In the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal for shooting Trayvon Martin, there are plenty of institutions to rail against and questions to ask. As Ta-Nehisi Coates writes over at The Atlantic, there’s an unfortunate conflict between two truths: Zimmernan’s acquittal was legally justifiable and Martin’s death was “a profound injustice,” begging an change to a system that has, for centuries, disadvantaged people of color.
What isn’t a good approach, though, is wondering how Martin would’ve fared in a world where the technological singularity came to pass—never minding the fact that technology is most available to our richest participants—and he, like any number of citizens in this enlightened world, was wearing a pair of Google Glass on the night of Zimmerman’s attack. In a breathlessly shortsighted editorial for Panglossian wank factory Medium, writer Eric Kuhn takes a well-intentioned premise—”How could this death have been prevented?”—and spins it into a conflagration of delusional fantasizing and social ignorance. Kuhn’s proposal begins by noting that our increasing ability to shoot video should evolve to the point where people who are being attacked can create an easy record of the event rather than having to whip their phone out in the heat of the moment. Google Glass can do that! As he writes:
I want to paint a different picture of a young man walking home from the convenient store but wearing a future version of what Google has produced. Once this young man realizes there is some sort of danger approaching and I mean someone stalking you in the night with a loaded gun. He would audio commend his Google Glass to “Record All Danger!” This command would start the video feature of his Glasses and turn on a light on the outside for all people to see there is a recording in process. Since he activated the “Danger Feature” the data would be stored in a separate encrypted cloud storage that would not be easily deleted if someone got a hold of your Glasses. The authorities would alerted of your location and a 911 operated would be routed to your Glasses phone feature.
In some ideal world, sure. But his theory leaps over how much Google Glass costs (a fucking ton), how it won’t be readily and publicly available any time soon, how we’re never going to be a society of people wearing Google Glass because they look dweeby as hell, and most importantly, how it’s illegal to videotape someone without their consent in Florida, where Martin was killed. It defaults to the tech industry’s worst habit: imagining the perfect future without doing any of the work to get there.
Medium, which doesn’t seem to be fundamentally different from any other blogging platform, is certainly slave to its own rhetoric. It’s the perfect place for Kuhn to ooze this wet dream without considering the more important question: How to build a judicial system that doesn’t condone the racially motivated deaths of young black males, and how to deal with racism so that no one’s reaction upon seeing a hoodie on a dark night is “Shit, he’s up to no good.” But maybe that’s the depressing part of Kuhn’s argument: America’s history of responding to bigotry is so crappy that a fantastically improbable alternative seems like a better way forward.