless. Plus that info is charged with feelings, leading us to take action at lightning speed, sometimes regardless of conscious thought.
Is it accurate? Of course not. It’s pretty silly to assume that our perceptions funneled into our mental processes have led to a fair sum-up of reality. We augment it to help make sense of this vast, incomprehensible mess we find ourselves in. Our personal AR is our truth, however.
We can get all philosophical here of course – in Plato’s famous cave analogy, he showed how we are all seeing just the shadows of “real” things with our imperfect senses. And in Buddhist thought as laid out by Robert Wright in “Why Buddhism is True,”the “essences” we assign to objects and other people are illusions. Knowing that you are constructing that essence out of your perceptions can be valuable.
Regardless of how you look at it, you’ve got to manage your own mental AR, and doing so responsibly is a duty for all of us. If you look at a person you don’t know and a running tally that sums up to “ew” shows up, for whatever reason, that’s going to lead to discrimination. More management is needed – perhaps an upgrade.
Another problem arises when we let other people hack into our AR. Someone indicates to us that they are beautiful, or powerful, or important, and we let them put that info in our AR. That happens even if they are just as snotty, flawed, and insecure as we are. (Spoiler: just about everyone is.)
Ads manipulate us like this on purpose. People do it to soothe their own egos. Either way, what you are being told or shown just might not be true.
Of course, we must to listen to others and value their opinions. We can support our loved ones’ efforts to be whoever they want to be. And our running tally can be wrong, especially when we don’t have a lot of info, like I said above. But when the info being deposited by others clashes with the other info in our running tally, that’s a data glitch that’s got to be rectified.
When that happens, hop into your own code, Tron-style. Find the flaw and fix it. Journal, meditate, leap onto a light bike. Whatever works for you.
Your running tally will never be perfect – those shadows will never match whatever’s outside Plato’s cave. But it’s our obligation to keep our Iron Man suit, Eve bot, Geordi visor (or whatever you want to call it), as up to date as much as it can be. And keep those hackers out of it.