Google Glass Confuses And Frightens Me

The first Google Glass kits have arrived in customer hands. Like the Bluetooth headset did for the sonic part of interacting with our phones, Google Glass does for the visual, placing a tiny screen in front of the eye for always-ready, hands-free use.

I work in the high tech industry – the mobile high tech industry, in fact. Not as a programmer, or an engineer, just as a marketing writer with an interest in technology and gadgets. I write about smartphones and apps every day. New hardware always gets me itching to upgrade.

But I’m not looking forward to Google Glass.

Mobile technology has always lent itself to a kind of consumer arms race. Flip phones were cooler than bulkier brick phones; BlackBerries were cooler still, for a while. Then came the iPhone, which at first couldn’t run apps but was way better at surfing the Web than previous smartphones; and newer iPhones or Android phones were of course cooler than the early models.

Google Glass represents a giant escalation in this arms race. Rather than an incremental improvement to previous phone technology, Glass is a whole new interface that frees the hands completely. One can literally be connected non-stop.

“That’s great!” you might think. “I can do two things at once and have more free time!” Really? I’ve written about this before:

Every advance in technology that promises more productivity and more convenience can only do so for a short time. After that, it blends into the normal, everyday fabric of life and becomes expected rather than novel.

Worker productivity, aided by technology, grew 80 percent between 1973 and 2011. Worker pay, meanwhile, grew just ten percent, adjusted for inflation, in that same period.

Whether or not Glass becomes cool enough to be accepted in social situations, it will undoubtedly find at least niche utilization. Many employers already expect their workers to be available by cell phone outside work hours. Smartphones enable those workers to log into company systems and get work done, even while not on the clock. Google Glass further enables users to divide their attention, giving both real life and in-Glass life short shrift.

At the very least, Glass and its descendants will enable a new type of asshole. The current generation of Glass is rather conspicuous, but future revisions will undoubtedly be miniaturized and more stealthily designed. Researching information on the spot is possible now, but doing it without the knowledge of one’s conversational partners can mislead them. Playing games or otherwise distracting oneself is likewise disrespectful.

TechCrunch, self-appointed arbiter of every Next Big Thing, seems to think Google Glass will be neither a culture-rewriting bang nor a shunned and rejected whimper, and I tend to agree. But don’t expect a bold new world of joyful connectivity without consequences. That’s not how technology works.

One Response to Google Glass Confuses And Frightens Me

  1. Pingback: Nikki Andrews

Leave a Reply