Google Glass: Finding the cracks

Why does everyone hate Google Glass? That was the question being asked at a recent SXSW seminar titled ‘Glassholes: The Cultural Dissonance of Technology’. This conference allowed tech innovators to come together and discuss why miserable people (such as myself) are so quick to disapprove of new technologies. Following this discussion, TechCrunch penned an article summarising our innovation-phobia, and explaining why we should all stop being so silly and embrace our robot overlords as unquestionably superior.

In putting forward the case for Google Glass, many at SXSW compared the technology to mobile phones and personal computers – two commonplace objects that were originally mocked by the Luddite public. Strangely however, nobody brought up the various technologies that, having been initially ridiculed… still went on to fall flat on their arses. Nobody seemed interested in discussing QR code or Apple’s Newton; they’d much rather stick to iPhones and computers …I can’t imagine why?

Many of Glass’s defenders also looked to address the inevitable privacy issues involved in gl uing a camera to someone’s face. Often, this defence consisted of pointing out that the ability to film others with Google Glass is no different from the ability to film others with a smartphone. Unfortunately, this analogy holds about as much truth as a psychic reading from Jeffery Archer. Glass clearly differs from camera phones in the sense that people don’t walk around with their mobiles held up in front of their faces during every waking moment… well, not yet anyway.

Still, privacy issues aside, there remains a more concerning question that seemed to go unmentioned throughout the pro-Glass seminar – How will this technology impact human interaction?

To my mind, Google Glass represents one of the biggest steps towards permanently active, and permanently mediated, communication. Once we accept Glass into our lives, all our interactions will switch from being human-to-human to being human-to-machine-to-human. This permanent connectivity will not only impact how we behave, but also how we interactive with others.

Thanks to the constant connectivity of smartphones, we increasingly find ourselves interrupting people for the sake of our phones. Where once we paused our technology to interact with people, we now pause people to interactive with our technology. I regularly find myself being placed ‘on hold’ while friends and family answer a call or respond to a message. If we can’t receive a tweet without disrupting our human conversations, how are we going to cope when that same tweet pops up in front of our very eyes? It’s bad enough trying to talk to someone who keeps glancing at their mobile, soon enough we won’t be able to tell if they’re actually listening or just browsing through Buzzzfeed.

And it’s not just interaction that will suffer. Many people are already struggling to cope with the sheer sensory overload of permanent email access and endless social updates. Why do we feel the need to be constantly switched on – to have pop-ups and badges constantly bouncing in front of our eyes? Perhaps we’re just looking to validate our own narcissism – hoping to prove that the world is queuing up to speak to us? Whatever the reason, the sad truth is that 99% of the world doesn’t want to speak to us; and the 1% that does… well, they’re still boredly waiting for us to put down our phones.

Alex Warren
Alex Warren
Miserablist, whiskey-drinker, and general tinpot shambles. Alex Warren has a weary pessimism for all things media, politics and tech.