As a society, we should be very worried about Google Glass

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?ย 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.

  • cooldoods

    What hypocrisy. If you really feel this strongly about it, I’d better never see another of your articles on the web.

    • Patrick

      It feels like you’re thinking way to short with your comment. Technology is something that serves us humans and it should always be under our control. But when a part of our society (and I’m sure there are more out there than just George) has the feeling that this technology is changing the way of our “social” interaction, we have to question our control.
      Have you never felt worried about how much your smartphone controls you? When you just want to sit or what ever and it rings? You know it’s WhatsApp or Facebook or iMessage and you just get completely distracted by the fact that there is a notification for you (no matter if you answer it or not).
      Have you never felt worried when you’re out with friends and mostly everybody is sometimes to always texting or something, when in parallel talking to you?

      I love technology and I’m really excited about Google Glasses. Can’t wait to get my hands on it. But I think we are losing control over the basic rules of social life and interaction. Secretly, I’m hoping for the big bang to come to reinstall some rules, some “gentlemaness” – cause I feel for myself like having lost control of these due to the technology in my pocket.

      • Patrick gets it.

        • alexxx

          ABSOLUTELY! We are already past the dangerzone border when it comes to all sorts of technologies endangering us as individuals and human beings. Colectively, our awareness and understanding of our own nature was not even at a teenage level and technologies such as these make sure to keep us even less alware. We don’t give a damn about true Selfhood and personal growth and acheivements because we have almost bleached ourselves with technologies doing it all for us, as we asociate with it more every day. No, we are not ready for many technologies, and we are almost completely disconnected from nature, life around us and most horrifically, ourselves. Thats why when were together in person, we are awkward, don’t know what to say, look at the floor, Selfhood, our true expressive identities are massacred. Gone. We Ely on tech to compile bits of informations and think the Facebook wall is our identity. What happens when power goes out? Im scared to even go there. But we need the power to go out, take our rubber bottom shoes off that disconect us from being grounded with the living planet and walk barefoot into the forest and pray for our spirit to awaken, and nature will always do just that. I’m not some new age herb smoking postmodern hippie, I’m in the same boat as the rest of us. Tech like smartphones and especially more immersing Google Glass, makes us complete loose the power of the moment, of NOW. This is RED ALERT time. Because at that point we have very little power over anything and are oh so easily manipulated and taken advantage of.I dunno, its complete madness. We let very few run our world for us as we are more and more immersed into the virtual and have no time to care about even our own selves. Its easier to just give in and be told where to go. Life is Devine. We are Life. Acgnowledge each other when you’re together, your mother, friend or a lover, look into their eyes, connect, you’ll be surprised who you’ll meet, maybe you really get to know someone you think you dis for years.

          • deckercat

            i was without electricity for 9 days recently. it wasn’t that bad. i went to bed at dark and read by candle light. man, i got the moves like lincoln.

      • My smartphone doesn’t control me. I can say this with confidence, because no one ever calls me… And I still haven’t figured out how to do anything more than play games on it.

  • Since it looks like Google Glass relies on voice to control it, that turns me off right there. Can you really see someone sitting on a subway and saying, “OK Google Glass, search for naked blonde girls”?

  • “Rainbows End” by Vernor Vinge describes a society with “Epiphany”, a technology startlingly similar to Google Glass.

    I don’t think we’ll actually lose physical interaction entirely, it will just become augmented and, subsequently, distorted. I do like the idea of transparent technology – you miss more by looking down than by being distracted. If you’re looking ahead through a display, you’ll probably be more aware of your surroundings.

  • albertkinng

    Google Glass is a Zombie Maker device. Go see The verge hands on video and tell me if the reporter doesn’t look weird walking on the street and trying to use the Google Glass crappy device. This is a toy for hardcore nerds. No offense intended.

  • im gonna ducktape my smartphone to my forehead tho.

  • This is serious clickbait.

  • James LaBarre

    I could see this device being useful on a server floor, presuming there was some alternative to voice for text input & screen interface. Of course, I think of it more as a “heads-up display” sort of system, specifically allowing you to focus on your surroundings without having to look away to get information.

