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Google Glass (google.com)
763 points by robin_reala on Feb 20, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 572 comments

The recorded videos' have a strange voyeuristic feel, probably due to the POV being so close to the wearer's eyes. That you can use the glasses do do a hangout in real time and broadcast seems novel though.

There's no shortage of sci-fi stories dealing with this sort of always-on recording. "Strange Days", "Black Mirror (#3)". I wonder about the legality of this product, if it becomes inconspicuous.

Some product ideas:

1) "Datecast" -- get real-time advice and tips while on a date (or at a job interview. Or a business meeting -- is this startup's idea really that original? Or while shopping for some more complex consumer product: your remote wine expert suggests you to buy this particular bottle based on your previous tastes).

2) "Lifecast" -- our team of professionals reviews a total stream of your life and gives you advice on everything. They remind you how your wife liked this necklace a few days ago (you forgot, but they paid attention for you). That business meeting where you discussed your database scaling issues? An hour later we give you a call with with tips how to solve it. That hallway conversation? Transcripted before the next day.

3) Vacationcast: too old or poor or busy to go on a vacation? Want to relive your youth? Be anyone you want, transmitted in real time, unedited (this assumes that there's some thrill that seeing things happen real time, unscripted has over a more edited vacation footage). If video and audio alone is not enough, the vacationcasting company could offer a comfortable room, with scents and texture from your vacation destination.

4) Crimecam: anonymously send bitcoins to a criminal, encouraging a rampage of crime, broadcasted to your group of backers in real time. Will he get away with it?

Although, justin.tv has been doing this sort of thing for a while, and I'm not sure what has come out of it.

Re: Datecasting

This was addressed in the short film called Sight:


It was really well done for a small budget.

Wow. I didn't know what to expect, but was a little blown away by this. Watching this I experienced both an attraction and revulsion to the use of integration of technology into vision. This deep integration of vision computer interface pushes the characters deep into the uncanny valley, to the point of no longer appearing to be human, but something other than human, something different.

I love it, thanks for sharing. I especially enjoyed the real life fruit ninja part, if technology can be used to make mundane tasks more exciting I'm all for it.

I liked the dig on the perversion of gamification here.

"Achievements" have become very popular in games -- you might have fully complete a game level, but there's a bonus if you use a specific weapon or not kill people or not do something odd while doing so. So sometimes people spend inordinate amount of time in games that they've already completed, doing something over and over again to gain a perfect "score".

Here he cuts the cucumber imperfectly, not getting the perfect score and so he discards it. The date is also heavily scored, and the augmented reality wall seems to have plenty of other perfect achievements. He longer cares as much about the end result, but just about the achievement badge (perhaps to be flaunted to others).

Wow, it's almost unnerving how plausible this video is.

Great video, I was totally immersed for the 7 minutes it ran for. Very engaging and love the visuals.

Wow. That's really awesome for a short short. Very well done, feels like a possible and plausible future scenario.

Crimecam made me laugh, hehe. The uses are potentially endless:

5) Procrastination monitor: Someone is actively monitoring you, making sure that you do what you're supposed to do. Actually, this would be even creepier if it were your corporate control-freak boss who ordained it.

6) Voyeurist's refuge: Pay someone with social skills far more developed than yours, have him go out and pick up a woman while you sit back in our couch and watch the spectacle unfold. Not sure how many would consent to a partner wearing glasses while having sex, though.

Actually, the more I think about this the creepier the potential scenarios seem to be. And let's not get started on how unfortunate it would be if your pair got struck with a case of malware. But the techie inside me still thinks it's way cool.

Given the high amount of live sex available over cam right now, I think the voyeur idea is almost certainly going to happen.

It seems as more and more communication happens through channels available to all, and communication is no longer restricted to a few powerful channels (the media, the state, the church), we are starting to become more and more aware of the huge chasm that has always existed between what has been projected by society as "the norm" and people's actual willingness to act with a large deviation from the norm.

The malware in your personal brain extender scenario is pretty juicy. Hope some people write some crazy sci fi stories with that idea.

6) See movie Gamer.

As awful as a lot of that movie was, it actually went to some interesting places with that technology.

>>6) Voyeurist's refuge: Pay someone with social skills far more developed than yours, have him go out and pick up a woman while you sit back in our couch and watch the spectacle unfold. Not sure how many would consent to a partner wearing glasses while having sex, though.


I'm guessing a lot of guys would be delighted about hiring a female pornstar to try and seduce a woman they have a thing for.

Re 5: Have you ever used oDesk's Team Room?

Or fixcast? Have a mechanic walk you through fixing your car, a plumber walk you through fixing your sink.


- Code tutorials

- Remote business consultants advising you on handling various business problems

- College students (or anyone with specific domain knowledge really) could dial into a web based market for advice/mentoring, and charge by the minute. A really cool way to leverage your domain knowledge and get paid in your free time. It could be reputation based, tracked on how useful your advice was for people in the past.

The whole remote help/advice area could be HUUUGE.

Look at what businesses currently spend on consultants now.

Imagine anyone can get a consultant/advisor/mentor/subject matter expert, for any topic (DIY, personal life- e.g. dealing with depression, health issues- remote doctor in India, virtual assistant in your ear, fitness trainer, business coach), at at a fraction of the cost of what these guys charge today.

You could get mentored for any topic under the sun - would you like an expert violin prodigy teach your child to play the violin from Eastern Europe really cheap? What about a Russian chess master teaching you the game? Or a hangout with a poker celebrity telling you how to improve your mastery of poker? Dancing? Painting? Legal advice? Speaking with a native French speaker to learn the language? Chatting with Peter Norvig about AI?

The possibilities are endless. Getting expert advice used to be constrained by location, but if Google Glass becomes widespread, not anymore.

> - College students (or anyone with specific domain knowledge really) could dial into a web based market for advice/mentoring, and charge by the minute.

I think there is a Stack Overflow for hardware hacking in there: " I burned trough 4 capacitors already, what am I doing wrong? ... "

Also, say the mechanic is watching what you see on his computer, he could point to parts of his screen with the mouse and it would highlight it in your screen so he can actually point to certain places, etc.


Perhaps emergency surgery actually? Or it not at least CPR help, or a tracheomtoy?

This could save millions of dollars on construction sites. It would give architects and engineers the next best thing to being able to teleport around a construction site. With the right software and organization, any foreman at a building site could get nearly instantaneous clarification.

Then again, maybe it would make people mentally lazy and unable to plan, like smartphones did with meeting up in town.

From what I've seen of the AEC industry, I doubt we'll actually see any real changes in the next decade or two. :(

However, I do see this being super useful for navigating racks and racks of servers to kick one over if it needs thunking.

I think one of the better uses of this camera will be in law enforcement. Not only can the glass record everything that happens, cops can use it as a tool to aid in real-time communication, a win for civil liberties groups as well as cops. Ensuring that the video evidence can't be tampered with or deleted is critical.

Actually, last night, I spotted some BART cops with glasses that had a little camera on the side. Pretty sure that they didn't have screens but it brought a smile to my face. Definitely a step in the right direction.

Why do I get the feeling that the POV porno genre will see a surge in numbers? :)

5) Cheatcam: AI tells you what chess move, poker play, etc to make, in real time.

Pretty sure casinos will ban these about... 5 seconds after they become generally available.

Perhaps they are already preemptively banned.

They are, at least in Atlantic City and Vegas. I believe the wording of the regulation is something like "electronic devices," so they can ban even a digital watch (or Pebble, heh) that they don't like.

I wonder what they'll do about implants.

Only permitted for showgirls.

We could play AI augmented chess?

I could see a version of this product being a hit with journalists:

* Get instant fact-checks during an interview.

* Record interviews and investigative video safely to the cloud so no one can steal your footage.

* Capture always-on footage that doesn't require camera set up time so you never miss a shot.

* Recall notes and questions to ask without breaking eye contact.

* Instantly pull up details on a politician and voting record by saying names and bill numbers or by having a junior reporter dig up background details remotely.

* Look for related news headlines in real-time so you do not miss important background and you do cover ignored aspects of the story.

As an alternative to 4): 4.A) Law-cast - every law enforcement officer should be required to wear this. A real-time transcript of all events should be captured.

This would have a profound impact on society.

>"Lifecast" -- our team of professionals reviews a total stream of your life and gives you advice on everything.

This is a brilliant idea. However, I bet many people who would otherwise find it attractive would end up not using it because of the implications for personal privacy. Whoever is able to solve the privacy issues (real-time anonymization for footage? AI prescreening with a human expert team only seeing select things?) stands a good chance of getting rich.

There's a hacker character on Ghost in the Shell known as The Laughing Man.[1] One of his skills is being able to hack cybernetic eyes in real-time to superimpose an avatar on his face, to conceal his identity.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laughing_Man_(Ghost_in_the_Shel...

I think the people concerned about 'always on' recording are missing the fact that one could just put a piece of masking tape over the camera.

The concern isn't that you are generating too much video -- you can always turn it off.

The concern is that everyone else all around you is generating too much information about everything they see. Think "The Dark Knight," the scene where Batman uses a whole bunch of passive cellphones to map out the city and the people in it. The NSA is already spending enormous amounts of money building giant data warehouses, and there have been some startlingly accurate demos of live facial recognition software. It's really not that farfetched, technologically.

What about sound? Location tracking?

It would be safe to assume that a lot more than just visual information is captured and recorded I think.

Perhaps Glass will be the killer app for CyanogenMod [1], then.

[1] http://www.cyanogenmod.org/

>> 1) "Datecast" -- get real-time advice and tips while on a date

This instantly makes me think of Short Circuit 2!

> There's no shortage of sci-fi stories dealing with this sort of always-on recording. "Strange Days", "Black Mirror (#3)".

Also "A Deepness in the Sky", by Vinge. Early on one of the characters says to another something like "hey, check out the last 300 seconds of my POV".

Lifecast? I thought it would be managed automatically by a program.

I am seriously concerned about this.

I was in a long-distance relationship this summer. We would take turns visiting each other in our respective cities roughly 5 hours apart. It was a pretty long journey for a weekend - it would sometimes take 10 hours one way since you had to go through New York. Of course, it was worth it.

But whenever we would go on a walk, or I'd take her out to dinner, I got as much face time with the back of that fucking iPhone as with her. We'd be strolling down the street during a beautiful summer sunset, and she'd be holding my hand with one of hers, and with the other she'd be scrolling through Instagram. Craning her neck to stare at that stupid dim little screen instead of just looking around at the beautiful neighborhood I lived in. Same thing while I tried talking to her during dinner. She literally preferred it to looking at what was around her.

Gawking at fake vintage photos. Or reading her horoscope. Or online shopping. Or whatever.

I asked her to stop, I said it was rude. She couldn't. I started to resent the iPhone, for stealing my limited time with her. I know, I know. It was a flaw in her, and not everybody does that, right?

Certainly not everybody. But I go to coffee shops now, I go to events, and people are just in cell phone huddles. A group of people will go out, and unanimously decide to prick and pinch and swipe their glass worship stones instead of having a fucking conversation or looking around them. This is everywhere. Every year it's more of a common sight. It's actually surprising now to see someone at the local cafe reading a book, or playing chess.

