When I was a kid, we had this idea that when we were grown – certainly, by the 21st century – we'd all be traveling on moving sidewalks and getting around town with little jetpacks attached to our backs. There were two bases for this fantasy. One, we were all watching way too many episodes of "The Jetsons," and two, we assumed, as many people still do, that technology would continue to develop at a constant pace and that new technology is always a good thing.
That could be the only reason why some dunderhead came up with the idea for "Google Glass," a set of enhanced eyewear that will allow the user to surf the web, take pictures, get directions and find nearby restaurant recommendations – all via a little device attached to the frames. The smiling gentleman who wears the device in a promotional photo looks like a complete geek.
Actually, he looks worse than a geek, because the nerds we went school with (or were ourselves) seemed to have some cognizance of the fact that they were on the outs. This guy is so unself-aware that he actually looks like he thinks he's cool.
How neurotic and controlling does a person have to be to need constant connection to the cyberworld? It's bad enough that we have people who go out to dinner with friends or a date and actually put their mobile devices next to their dinner plates, as though they could not possibly enjoy a human conversation without some sort of high-tech backup. It would be even more damaging to public discourse and civilization as a whole if everyone started walking around with glasses that take them even further away from the real world. Why stop to smell the roses when your eyeglasses can just Google it for you?
Just because we have the technology to obliterate day-to-day activities and tasks, such as walking, listening to another person or even taking the time to stop at an actual restaurant and actually read the menu, doesn't mean we should. Think of those ridiculous "Segways," wheeled devices people ride around town. They didn't take off; it's mainly tourists who ride them, and they look absurd. They're too big to be on the sidewalk, too small to be on the road, and provide no protection from the elements or room for packages.
For someone with a disability, a Segway could be useful. For everyone else, they're an example of Frankenstein technology for its own sake, and a useless one at that. At a time when we are experiencing enormous public health costs from widespread obesity, do we really want another device meant to keep people from getting any exercise at all? Kudos to Michele Obama for not sneaking out in the middle of the night and disabling the Segways in Washington's downtown.
Google Glass is right up there with moving sidewalks and personal jetpacks – with one exception. Their wearers need to be worried about being beaten up after school.
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