  • Marinperez

    Good article George. I think it’s going to fall somewhere in the middle here.

    I don’t think we’ll turn into Borg-like creatures only communicating with our online friends and there are some legitimate cool features about glass. I don’t care that much about the picture and video-taking ability (although, THINK OF THE PORN!!!), the real-time augmented directions are appealing. Likewise, being able to see where your gate is in an airport is also cool.

    I think there are always concerns about us losing what we are with new technologies and most of them are overblown. A crude example is those who decry what we lose in having a “real” book as opposed to a Kindle which has access to nearly every book imaginable. The benefits outweigh the adjustments, in my mind.

    With that said, I dont’ see this going anywhere as a commercial product because of the super nerd factor. I see it working for highly-specialized fields where your hands are busy (think surgeons or again, porn) but not really making a big impact after that. It will push the goal line for what and where we accept the Internet in our lives, though and that’s Google’s goal.

    On another note, is it creeping anyone out that Google’s vision is to have your entire life online to be a signal generator for its ad services?

  • It’s a $1500 accessory to your smartphone. Yeah, that will fly off the shelves. 100% of buyers will either be hardcore Google fanboys or just simply geeks. Enjoy your Googly geeky toy guys.

  • A

    if google glass is succesful then having awareness of your phyiscal surrounding by not having the googles will make you socially ankward

  • Adam

    Of all the reasons to be “worried” about the effect of Google Glass on society this one strikes me as highly conservative and lacking in foresight. I’ve seen this sort of thing coming since I was a little kid and am super excited that someone has finally taking the time to implement it. This is just the beginning and people are going to quickly adapt to a world where we allow our electronics to improve our awareness of our surroundings (beach to your right, coffee shop to your left) while also allowing us to keep tabs on the rest of our social networks, etc.
    The human brain is highly evolved to keep tabs on events happening over a very large area with trade and social networks spanning hundreds of miles long before we learned how to harness electricity. This device isn’t designed to change the way our brain works, it’s designed to take advantage of it. Calm down, this is a good thing, we aren’t going to sail off the edge of the world.

  • freeman

    All you say could be applied to people reading newspapers or books every time, every where. So, are books and newspapers dangerous ?

    • Daniel Rieck

      False analogy. Newspapers require actual employment and the accountability that comes with it, as well as some semblance of a rational philosophy. Books take considerable effort to write and publish, and are at least edited. Any fool can effortlessly put up anything they want on the internet behind an anonymity that nicely prevents us from seeing just how much they are not worth listening to. Just as stupidity is dangerous, so is the internet.

  • Hmm, the video and your article was very informative. At this time, there is not too much that can be said about the use of this technology. Your questions are noted: “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?” Still, is there something more you desire to say?

  • sgc1999

    don’t put the phone in the pocket over your heart.

  • Jason

    You mean life on Earth will have to adapt to a new environment? WHAT!? We’ve never had to do that before! NOOo0!!!1!

  • jamaJa

    Do we have to accept and adopt everything they develop for us? This is a philosophical question. Where is our choice? Why must we buy or “buy into” all that they make? Why don’t we reject more of the things that they make? don’t get me wrong, I usually am the early adopter. But I also question whether we must adopt everything they think we must have.

  • Tavin Pumarejo

    People engaging in conversations with their ‘smart’ devices? Just like what is portrayed in ‘Her’ ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Tad Cuper

    Sorry but I see it as a HUD in a car. You see through it but the information is there without having to look away from where you are going. At my job I would love to have this as I am machining I can look up cutting rates or or do calculations without having to remove my hands from the machine.

    I use both my Note3 and my iPad4 at work but they are cumbersome to use in most instances. I have not got to use GoogleGlass yet but I see no problem with it as compared to Smartphones. Hell I would consider having a chip installed in my head if it meant I could be a Modern Lawnmower Man ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Johan

    A few days ago I saw something in a newspaper. They called it a train or something like that. And they explained that you can travel with a speed of 45 km/ hour. Be aware! Don’t do it! This speed will kill you!

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