Feb 21 2013
I loved Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy,” his 2006 movie about an ordinary guy who through an accident of suspended animation wakes up in a future where people have devolved to a state of utter idiocy and he is the smartest one by default. I realized yesterday, as the social networks started trending with the news that Google is looking for a select group to test drive their Glasses, that we are one step closer to Judge’s satirical hellish vision that began on that day sometime in the 1980s when the first moron started shouting “Can You Hear Me NOW?!?” on a city sidewalk and I walked past pitying the poor schizophrenic having an argument with himself.
Wearable technology make it difficult to tell the mentally ill from the sane and never make a good fashion statement (see cell phone belt holsters). “Yuppy-with-cellphone” is Hollywood’s shorthand for “asshole” but was replaced by “Jerk with Bluetooth Headset.” To be really ironic one only need put a first generation bag phone or one of those ginormous walkie-talkie phones on a character, and let the laughter begin. I can’t navigate a mall parking lot without nearly being clipped by some Mouth Breather with a phone in one hand and the controls of a two-ton SUV in the other. Public displays of communication devices is a serious sign of poor etiquette, bad manners, callous indifference and materialistic bad taste that says “Look At Me, I have the Latest Jesus Phone 2.0 5G LTE”
This is not news but it’s about to get a lot worse.
So back to Google Glasses. They are a pretty simple concept, cooler perhaps than the old Dick Tracy wrist phone it turns out we didn’t need along with flying cars and jet packs. If you think it’s weird running into the back of some Millenial/Net Gen texter who suddenly stops right in the middle of the sidewalk in front of Radio City Music Hall at the peak of the evening rush hour, blocking the entrance to the 48th Street Subway, just so she can thumb out an “OMG”, then just wait until the sidewalks masses start talking to their Glasses. At least they won’t have to stop walking or risk being blown out of their Sketchers by a crosstown bus.
Start by accepting voice recognition doesn’t really work. It’s getting better, sure, and I’ll concede it is very nice to hit the microphone icon on my phone when it is acting as a GPS and tell it slowly and patiently like a toddler that I want to go to a specific address. The old method of trying to type the address while driving was far worse. But honestly, is Siri really that amazing? Do you actually use it or know someone who does? Did Dragon Naturally speaking suddenly lift millions from the tyranny of typing so now they can dictate and control their PCs with a microphone?
Second, Google Glasses needs a connection to the Internet in order to do what it does. “Well duh!” you may say, but consider how it’s going to get that signal by making a bluetooth connection to your phone, which is in your pocket, and then either a WiFi connection when you’re near a hot spot or a 3G/4G mobile data connection to America’s shameful and sclerotic wireless broadband network. So, to review, what Glasses does is combine: a) the weirdness of public displays of talking to one’s self, with ; b) the douche bag fashion statement that a bluetooth headset in one’s ear makes, with ;c) the moronic futility of talking to an inanimate object with d) slow, crappy networks.
I’ll concede it might be great while driving, sort of like some fighter jet’s HUD with all sorts of useful stuff sort of painted over the real world (“He’s up my Six Maverick!”) and I can see the Xtreme Sports Crowd give up their GoPro helmet cameras to narcissistically share a vertiginous attempt to injure their crotches just like the stars in Idiocracy’s top television game show, “Ow, My Balls” — but to walk into a dive bar and order a beer and then say out loud, over the din: “Take a Picture and Tweet It” is going to mark one as the paste-easter (played by Don Knotts) who ordered sarsaparilla before being called out and gunned down on the streets of Laredo by Blacky (played by Robert Mitchum) who is going to squirt a stream of tobacco spit all over the pencil neck’s corpse. That’s just the early adopters, and as Alexis Madrigal hysterically writes in The Atlantic, there have already been early adopter sightings in the dive bars of the Mission in San Francisco. Madrigal’s piece begins when a bar owner posts on Facebook:
“Last night around 9:45 two people walked into the bar. Looked me square in the eye, and acting as if everything was normal they ordered beers.. Oh did I mention they were wearing Google Glasses! In public! In A BAR!”
I used to wear glasses. I started in 7th Grade. I never liked wearing glasses. They rubbed holes in the bridge of my nose, got smudged and dirty, and were bad to play sports in. I was a geek. Then I got contact lenses and I was still a geek, just a little less obvious. I wore glasses until my mid-40s when a combination of very early cataracts and then a freaky detached retina basically made it impossible for me to wear glasses again (I could, however, wear a monocle). Now it looks pretty inevitable that at some point in the next five years I am going to get one of these things and stick it on my face, and open my mouth and say, “Google. Take a Picture.”
And I’ll be one step closer to the Idiocracy.