In all likelihood, you will have come across the now famous internet phenomena concerning the black and blue dress, which for many people, appeared to be white and gold. Since then, various other clips have emerged ranging from pictures to soundbites, in which what is perceived as objective reality varies drastically from person to person.
Augmented reality may well heighten these perceptual differences even further. Not only will it change the way we see the world, it will allow us to interact with information and combined knowledge in ways which were previously unimaginable. We will be able to read each other’s pulses to determine if someone is lying to us. If you are trying to buy a product, why not analyse the brain activity or pupil dilation of the person selling to you to determine how truthful they are being when answering your questions.
It isn’t unrealistic that the step beyond AR goggles might involve something akin to todays contact lenses, or implants directly into the brain. With many massive companies investing in the technology, this escalation is going to mean that development should occur rapidly. The question is less “will AR change how we perceive the world?” and more “how quickly will it do it?”
In the animal kingdom, we see this differing perceptual ability more vividly. Many different animals, from snakes to fish, can see or sense things that other animals cannot, which gives them an advantage. When some humans have the same sorts of abilities, when one person can see threats that another cannot, thanks to technology, then there will certainly be ethical questions which need answering.
What is objectively real may not be what everyone sees, and what everyone sees can differ wildly. Augmented reality has the potential to open humanity up to the possibility of an even great and deeper level of perception than we ever thought possible, and it doesn’t seem to unrealistic to suppose that this could occur in the near future.