Apparently, the clever people at Apple have filed a patent for an LCD display that's also capable of taking pictures. Taken as a piece of engineering, it's very ingenious.
Just Because You Can . . .
The article, on the New Scientist site, explains that the LCD display would be able to take pictures while simultaneously displaying images. That combination would be a definite boon for videoconferencing and there's discussion of using this in PDAs and other handheld devices. It's a clever idea and I'll be interested to see it in action.
However, I really don't want a computer screen that looks back at me. I can't tell if I've just been watching too many dystopian films or I'm just being extra paranoid. In my defense I'll add that although technology is amoral, people have a pretty terrible track record when it comes to using technology for nefarious ends.
In Close to the Machine by Ellen Ullman, an independent software programmer, tells a story about one of her projects in which the manager in charge discovers that the program being created could allow him (as a sort of side effect) to spy on his workers. The author comments that, in her experience, whenever people were given the ability to spy on others they chose to do so.
. . . Doesn't Mean You Should
You've read discussions in this blog about the intrusiveness that can accompany technological breakthroughs. In an increasingly networked world, conversations about security, privacy, and boundaries are overdue. As exciting as these new toys and capabilities are, and as important as they are, it will be up to us to figure out how they should best be used.