Pokemon Stop

For a long time now, Augmented Reality has been established and embedded in western society as a force for good.

It's been 50 years since Pokemon Go made the concept of AR mainstream, then a year later, Microsoft showed us its true potential through HoloLens, finally, just 5 years later, Apple changed the face of the planet, literally, with the Apple Eye.

I'm not here to give a talk about the benefits of AR, or to give a pro or anti stance on the dramatic rise in optical enhancement surgery, or the new trend of these implants being given to newborns.

I'm here to talk specifically about Apple's Metaphor system, and my growing concern for it's prevalence in society. 

You'll all be familiar with Metaphor, but for those who've been living under a rock for the past 15 years.

Metaphor was released in 2032, at the time it's prime focus was self image, it was used to overlay photorealistic avatars on top of people wearing the now ubiquitous, off-white Apple Smock, it allowed everyone to look exactly how they wanted to.

Back then Metaphor was a novelty, early adopters flocked to the platform, and literally looked like sheep! Until that is, you put in your apple eyes, and then they burst into a blaze of animated avatars, from the stylish and sleek, to the absurd, atrocious, and occasionally downright offensive...

As a disruptor, Metaphor and the Apple Smock beat everything that had come before. Apple has a long history of disrupting entire industries, the music industry, followed by the PC, the watch, the automotive industry, home entertainment and then, with the smock, the fashion industry... 

Metaphor, along with its cheap, off-white cloth apparel, completely dismantled one of the worlds oldest industries in around 3 years, I'm writing this on a trip overseas, on one of the Luxury Transatlantic Tesla Trains, and if I disable my Aug (something which is becoming almost impossible to do these days) literally everyone is either naked, or wearing a smock, not all Apple, but all Smocks, there are no actual coloured clothes in sight... We live in a white and flesh toned world that is awash with purely virtual colour.

If Metaphor had stayed firmly rooted in the world of fashion, I may have had less reason to write this, but over the past few years we have seen it encroach into all aspects of society. Nowadays, most walls, floors, houses and posters are white; even cars and road signs, it seems everything requires Aug, and the straw that broke the camels back, was "Davidgate" last week.

Apple have recently given the core Metaphor AI shard an element of independence, to allow it to replace real world objects with more pleasing to the eye versions, or, less upsetting objects, whenever it deems fit.

Cracks in pavement are being airbrushed out of sight, damp dingy pubs are being virtually cleaned and the blocked toilet in the corner replaced with a decorative vase of flowers or statue so it isn't used, and doesn't offend the eye... Metaphor is making the world look pretty...

Fake, 

but pretty...

And where does this lead, people don't need to look after their homes any more, everyones house appears clean and tidy, no matter how messy it really is, and they don't even need to look after themselves, fat people can just make themselves look thin, skincare now means choosing which face to download from which designer, the casual racist can make everyone white, or black, or green if they so choose...

Just look to the press over the past few months for examples of Metaphor's impact:

  • Last week there was a news story about a gay man who sustained his relationship with his wife by replacing her avatar with that of a man, I don't know whether to feel liberated, or appalled... 
  • Or the town of Sheringham, Norfolk where they have removed gender and age prejudice, by removing age and gender from all avatars, leading to the surprising marriage of Jenny, age 84 and Simon, age 17... 
  • Or the woman who replaced her child's avatar with that of her deceased Labrador... Sick? Or essential in today's society. 
  • Or the growing army of Kelly Kardshian clones... Has the ability to download and replace your physical body image lead to the death of "body image issues" or to them becoming the norm? The rapidly rising prices for designer bodies would suggest the latter... 

And now the culmination of this trend, Davidgate, the issue last month where David Green,  a homeless man from Croydon, was virtually edited out of a posh Kensington high street for 3 weeks. The tech savvy residents with their full cerebral implants were unable to see, smell, or hear him as he begged, then collapsed, and eventually died on the street whilst hundreds of people passed him by, even when he lay decomposing, all due to Metaphor having edited it out of their senses.

And this because Metaphor deemed it would have caused distress to the residents.

Metaphor is now choosing what we see, hear and smell, and becoming unplugged is not an option, but who sense checks Metaphor, tomorrow it could mask a murder, or cover up a terrorist attack, if it deems it in our best interests.

Suddenly I find myself afraid, and unable to trust even my own senses...

Maybe, 50 years ago, someone should have said Pokemon stop...