I might notice this more than most because I made a life decision to not use a "smart phone" and have kept using the same shitty Blackberry for 6 years now. It can only do calls, texts, and Sudoku. I couldn't do this kind of thing if I wanted.

I'm 20 now. I remember junior high, when the best cell phone was a Motorola RAZR. People never did this shit back then, because they couldn't. People spent time with each other. The cell phones would come out to facilitate people getting together, and then they'd go back in your pocket. That was it. They were actually phones. It was all they could do.

Phones today just aren't phones anymore. I don't know what to call them. They're more integrated with our lives. More intrusive. More attractive. They're addictive.[1] And they're used mostly for useless things.

Well, Google is taking the last remaining effort out of letting technology intervene with your actual life. And they know what to call it. Glass. Now you can wear it. It's a default. You don't have to pull it out. It's just always there. If this becomes normal, I will probably have to run away to the Third World or something.

I am crossing my fingers that we just stop at smart phones, and this never takes off. But I'm scared, because in the back of my head I am pretty certain it will. Eventually there will be no strangers, and there will be no friends. Everyone's name will be public, and nobody will get to know each other. Despite your dinky little social networks and social apps, you are forgetting what it is to actually know someone.

I really hope I don't ever have to go on a date with some girl who's getting conversation tips from Google's magic headgear. Fuck that.

[1] http://paulgraham.com/addiction.html

I hear what you're saying, and I appreciate that you put the time in to write that out, but honestly I'm hearing this kind of argument from so many quarters ("we never look up!" "we all talk, but we never converse!" etc etc) recently that it's starting to get obnoxious.

Conversation is not dead. People have been moaning about how we're all becoming socially isolated since the publication of the first novel. The art of socialising has been declared dying ever since the first VHS was available to buy and watch at home.

Point is, it's bullshit. People still hang out (in person, not in "hangouts"). Yeah, people have mobile phones, and sometimes when hanging out as part of a group we check them, but it's not like it kills all conversation dead. A group of three people all looking at their phones is the exception, not the rule - it's not like that's what we plan to do when we arrange to spend time together.

As for your lady friend, like you said, that's her habit to break. But you can't assume everyone who hasn't taken a vow not to use a smartphone is the same - I have a smartphone, so do all my friends, and yet we're all somehow able to communicate to one another in person. When I go out and about in town I don't see crowds of people standing around looking at their phones. I see groups of people socialising and talking - if someone is by themselves then their phone can provide some distraction/semblance of "company".

There's also a tendency for us techy types to get caught in our own little bubble - I get my news from HN Reddit and Twitter, so my view on how people use these services is clouded. It's like when a journalist starts using Twitter and writes about how "everybody is obsessed with tweeting, you can only send short messages, therefore the art of meaningful conversation is dead". They don't realise that the "everybody" they're talking about is only those people in their immediate social circle.

I've kind of gone off subject, but my main point is this: Black Mirror isn't a documentary. It's so easy to project your own worst nightmares onto new technology. It doesn't necessarily make them a reality.

If you're hearing the same point made from a lot of quarters, then maybe there's an actual phenomenon behind it.

But more than that, Glass is fundamentally different.

It's designed, from the concept up, to always be in your awareness. That's what it is. That's the entire appeal of it.

That's not a book, and it's not even a smartphone that spends most of its time in your pocket.

It's something that always demands some fraction of your attention.

It's different.

Two things.

First, when something is always available and you are always aware of it and taking data from it, it becomes part of you in the same way that your eyes or your clothing are part of you. It's part of you when you're talking to people in the same way that your computer is part of you when you're having an email conversation. It's entirely possible that you with google glass is generally less socially adept or more distracted than you without google glass, but I don't think the effect will be as extreme as you fear.

Second, and more important, is that Glass doesn't force you to break eye contact or change your body language. Having worked for years with people that wear head-mounted displays religiously (look up a guy named Thad Starner), I can tell you that those two features actually make a huge difference. Instead of imagining a person using a cell phone in the middle of a conversation, imagine a family talking around the latest episode of Star Trek or across the dinner table - you aren't really looking at other people, but the conversation feels perfectly natural anyway.

If that is true and it catches on, then it is terrifying.

Dude I don't care what you think, but Google is the greatest technology organization ever existed. The "How It Feels" video literally made me in tears because the vision is so great, so compelling. The way we interact will change fundamentally, but that isn't a bad thing. People are always terrified by progress because progress means difference, and people feel comfort in falling back to the same thing. But, again, I don't care. The future is already here; it's just not evenly distributed. We will all be living in an age of augmented reality.

> but Google is the greatest technology organization ever existed.

Bullshit. NASA sent humans to the moon. Bell Labs gave us the transistor. U.S. Steel basically built our modern civilization. Google found somewhat better ways of searching documents in return for selling advertising, plus rip-offs of Hotmail, MS Office, iOS, Facebook, etc.

Google touches normal folks in far more profound ways than NASA's moon shot (How did that turn out? Are we still going to the moon? Oh). Sure, NASA is a force majeure and certainly nothing to be sniffed at, but the efficiency and power of google search on it's own revolutionised the web and was a major spur to its uptake. Google maps was equally revolutionary - available to anyone who could access the internet, and for free, something not done before - Google keeps on doing services like this.

I mean, if you're talking about google being a mere ripoff of other products that 'came first', why not apply the same ruler to NASA (there were previous rocket programs) and steel companies? Bell Labs certainly contributed heaps to everyday culture, but if they were #1, that wouldn't really knock Google very far down the list.

And classifying a steelmaking company as a tech company is a bit far-fetched.

> Google touches normal folks in far more profound ways than NASA's moon shot (How did that turn out? Are we still going to the moon? Oh)

Our GPS satellites wouldn't be in space without the rocket technology developed by NASA.

> and power of google search on it's own revolutionised the web and was a major spur to its uptake.

Google started separating itself from the Yahoo!, Lycos, Excite, etc, pack around very late 1998 into 1999: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Google#Early_history. That's roughly contemporaneous with "pets.com" which was an exemplar of the .com bubble that most people peg as starting in 1997. In comparison, Amazon was founded in 1994 and IPO'ed in 1997. Hotmail was purchased by MS for $400 million that same year. PG sold Viaweb to Yahoo! in 1998.

The uptake of the web was not only well on its way by the time Google got onto the scene, but the .com bubble was already well on its way by then.

> I mean, if you're talking about google being a mere ripoff of other products that 'came first', why not apply the same ruler to NASA (there were previous rocket programs)

There is a big leap from pre-NASA rocketry (in the U.S.) and post-NASA rocketry. There isn't a big leap (if at all) from iOS to Android. Arguably, MS Office to Google Docs is a regression. A lot of Google's tech is not only derivative, but doesn't even really advance the state of the art. V8 is like Lars Bak's third or fourth implementation of the same basic concept. Gmail didn't really do anything Hotmail didn't do, and the Hotmail acquisition by MS was a decade before Gmail went out of invite-only.

> And classifying a steelmaking company as a tech company is a bit far-fetched.

Steel-making on that scale was cutting edge technology for its time.

The uptake of the web was on its way, but google was an incredible catalyst for it. I remember search at the time and it was woeful - google made it an invisible task that let you get at content much more readily.

GPS is great, sure. Don't interpret me as saying that NASA is a minnow. But to be facetious, good luck using GPS without a map :)

but doesn't even really advance the state of the art

I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. You deride gmail for being a ripoff of ye olde Hotmail, but it's a lot more than just 'a free webmail account you can sign up for'.

Steel-making on that scale was cutting edge technology for its time.

There's cutting-edge technology in making shoes, too, but that doesn't make a shoemaking company a 'tech company'.

> The uptake of the web was on its way, but Google was an incredible catalyst for it.

By the end of 1999, Google was averaging 7 million searches per day: http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2007/12/google-in-2000.html. This was an increase of from only 10,000 searches per day at the end of 1998. Alta Vista was at 80 million searches per day by the end of 1997. Google had less than 1% of the search market at the end of 1999: http://www.seo-expert-services.co.uk/blog/posts/search-engin...

Google probably didn't surpass Altavista until well into 2000, which would have been after the bubble popped in March 2000. How could Google be the catalyst for internet uptake when the dot-com bubble peaked before it became popular?

As of 2000, when Google had basically no market share, there were already almost 100 million internet users in the U.S., or about a third of the population. It's grown to 80% of the population now, but that's much more attributable to much cheaper computers, cheaper and faster internet access, and the popularization of smart phones making internet access accessible to lower-income people and children.

> You deride gmail for being a ripoff of ye olde Hotmail, but it's a lot more than just 'a free webmail account you can sign up for'.

What is it other than a free e-mail account you can sign up for?

> There's cutting-edge technology in making shoes, too, but that doesn't make a shoemaking company a 'tech company'.

The steel industry was the "tech" industry of its time. It absorbed all the highly talented engineers, made the billionaires, and developed the technology that defined the time.

Again, you're only giving credit to google for the first year of their product. NASA was nowhere near the moon in 1959. Where's the level playing field here?

Similarly 'access to the internet' isn't the same as use of it. Those 100 million weren't using the internet with any degree of the pervasiveness we see today.

It absorbed all the highly talented engineers

All of them? Wow.

developed the technology that defined the time

Sure, if you co-opt anyone who used steel at all into "the steel industry" and hence make them defacto members of US Steel for your argument.

made the billionaires

I guess I really am fighting a losing battle in calling Coke something other than a tech company...

> Again, you're only giving credit to google for the first year of their product. NASA was nowhere near the moon in 1959.

Right. But the .com bubble was ending the first year of Google's product in 2000, while commercialization of space technology through things like Space X (which are leveraging NASA's developments) is happening 50 years after 1959. If you're going to give Google credit for internet uptake, you have to look at how relevant Google was at the time that internet uptake was happening. Something that wasn't relevant until into 2000's couldn't have been a "catalyst" for a phenomenon that roaring by the late 1990's.

> Those 100 million weren't using the internet with any degree of the pervasiveness we see today.

Because of Google? Or because of smart phones connected to internet 24x7, because of increased bandwidth making Hulu and the like possible, because of Amazon, because of Facebook, etc? I don't see why Google gets credit for all these things.

Do a thought experiment. Say we don't have Google, or its clones like Bing, etc. And say we don't have a replacement. Say we just have Altavista-level search technology. How much of your daily internet usage is still possible? Probably most of it. Most internet usage is on sights that everyone knows that are wildly popular: Facebook, Twitter, etc. Now, do the same thought experiment for the iPhone, again assuming nobody "would have invented it anyway." Say we just still have Palm Treos. What's the impact on Facebook, Twitter, etc?

> Sure, if you co-opt anyone who used steel at all into "the steel industry" and hence make them defacto members of US Steel for your argument.

You're co-opting everything that has happened on the internet since 2000 and attributing it to Google for your argument. And U.S. Steel is arguably a much better example--they invented a lot of the core steel production technology that made all the other uses possible/practicable. Google's search technology didn't make Facebook or Twitter possible.

