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Sam Schuler

Sam.Schuler@du.edu
WRIT 1133
John Tiedemann

Post-Human Androids: How Google Glass Is Teaching Us a New Way of Being Human
According to historian Lynn Hunt, the human rights philosophy that informs the
philosophies, systems of law, and political systems of the modern Europe and much of
the world is based upon new practices concerning the body (Hunt 2008) that emerged
during the early 18th century. Pre-Enlightenment bodies were understood to be public and
symbolic, valued more for what they represented to the community than for what they
meant to the individual. However, thanks in part to a vogue for realist portraiture, Hunt
contends, bodies came to be seen not as public and symbolic but as private and materially
real. In the 18th century, it came to be understood that bodily feelings, especially pain,
belonged only to the sufferer in the here and now. This new belief in the integrity of
the body (Hunt 2008), according to Hunt, became the basis not only for the prohibition
of torture but for the idea of individuality that underwrites modern democratic notions of
autonomy, personal liberty, and private property. If the popularity of realist portraiture
was in some way responsible for the evolution of the modern social order, how are
contemporary forms of visual art and technology changing who we individually and in
society are becoming today?
Consider Google Glass: the computer that you wear like a pair of glasses, making
your field of vision a computer screen that connects you to the internet. Google Glass can

record everything you see and hear and project it to the world while projecting what
others are recording before your own eyes, all while allowing you to gather, read, and
view still more information from the web, courtesy of its voice-activated searching. In
short, to wear Google Glass is to make your body a global, full-time transmitter and
receiver of symbols. As such, this technology is teaching users to become a new kind of
human. Whereas the Enlightenment notion of the human that Hunt analyzed
understood the body to be fundamentally private (i.e., belonging to the individual, not
society) and real (i.e., not symbolic), Google Glass is teaching us how to see our bodies
as fundamentally public, i.e., a source and destination for shared information, and
symbolic, a living repository of representations. This revision to the experience of may
lead to positive, potentially revolutionary changes in the social order, encouraging us to
see ourselves not as isolated individuals but as an interconnected human web. However,
it also threatens equally revolutionary, but potentially negative changes, too, casting us
into a world where no experience is authentic and where Big Brother is always our
audience.