Google’s ‘Project Glass’ illustrates technology dependency

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Last Wednesday, Google showed the world one of its latest works-in-progress, Project Glass.

Computers that can be worn everywhere and give us constant access to the Internet sound truly wonderful, but I wonder about the implications for us, not as consumers, but as human beings. Having that kind of convenience and connectivity 24/7 could well backfire on us. Rather than making us resemble the good-looking hipsters in the promo shots, Project Glass could make us resemble the invalids in “Wall-E.”

Before I start, I should say that technology is wonderful, my laptop is my favorite toy and I think the Internet is one of our species’ greatest accomplishments. The information age has given us access to all kinds of marvels that our world is better for having. From email to search engines to databases and even to social networking, our lives are improved for having all of this access.

My worry about Project Glass (and the successors that will surely follow it) is that it signals an addiction to the access technology gives us. Ten years ago, we were learning to appreciate the connectivity of the Internet, but now, we might be craving it.

More and more, we are finding ways to reduce the amount of time we spend without the Internet in our lives. In addition to the ever-improving speed of home Internet services, the advent of smartphones and netbooks is helping us stay connected everywhere we go. A significant portion of the K-State population already has the ability to access the Internet 24 hours a day.

That kind of connectivity could be a modern marvel, but I think we’re becoming dependent on it. Visiting Facebook, for example, is easier than having a face-to-face conversation with someone, and we can do it at our own convenience any time we want. We have a fast, easy, accessible way to connect (in some sense) to our friends, and a product like Google’s new glasses could make it almost completely effortless. Already, a lot of people go to Facebook by default when they have nothing to do. Once Google’s glasses make it possible to visit the Internet every time we have nothing to do, we may completely forget how to be alone.

Being alone (not to be confused with being lonely) is an important skill to develop. For practical reasons if nothing else, we simply can’t be connected to others and receiving their stimulation and feedback all day long. Before we had ubiquitous Internet connections, we had to learn to be comfortable in our own skins.

Humankind’s favorite pastime has always been interacting with each other, but we found ways to keep ourselves occupied when other humans weren’t immediately available. Be it a hobby or a book or just something interesting to think about while we walk down the street, we’ve always found ways to stimulate our minds when we didn’t have friends around to help.

If Project Glass takes that alone time and fills it with more stimulation from our friends, what’s the use of learning how to be alone? When will we practice keeping ourselves occupied if the Internet can do it for us literally whenever we want?

Project Glass is a really, really cool idea, but we should see it as an opportunity to ask ourselves if we really need it. Are our lives going to be improved by more connection with the Internet? We may think we’re happier at first, but when we start panicking at the thought of not having Internet access for some period of time, we might notice that the beginning of the 21st century saw us grow so used to our technology that nothing else seemed entertaining any more.

Brian Hampel is a junior in architecture. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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