I was with you right up until you wrote this:

"Do a thought experiment. Say we don't have Google, or its clones like Bing, etc. And say we don't have a replacement"

You must be a very different knowledge work than I am. Every 3-5 minutes I'm typically typing something into the my URL bar to get the appropriate page on the internet to solve my questions. Google has become an extension of my mind - I guarantee you that AltaVist/AskJeeves/Excite/Yahoo never provided me that kind of ability.

Aside from that nit, I'm totally enjoying your general theme about putting Google's contributions in context though.

> You must be a very different knowledge work than I am. Every 3-5 minutes I'm typically typing something into the my URL bar to get the appropriate page on the internet to solve my questions.

I do that with Westlaw. Apparently it's been around in digital form since the 1970's, though it was a dial-up service back then.

> Now, do the same thought experiment for the iPhone, again assuming nobody "would have invented it anyway."

That's a really big assumption, but even assuming no-one else invented it we'd still have portable, pocket-sized computing devices with full web browsers and a whole bunch of apps, and they'd still be a lot more capable than Palm Treos: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_N800. Nokia wouldn't be alone either - Android was well into development when the iPhone launched.

It's possible that they'd still use a stylus and a keyboard even now, but that's doubtful too - we'd just started to see the introduction of capacitive touch screens to mobile phones when Apple announced the iPhone (it was the second mobile with capacitive touch by a couple of months).

But OK, assuming that those don't take off either, what then for Facebook and Twitter? Well, I can tell you that here in the UK at least there were a whole bunch of mobile providers who spent a fortune on 3G bandwidth and were desperate to make money. They'd be quite happy to come to a deal with companies like Facebook and Twitter to include support for them on their featurephones if it sold upgrades and data bundles.

"And say we don't have a replacement. Say we just have Altavista-level search technology. How much of your daily internet usage is still possible?"

Possible? Sure. But I have pretty clear memories of searching through _many_ pages of results in Altavista. I have very few memories of searching for things in Google, which arguably is the point.

It's interesting that the argument being made against Google here is much the same argument that fans of Google often make against Apple :) I think there's plenty of merit to saying that Google is a pretty amazing technology company purely because we don't have to think about what we use their products for, which in turn lets us use them more (whether that be navigation, search, etc).

Do a thought experiment.

Sure, do one of your own. Have the developers of all your things use only the resource searching of the mid-90s. Watch all those technologies slow down considerably. This is part of what I mean when I say catalyst. Got a weird problem? I hope you happen to be in just the right group or forum that happens to have a willing expert.

Personally, I like how you completely disallow me any influence of Google on any other company, but you are more than willing to subsume any steel-using work into the provenance of US Steel. Apparently other steel companies - even other countries, don't exist. Your bias is beyond belief. I called Google a catalyst, not directly reposible for 'everything', unlike your mention of the steel industry.

> This is part of what I mean when I say catalyst. Got a weird problem? I hope you happen to be in just the right group or forum that happens to have a willing expert.

A catalyst, in common parlance, is something that gets a reaction going under circumstances which it would not otherwise proceed. Google cannot be a catalyst if the "reaction" was already roaring by the time it had any influence.

Does Google make life easier? Sure. But I'm not sure how that earns it the title of "greatest tech company in history."

> but you are more than willing to subsume any steel-using work into the provenance of US Steel. Apparently other steel companies - even other countries, don't exist.

I think you underestimate the total domination U.S. Steel and how instrumental its production was to building the U.S. as we know it today. Controlling 2/3 of all steel production is somewhat more significant than controlling 2/3 of search engine traffic.

That's the heart of the distinction I'm trying to make. Google is something that makes life online easier, but U.S. Steel was something that made industrial America possible.

Industrial America was brought into existence in 1901? I mean, you've been telling me that Google doesn't really count because they had predecessors, and here you are saying that Industrial America essentially sprang into existence in 1901 at the behest of US Steel. Again and again you refuse to play on a level field.

Also, in common parlance, a catalyst is also something that speeds things along. A catalyst for change' doesn't mean that change would never have happened, just that it was significantly facilitated.

Google touches more normal folks in far more profound ways than NASA's moon shot. So does Coca-Cola. I'm not sure this as compelling an argument as you think it is.

So... you're saying the Coca-Cola isn't the greatest drinks company out there?

I think there's a fundamental part of what I'm saying that you're missing.

Landing on the moon was only quite possibly the pinnacle moment in human technological and scientific achievement, and one of the watershed moments of civilization. Google took something that already existed and made it less of a hassle. Its an achievement not even in the same league.

'watershed moment of civilisation'? Really? What profound social changes happened because of the moon shot. Yes, technological achievement, I'm not disputing that. Did it end the cold war? Did it even make a dint on the Vietnam war? In terms of changes to civilisation, the moon shot pales in comparison to the civil rights movements of the same era, along with the end of colonialism.

Besides, I like how you classify google's achievements based only on it's first year product. What did NASA achieve in 1958 that was so profound?

The civil rights movement was important, but there were places in the world at the time where black people could walk into the same restaurant as whites. The end of colonialism was important, if you were Indian. The Vietnam war was important, but then again, World War 2 was important, and so was World War 1, and so was Hannibal crossing the Alps.

With the moon landing, for the first time human beings were able to view our world objectively, in the third person, by having stood on another one. Seeing the moon landings on television changed people's lives. Seeing photos of the earthrise changed people's lives. It was a global event, it was universal. Yes, it was wrapped up in Cold War politics and no it didn't end any wars but ... we stood on another world for the first time.

If that's not a watershed moment in civilization then what was?

You're speaking a lot of romance. "we stood on another world for the first time"... and shortly after, we packed up and went home, never to return. Sure, it was a milestone in human history, but it's not like it really changed the way our societies work. Please give some examples of some fundamental changes if you disagree - "Seeing the moon landings on television changed people's lives": How? What was new in the way we conduct our civilisation?

Edit: I also find it weird that you're characterising the social effects and fallout of WW2 as being less powerful in terms of civilisation change than a photo from the moon. Really, this is just geek romance talking.

>You're speaking a lot of romance.

Epic events tend to lend themselves to romantic speech. I would stand on a soapbox but then my keyboard would be awkward to reach, and they don't make soapboxes anymore, except out of cardboard.

>and shortly after, we packed up and went home, never to return. True. That doesn't at all negate the impact of the initial event though. Just means one we got to the moon we discovered it was dirt, dirt and more dirt.

>Sure, it was a milestone in human history, but it's not like it really changed the way our societies work.

I'm not arguing that it necessarily changed the way our societies work, just the terms by which humanity could view its own potential. Before, we weren't a species capable of landing someone on the moon. Afterwards, we were.

I'd have no problem putting the advent of the World Wide Web up in the same category as the moon landing, or even ahead of it using your terms, but that still doesn't put Google in the same class as either, in terms of technology or revolutionary achievement. Yet. Glass may, indeed end up pushing the envelope of human interaction somewhere incredible and transformational. Or maybe it's just a gimmicky new UI. I don't know. But I guarantee fifty years from now nobody's going to be telling their grandchildren where they were when Google came out with anything unless at some point Google becomes responsible for strong AI or maybe a working teleporter.

>Seeing the moon landings on television changed people's lives": How?

They saw people landing on the moon on television. Live(ish).

>Edit: I also find it weird that you're characterising the social effects and fallout of WW2 as being less powerful in terms of civilisation change than a photo from the moon. Really, this is just geek romance talking.

I'm not. I'm suggesting that there weren't other, prior examples of being able to see the Earth from standing on another planet. It was a unique event, and its impact (however you choose to measure it) was likewise unique. Wars are not unique events, and my other point was their impact is bound by politics and geography, whereas the moon landing and the picture of earthrise wasn't.

And yes perhaps it is a bit of geek romance talking. It's also a bit of geek romance to suggest that Google is more important in social and technological terms than the moon landing. My geek romanticism just happens to look a bit further back.

My dad remembers watching the moon landing in Bangladesh, and someone commenting on how it couldn't be possible because "you can't punch a hole in the sky." I don't think he could tell you when he switched from Altavista to Google.

A friend's grandmother told the story of doing laundry in Malta as a young girl, and dreaming with her friends, wishing that there was some sort of 'magic box' you could throw the clothes in, press a button, and have them come out clean.

When the washing machine came out where she was - even though it's an utterly boring item to all of us - it massively changed how she lived her life.

So, when asked "how it's changed people's lives", the best you can come up with is "they watched it on TV"? That's one of the most banal examples possible of 'changing lives'.

But I guarantee fifty years from now nobody's going to be telling their grandchildren where they were when Google came out with anything

Which is part of the romantic thing, not the merit thing. I can tell you where I was when Lady Di died, but that doesn't mean she was of any particular note in my life :)

I'm not arguing that it necessarily changed the way our societies work

This is exactly what "watershed moments of civilization" means. If you didn't actually mean that, then we've got little to debate, really.

No, you're right.

Seeing humans walk on the moon changed people's lives in the same way seeing 9/11 on tv changed people's lives, or seeing JFK get shot on tv changed people's lives. In that it was a monumental, historic and transfixing event.

Not at all like the first time you opened maps and saw street view.

I concede the point.

I asked how it changed lives, and you said "they saw it on TV". Nothing indicating what people now did once that event had passed.

As opposed to mapping, which doesn't wow you as much when you see it - it's not entertainment - but has made significant changes to the way people conduct their lives. People do things that they didn't do before because of maps. The moon shot, while an event in itself, yes, didn't in itself change the way people relate and interact.

Also, I was far more wowed when I first saw street view than when I first saw JFK's assassination. Prominent politicians have been assasssinated at least as far back as Julius Caesar, but showing me a picture of just about any street location in the developed world? That's something new, interesting, ambitious, and yes, even life-changing. I've seen people use it regularly to find out what their destination looks like before they set out, to make it easier to find where they are. JFK was just another head of state getting shot. Big event, sure, but hardly something new or original like you seem to be demanding here.

You're giving Google credit for internet uptake when the snowball was already rolling down the hill by the time Google became a substantial force in the industry. You and I and most of the adults we knew already used the internet. In the U.S., it has been the younger people, poorer people, older people, and rural people who have driven increased uptake, and I don't think you can attribute that to Google instead of more widespread wireless internet service, cheaper computing devices, etc.

Indeed, the massive social changes from further internet uptake since 2000 seem much more attributable to everyone having 24x7 internet access as a result of smart phones, and I'd give Apple and Verizon/AT&T credit for that. It was Apple that kicked off the trend of putting an internet-capable smart phone in everyone's pocket and Verizon and the telcos that put in place the infrastructure to service them.

Going the moon was big! Going to the mars will be big!

Google historically speaking will be similar to invention of the telephone directory.

>>What profound social changes happened because of the moon shot.

Beginning the process to eliminate the biggest single point of failure humans have today, The Earth!

Moon landings were the first steps to mankind expanding into space. If you don't think that's important, wait till the time a comet hits you.

I agree but where Google felt different from others, is that all their rip-offs were simpler, faster and free-er than the competition. What other company gives free candies like that ?

