February 28, 2013

Technology Fixing Technology, Augmented Reality Edition

Sergey Brin wearing Google Glasses at TED 2013

One of the more amusing characteristics of technological enthusiasts is their confidence that today’s brand new technology will fix the problems created by yesterday’s brand new technology.

Software programs that let you get some work done by temporarily turning off your access to emails and tweets are examples. Geoengineering describes a slew of technologies that might be able to save the planet from the slew of technologies that are destroying it.

The most recent example is the promise of Google co-founder Sergey Brin that his company’s newest product, Google Glass, will remedy the problems created by its previous product, the Android smartphone.

In a surprise talk at yesterday’s TED conference in California, Brin said that Google Glass will eliminate the need to shut out what’s going on around you in order to focus on your smartphone, a need he finds “emasculating.”

“You’re actually socially isolating yourself with your phone,” Brin told the audience, according to Wired. “I feel like it’s kind of emasculating…. You’re standing there just rubbing this featureless piece of glass.”

(The photographs from Brin’s appearance make it clear, by the way, that this once-geeky zillionaire has been working out, adding significantly to his personal masculinity profile.)

By layering data over our field of vision – “augmented reality” is what it’s called – Google Glass will free us  from the shackles of outdated technology, Brin said. He again showed an odd proclivity for phallic imagery by holding up a smartphone and declaring, “I whip this out and focus on it as though I have something very important to attend to. This [Google Glass] really takes away that excuse.…It really opened my eyes to how much of my life I spent secluded away in email or social posts.”

The last line in that quote bears repeating: “It really opened my eyes to how much of my life I spent secluded away in email or social posts.”

Members of Google’s sales staff may have cringed when they heard that, given that the company’s business still depends, for now at least, on people being immersed in computers and smartphones.

Brin added that Google Glass is a step toward the attainment of his ultimate ambition: Direct implantation of data streams into the brain.

“My vision when we started Google 15 years ago,” he said, “was that eventually you wouldn’t have to have a search query at all — the information would just come to you as you needed it. [Google Glass] is the first form factor that can deliver that vision.”

That digitally delivered information might itself be an intrusion, and that reality might not need any augmenting, are notions the technological enthusiast is not prepared to entertain.

Photo credit: TED/Flickr via Wired

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