Google Glasses: We Are Going Cyborg for Better or Worse

Reports in the Toronto Star and CNET of cyborg Steve Mann having his wearable computer apparatus ripped off in a Paris McDonald’s have led various bloggers to conclude that Using Google Glasses Will Get You Ass Kicked At McDonalds. In fact, the reaction Mann experienced was an anomaly.

Woman wearing Google Glasses

Our overall social reaction to tech developments like Google Glasses, subject of widespread mainstream reportage and speculation, is more like this account published on the MIT Technology Review and titled You Will Want Google Glasses. In the piece, the author concludes, after hanging around and lobbing questions at Thad Starner, a technical lead for the Google Glasses project who “has been wearing various kinds of augmented-reality goggles full time since the early 1990s”, that “wearable computers seem certain to conquer the world. It simply will be better to have a machine that’s hooked onto your body than one that responds to it relatively slowly and clumsily.”

Connecting Steve Mann’s Paris fastfood experience to the Western world’s desire to integrate technology directly into our physiology is a mistake. We want the glasses and we want them now. We will wear and use the glasses. Why? Not because of how clumsy it is to have to use a smart phone. Not because of all the cool things the glasses will supposedly let us do, as depicted in the Google promo video below.

We will wear the glasses because we have become conditioned to desire the ongoing integration of our lives with our tech. Quite simply, it has become a social imperative that we be as plugged into the grid as possible. This means that not only must we be constantly connected, others must see us be constantly connected. Glasses offering wearable computing and augmented reality fit that bill perfectly. They are the inevitable evolution of what have been told and sold for several decades.

Are the Google Glasses and other wearable technologies good or evil? It’s a stupid question. With these technologies we will be able to further integrate our flesh lives with our cyber/online lives. For better or worse.

As for Steve Mann, well, I am the co-author of Steve Mann’s book, and so I am able to say with authority that Mann is a far cry from the gorgeous models/plugged-in hipsters depicted wearing Google Glass prototypes. Not that he deserves to be attacked. He doesn’t. But quite simply, Mann’s overall demeanor sometimes freaks people out. He’s a very weird looking-and-seeming dude, and his experience does not in any way represent a looming backlash against early adopters of Google Glasses.

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