"Snow Crash" and Medicine - The rise of the modern Gargoyle

Revisiting Snow Crash

Neal Stephenson's breakthrough SciFi novel published in 1992, has often been revisited due to its so-called predictions for the future of technology in society. For those unfamiliar with Snow Crash, the plot boils down to the main character, named (of all things) 'Hiro Protagonist' and his path in preventing the downfall of the metaverse and society at the hands of a virus propagated via the equivalent of social media, all the while existing in a world that is virtually unrecognizable, and has been consumed by corporate greed. Sounds nuts right? It is, and why I love it.

Snow Crash gets pegged for numerous ideas that have slowly come into being in the two decades since its publication. These include: Rise of MMOs, Social Media, Google Earth, Digital Transactions (Bitcoin), and various other tech developments that can still make you go, "Could that work?" Im not saying it was too far reaching. The Hero of the story is a sword-wielding cyber hacker still using a laptop. But hey, you can't predict everything (smartphones).

But, one thing that recently given me pause in the past few years has been the topic of wearables in society, and healthcare at large, and some sections from Snow Crash that touch on wearable computing.

What's a 'Gargoyle?'

In several instances over the course of Snow Crash, the reader is introduced to the concept of a human that has decided to deconstruct the form of their computer, and strap it over the course of the body. In effect, wearables! Well not quite, as the following portion demonstrates:

Gargoyles represent the embarrassing side of the Central Intelligence Corporation. Instead of using laptops, they wear their computers on their bodies, broken up into separate modules that hang on the waist, on the back, on the headset. They serve as human surveillance devices, recording everything that happens around them. Nothing looks stupider; these getups are the modern-day equivalent of the slide-rule scabbard or the calculator pouch on the belt, marking the user as belonging to a class that is at once above and far below human society. They are a boon to Hiro because they embody the worst stereotype of the CIC stringer. They draw all the attention. The payoff for this self-imposed ostracism is that you can be in the Metaverse all the time, and gather intelligence all the time.
— Snow Crash

Ok, so Snow Crash doesn't necessarily put this in a nice light. Which is actually the current case, when you see the current euphemism for those using Google Glass being called 'Glassholes.' 

For me, the idea of wearable computing, that can extend human mental processing power and capabilities of not only collecting as much data about themselves and their environment and then sharing it seems an inevitable point as technology progresses. Most of our modern SciFi reaches this point, and even one of my favorite series Ghost in the Shell touches on this constantly (however, in that series we're talking full on cyborg and melding of human and technology beyond the topic of wearables, I mean, it's full on "Do androids dream of electric sheep" stuff there).

So why do I bring this up and make the connection? I think we are going to get some interesting terms for individuals that choose to be connected at all time. We may develope new terms for patients. Are they 'Smart' Patients? Maybe a term mixing the quantified self and other relevant terms? I'm not sure, and I'm not that creative. Combine this with Eric Topol's recent article in WSJ about mobile technology and medicine, and we are beginning to see the shift towards acceptance of this technology in healthcare and daily lives.  In any event, for myself at least, I find it interesting to see myself living in a time where the modern gargoyle may become an actual thing in society, and may have huge impacts on how we engage in our lives and with one another.