Alan Westin, the legal scholar who transformed our understanding of privacy, has died. His definitiion of privacy (in Privacy and Freedom, 1967) — as the ability to control how much about ourselves that we reveal to others — is still the best definition we have.
This morning’s Observer column.
What endears the Google Glass project to me is that it’s the latest instalment in a long and honourable tradition in computer science. It goes all the way back to one of the great luminaries of the business, Douglas Engelbart, the man who invented the computer mouse and was a pioneer in networked computing and the design of graphical user interfaces. (In December 1968, in San Francisco, he gave a live demonstration of what networked computing could do that had a profound influence on the people who built the internet and much of the technology we use today.)
What motivated Engelbart from the outset was a passionate belief that computers had the power to augment, rather than replace, human capabilities. Machines, he believed, should do what machines do best, thereby freeing up humans to do what they do best. And this idea of “augmentation” has inspired a good deal of research in the decades since Engelbart embarked on his mission to change the world.