Glass, and most importantly cars are even a stronger step in that direction. Actually, if Google cars ever make it to the public, I think it would qualify them for being up there with NASA, Bell and many others, don't you think ?

>>Google found somewhat better ways of searching documents

And yes, that storing and searching the world's information on your finger tips is the biggest problem with regards to information distribution the world has faced so far.

Google didn't invent search engines. It didn't databases. It didn't invent web crawling. It invented a better search engine (Page Rank) that didn't clog up the page with portal crap. Meanwhile, Bell Labs invented the transistor, C, etc. Xerox PARC invented the GUI, Ethernet, and e-mail. Etc.

I think that makes calling Google the "greatest technology organization ever existed" laughable, not to mention historically revisionist.

The "How It Feels" video put you in tears because it's a cinematic compilation of a fantasy lifestyle set to stirring music. The vision you found so compelling is the vision of a life filled with aerial acrobatics, skydiving, exotic travel and the surface indicators of deep personal relationships.

It's a product pitch, not a manifesto. It is to a true vision of a better tomorrow what a thirty-second "I Approve This Message" ad is to the Declaration of the Rights of Man. It has been calibrated and hand-crafted by highly skilled advertising professionals to evoke an emotional response that you will imprint onto the product itself.

You are already living in the age of augmented reality. It just hasn't been augmented in quite the way you're hoping for.

When I first read Isaac Asimov's "The Naked Sun" as a kid in the early '90s I was thinking "hey, this is really only science fiction, we will never be like that". With the passing of years it seems that we get closer and closer to what I was actually thinking was only fiction. This is the story: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Naked_Sun#Plot_introductio...

> The planet has a rigidly controlled population of twenty thousand, and robots outnumber humans ten thousand to one. People are strictly taught from birth to despise personal contact. They live on huge estates, either alone or with their spouse only. Communication is done via holographic telepresence (called viewing, as opposed to in-person seeing). It is likely that the society is based on that in E. M. Forster's 1909 short story "The Machine Stops".

Of course, the irony is that I had forgotten the exact name of the story and I had to use Google and a very fuzzy search to find it. And Google actually found it.

To each his own, I suppose. While you were crying I was repulsed by the intrusion of little bits of low value information and the threat of constant mental overhead in dealing with that little floating box. But more so, I'm repulsed by the thought of having to fight my way past other people's little boxes in order to communicate with them. Progress indeed.

Google? Granted, they've done some really cool stuff after they copied other search engines and hit upon paid search as a profit model.

And not Bell Labs? The organization that built everything from scratch that Google uses to push bits around every day?

I vaguely remember "the internet" before google and it seriously sucked. Partially, because searching was wading through yahoo-like sites and annoying pop-ups. And before that all was in black&white.

Searching was, and is, imho one of the main usage scenarios. Google toned that sonewhat loud and cluttered act down and improved it, a lot.

I am thankfull for that. http://h30565.www3.hp.com/t5/Feature-Articles/Searching-the-...

I was on the internet half a decade before Google became popular and I'm not even that old. It's wasn't nearly as primitive as you make it out to be. Lycos, Altavista, Yahoo!, etc, weren't as good as Google would ultimately be, but they weren't so bad as to be a different kind of thing. I got DSL around the same time (256 kbits SDSL!) Hotmail and Amazon had been around for years.

in my memories they were more registers/index than free text search engines. and besides that, some engines seemed in comparison to the clear interface cluttered, since they also were portals.

Voting one down for describing another experience bothers me. The internet in a non-US country might have even been more different than nowaddays.

It wasn't that bad. Sounds like you never used Altavista, which was far and away the best of the pre-google search engines.

I went to the San Francisco Glass Foundry--- it was awesome. I felt loss after I had to hand the device back-- as if I was missing one of my senses. :)

Unfortunately as you undoubtably well know, I cannot talk any details due to NDA.

There's not much augmented reality in glass; only the turn-by-turn directions sort of qualify. I think the key thing about glass is that it's hands-free. As handy as smartphones are, it's remarkable how much of a difference not having to take the thing out of your pocket and push a button makes.

(The reason there's not much AR is that AR is very power hungry (you have to leave the camera on).)

what nonsense, sure google's useful, but no more so than bing or any other company that wants to build the same. How about the cellular carriers, or the infrastructure companies that make internet in your house possible. Google was an inevitable company, someone would have made the web searchable...

Google Glass isn't progress, it might lead to some progress, but right now its a delivery platform for commerce and a camera.


What specifically in the video are you responding to?

The vision. Don't you see it? If we can pull this off, technology thereafter will be embedded into our consciousness. The reality, as we see it, will be transformed. We as human beings will literally become "supermen", in the sense that we will be able to "see" so much more than we could ever imagine. To an extent, this is a human evolution.

Yeah we'll all get super good at stalking each other on facebook.

I understand what you're articulating as the vision, but I'm not seeing it in the promo video. I mostly see people recording a lot of activities.

What specifically in the video excites you?

Off the top of my head, instant sharing of anything without futzing around with a discrete device. How many moments are missed because a camera wasn't ready or the app took to long to load?

"Ok glass, record a video"


If it works in real life at the same speed as in the video, I don't think this effect can be overstated. It allows you to share while still being a participant in the experience (as opposed to the guy just holding a camera).

Instant knowledge extension is the other one. Google's getting quite good at the whole "answering your questions on page one" thing already, but now you don't have to fish around in your pockets for it. Settle arguments with your friends instantly ;)

It's just there. Always in the corner of your vision. There when you want it, easily ignorable when you don't. It's part of your senses, you don't have to think about it, and I can see it becoming as intuitive to ask glass to search for something you want to know on the spot as it is to reach for Google when we want to find something on the internet.

I don't think people understand how big a deal this ease of access is. You've just tied two of your senses into the largest collection of human knowledge ever collected. On a more direct level than has ever been accomplished in the past.

Think about it. How many more questions would you ask if you could just ask on the spot and have an answer right there? How much more would you share if it was truly effortless?

Maybe I'm just drinking the kool-aid here, but I really, really think this will be big.

You're at the urinal and some guy yells out "Ok glass, share video".

There will be problems.

Voice recognition and / or some way of detecting the proximity of the command should solve that.

Yes, this will be very, very big.

Technically Google is an advertising organisation which uses technology as a means.

When it's been said forever, it's not really a new threat.

Small talk was always pointless.

>Small talk was always pointless.

I used to have this view. I like talking about interesting subjects, comparing understandings of complex issues, understanding different viewpoints.

However, I realized that small talk is an important part of that. It's a system that lets you and the other party feel each other out without committing social transgressions. It's what lets you guess that someone would say "Hitler was right," without allowing them to actually say it.

I don't really do small talk with my friends. With them, I talk about things that I care about, or they care about, and that's fine. With acquaintances and strangers, it's essential.

Has anyone else become hyper-specialized in their interests because of pervasive connectivity? I've gotten to the point where on some topics there are zero people I know personally that I could have a conversation with about these topics unless I did all of the talking.

I find people to talk intelligently about these topics through online niche forums. It's so weird sometimes because I've got a small talk personae for "normal people" and then everything I talk about online which is highly specialized and takes a while to explain, even to an interested listener.

I find that's true for a few of my interests, but not to the degree that I'm disinterested in talking about those subjects on a more basic level.

I agree wholeheartedly. Some people seem to like to suggest how very intelligent they are by claiming smalltalk is useless and a waste of their mental cycles, but said people also don't ever talk about how useful it is for easing the guards we put up when meeting someone new. I imagine these people don't often interact with strangers on a casual basis.

Small talk is extremely important to build relationships.

See the book The Relationship Cure. They analyzed the interactions of tens of married couples and found a correlation between relationship hapiness and what they started to call "bids" - frequency of any contact made and the response of the other partner. Small talk was an important part of the bidding.

Don't underestimate small talk.

that's simply not true, it's a fundamental building block of relationships.

It doesn't demand anything. It offers what you want from it. Just like your phone.

You've made a classic argument about technology. This is an argument that has been around for a while. The parent poster is kind of enough to share that he has been an adult for a much shorter time than this argument has been around, in fact.

In that fact I think you might consider this as a counter-point to your position.

You see, your classic argument revolves around something like "new technology, old (adult) people". The situation he describes revolves is centered around new people - kid's, whose neurology is shaped by technology as they grow up. Kids are handed a smart phone at 12, before they have a full adults' ability to choose or at a point when they would choose differently than the adult they will become. That's fine assuming they emerge intact from the experience. The question is whether there is a point where neurology is going to "lose the race" to one or another stimulation system's ability to "addict" people. Humans are quite adaptable but technology is arguably changing at a faster rate. I claim we at least have to start measuring whether there is a problem rather than dismissing the question is something we (adults) shouldn't have to worry about (which is ultimately what your classic argument does boil down to).

On the contrary, I think people are just resistant to change. My parents thought my generation was doomed because we spent so much time playing video games. And I'm sure the previous generation's parents were appalled at how much time they spent watching TV. And the parents of the generation before that were probably appalled at all the drugs and concerts. Etc.

And it wasn't just the parents. I'm sure there were conservative kids who were appalled at their peers as well. That isn't exactly a new phenomenon. I was picked on as a kid for being an early adopter of internet chat. Even today, I've had friends in their early-mid 20s criticize online dating and cell phones. And tomorrow people will pick on their friends for wearable devices. This is par for the course.

It strikes me as disingenuous to point out that kids' "neurology is shaped by technology as they grow up." Everything you do shapes your "neurology". Cell phones and Google Glass are not special exceptions. Hell, living in a basic civilization with written language and a primitive law system has drastic effects on your psychological development compared to... what are we comparing against, again? The natural state of being a caveman?

The people of the recent past were not mystical beings who were all at one with nature. They certainly weren't walking around in constant state of admiration of the beauty in the world around them. Five years ago I was the OP's age (20), and I had bad dates, too. And I'm sure people were having bad dates before me. The OP's complaint is just a more vivid way of saying, "The means by which people can be anti-social are changing."

On the one hand, I completely agree. On the other, we need people like artursapek to make us think about how far we're willing to go into the digital abyss. And we need people like you to offer the counterarguments to the counterarguments. And maybe people like me to remind everyone that our natural social checks and balances are still working perfectly.

For what it's worth, I never see people with their smartphones out for more than a moment. Maybe it'd be different if I were closer to Athens, Atlanta, or even one of the smaller big cities at the east end of Metro Atlanta.

I don't know you or your background but I'm going to guess you may not be part of that younger generation (late high school, early college years) who was literally born with a computer in their crib and came into their teen years with with a smart phone in their hand.

I'm often reminded of the divide between them and my generation (born in the mid 70's) when I visit friends who have children that age, or even in public places where they hang out in groups. I virtually see each of them holding a smart phone, maybe not always using it but definitely at the ready no matter what the circumstances (middle of a conversation with a human being, shopping for clothes, driving, etc...). Even if they don't look at it for more a moment as you say, it's always present and slowly but surely encroaching on real human interactions.

That generation will be entering the world of grown-ups very soon and your argument will rapidly be invalidated.

