For those of you with a creeping fear of Social Media, or even those with just a slightly hesitant adoption of the tidal wave of new online interactions be prepared for the arrival of the new Google Glass. These have been spotted out and about, and are due to be launched later this year.
‘Glass’ (and you will be amazed how soon this joins the everyday lexicon) is a wearable computer eye piece, which allows you to snap photos, read the news and Google search all while looking like a cross between James Bond and R2D2. Glass is not yet publicly available, but those nice people at Google is offering keen geeks to purchase them early for $1,500, if they write them an essay about why they deserve to be allowed to trial them.. oddly I have not quite found the time to send off my essay.
I would like to think that I am reasonably comfortable with most of the social media… despite the endless baby photos and ‘Shares’ from “I f*cking love science” or “This is what I ate for lunch” I find it a useful tool for keeping up friendships, trying to organise my life, and distraction/entertainment. But I am just not too sure about these glasses. Call me a gruff old traditionalist (and many have called me worse) but I rather like, and indeed almost expect, a person’s undivided attention when interacting with them… OK so there are obviously times when it is acceptable and normal to be trying to do two things at once, but knowing that my conversant was either googling the cinema times or checking in on FB while talking to me would rather irk me. The ‘subtlety’ of it is more frustrating than even the ‘i’m on the train’ conversations much parodied in the late 90’s. Or perhaps I am just being old?
No… No, I am not…the technology is certainly impressive, but as one blogger pointed out, it is all a bit close to Vernor Vinge’s Rainbow’s End. The book it set in the not-too-distant future, and everybody interacts with the world via augmented-reality contact lenses. It is a sort of self accepted and social media infused Orwellian dystopia. (Note to self: a good name for a cocktail?)
Anyway, I was pleased when a lot of my ideas and views were echoed by an article in the usually brilliant Atlantic. Adrien Chen had obviously been reading my mind (perhaps having borrowed a set of these new glasses) when he described those that sport the new glasses as ‘assholes’. He goes into a long and clever diatribe about the way that Google has create a product so imbued with ‘assholishness.’: “Glass is just the latest in a long line of asshole moves from Google. Google’s project to scan and upload all books in existence to the internet without the publishers’ permission? Asshole behavior. Sending cars with cameras around to take pictures of everyone’s houses for Google Streetview? Asshole behaviour.”
While the products that Google has created are undoubtably brilliant, and useful, they are all part of the creeping invasion of privacy and accumulation of personal information. Perhaps those that are uncomfortable with these developments are not the Luddites that they are so often portrayed as, but defenders of privacy and liberty. As Chen says, “much of Google’s assholishness ended up producing very useful products (I love Streetview), but this doesn’t change the fact that they rest on an act of colossal assholery, an arrogance that says your privacy/copyright doesn’t matter because Google wants to make a new thing that happens to demolish it.” Read the rest of his article here, or just burn it directly onto your retina here.