I really don’t want to make this long. I could go off on a long rant, I’m sure, writing thousands of words why I think we as a society should at least take a look at what we’re about to get ourselves in to. I’ll spare you all that. I just think Google Glass, if successful, will be a serious problem. There, I said it.
I’m not by any means a conservative. In fact it’s pretty hard to write for a technology website and not be interested in the progressive nature of technology. I also have nothing against Google in particular. I know Google Glass is an amazing technological accomplishment. Everyone’s excited because it’s like our once unfathomable future is here; the things we envisioned as children or saw in futuristic cartoons are coming to life.
With all the benefits that come with always-on smartphones and instant social interaction with anyone on the planet, there are some downsides beginning to arise. Having our face shoved in our phone constantly texting away removes awareness of our physical surroundings and often makes many of us socially awkward. We’re used to comfortably speaking our mind from behind the safety of a display so it becomes increasingly harder to converse face to face.
I walk through the halls of the academic buildings at my university and I see this on a daily basis. I also am a willing participant. The other day I accidentally ignored three people who walked by and greeted me because I was staring down at my iPhone texting. The only way I know I ignored them is because they texted me saying they saw me and I didn’t notice them. Oops.
We’re already totally bombarded with notifications left and right on our smartphones and tablets: one new friend request, two new mentions, three likes on your photo, four missed calls, five new emails.
Now enter Google Glass, a device that allows us to walk around and overlay our entire reality with an Internet connection, put simply. It sounds awesome, but what actually happens when a society adapts to the likes of Google Glass and people completely disconnect from their surroundings? Isn’t that a little troubling to think about? Yes, you can take off the glasses at any time you want to jump back into the real world, but if people planned on taking them off that often there’s really no point in buying them at all. It’d just be easier to check your smartphone when you feel like connecting with others or using Internet-based services and apps.
I remember watching Google’s initial Glass demo video on YouTube (right here) for the first time and seeing how many likes it got and all the excitement it generated. It’s insanely cool, but the entire time I was thinking, “Wow, I really never want my life to be like this.” The guy was talking to his glasses to set reminders and checking in to his current location as a banner confirmation overlapped his vision. It’d be one thing to see one guy on the street talking to himself with Google Glasses and getting a little annoyed if you try to have a conversation with him and he’s caught up in his own virtual world. It’d be another thing for everyone on that street to be wearing the glasses and no one even realizing they’re doing anything harmful.
I say “harmful” because that’s what I believe Google Glass could potentially be. It’d be harmful to the core ways of naturally communicating that animals on Earth from the beginning of our existence. It’d be harmful to our ability to focus on something important like one person or one task. It’d be harmful to our ability to figure out things for ourselves rather than having some device do everything for us while our brain gets an extended vacation.
I love my smartphone and I could never live without it. The same goes for my laptop. Critics now already say that while they are incredibly helpful machines, they make us socially awkward and can at times spoil us a bit too much. I’ve never shied away from admitting this, but I’m always too indulged to give a shit. Imagine just how true that would be for people who use Google Glass every day.
As a society, we should be very worried about Google Glass. Do we really want to significantly reduce all forms of solitude and physical awareness in favor of a device that distorts our reality just so we can pretty much live and breathe the Internet? Are we really as a society ready to be consumed and lose sight of the things in our lives we once felt so strongly about? Grab a cup of coffee, find a cozy chair, sit for a while and think about that. That’s all I can say.
I’m going to click the Publish button, close my laptop, and get ready to go out for dinner with my phone in my pocket.