As a tech guy in his forties, I find these arguments hilarious - especially when my own generation had the same things said about television ("They won't know personal contact or relationships!") , video games...every new thing is the end of human society as we know it.

Until it isn't.

I mean, honestly, stop being so myopic. There were people who decried the STEAM ENGINE. There were people - sometimes, legitimate journalists and "thought leaders" who would write articles and essays about ELECTRICITY. And RADIO. And the PHONE. And the TELEGRAPH.

And when the telegraph began to become obsolete, there was wailing and and gnashing of teeth. When the 'horseless carraige' was introduced, there were op-ed pieces written stating it was a sad state that America might not use horsepower in the future.

Yeah, society is going to change. It's always changing. People adapt. Some things we lose, some things we gain. It's only "the way it should be" to you because it's the world you know.

"Day by day, however, the machines are gaining ground upon us; day by day we are becoming more subservient to them; more men are daily bound down as slaves to tend them, more men are daily devoting the energies of their whole lives to the development of mechanical life. The upshot is simply a question of time, but that the time will come when the machines will hold the real supremacy over the world and its inhabitants is what no person of a truly philosophic mind can for a moment question."

~ Samuel Butler, 1863


What about the introduction of the printing press? After that moment, the amount of information available to people grew by a million times. There are abuses with reading books, too - remember the stereotypical novel reader that has no social life, preferring his story characters instead? Yet, even with such exaggerations, books do not destroy our life. Instead, books have been the main means of storing and transmitting culture in the last 500 years.

We'll adapt, we'll find social norms. There will be do's and don'ts. We will have etiquette. But now we are still in the infancy of this age.

It was year 2000 when I got a digital camera, and I've shot 50K+ pictures a year since. This is a sea change in remembering your life. The smart phones came 5 years later. Now I can't imagine life without it. But we'll assimilate this phase too.

None of the things you've mentioned interrupts the social interactions when you're actually out with someone. I do agree that the only constant is change, but also, the always-on internet is truly something new for us.

Television interrupts the social interactions, if there is one nearby. As do newspapers, books, people walking by...

There are some interesting points both here and upthread, but I'll respond here as this provides a perfect jumping off point:

silverbax88 seems to state that the introduction of television was similarly heralded by people bemoaning that it would cut back on social interaction. He then dismisses this, as if the idea were absurd. I also see a lot of Singularatarian types with nearly religious fervor with comments like: "If others perceive you to be inattentive because you check your phone, that's old-world thinking." Now, upthread, joe_the_user makes a rather important point that the changes which we're discussing here impact younger generations the most, it's not the old farts who are used to the next big thing, but the children who have no natural resistance to the addictive stimuli. Back to the television. While Silverbax88, one of the self-admitted "old farts" was not drawn in by the evil TV monster, it strikes me as a child of the nineties as completely disingenuous to assert that a sea-change did not take place in terms of consumption of television, and specifically on how the increased consumption of TV time correlated with a dramatic drop-off in social interaction.

I refer specifically to my generational cohort, and how I observed our outside time diminishing as we got older. I remember many afternoons in 1998-99 playing Duke Nukem 3d for hours and being prompted by parents with phrases like, "Don't you want to go out and play with your friends?" something I thought especially silly the few times I would go out and no one would be outside as they were all... playing video games and watching TV.

This is hacker news, not anecdote TV, so let's see if I can dig up some actual statistics:

According to Vandewater, Bickham, and Lee [1] :

Results indicated that time spent watching television both with and without parents or siblings was negatively related to time spent with parents or siblings, respectively, in other activities. Television viewing also was negatively related to time spent doing homework for 7- to 12-year-olds and negatively related to creative play, especially among very young children (younger than 5 years). There was no relationship between time spent watching television and time spent reading (or being read to) or to time spent in active play.

So we're left in an interesting situation. On one hand we have a lot of people who are concerned over the explosion of potentially isolating technologies, and on the other we have people who seem to blindly assert that everything will be dandy, because, you know it always has been before. Who do we consider conservative here?

To bring this to sort of a close: I feel the same sort of fundamental discomfort as does artursapek with the concept of replacing socialization, something which I've only recently began to really embrace as a nerd, with an electronically mediated digital analogue. While researching my TV statistic, I saw a lot more papers about the PC-accessed Internet, which I think to be a better metaphor for Google Glass than TV ever was. A lot of these papers such as [2] come to conclusions like: Results suggest that frequent users tend to be lonely, to have deviant values, and to some extent to lack the emotional and social skills characteristic of high EI.

[1] http://www.pediatricsdigest.mobi/content/117/2/e181.short [2] http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/109493104322820...

I don't think anyone is making so extreme a claim that technological changes cannot "cut back" on social interaction. The average amount of time spent socializing certainly fluctuates from time to time and place to place. It's certainly not unimaginable that the introduction of TVs, phones, wearable devices, etc might result in less time being spent socially.

What silverbax88 and others are saying, however, is that there is a limit to this. We are not on a trajectory to a world in which social interaction ceases to exist. In fact, we're not even close.

Consequently, most of these gloom and doom complaints seem overly extreme. If we accept as premises that (a) the world is only changing by a small amount, and (b) it has changed by comparable amounts innumerable times in the past, then our conclusion can only be making a big fuss about this change in particular is extreme.

Which is more likely: That Google Glass is finally the thing that will push social interaction off the edge, or that the people of today (like the people of last decade, and the one before that, and the one before that...) are nostalgic and resistant to change?

With respect to our generation, you said, "...I observed our outside time diminishing as we got older..." Okay, so what? Is this change somehow a bad thing, or is it simply change? Is decrying this change a necessary and useful thing to do, or is it simply nostalgia-fueled alarmism? Of course the people of today will behave differently than the people of yesterday. Why is this surprising? Why is this bad? Why should we care?

When a mobile network terminal (which is really what these phones are) is seen as a logical extension of you brain (google is always at hand, stored notes, etc) and perceptions (a text message can be likened to a friendly wave from across the room, you get to choose your own interaction level from that point), it's natural to have it always at hand, and ready.

If others perceive you to be inattentive because you check your phone, that's old-world thinking. I'm sure many people have attention problems, and may not apply the correct amount of attention to local stimuli, but then again, maybe they just don't find what happening immediately around them all that interesting at the time.

A phone can enhance a conversation. One participant can take a few moments to research something that was just discussed while listening in on further conversation, and then re-enter the active portion of the conversation with new, and useful, information.

Is short, we are in a transition period. There's learning to be done about the best way to deal with all the new capabilities we have (because that's what they are, enhancements to us), as well as social norms that need to adapt.

I am hovering between the generations in this regard, and I definitely see (or think I see) a strong gradient. I know vanishingly few adults over thirty who spend life buried in tech- even the tech-savvy ones. Then as you work backwards in age down to high school, you see progressively more and more absorption into technology.

Most everyone I know along the "scale" is sharp enough to use whatever the latest tech is. The different is not savvy, it is usage patterns.


My personal experience has been similar. When a group conversation peters out, its easy for a lot of people to pull out their phones instead of continuing the conversation - and when one person pulls it out, everyone else does as well.

It definitely seems more noticeable among the ~17-18 age group than ~20-25 (20 here but I had an odd childhood and behavior patterns like this were explicitly discouraged.)

Good news is that not everyone does this.

It's hard to predict the course of an upcoming generation based on what they experience now. I've never been without a TV in my own room. When I was growing up, I read frantic posts on Usenet about how people my age were glued to the TV and video games, and how that would ruin social interaction.

It wasn't long before people said the same about the web, instant messaging, early social networks, and everything since.

I seem to get along with people without issue despite growing up immersed in these society killers. Why are smartphones a special case?

Its because the new thing is always a special case. Its natural for some people to think that the old way of doing things is the only good way and that anything new that could displace or alter that way of doing things would just ruin it.

People have been moaning about how we're all becoming socially isolated since the publication of the first novel. The art of socialising has been declared dying ever since the first VHS was available to buy and watch at home.

You're not offering anything more than an assertion that they're wrong, though. That is, you're using the same anecdata standard of evidence that they are: "My friends and I have cell phones but we talk to each other..."

More serious thinkers than you and I have made actual measurements that show our frequency of in-person, in-public type socializing and civic engagement really has been in long-term decline for many decades. VHS would be one of the culprits, yes, and now so would smart-phones, tablets, etc.


Good point. I just finished a social history of Montreal in the 40's and 50's. TV had a lot to do with the closing down of cabarets and theatres.

You didn't have to go out for entertainment anymore. But the latter is inherently more social than TV.

Some of what Putnam reported was flawed, and his book that you cited was interpretative. These "actual mesasurements" that you speak of do not show that in-person social engagement has been in decline -- that is Putnam's interpretation of the data. Others have different interpretations (which I happen to agree with much more). For example, see http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/96apr/kicking/ki....

Anecdata, of course, but comedians, who usually (try to) have their fingers on the pulse of society, have commented on the phenomenon of smartphone-induced antisocial bubbles.

Seinfeld: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-0ZpH4Lhy8

Aziz Ansari: "I’ve been trying to call people more. Even friends. I’m sick of being addicted to my phone and going on the same seven websites for 30-minute loops, so I’m going to go to a hypnotist that helped a few friends quit smoking and see if he can get me to stop being addicted to my phone and mindless Internet browsing. Wouldn’t that be awesome if it worked?" http://www.avclub.com/articles/aziz-ansari-candid-about-love...

It's interesting how both comedians are on opposite sides of the age spectrum.

I think there is a major distinction between novels, VHS and the smartphone. Smartphone is an active distraction and is portable. This combination is what makes it more likely to be conversation killer than anything else. For me whenever I am talking to somebody and suddenly they open up their phone to see the message or attend a call, it just kills my flow of thoughts and flow of conversation.

"More than a third of divorce filings last year contained the word 'Facebook'"[1]

I totally disagree with you, and not just because of the article I posted. I've said this in the past—online services/apps/games need you to spend more and more time looking at a screen (especially Facebook & Zynga types) and they'll likely employ every form of behavioral trick that's legal.

For goodness sake, one of the main mantras here on HN is "you need to A/B test everything", the goal of which is to get people to stay on your site longer.

[1] http://blogs.smartmoney.com/advice/2012/05/21/does-facebook-...

Your experiences seem to be different. I personally found that it is different depending on the group and the people.

Some of them may not see the big deal, some of them may simply not have the self-control, but I've definitely have had similar experiences as the GP, of disrupting discussions.

Neal Stephenson was pretty critical of our use of smartphones in his novel Anathem. Most of the common people were glued to their "jeejahs" (smartphones) all the time in the book.

There was a good piece written by io9[1] where they interviewed Neal Stephenson to ask him his views on cellphone usage today. He had this to say:

"There is a larger question here . . . having to do with attention span and ability to focus on complex problems—or even non-complex ones, such as driving or having a civilized conversation with someone next to you. This is what the avout find so alarming about the cellphone-like devices used by people in the world of the book."

When asked if he felt that cell phones in our own world might represent a wrong turn, technologically speaking. He said:

"I couldn't live without mine. But the etiquette and the interface are lagging behind the technology. Introduction of new technology often leads to disruptions in manners that can take a generation or more to play out. We're in one of those awkward times now."

