Last night I watched Sergey Brin’s TED video “Why Google Glass?”. I knew about Google Glass, of course, and I readily admit that the technology behind it is very impressive and has great possibilities.
But this was the first time I heard an explanation, right from the horse’s mouth, of why they created it – what problems it is meant to solve – and I found that even more amazing, but in an “amazingly ridiculous” sense.
His main point seemed to be that we should stop “hunching over our computers”. To illustrate this, he made the audience wait for a few moments while he pretended to be reading an email on his smartphone. Lame, right? Yup, I’m totally with him so far. It’s completely dumb to be out and about, with all of the color and motion of life going on around you, and be hunching over a small computer looking at the screen and poking at it with your thumb.
Google’s solution to this is Google Glass – the computer is very small, it sits on your head, and it’s voice-responsive. So their world-class engineers managed to solve two problems – you don’t have to hunch over it, and you don’t have to poke at it with your thumb.
What I almost can’t believe is that they missed the most obvious solution to that problem: just don’t stand around hunched over a smartphone.
You see, I hardly ever hunch over a smartphone at all. I think experiencing life without the mediation of computerized information is awesome, and I do my very best to spend as much time as possible doing that. And then when I need to use a computer, I use one – a modern, powerful one – in an attractive, comfortable posture.
When I’m done researching or communicating or creating with the computer, I jump right back into the coolest thing I know – living life fully engaged, senses wide open and undistracted, mind focused.
I realize that their supposedly brilliant concept is that you can do both at the same time – use all of your senses and your body and mind, and also be barking orders at an electronic device and taking in what it offers back at you.
I beg to differ, drastically and passionately. This kind of thinking is behind the absurdly stupid concept of “multi-tasking”, when it is used to mean that it’s a good thing to spread yourself really thin and never focus on anything, in order to seem busy and important, or because you are deluded into thinking that you’re accomplishing more than if you focused.
The Google Glass demo video is a headache-producing barrage of video taken by people skydiving and ballet-dancing and doing all kinds of exciting life activities, which you can’t do while you’re using your iPad or smartphone or laptop. I admit it – you can’t skydive and use a computer at the same time, normally. They’ve got me on that one.
But I can’t think of a single reason why having a tiny computer strapped to your head makes skydiving a better experience for you. Sure, mounting a video camera on somebody who is doing these things produces great videos, but we’ve been doing that for years without Google Glass.
It seems to me that Google Glass is a giant step for mankind in the awful direction of avoiding life itself more and more.
Having said that, I hope that the technology they’ve created can be used to help people with disabilities, or for other uses one can easily begin to imagine. But as the next step beyond for the huddled masses of semi-zombies currently using smartphones to avoid the beautiful, focused life they’re so terrified of, its just sad.