You know at the beginning of an apocalyptic film, where a scientist announces the creation of, say, a super-intelligent chip or a robot that can think for itself, and the next thing you know the entire world has been taken over by super-intelligent apes and/or terrifying terminators?
That’s kind of how I felt when I read about Google Glass.
Google Glass, which was demonstrated to the world by Google co-founder Sergey Brin a few weeks ago, is a head mounted computer. It’s basically a pair of glasses (why isn’t it called Google Glasses? Who knows?) that will allow the wearer to take photos and videos of whatever they’re looking at and share them via social media. The Glasses, which aren’t available to the general public yet, also allow the wearer to read texts and get phone alerts, as well as giving access to e-mail and various other apps.
Now, you may read this and think, ‘Cool, a hands-free camera!’ – Google Glass responds to voice commands, so if you want to take a photo, you say, ‘OK, Glass, take a picture’. You may love the idea of being able to read your e-mail from the inside of your specs.
But I read it and just felt horrified.
Much as I love the internet, the idea of everyone being constantly plugged in increasingly bothers me, and as time goes on, I’ve discovered how refreshing it is to have a few days away from the online world. So imagine how much more difficult that would be if Twitter was just accessible by blinking and nodding. We all know how difficult it is to get some work done when you’re constantly checking social media or email – it’d be even worse if you didn’t even have to reach for your phone or laptop in order to find easy distractions.
But while life as a Google Glass user sounds overwhelming, life with a Google Glass user sounds even worse. If you were out with a friend who constantly replied to random texts or checked Twitter or Facebook on their phone while you were talking to them, you’d probably be annoyed – you’d know you didn’t have their full attention. We all know these people exist, but at least now you can usually shame them into putting their phones away for five minutes. But Google Glass will allow them to carry on like this without anyone knowing about it.
It basically means that when you talk to someone wearing Google Glass, you’ll never know whether they’re actually engaged in the conversation or if they’re secretly reading news headlines or Twitter. And as has been pointed out, if Google Glass becomes really popular – the equivalent of a smartphone – you’ll never know if you’re being filmed, not by your friends, but by random strangers.
Of course, many of Google Glass’s features are available in smartphones, as GG’s defenders have pointed out. But no one goes around with a phone constantly pressed up against their eyes. Google Glass means being switched on all the time, and as far as I’m concerned, this is not a good thing. And if society breaks down because everyone was too busy watching cat videos on their glasses instead of working and/or talking to people, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
So what do you think of Google’s new toy? Will you be lining up to get your pair? Or does it make you want to abandon all technology and live in a cave (which is kind of how I felt when I read about them)?