Behold Puny Mortals! Tremble before Google and their newest digital endeavor: Google Glass!
Well, maybe not. Announced in 2012, Project Glass just began to be released to the public via an “early adopter” program and Google has released footage of real-life use of the hardware.
As a tech guy, I’m excited by this hardware’s potential. Consider it: The ability to always track certain info, to share life with a single phrase. What could come of it? How could we further record the human experience with it? How could this help us grow closer (or further apart) from one another?
From my first reading on the topic, there’s a lot of questions to ask about this technology, so let’s start with its intended purpose.
Purpose of Google Glass
One might think that Google made these glasses simply because they could. But if The Verge‘s Joshua Topolsky is to be believed, Google Glass is addressing a real problem:
Human beings have developed a new problem since the advent of the iPhone and the following mobile revolution: no one is paying attention to anything they’re actually doing. Everyone seems to be looking down at something or through something. Those perfect moments watching your favorite band play or your kid’s recital are either being captured via the lens of a device that sits between you and the actual experience, or being interrupted by constant notifications. Pings from the outside world, breaking into what used to be whole, personal moments.
Our lives are contained in small boxes which hold information and connections, boxes which “get in the way” so to speak. Google Glass, in theory, would remove the box from the equation and allow one to share information via a simpler device which intrudes less into one’s actions or life. A simple twitch or twist, and you’re looking something up!
One friend who I talked to described it as a form of “transhumanist garbage” which would simply be another step towards putting chips in our brain to become “fully connected to the network.” Intomobile‘s George Tinari states a very clear and understandable worry about this technology:
[Google Glass would] be harmful to the core ways of naturally communicating that animals on Earth [have used] from the beginning of our existence. It’d be harmful to our ability to focus on something important like one person or one task. It’d be harmful to our ability to figure out things for ourselves rather than having some device do everything for us while our brain gets an extended vacation.
Is this right? I see why many would fear this technology, that it would allow a man to permanently disconnect from reality and always follow their online life via this service.
Thankfully, I haven’t seen any device features in the current model of Google Glass that seems to encourages this. One can do realtime video viewing of another, but I haven’t seen how the Internet browsing function works, or how Twitter/Facebook/social media would work. It seems to be focused, not on the reading function, but on the sharing function, with some additional, yet limited functionality (e.g., maps, images, Google Hangout). Also, the current focus on Google-centric functions may be advantageous: It may mean that Facebook, Twitter, et al. would not have the chance to take over your perception.
However, just like Apple develops agreements with other companies to post apps for their products, Google could do the same with Google Glass. It’s hard to say without seeing the future development of the device. But currently, it reminds me far more of Apple’s Siri than having an eye-based computer at all times.
But fear of the technology is not the only thing that should be noted. During his first use of the device, Topolsky laid out a lot interesting ideas to worry about, such as the future social etiquette of using it, whether it would attract more attention then one might want, and (of course) issues of privacy. Other questions appear in my mind, such as whether the glasses would be legal while driving, and how one would converse with another while wearing them. All of these are affairs which clearly need to be handled as more and more people get their hands on it, and determine what’s acceptable, what isn’t, etc. But without personal experience, I really can’t comment on how to handle these issues.
Questions To Ask
As Christians, we must think about why we’d use these amazing devices. For example, how could Google Glass improve a pastor’s ability to connect to his flock? How would it allow a scientist to study medicine and save more lives? How would it allow me, as both a student and journalist, to better record the truth? I don’t know.
I do have some reservations, though. For example, the one fear I have in buying Google Glass is that if I were to get them, it wouldn’t be for anything practical or helpful. Rather, I would just buy them because they’re cool. Also, I know that my current lifestyle would not be extensively improved by the usage of Google Glass. As such, I won’t be using them personally. But then again, in 5-10 years, they may be necessities to the lifestyles we encourage across the planet. It’s hard to say.
But from all of the preliminary reports, I’m excited to see what comes of Google’s work, and how people will use (and even misuse) this amazing technology.