[1] http://io9.com/5046316/neal-stephenson-explains-whats-wrong-...

On some level - I agree with you. I do think people (while in groups) should not spend a bunch of time on their phone. To me, it's more of a courtesy thing.

But surely, at some point in the past after books became portable, someone was shouting and complaining about all these people with their heads buried in books! When papa came home from work he used to talk to us! But now he reads! Oh no!

What I'm trying to say is this: the world is constantly changing.

Fair point, but in the direction it's changing people are becoming more and more boring.

I don't think that's the case. There always have been boring people and there always will be boring people. It's now easier to connect with others making it easier to find boring people who may not appear that way immediately. Seeing highlights of someone's life on Facebook doesn't mean they're interesting, it's just one instance of their life. Talking with someone in person it's easier to gain insight to who they are and what they really enjoy.

I wouldn't say any of my friends have become boring due to phones and tablets. Sure, they get distracted more easily, but that doesn't mean their personality has changed.

Not quite, they just decided that their phone is more interesting than everyone around them.

Not surprising when their phones and the apps on them have millions of man-hours of work put into making them interesting.

What is surprising (at least to me, non-smartphone-owner) is that it's seems to be considered socially acceptable to put real people on a level playing field with them.

Agreed. In fact, it's changing in 2 ways. Apple, where life is simple or Google, where you live in san francisco and hang out in coffee shops. Devices are supposed to aid you in your lifestyle, but it also seems like they're providing a better reason to conform to theirs.

Your memory of the Razr days might be more than a little bit colored by the fact that you were in junior high, when things are less complicated on some levels and raging hormones make socializing absolutely imperative. I was in my 20's in those golden years of Razrs and my memory of dating then is that it was a lot harder to find intelligent, interesting people my age to connect with. The people who are now distracted by smartphones would probably have been distracted by the big screen TVs that dominated most bars anyway, and in my experience, interesting/well-read women who could converse about a decent range of topics were a rarer find. The culture was a lot more materialistic than - having a Hummer might actually impress a good portion of the dating pool to a degree that would be depressing now. YMMV, but you couldn't pay me to go back.

People are attached to their phones because they are lonely. Instagram, facebook, etc. are so successful because they pluck our "togetherness" chords without any of the complications of actual intimacy.

Maybe she couldn't talk about being lonely in a long distance relationship and so she showed you that she was relying on other people for companionship. Maybe you couldn't tell her how much you missed her when she made herself so unavailable, so you talked about how it was "rude" instead.

Intimacy is hard, and now it's easier to get some of the brain chemistry of it without all of the vulnerability. I take a picture of something from my life, make it available to you, and you like it with a smile. A thousand small transactions instead of a bigger one (sex, for example).

If it makes you feel any better, I almost never experience this problem with the people I care about. I've never had this feeling of frustration about it, certainly. Maybe you just need to find some other people to spend time with.

I got as much face time with the back of that fucking iPhone as with her.

Maybe she just wasn't that into you.

obviously. after driving 10 hours she was humoring him as much as possible, but it's pretty clear to anyone.

She would travel the same distance to see me, more often than I would even. I regret bringing romance into a conversation on HN. It has nothing to do with my point, it was an anecdote.

you're going to have to face facts sooner or later about that relationship.

You're preaching it brother. Same age bracket and same disdain for our smartphones. They are great utilities to have but some of the applications on them people can't help but be addicted to, and for many it spills over into physical interaction with others. Sad part is that many don't care. Seeing gaggles of peers out together at a bar, coffee shop, there's usually at least one with their head down, and then there's the not too uncommon moments when ALL have their heads down. It's more than unnerving. Watching the Glass video this morning made me want to herald the future but this awful recurring gut feeling of unchecked technology negatively influencing society in unforeseen ways couldn't help but to flare up.

I want the future to happen but I also don't want a simple human experience that I currently know such as physical interaction to decay and wither and eventually become an anachronism.

But they are "gaggles of peers out together". Not stuck in front of a TV every day after school for hours ... like my generation watching early sitcoms/varieties/crime/kiddy shows that don't even move the nostalgia-meter decades later.

I'm not from phone generation, I won't use a smartphone, I don't have any idea how much more tightly-wound-together their lives are then ours were. But I'm sure they are, because they're in touch. They're busy adapting, for better or worse, to the consumer/tech world WE created.

If WE don't like it, then WE have to start thinking about what it means to have young impressionable minds plugged-into the mothership all day long. These appliances are far from transparent, their comms can't be easily shut off, and there's little OWNER-control over their features or bad habits. Anyone who wants to worry, try focussing on that for a while. Their appliances don't give them the autonomy ours did.

> They are great utilities to have but some of the applications on them people can't help but be addicted to

It's worth remembering that much of the addictiveness of consumer oriented services is informed by the work of BJ Fogg, a professor a Stanford [1]. While it's hard to lay the burden for Instagram/Facebook/Twitter etc. entirely at his door; it is the simple minded application of his ideas to the urgent necessity to grow and hold an audience that has created the recent plague of attention sinks that do little to make people's lives better.

1. http://captology.stanford.edu/projects/behaviordesign.html

LOL. Now this is somehow technologies' fault. I can give you a simple solution: Get a girlfriend who likes you more than looking at stupid horoscopes on her iPhone.

>People spent time with each other.

They still do. Just because you're in a relationship where that isn't the case, doesn't mean technological advancements are to blame for it. I still have amazing engrossing conversations with people who are as embedded in technology as I am.

> Get a girlfriend who likes you more than looking at stupid horoscopes on her iPhone.

Yes, and see how long that phase lasts. :)

Uh, it sounds like you have pretty poor luck...

I feel like I am in the minority because I don't think I know anyone who spends time buried in his/her phone like this. Hell, if I could get my friends to respond to my messages within a couple of days of me sending them, that would be a start!

> Uh, it sounds like you have pretty poor luck...

Not at all. While still young, I learned to have realistic expectations about relationships. This saved me a lot of pain and heartache. So I've been lucky.

So what you're saying is that I need to go ahead and learn to have "realistic" expectations, so that I might settle for partners who do things I hate?

It actually sounds like you got disillusioned and probably heartbroken and are now scared of intimacy but don't realize it because you've activated a defense mechanism and are rationalizing your fear as "having realistic expectations".

I hear ya man, I'm 20 and I threw away my phone (flip phone) in 9th grade because it was killing my focus (just sms, imagine an iPhone) and I was pretty addicted to that.

>Eventually there will be no strangers, and there will be no friends. Everyone's name will be public, and nobody will get to know each other.

We'll have to see. So far that's been the trend, and it's really aggravating walking into a coffee shop and so seeing few conversations; just all staring at a glowing screen. But I think there's only so much of that we can take and maybe the trend will reverse.

My hopes for wearable tech is that it actually becomes less intrusive. The Pebble and Glass are my two biggest hopes. Think about this: If everyone had Glass, there would be no need for cell phones. You can do all the useful things a phone can do, but the touchscreen is gone. No touchscreen makes it REALLY hard to have time-wasters like games and instagram. Tweeting is possible, but mindlessly scrolling through a tweet stream during a date? Not so much.

Let's cross our fingers, because you gotta admit, Glass is pretty damn cool.

There's really something fundamentally different about these new trends, and I think it's important to try to put a finger on it, rather than blame technology generally. Part of the smartphone/Facebook/Instragram addiction is cheap escapism, filling the same role as TV does to many. But it's also the social addiction - the need to know what other people are doing, and "be part of it", and the narcissistic look-at-me.

I see Glass as especially concerning given Google's marketing, which is clearly intended to feed into these social (and other) addictions. The New York Times just published an extraordinary article[1] about the way the US food industry knowingly manipulated consumers into eating extremely unhealthy foods which were engineered by our finest minds, using advanced mathematical models, to perfectly induce and maintain craving. They were explicitly compared to Big Tobacco, as being complicit in the damage they have caused.

I look at the parallels in the way the tech industry is using modern pysch/neuro research and explicitly engineering products designed to manipulate humans' social monkey-brains into craving more-more-more, getting dopamine hits every time someone clicks "like". This is not the sort of future we want to build.

[1]: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary...

This actually reminds me of the opening scene to the Youtube series "H+". The web series is surrounds the subject of 'transhumanism' and the changes we experience in our daily interactions when living with technology. People become remarkably disconnected with each other, and unable to survive without being perpetually connected.

The implant H+ gives people constant access to information through the internet, and are always online, which creates the foundation for a global disaster in which someone hacks the system and shuts everybody "off."

I always thought it was ironic that the series came out shortly after the Google Glass announcement because if you take a look, H+ seems strikingly similar..

A basic conversation with H+ (Compare with Google Glass): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qelEYjJkVIk&t=2m44s

Actually this is one step closer to H+, lying a few years(?) ahead of Glass?

Sight: Contact Lenses with Augmented Reality (Conceptual) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJKwHAvR4uI

Gaston: [tossing the book aside] Belle, it's about time you got your head out of those books and paid attention to more important things. Like me. The whole town's talking about it. It's not right for a woman to read. Soon she starts getting "ideas", and "thinking"-

Did she really need to be looking at the homeless guy pissing in the alley? Was she going to have a formative moment in her life by watching a cab drive by? Would this be the sunset that changed her life forever? Would both of you looking in different directions while walking down the street really be so much different than her looking down at her phone (outside of your perceived interpretation of her doing so)? Is watching a waiter approach another table better time spent than seeing what a friend is doing elsewhere in the world?

Some people are just more into knowledge and consuming information than they are in their surroundings and being around other people. Women are also more likely to keep their social gameface on. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that; there's plenty of space in this world for them. I'd also like to take a minute to suggest that she may have been on the autistic spectrum disorder or had OCD or anxiety issues that she didn't tell you about, and being on her phone made her feel "safe". Again, not a flaw, just as the perceived threat of technology encroaching on your relationship is not a flaw.

We all get inspiration/validation/education from somewhere, and when we're connected to so many different venues of information in one place, it's much more likely those revelations will come from digital exposure than what's right in front of us at that very moment. If you honestly told her how it made you feel and not just an extended "Stop, it's rude", and she continued to do it - that to me signals that she didn't care or that maybe the ASD/OCD/anxiety things aren't so far off. It has very little to do with technology and everything to do with what type of person she is and how compatible that type is to yours. Relationships are about balance and being on the same page, not blaming someone one's character for their demise.

I don't think that quote is really relevant to any of this. This isn't about cutting off entire sources of information. Nobody is saying that it's not right for a person to use a smartphone or an iPad or Google Glass. They're just saying that there are certain situations where it is rude to do so. But there are countless situations where it is not.

To me and many others, a date is one of the situations where it's rude to be seeking out revelations on your cell phone. Presumably you'll have plenty of time later that night or the next day to look for revelations in the digital world.

I'm usually put off by rants with lots of naughty words, but this was really well said. Especially "Everyone's name will be public, and nobody will get to know each other" and "Eventually there will be no strangers, and there will be no friends." Damn lot of insight for a 20 year old. Take some advice from someone almost three times your age: maybe you've dumped her already, but if not, I guarantee that you've glimpsed the tip of the berg and things will get worse.

