Robert Hampton

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5th April 2013

Glass half-empty

Google co-founder Sergey Brin feels “emasculated” by smartphones. You hear that, all the millions of people using Android phones? The head of the company who designed the software thinks they make you weak and feeble. People may act impressed when you show off your new Galaxy S4 to them, but behind your back they’re laughing at your pathetic nature.

Of course not. This is all just marketing talk – Brin is trying to sell Google’s next great creation to the world: Google Glass, a new device, worn like a pair of glasses, which provides an augmented reality display right into the user’s eyes. You can have your e-mails, texts and Twitter feed superimposed onto your view like a picture-in-picture display on a TV set. Holding a phone in your hand and looking at a screen? That is so 2012.

Google clearly believe that this is the next big thing. I think they’re right – it could be a leap forward in technology comparable to the introduction of the personal home microcomputer back in the late 1970s. But has anyone stopped to think of the wider implications of this new device? An always-on mobile phone with built in camera, constantly monitoring everything the user and those around him do? Does nobody see how that could be a problem?

On the Reluctant Habits blog, Edward Champion has misgivings:

Contrary to Mr. Brin’s suggestions, his device will not “free” us. It will quite possibly destroy several vital qualities of life we now take for granted, preying upon kind and decent and hardworking people who are still playing pickup from an economic blitzkrieg in which they had no power, little hope, and no control. One would think that a man born in Moscow under Brezhnev would grasp the cruel irony of being directly responsible for an entirely new set of encroachments upon freedom and human possibility.

Champion goes on to identify Thirty-Five Arguments Against Google Glass. The arguments are very convincing, and conjure up a terrifying world where any remaining notion of privacy and personal space is forgotten.

It looks like we’re heading for a future where everyone walks around looking like an extra from the TNG episode The Game. I am not happy about this.