A few weeks ago, one of yours truly was hiking with some friends up near the “A” overlooking Horsetooth.
These were not friends with which the topic of tech stuff is usually discussed, but that day, Google Maps somehow came up. More specifically, it was the now infamous “Street View” tool that was discussed. I didn’t immediately chime in with my two cents worth about it. Instead I listened as two opposing arguments about it developed.
On the one hand, people find Street View useful — it allows you to see where you’re traveling if you have never been there before, so you don’t miss it (oh, how I love my U-turns). It’s also entertaining to browse for such things as burglaries in progress, 10-foot pumpkins in fields, pinkish haze and other odd finds (True story. We saw these things in Street View.).
On the other side of deliberation, folks were complaining that Street View is “unnecessary,” an invasion of privacy and “just plain creepy.” They railed against the fact that a person could be “targeted” based upon things like what kind of car you drive, based on being able to see what’s parked there in your virtual driveway. We say, what’s the difference between seeing it online and in-person? What’s online is an unbiased reflection of reality.
Although no one said it outright, to us, the elusive issue that we were dancing around wasn’t how private your life is after Street View — it was how far should technology go, and should technological development be continued for no other reason than its own sake?
As you’ve no doubt figured out, we love gadgets and tech toys. This is because we believe technology is inherently useful, not to mention cool. We would say that there is never a case of technology being developed for its own sake, even if its something like Google Street View.
Google’s overall goal is to be the world’s foremost collection of information, and Street View is just another aspect of that mission. We can envision a future in which Google’s collection is considered a wonder of the modern world, and who ever questioned the legitimacy and purpose of the wonders of the world?
Modern technology improves life. Our lives are made better by the ability to listen to music on our phones, read news online as it happens, even start up a computer in less than five minutes. To naysay tech achievements like Street View is to put a damper on the spirit of all tech achievement.
So no more naysaying. There is a greater purpose for technology.
Columnists Glen Pfeiffer and Ryan Gibbons can be reached at email@example.com.