Or you could date girls who appreciate spending quality, unplugged time with you? You're only 20, you'll get there.

I am seriously concerned about this.


I was in a long distance relationship this summer. We would take turns visiting each other in our our respective cities roughly 5 hours apart. It was a pretty long journey for a weekend-it would sometimes take 10 hours one way since you had to go through New Your. In retrospect it wasn't worth it.

Whenever we would go on a walk or when he'd take me out to dinner, he always seemed bothered. I mean, the conversation wasn't particularly interesting so I got on Instagram. Really, I just wanted to have a good conversation but he kept taking me to see boring sunsets and neighborhoods. I mean, who wants to look at houses?

You know what I like,? Pictures of vintage things. Why didn't we go to an antique shop, that would have been great! But no, we just looked at houses. Luckily my horoscope said I was in for a new adventure, so I'm looking forward to that!

Then this guy has the nerve to tell me to stop using my phone! I can do whatever the hell I want! If we did something I was more interested in I wouldn't use it as much, I mean we have fun when he comes to my city because I choose what we do, he's a fun guy but not very creative. It even seemed like he was jealous of my phone, I don't have sex with my phone do I? Geez!

Then we go places and he has this shitty 6-year-old Blackberry that he toes around because he's opposed to smartphones, who does that? I though it was cute at first but then it just got annoying. Its fine to have your preference but you can't expect others to follow you, I like my iPhone. Everyone I know likes their smartphone, this is why it didn't work out. Buzz. Kill.

The Google Goggles thing looks cool, but this time no technophobic boyfriend to ruin the fun.


That was pretty shitty. You have no possible way to know what the opposite side of the coin was like, and your speculation adds nothing to the conversation; not least because you completely missed the point. Bravo.

There is no reason for being afraid of new technology! At this point we've survived the advent of the radio, television, personal computers, the internet, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and Smartphones. Almost every one of these was met with "that's going to ruin society!" and none of them did. Sure, it changed, in a lot of ways, the way we do things, but that doesn't mean its ruined!

Technology isn't a thing we add to our lives anymore, its an intrinsic part of our society/culture. Most people can't imagine being without a cellphone and we're probably getting close to the point where having a smartphone feels just as essential.

What I wanted to get at is that both sides probably see each other as unreasonable. He wants more attention and dislikes that his girlfriend is using her phone while they're together, she obviously feels or thinks that its okay to use her phone while they do things. The problem is he wants her to go against the new societal norm. Like the OP stated, people these days socialize with their smartphones present, its normal, it would be normal for her to use her phone in a social context. (Granted, she may have taken it a little far.. I may have taken it a little far, also.)

Wouldn't it be better to respond constructively rather than insultingly?

Exactly. xj9's mocking of the OP is terribly unconstructive.

Leaving your specific issues aside, anecdotally I've found "Do Not Disturb" on my iPhone to be a huge boon: it's a lot easier not to take your phone out of your pocket if you don't feel it vibrate every minute. And go full "Airplane Mode" if you're having dinner or are at an event or something. Ask whoever you're with to do the same, and you're done.

Manners have to be learnt, you're not born with them. Many of us didn't grow up with this kind of device, so we have to actively learn how to use them in a polite way. Some people find this easier than others...

Hold on for a second. Why is this the first thing I see?

Is it because other people read "I was in a long-distance rela..." and continued to read, then clicking the little arrow next to the post?

Please tell me that isn't how that works.

Hacker News isn't what it used to be.

I also avoid using a smart phone as my primary cell phone. I also abhor the disgusting habit people have of checking their phone while engaged in "real" conversation. But you're being alarmist. Technology is a tool. We control it, and although losing that control has been a science fiction staple from the start there is no logical reason to believe that I won't be able to take off the glasses whenever I want, just as there is no reason I can't leave the damn phone in my pocket.

Addiction is a real thing, but it's not technology's fault. What we build can bring us together just as well as it can pull us apart, but if we let that happen then the problem is us.

At least if she's wearing Google Glass, it will maybe look like she's looking at you and paying attention, even though she won't be.

But I totally understand. The good thing is that many non-chemical addictions, like internet addiction, can be easily beaten.

And, it might not be as bad as you think. Part of what is perceived as "internet addiction" at night is due to the blue light from the screens keeping us awake, according to a study I read: http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Health_Let...

I think e-ink without backlighting and incandescent lights in the home or carefully chosen warm light LEDs (with as little blue light as possible) is the way to go for nighttime use.

Conversely, blue light is good during the day; you need it to avoid depression http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder... , and certain blue wavelengths have actually been associated with an increase in intelligence: http://realdoctorstu.com/2011/05/23/blue-lights-shown-to-giv...

Just avoid blue light starting about 45 minutes before you go to bed, and tell your girlfriend how you feel.

I agree with your sentiment but I'm here to say that I think its going to be ok!

First I seriously doubt these are going to be 'cool' especially at $1500 a pop, its basically going to be the new 'blue tooth ear piece', yes it technologically is a useful advancement but anyone that really wears it around all the time is going to look like a total dork.

Second, people do not like being filmed! Nobody is going to want to talk to someone wearing a Go Pro. Try picking up a girl while pointing a camera in her face, you'll be the biggest creep ever.

Third, your girlfriend is still a kid, this is what kids do, im a few years older then you and let me tell you this is not something thats socially acceptable amongst adults, might as well not know how to brush your teeth. People that do this get tripped and then people laugh at them. Same with restaurants, a real women wont do this for more then a minute or two, this is kid stuff.

Fourth, Smartphones on the bus/couch is simply replacing TV and Newspapers/Magazines, which really is fine in my opinion. TV rots your brain, and being able to google something you just read and don't understand is a great benefit to society.

TLDR: Your girlfriend needs to grow up, Google glass is most likely going to be creepy and dorky if worn in public, Smartphones aren't inherently evil.

But how is Google Glass a step backwards? Seems like you don't lose all of your focus when you're using it, it's a small square always visible, not something you have to turn to and give it complete focus. Seems like a step forward to me.

Maybe. I've been using a Tom-Tom lately and what I've notice is that it sort of turns you into a mindless drone. At least that is how I felt. I can certainly see a thing like Google Glass adversely affecting people by making them too dependent on it. How exactly? I'm not sure.

You can't blame google for this, I am the first to think that Glass is an invasive technology and currently pretty pointless, but this girl was just not that into you.

> using the same shitty Blackberry for 6 years now.

> I'm 20 now.

So, you had a Blackberry when you were 14? Your post has a luddite like quality to it, but this fact is quite the opposite.

I'm assuming your gf is around the same age as you, so I kinda understand this addiction, as people your age literally grew up with cellphones.

But consider this - people who are older, in their 40's and 50's do it too. The thing that drives me crazy is people text/check email etc while crossing roads, often bumping into someone coming from the opposite direction (at least in NYC). People are glued to their tiny screen in meetings, while having lunch, while having family time, and even during yoga. Go to any outdoor event, there are flashes everywhere (night time I mean) ruining the experience. I used to get annoyed with noise pollution, but that pales in front of this "flash" pollution.

I wish there is a solution to this, but I'm afraid there might not be

I'm not sure I agree with you but your dystopian vision is certainly vivid and reminds me of the novel Feed by M. T. Anderson [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feed_%28Anderson_novel%29.

When I was in my teens and 20's, if it was acceptable for you to kiss someone, it was just as acceptable for you to take off their glasses and remove whatever they were holding in their hand then kiss them. Is that still true?

No. Kissing today requires ski goggles and an iPad.

I agree with you completely.

I go as far as putting technologies like social media, smartphones, and immersive never-ending game worlds into the same category as recreational drugs. These things make it far easier to artificially trigger our reward circuits, than to create valuable interactions in the real world.

It is terrifying in the long term as well, because I think if we keep on this road, we will lose all interest in external reality. (there is a great article making the argument that this explains the Fermi paradox, but can't find the link)

Still, part of me wants Glass, because I have terrible memory and forget life events. :-/

Guess what's going to happen to your memory if you just use Glass as a crutch?

You raise some solid points - however don't you think that Google Glass will actually improve the experience? Instead of people walking down the sidewalk with their head's down staring at their phones, they can actually take in and enjoy more of their surroundings and live more in the moment.

Along the same lines, the ability to record and snap pictures on demand based on what you are actually in the midst of experiencing is a pretty powerful thing! Much more immersive and authentic than the hordes of people watching sporting events and concerts thru their 3.5in iPhone screens!

You may like this short film called Sight http://vimeo.com/46304267 . The ending isn't great, but pretty much everything else is neat.

Wow. That is really good. Thanks.

Sometimes I need a break from the oppression of being physically around people who demand all of my attention just by doing nothing more interesting or remarkable than "being there".

Like it or not, this is where things are going, and I'm sure this is just a start.

Feel kinda weird about this because I almost never share anything I write, but I wrote a short story that seems to really get at the same things you are describing. Anyway, feel free to read it or not but I figured what the heck:


The observation I made is that I spend just as much time with people face to face as I did pre-smartphone. Today I just have additional conversations running in the background, which is why I sometimes take out my phone. I think that's the only thing that has changed. We converse more online but not on the expense of real conversations. And - sorry for sounding harsh - if your girlfriend is checking her phone when you are going for a walk then this probably just isn't the relationship she was looking for. Same goes for people who take out their phones in groups, maybe the discussion just died off, maybe more friends are joining in, or some other reason. What did we do before we had smartphones? We just stared impatiently into the void, waiting for someone to pick up the conversation again.

Thanks for the kick in the pants, arturspek. I'll be making the effort to put the phone away more - tech has deteriorated my relationships enough already (or at least my increasing addiction to it has).

Some people are driven by the experience.

You open facebook or reddit with the goal of being distracted and entertained by it, and depending on what you see there, it determines what you'll be doing for the next 15 minutes. You get a notification and you immediately tend to it even if you're busy and it could be checked in an hour.

Some people choose to drive the experience themselves.

You need to look something up. You google or wikipedia it. Close browser get back to what you were doing. Use the tool you have as a tool, not as something that tells you what to do.

Think of Glass as a new sense instead of a machine. The sense of information. The phone was just a clumsy prosthesis that was a pain to use. Most of what we sense is also "useless". We filter. If sight required us to pull a weird little periscope out of our pocket every time we wanted to do it, it would look like a strange addiction as well.

Surely there's a case to be made for sensory overload for this new sense, especially as people become accustomed to it. "Why do my eyes hurt? -- You've never used them before."

I read a lot on my phone, mostly books, but also news. It syncs the progress with my tablet (and possibly with a Kindle if I were to buy one), so I can read books comfortably almost any time I have nothing more interesting to do.

I would love it if I didn't need to look down to do so. It would be much more comfortable on a HUD. I've been wanting one for a while.

Ten years ago, if you told me that there would be a class of people addicted to personal devices, and a class that resisted it, I would've said "oh man, I'm in the first category, aren't I?" Since I'd fantasize about the Star Trek-future with their PADDs.

