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Young man playing in virtual reality goggles
Young man in virtual reality goggles grabbing something in the air. Modern technology.

Always Wear Your Safety Glasses: A Tale for Our Times

What if we came to know the world only through our high tech aids? Russ White imagines…

Xeph stepped out onto the street, full of anticipation. It was a beautiful day. Birds sang everywhere and fresh autumn smells hung in the air.

Today was special. Xeph was meeting a click—perhaps a new fav!

Xeph was shook. They had arranged to meet just outside Charlie’s, a place Xeph remembered well from childhood. It had stood the test of time as a place where people took their Glasses off and talked to one another without them.

They even ate without Glasses.

It would be fascinating to see how people who lived without Glasses … even lived now.

Once, long ago, Xeph intentionally took the Glasses off. The world was plain and grey, almost blank. There was no color and none of the aroma and sound that filled Xeph’s Glasses world with perpetual excitement. But seeing people who claimed to live in the “real world” would be entertaining.

Why is the world within the Glasses any less real than the world without them, anyway?

This adventure would be something new to talk about, to look at, to experience anyway.

Xeph walked for some time, enjoying the day, then turned onto the street where Charlie’s had always been. But something was not right… Xeph paced up and down the street several times, looking for the place, but it was not there. Several other eateries, shiny and new, emitted rich aromas of freshly created dishes, but there was nothing where Charlie’s should have been.

Confused, Xeph waited, standing on the street, wondering what had happened. There was an art exhibit along one side of the road, jutting out into the walkway—almost blocking it. Birds flitted about on the various angular surfaces, chirping as they played among themselves, laughing at a world only they could see.

Suddenly, something grabbed Xeph’s ankle. Shook it. The Glasses slipped. Xeph looked down.

It was a hand, dirty and wrinkled. Eyes followed the hand to the arm, arm to shoulder, shoulder to person. It was a “man”—more masculine than Xeph had seen since childhood, from the days when the Glasses were not a constant companion. A real man, dirty and old, sitting on a blanket, just as dirty and old. The smell was horrific, and the birds had stopped singing.

Confused, Xeph looked across the street.

Charlie’s was still there after all, older-looking, but still kept sparkling clean by the staff. The food smelled delicious and the aroma wafting across the street, creating a sense of urgency Xeph had not felt in years.

Why am I suddenly hungry?

There were several newer buildings nearby but they seemed tawdry and dirty in comparison to Charlie’s. There was no delicious smell from these other places either, just the bare buildings. The signs were familiar from the world inside the Glasses, but the contrast between the Glasses world and the world without Glasses was striking.

For one thing, ever since most people started wearing Glasses, restaurants had stopped creating attractive storefronts or even keeping the faces of their buildings clean. The Glasses presented whatever image they wanted their customers to see so they may as well spare the expense.

Charlie’s was different. The plate glass front shimmered in bright sunlight, and the people inside were having fun. Sitting at tables, talking to one another.

All without Glasses? But the world is grey without Glasses. Isn’t it?

From down the street, a girl approached. It was definitely a girl, with shapely curves and long brown hair. She smiled. Xeph was flooded with alien emotions, a longing attraction never felt before. A desire for something deep and permanent. But Xeph was ashamed of gendering this person, based on only appearances and so looked away, spotting the “man” on the sidewalk.

Eyes met eyes; the old man was obviously begging for money, here across the street from the one place in this area where people came without Glasses.

Disgusting!

Xeph pushed the glasses back into place. The man was gone. The girl was no longer a… girl. And Charlie’s was gone. Xeph couldn’t see the place so it simply was not real.

Thoughts churned in Xeph’s head.

Charlie’s probably forgot to pay the advertising bill. Misogynist name, anyway.

Then, slowly, as the Glasses readjusted vision, the thoughts became calmer.

Oh well, I didn’t really want to hang out with people who don’t see the world as it is.

She (it was definitely a she now, in Xeph’s mind) continued walking closer. Through the Glasses, she was close to the perfect androgynous look now in style. The attraction was there, but it was different this time. This was a safer attraction, less urgent—but the feelings from sight without the Glasses were still there, as well. Xeph turned them over slowly, thinking about what they could possibly mean.

She is not wearing Glasses. She is one of Them.

Xeph shuddered at the still-lingering feelings, realizing this day had been a horrible mistake.

Xeph pulled free and walked away, willing to disappear from the person now standing where Xeph had been. The clash of emotions, the world without Glasses and with them, was too much.

Xeph no longer felt the click. The sky turned grey, and the birds quieted into a melancholy track over a background of forlorn silence. A decision formed:

I think I will have the Glasses implanted so that doesn’t ever happen again.


Russ White mainly writes on the real world of high tech. Here are some of his columns:

Should You Pay For a Virtual Private Network (VPN)? Here’s what a VPN can and can’t do for you. In some cases, specifically when you are using public wireless services, using a VPN can add measurably to your privacy and security. But VPNs are not a “silver bullet” in solving the many security and privacy issues users face today.

The internet’s structure builds in privacy flaws. The Domain Name resolver knows every service you visit, and every service those services rely on, as you move around the internet

You think you have nothing to hide? Then why are Big Tech moguls making billions from what you and others tell them?

and

Why you can’t just ask social media to forget you. While we now have a clear picture of the challenges current social media pose to peoples and cultures, what to do is unclear


Russ White

Russ White has spent the last 30 years designing, building, and breaking computer networks. Across that time he has co-authored 42 software patents, 11 technology books, more than 20 hours of video training, and several Internet standards. He holds CCIE 2635, CCDE 2007:001, the CCAr, an MSIT from Capella University, an MACM from Shepherds Theological Seminary, and is currently working on a PhD in apologetics and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Always Wear Your Safety Glasses: A Tale for Our Times