“The minds of dreamers are rich with thought.”
Google has a plan. Eventually it wants to get into your brain. “When you think about something and don’t really know much about it, you will automatically get information,” Google CEO Larry Page said in Steven Levy‘s book, “In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives.” “Eventually you’ll have an implant, where if you think about a fact, it will just tell you the answer.”
Sounds crazy, right?
But it might not be so. This idea is actually just another example of modern technology being inspired by science fiction.
And this particular technology – nanotechnology – came from one of the first stories about it.
“The Gentle Seduction” by Marc Stiegler is a short story that was published in Analog Magazine in 1989. It is one of the first science fiction stories about nanotechnology, and is still considered by some of the founders of the nanotech field to be one of the best stories about it.
Stiegler says that 17 years after publication, he still gets the occasional email from someone, somewhere, about how, in a time of despair, they were introduced to this story, and its optimistic message gave them a renewed sense of hope and purpose.
Here is an excerpt from the story:
“Then she noticed the sweatband across his head. It was not just a sweatband: she could see from the stretch marks that a series of thin disks ran across within the cotton layers. She realized he was wearing a nection, a headband to connect his mind with distant computers.
It was a simple white headband, soft absorbent cotton. She slipped it on her head. The instructions told her to start with a simple request, and to visualize herself projecting the request at her forehead. She projected the request, “2 times 2?” just above her eyes. Nothing seemed to happen. She knew the answer was 4.
She tried again, and this time she noticed a kind of echo–she knew the answer was 4, but the thought of the answer came to her twice, in rapid succession. The next time she tried it, she noticed that the echo seemed to come from her forehead.
Next she projected a request to divide 12345 by 6789. She didn’t know the answer–but wait, of course she did, it was 1.81838. Of course, she didn’t know the answer to many decimal places–but as she thought about it, she realized the next digit was 2, the next was 6, then at an accelerating pace more digits roared from her memory–she shook her head, and the stream stopped. She took the headband off, shaking a little. She didn’t try it again until the next day.”
Page’s plan for Glass sounds like a dead ringer for the technology in “The Gentle Seduction.”
Further, there is another ambitious plan for the Google Glass of 2029, dreamt up by Google Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil.
“If you want to go into virtual reality the nanobots shut down the signals coming from your real senses and replace them with the signals that your brain would be receiving if you were actually in the virtual environment. So this will provide full-immersion virtual reality incorporating all of the senses. You will have a body in these virtual-reality environments that you can control just like your real body, but it does not need to be the same body that you have in real reality. We’ll be able to interact with people in any way in these virtual-reality environments. That will replace most travel, but we’ll also have new travel technologies for our real bodies using nanotechnology.”
And another excerpt from the story:
“The discussion turned to the family’s upcoming expedition to Jupiter. They had asked her several times to come along, but she had refused. Now they asked her again. She watched the extraordinary scenery float past her and considered the question one last time. A trip to Jupiter would have been all right if it could have been like Mars. But it could not, and that was both the attraction and the horror.
Though humanity had made Mars Earthlike, they could not do the same for Jupiter. Jupiter’s methane oceans simply were not amenable to terraforming. No one could go there in person.
To see Jupiter, she would in a sense have to leave her body. Oh, she wouldn’t have to leave it very far; indeed, in one sense she would stay with her body on Mars throughout the journey. But just as she had seen Rainier through the satellite’s eyes rather than her own, just as she spoke to her friends with her headband rather than her voice, now she would have to use her headband for all her senses.”
Like most nanotechnology, this sounds like the stuff of dreams. And, well…technically, it is. All technology is. The future of Google Glass and similar technology is very exciting. While, like myself, I bet many wish we could pop these gadgets into existence *now,* it’s still very cool to see the ideas in their infancy.
And hey, you never know what could happen. We’re making long strides in technology today, so as parts and processes become better and more refined, maybe we could speed up the process a bit.
What Google Glass Aspires To Be
A look into the mind-bending Google Glass of 2029
The Gentle Seduction by Marc Stiegler