By Brad Allenby|Posted Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, at 8:15 AM
Is Google Glass one way humans have begun designing themselves?
Photo by Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty Images
This article arises from Future Tense, a partnership of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University. From Feb. 28 to March 2, Future Tense will be taking part in Emerge, an annual conference on ASU’s Tempe campus about what the future holds for humans. This year’s theme: the future of truth. Visit the Emerge website to learn more and to get your ticket.
Philosophy students may gaze rapturously into the existential abyss, and overeducated and underpaid literary critics may pontificate about the postmodern relativism of navels, but for most people, the built world is just about as real as it gets. A 747 flies, time and again. Water comes out of pipes. Smartphones take pictures, just as they always have—they even (rarely) function as phones. The pragmatic modern spends little time worrying about the designed environment within which she finds herself. The simple physical fact of the engineered world gives it an overwhelming presence. It’s there. It’s real. It has an obvious truthiness. The sheer fact a designed object can be built, can be physically made, gives it an uncontestable reality: the reality of mass, material, movement, function. But behind that obvious reality lies design, and behind design lies a more complicated landscape, one in which what is real, and what is true, is nowhere near as unambiguous.