Why Google Glass leaves me feeling half-empty

Isn't there something squeamish about wearing a pair of spectacles that distort reality?

Rebecca Armstrong
Monday 25 February 2013 14:32
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Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, introduces the Google Glass last year
Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, introduces the Google Glass last year

Last week a video was released that showed off what Google Glass, AKA the futuristic, glassless glasses that stream the internet into your eyes (well, sort of – they display information on the top right corner of your vision and are activated by voice commands) could do.

In the promo, the kinds of beautiful people who only exist in hi-spec tech ads do improbably groovy things which we got to watch from their perspective. Ballerinas whirling, hot-air balloonists soaring, parents of cute children twirling them round, city-breakers racing to catch their flight.

Each segment showed Google Glass doing its thing, whether showing flight information for the tardy travellers, sending photo messages to friends or letting people take instant videos of whatever they were seeing.

My husband watched, fascinated. My colleagues have been enthralled too. My reaction? To consider making the sign of the cross and backing away shrieking “witchcraft!”. In reality, I've tried to form an argument about why this particular tech innovation unsettles me so much. Partly it's to do with being constantly connected, which I know is hypocritical – I'm glued to my iPhone most of the time, checking email, Twitter, the weather, the news, cat pictures in an endless loop. I can quite happily (though rudely) sit playing a game on my phone while chatting to friends. Google argues that having this sort of information in your line of vision, there if you need it, is actually less distracting that having a hand-held device. But the idea of someone looking me in the eye and nodding, while checking out football scores without me knowing, gives me the creeps.

I don't want to set the luddite alarm off. I love how technology is woven into my life. I didn't write this column in pencil, nor did I post it. I typed it on a laptop and it winged its way over the internet. But like any addict, I still like to pretend I can quit anytime. Google Glass is a prism through which you would see everything. Flowers, sunsets, births, deaths – not everything has to be touched with technology. Wearing devices isn't in itself outlandish. I have watches that have more functions than my first mobile phone. However, I feel squeamish about wearing something that alters reality. It feels as though we're finally becoming part-machine. Or part-Terminator.

Can you be a cyborg and still have a soul? Do androids dream of electric sheep? Will we? I don't know. But it's going to take a lot more than high-production values and sat-nav streamed onto my retina to convince me to put away the silver bullets.

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