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On Google Glass and totalitarian fun

Google Glass is coming. There’s no point railing against it, much as there’s little point attempting to fend off the Grim Reaper. Google Glass is coming and it’s inexorable. Google Glass. Shall Come To Pass.

Now, Luddite that I am, I am programmed to despise Google Glass and all it stands for. There would be many ways to rationalise this antipathy: the risk of non-consensual surveillance; the steady slide towards brain chips; the concern about what tech is doing to the fuzzy bounds of the self.

On the other hand, that errs into the realm of the sci-fi, and since I don’t really know what I’m talking about, I’m going to stay on surer ground. Here’s the real root of my abhorrence: Google Glass seems annoying as hell.

Google has just released a video, purporting to demonstrate how the gadget feels. It takes us through a day in the life of the average user: sitting in a hot air balloon, following a ballerina, driving a helicopter, caressing an ice block, goading a dog, encasing a child in a bubble, aiding an ice skater, hurtling to one’s doom, encouraging a snake, riding a rollercoaster, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, whizzing down a ski slope, turning inexplicably upside down, mounting a show pony, playing gleeful table tennis, jousting with a Death Eater, throwing fire, waving a flag, manically skipping, observing a gymnast, sculpting a tiger, catching a flight, strutting down a runway, celebrating a birthday, scoffing Thai food on a boat and swimming with bright pink non-polyp phylum Cnidaria before returning to the hot air balloon whence you started. And all of these everyday activities can be enhanced through Google Glass!

In fairness, one of the first pictures to be posted online simply showed someone’s office carpet, indicating that even Google employees retain awareness of the non-magical nature of reality. But it’s pretty clear what the video is trying to achieve. Use Google Glass, it implies, and you can have so much FUN! BRIGHT, SHINY, MEGAWATT, INESCAPABLE, VAGUELY TOTALITARIAN FUN!

There’s something peculiarly Silicon Valley about this image. It stems straight from their world of wholesome, moneyed smugness, in which clean-cut execs run 4am triathlons before darting to their bean-baggy offices to bray about synergies. And while it’s not everyone’s version of fun (mine, for what it’s worth, involves sitting quietly in a pub), it’s one they’re hellbent on spreading.

Google has laid down the gauntlet. It’s mapped out a picture of the future: a pair of creepy hipster robot-glasses squatting on a human face – forever. And for those of us who really can’t see the appeal, well, wake us up when they invent Google Eyeroll, OK?


Categories: Technology

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Abi Millar

British freelance journalist living in the Netherlands

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