Why technology laws may need a common-sense exception

Given the rapid rise of new technologies, particularly of the visual recording variety, it’s becoming increasingly probable that our older system of litigation and after-the-fact statutes is going to be even more out of date very shortly than it already is. Specifically, a story picked up in some parts recently mentioned the following annoying story regarding a neighborhood intruder skating on the very thin ice of legal ambiguity as regards recreational drones.

In short: there is no common sense way in which this is a defensible action, and more generally it is legally questionable to begin with. That it might not be the highest thing on the police’s agenda is besides the point: there needs to be a framework to deal with these intrusions, and soon. This applies as much to the ultra long-focus lenses of the ilk that were used to snap nude pictures of Kate Middleton as it does to Google Glass or otherwise mobile cameras.

As regards drones and backyard airspace, it should be legal, point blank, to bring down a drone intruding into your backyard, in any way you see fit. An intrusion of this nature should receive a caution at the least, and an intentional intrusion of this nature should be a felony. I’m not insane about privacy, and I understand that we live much of our lives in public now, but that is all the more reason to define and preserve a sphere of privacy and to clearly determine the acceptable limits of technological application well in advance of them becoming a problem.

Design in the age of science fiction

It’s interesting to me that in an age where touch-screen computing is real, where Google Glass now exists, and where we have the ability to interact with our computers via speech to an unprecedented degree (although no one uses Siri for any useful purpose), we still haven’t really matched the science fiction ambitions of the 1970s, 80s, or 90s.

On the one hand, of course, we obviously have – it’s ludicrous to us that you’d have to try to pilot, say, the Millenium Falcon with those hundred different switches and gizmos. But on the other, despite the fact that we have all or most of the technology needed to achieve it, we haven’t really made good on the standing computers (except in a very few instances), the integrated heads-up displays (other than, e.g., in luxury editions of cars), or motion-response interfaces.

And what’s strange about this, as above, is that it isn’t really technology holding us back. It’s design. Touchscreen computing had existed for decades before Apple’s iPad put it in the hands of consumers. Google Glass has probably been feasible for a while (more or less since smartphone scanners began to be used for things) before someone decided to actually make it wearable. Motion-response systems exist in multiple forms, from Kinect to Wii to the new HP Leap software, but it’s just not…sexy. Not yet anyway.

What’s needed is the next step up, not in technology, but in workable design. I know there’s copious conferences on this stuff already, and of course Apple’s entire value proposition is based on introducing non-techies to technology via intuitive user interfaces, but I think, in order to make the next quantum leap to true science fiction, we need a more open, dynamic, and collaborative process to make that happen. I’d love to hear what you all think about how that can happen. Leave  a comment below!