Personal Flight Recorder (PFR)

The PFR is the inevitable conclusion of digital convergence. Imagine the product evolution of phone cameras.

Each of us will certainly be equipped to capture a video/audio stream of everything we see and hear. The capability can be provided by an eyeglass frame similar to those used for “candid camera” sequences on the Tonight Show. The technology and connectivity is inevitable and, by 2005 or so, trivial.

Whether for convenience or entertainment, we will want to share our lives with others or review our video history. At first, the video record will be stored on our person. With abundant wireless bandwidth, our video stream is likely to be archived to the Internet ‘cloud’.

This means that public life will become truly public. Whether you smooch, shoplift or mug in public, your actions will be recorded. This is the Rodney King incident gone global.

Initially an upscale consumer electronics product, the cost of the PFR’s video stream and storage will quickly become as acceptable as the cell phone and may be served by your cell phone. The more interesting question is how the end of anonymity will affect our behavior and our culture.

Life may be pretty much like the small, tight-knit villages our great-grandparents were born into. Anonymity, an artifact of the great Industrial Age cities, may be a casualty of the Information Age. One post-9/11 notion is that we have a right to privacy, but not anonymity That would be a cultural imperative, while ubiquitous PFRs will be a technical imperative, sure to close the book on anonymity. What transgressions will people commit when they know their actions are visible to the world? Probably not many.

Like seatbelts, PFRs may evolve from prudent to mandatory. As a large minority of us adopt them, pressure increases for the rest of us to be similarly equipped. Who wouldn’t want to maintain their own record, since any PFR-generated video may have been edited by its owner?

Perhaps the most dramatic effect will be on the justice system. After a shake-out process deciding the admissibility of PFR video, evidentiary proceedings will change forever. Just as George Bush I refused to ignore the video evidence of the Rodney King incident, the courts will not be able to keep the PFR genie in the bottle. Authenticity of video will be the issue. Perhaps the record can only be deduced by examining multiple PFR records from several witnesses, like the Space Shuttle’s 3 computers comparing notes. One’s personal PFR archives will surely be subject to subpoena. This trend would reinforce a doctrine that each of us must support the shared video record by streaming our lives into the Internet cloud. For our own protection, we will probably rush to do so. The LA cops who took on Rodney King might have wanted their own records. As Lou Cannon suggests, a more thorough video record might have shown that King was a really dangerous dude and, though the cops’ brutality was beyond contempt, multiple points of view might have showna more complex encounter. It certainly would have made the case more clear and probably have averted the riots.

So, for amusement,  protection and maybe for blogging, we’ll each be streaming our life into the cloud. Perhaps, in a PFR-equipped society, the ultimate act of trust and intimacy will be the moment when a couple or more people get together and turn off their PFRs.
9:22:50 PM    

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