Friday, June 29, 2012

"Will Google's Personal Assistant Be Creepy or Cool?"

This piece by Jenna Wortham (New York Times, June 28, 2012) asks an astute question.

I hadn't heard about Google Now before. It appears to be a kind of pocket butler that will come with the next version of Android. It will connect disparate information about your location, your calendar, and your preferences to give you advice on how to get through the day. Google has a Flash video that makes the thing easier to understand than any merely verbal explanation.

This e-butler (my coinage), according to Wortham, has the potential to "feel like a menacing stalker."
Google Now may also cause people to realize exactly how much data and information Google actually has about their routines and daily lives. And that might cause some people to be very, very uncomfortable, regardless of how useful the service is.
Wortham ends the essay with a particularly nicely written passage on the world of tomorrow (or five minutes from now):
We’re at the beginning of an era, the adolescence, of just beginning to understand what information we want to share and keep private, and when we don’t have a say in the matter. But we’re learning that our data exhaust, the small particulate matter that we deposit around the Web and world through our browsers and mobile devices, is becoming a very powerful tool in aggregate, and that large companies are hoping to use it to their advantage.

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director

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