Being an early adopter has never been easy.
I never had any personal experience of this before. Before, I was on the precise part of the S-curve where you obtain the new technology six weeks after it becomes obsolete. I was one of the last people left on the Blackberry boat.
“Guys,” my ancestors said, “check out these amazingly versatile fins I just grew!” Their friends sighed. “Bernie, we’re all amphibious now. Fins are over.” “Fins aren’t ever going to be over!” my ancestors replied, growing heated. “Fins are classic! You can always use a fin!”
This is how I feel. On the tech scale of evolution, I am the person way on the left running to catch up.
But with Google Glass, I got to be an explorer, with a capital E. It was my first time on the heady, front part of the S curve, and I did my level best. I tried to be an Ambassador for the Glass as was suggested. I attempted to demonstrate, politely, to strangers on the sidewalk how well the Glass responded to my voice commands (not SUPER well, because of my tendency to deliver all my voice commands in a tone that vacillated between drunk nineteenth-century sea captain (“Ahoy, Glass”) and passive-aggressive default Menu Voiceover lady (“No, Glass, I’m sorry; you didn’t get that”)). I took video with it (asking permission) and generally used its capacity for Good rather than Evil.
Wearing Google Glass outside as you walk among strangers is, as I’ve noted, like being pregnant, in the sense that you stop being just a person and become an Interactive Exhibit for All To Examine And Marvel At. But it’s not just strangers. Even wearing it inside with people you know and trust is tantamount to saying, “Let’s make this gathering all about the weird thing on my face” — a problem Cyrano de Bergerac definitely had, but that I generally can avoid. It’s great if you like attention. I have friends who are known to pour ketchup all over their bodies if the table’s attention drifts from them even for a moment, and they should invest in pairs right now. But if you prefer your attention in generous but sporadic doses, I am not sure I would recommend it.
And that was before I learned that sometimes people flung them upon you in a large mob and tried to beat you about the mazzard. (This is not just my trumped-up fears, born of too many times watching “The Elephant Man,” but rather a thing that has actually happened to people.)
Also, as you walk down the street muttering to yourself and waving your head, you can start to sound like Joaquin Phoenix’s character in “Her.”
Actually, twee ukelele music and high-waisted pants aside, “Her” offered an interesting commentary on the Google Glass experience. Everyone in Her uses wearable technology — earbuds, though, not glasses. But they point the same way. Unlike the technology we’re used to, the cell phones constantly moving from hand to pocket and back again, transporting you out of whatever spot you’re in, technology like Glass is something you use to look through at the world around you. This is the opposite of what we generally want from our technology. Bored at dinner? Look in your pocket, and see what your friends are saying. Don’t want to interact with the people on the bus? That’s why God made Reddit mobile. The beach is boring. Let’s see what Twitter’s up to.
But with technology like Glass, you’re forced to examine what’s actually there, interact more with the physical environment where you’ve been placed. You don’t have anything else to look at. You have to look straight at everyone on the bus, even though you might be scrolling through sports scores with one eye.
By “Her,” everyone seems used to it. Of course you use your technology to see the world around you better. Hey, let’s go to the beach, Siri! (It doesn’t hurt that your OS sounds like Scarlett Johansson, either.) Check out these beautiful waves! It points you outward, rather than just downward. You can’t get away from where you are. You have to occupy it.
It’s a different experience. I’m not sure I’m evolved enough.
But maybe you are, and if so: hurry!