When Dick Tracy debuted his wrist radio in 1946, no one had it because the thing had not been invented. When I first conceived of glasses that display information, I couldn’t buy such a machine because it hadn’t been invented. Once Google Glass debuts for public purchase, I will still not buy it because I don’t want it.
The future is a glittering, glorious place. Many of us in the middle class of the first world have grown up amidst advancing technology and a culture that celebrates this progression. We’re not sure what the future holds, but we understand it’s full of fabulous new things, as evidenced by the wonders that wowed before. Whether it was iPods, EZ-Pass, HD TV, or some other circuited success story, some gadget has arrested your attention in the past few decades and made you chuckle at the primitive lifestyle that preceded its emergence. But since that moment, you’ve grown accustomed to it, and your malaise gives way to anticipation about when you’ll feel that feeling again.
Enter the demigods of tech. They’ve done it before and they can do it again, they tell you! Here comes Google Glass, a marriage of glasses and personal electronics, loaded not only with apps and processing power, but also promises of a more enjoyable lifestyle for its adopters. Gone are the dreary days of pulling your smart phone all the way out of your pocket and tilting that heavy head of yours toward its palm-ridden screen. Now, you can summon the world wide tubes with a twitch of your cornea, taking in all your favorite computations at a distance far closer than anyone ever believed was safe to view a television.
And that’s all very exciting, unless you’re a person. Who is this for? Who struggles with handling their smartphone? Who needs their hands to be free while their eyes are distracted? Why would you wear glasses if you don’t have to, and if you have to, why would you wear two sets of glasses? This product solves non-existent problems. It proposes we trade away more of our time (those precious moments when we do not look at a screen), some of our field of vision and all of our fashion sense in exchange for…feeling all techie inside.
Ultimately, this is the strongest selling point of Google Glass: that, if you are someone who wants to live in a sci-fi future, you can play at that fantasy with this toy. The swirl of tech enthusiasts that are most prone to discussing this product possess greater-than-average vulnerability to Jetsonian daydreams, and so talk themselves into Glass being the next iPhone. But I would like to remind the technigensia of the fate of the wrist radio. While it seemed useful for Dick Tracy, by the time the technology existed in the real world, nobody wanted a wrist radio. A cell phone (so un-sexy in its resemblance to a regular phone) offered the same convenience without the peculiar ritual of whispering sweet nothings to one’s own wrist. We ought not confuse the aesthetic of high-tech with the use of actual technology.