In Neal Stephenson’s rightly-beloved masterpiece Snow Crash, there are a few memorable moments of scorn in the story—which I’ve always thought, sidebar, to be slyly narrated by one of the characters, in an unbreaking deadpan manipulation of the fourth wall—for what their near-future society terms “gargoyles.”
These are people who, unsatisfied with the seamlessness of human-use technology, strap video cameras and tape recorders to their bodies, in order to more fully embody surveillance culture (couture, if you like). Of all the mystifyingly accurate parts of the satire/prophecy the book contains, that one always stuck with me. I liked to imagine them, steampunky almost, uploading their experiences at baud rates, one photo and soundbite at a time.
Of course the real future—us—is a much different situation, and we’re engaged right now in a cluster storm of debates about privacy, technology, even the very basics of how to accomplish capitalism in a world where information is literally free, because the real future takes its form from continuity. It’s a rare technology that survives without fitting seamlessly into daily life, which is why the few evolutionary jumps that actually change the way we operate ourselves—the PC, the Smartphone—do such big things to our economy.
Generally, when we say “early adopter” we mean physical technology, hardware. But there’s a rumbling undercurrent over the past few years that I think applies a new meaning to the word, and it has to do with the acquisition of IP. And it has to do also with being a dick.