Even when I'm bored, there's not that much I can do with my smart phone.

Wouldn't the Google glasses allow her to spend more time looking around and at you instead of toward a phone?

That's speaks the distinction between just hearing someone and actually listening to them.

I'm not that concerned. In my opinion, the people who will be able to get the best of both worlds (tech + the actual real world) will have a competitive advantage over those ADD addicts like the girl you described and eventually things will just settle down.

>I really hope I don't ever have to go on a date with some girl who's getting conversation tips from Google's magic headgear.

Not so fast. I think that would mark the tipping point between tech/hacker culture being a "guy" think to being a "feminine" thing.

Here' my take on it, as another 20 year old.

There are definitely people out there like those you describe: the ones who read their horoscopes, shop online and perform any other kind of digital interaction in the wrong place at the wrong time and for far too long.

But looking back at the different people i met over the years, that category of people stays constant, and they are indeed the boring ones. Back in high school when the RAZR was the shit, these same people would be the ones constantly texting to people other than the ones they were hanging out with at the moment, and you'd have groups of people physically hanging out, but mentally they would all be focused elsewhere.

As long as that doesn't happen all the time, that's not a bad thing. What I've found to happen for the majority of people is that they still hang out and pay attention to one another, except sometimes they might quickly send a text or read an email. I don't mind this, and as long as you don't go overboard with it, I'm sure no one else minds. And yes you could argue that most things can wait for you to respond, but for the most part hanging out and maintaining a conversation with them does not require all my mental capacity, and part of it can easily be used for a one-off reply or message read.

Would most cases of Google Glasses be necessary for survival, or would they add that big of a bonus? Probably not. But even all those small things would be worth it. Like not missing that perfect moment for a photo, since the Glass would constantly record the past minute of your life and you could go back and get that moment in that footage. Even helping me figure out the names of people i've met before but forgot. One cool feature which for the msot part quite useless would be Google Goggles for Glasses. Scan my whole environment and tell me what you find. I'd have fun with that plenty.

And in my opinion the thing about all these worst case scenarios that people talk about, is that we have been led to believe by popular culture that they are more likely to happen than the best case or average case scenario. Think about it, almost every movie out there about the future has things going to shit, because those are more entertaining. A movie about humanity's first contact with aliens where everything works out and there's no war would be quite the boring movie for the masses.

As an aside, your name seemed familiar, and i checked my FB list of friends for you. Seems like you deleted your account, but I remembered that we worked together for HackNY, but You Probably Never Heard Of It. Glad you're doing well and congrats on the Codecademy internship.

I myself have made the personal decision to not use smartphones. I dislike twiddling with phones in general, and would prefer to use my simple flip phone for nothing more than calls or the occasional text message.

Your comment reminds me of this onion article. http://www.theonion.com/articles/area-man-constantly-mention...

It is just beginning. It will be much more drastic than we can ever imagine. An iPhone on Star Trek would have been too unrealistic a few decades ago, and the growth is exponential.

You're 20, and the best phone people had in your high school was a RAZR? I'm 30, and I would've claimed the same thing... What the hell?

Junior high, which (in Canada and presumably the US as well) encompasses the ages of about 12 to 15. 8 years ago, RAZRs were in their prime[0]. When you were in high school, assuming that was 12 years ago, RAZRs didn't exist yet.

0. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorola_Razr

Spot on.

This sort of technology is actually doing a fuck ton of damage to society. It's why I have a shit Nokia.

Phew, good thing you have a shit Nokia. Otherwise society would probably come to a grinding halt.

You are correct. It probably would, from my perspective. I actually talk to people, properly, deeply.

My memes are not limited to 140 characters...

It must be a shame to have such little will power.

Downvote me all you want. This luddite "all smartphone owners suck at communicating" is a tired annoying meme in and of itself.

I'm not saying they all suck. I'm saying that they change how people communicate and in an decreasingly meaningful way.

So much context and depth and therefore meaning is lost the moment you remove physical emotion from communication. People slowly get used to this shallow existence until one day they are left without their smartphone for one reason or another. Then they realise that they need it to remain socially adequate. They end up burned out emotional retards with compulsive behaviour issues.

they have the same characteristics as some drugs and you merely sound like an addict defending his or her addiction.

I guess I don't understand. In many ways, I consider myself addicted to the Internet. That having been said, I don't text my friends. I hate calling them. I'd love to go get a beer. I seriously, rarely ever text more than "Meet me at X" or "Want to do lunch?".

It's frustrating that you make a huge set of presumptions about me based on me... pointing out that your all-or-nothing stance is needlessly reductionist. And almost diminutive or offensive.

It's not hard to own a smartphone and not keep your nose glued to it. I love having it when I'm waiting in line. I love having it when I need directions (I'm directionaly challenged to put it nicely). I love having it when I need to look up someone's number on FB to text or call them about a project. I love having it meet other single people interested in a date in my area. I love having it to find the ISS overhead to point out to my dad.

And, yet, I don't like texting. I don't like away-facebook messages, (IMs are okay, nice for when I've just graduated and moved across the country from most people I know).

Calling me a drug addict would be much more apt than trying to use it for a boring allusion. I mean, drugs are great.

I make no assumption. It's only because I've been there.

I was you based on how you describe yourself about 2 years ago. It did some serious damage to my life and I don't wish other people to go through it.

Hm, well, for what it's worth, I don't know if you were, but I'm trying to be very conscious about figuring out what's important to me and focusing on it. I've been through some existential-crisis/depression stuff lately and prioritizing and maximizing life has been critical to me. On one hand, I think I'm addicted to being over-stimulated, but I also am focusing on maximizing the (real) social interactions to keep me grounded in a sense. I'm trying to be conscious of it, we'll see in a few years. (I've always detested texting though. Honestly, right now I'm really struggling because one of my closest friend demands attention and I can't give it hundreds of miles away other than texts or phonecalls which I dread. Hangouts are better, really infinitely so).


I speak to human beings daily. I've known dozens, or maybe hundreds, of human beings who have never been so rude as to pay more attention to their devices than to me when in the middle of a conversation. Anyone who would do that would be the exception rather than the rule.

Is it your opinion that I'm in some anecdotal bubble that's not representative of the rest of society? Or are you perhaps taking a bad experience with someone and extrapolating it to the rest of humanity?

For the vast majority of us, technology sometimes enriches parts of our lives and sometimes supplants parts in a way that has zero net gain or loss. For example, is having my head stuck in a kindle or even a phone really so different from having my head stuck in a book?

Are these people anti-social? http://www.lenbernstein.com/People-reading-newspapers.jpg

Are these the good old days when everyone was engaged in each other? http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2545/4035501233_26ee1ba200.jp...

Your condescending and holier-than-thou attitude notwithstanding, are you any happier than all the people I know who have smartphones and kindles and who use them daily? You sound pretty pretty pissed off and disgruntled, maybe alienated, so I'd put my money on the negative.

I don't think artursapek is arguing that these technologies are bad. There's certainly a time and place for them all, but they shouldn't be a substitute for a social situation. If I invited my friends out to a dinner and everyone brought a book with them and just read the entire time, I'd be just as pissed as if they were on their phone the entire time.

There's' also certainly something fundamentally different about browsing Facebook and Twitter over reading a book. Books are intentional - you've committed to a topic, and there's a finite amount of information to digest. When you're checking social media, you don't know what you're going to get, but it'll probably keep you occupied. You're just consuming mostly trivial information, hoping something interesting happens on your screen. It's like flipping through TV channels to pass the evening. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but it's probably something best kept in moderation. artursapek's post is about his observations on how people are increasingly consuming this information fast food in excess.

You get it.


> Books are intentional - you've committed to a topic, and there's a finite amount of information to digest. When you're checking social media, you don't know what you're going to get, but it'll probably keep you occupied.

This is a bizarre argument. 1. In what way is a book more intentional than Facebook? How is visiting Facebook an unintentional act? I don't think you're using the common definition of 'intentional'. 2. "You've committed to a topic." How is this a substantial difference? What if I don't know the topic of the book before I start reading it? And when I read a newspaper, do I know the topic any more than when I browse social media? 3. "There's a finite amount of information to digest." Even admitting this is true (which is sort of a stretch), again, how is this a substantial difference? The fact that the information is infinite doesn't imply the amount of time I choose to spend on the information is infinite. 4. "You're consuming mostly trivial information." By what standard? What you're consuming is information about the people you know. How is this more trivial than reading 50 Shades of Gray? 5. "it's probably something best kept in moderation." Sure.. so is reading books for leisure. So is reading books for school. So is working. So is eating. So is everything you do, regardless of its nature.

You two aren't saying anything substantial.

The OP doesn't like social media, online shopping, or horoscopes, and he doesn't like people who spend lots of time engaged in them. Fine, we get it. I don't happen to like those things either. But I don't act as if that means anything.

I was trying to make the argument that zoning out on Facebook, flipping through TV channels, browsing Reddit front page for 2 hours, is all like eating mental junk food. It's tasty but not very nutritious - it should be consumed in moderation alongside a healthy diet of enriching foods/mental activities.

My main point isn't really about the technology, but the content - it doesn't matter if the material is on a cell phone, Kindle, book, or newspaper. Of course there can be junk in books and newspapers, and enriching information can be found online. I was just ranking the action of "aimlessly browsing social media" as pretty low on the nutrition charts.

OP doesn't feel strongly about social media or online shopping - he just doesn't like when you do it in the middle of a date, just as I wouldn't like someone pulling out a book in the middle of a social event.

> zoning out on Facebook, flipping through TV channels, browsing Reddit front page for 2 hours

Not that I rate the intellectual output of these things above reading books but the value that people get out of them may be higher. Firstly, it seems unfair to judge people based on whether they choose to read books or surf sites. I, for one, find internet more interesting, dynamic, fluid and cheap source of information as well as entertainment than books.

> aimlessly browsing social media

That has some value too. For a person who prefers that kind of past time, I would argue that chances of them engaging in an activity of much higher intellectual engagement are pretty low anyway. They are probably looking for an easy and light way to spend time or consume information about their peers.

The problem with your argument though is that the amount of "junkiness" (if we're going with the food analogy) is directly equivalent to how well you curate your experience.

If your Facebook friends are people who share useful and enriching content and make insightful comments, for instance. Nobody's going to argue that the default front page of Reddit is anything but junk, but imagine you've unsubscribed all of those and now follow things like r/programming and r/books - you are getting more useful content.

Basically I take issue with denigrating all of social media as some kind of crap. It's precisely as crap as the person using it wants/allows it to be.

It's a lot easier to browse social media without focus. It's like surfing the channels of TV. You can't browse a book in the same way, it's an activity that requires focus.

If this is true, why does it matter? Show me some evidence to support that focusing on 50 Shades of Gray is better than zoning out on Facebook.

Kindles are simply super-books. I own a Kindle, I love my Kindle. There's nothing wrong with Kindles or newspapers. There's also nothing wrong with reading a newspaper or playing with your phone when you're on a subway surrounded by strangers. I do that, everyone has always done that and always will.

There's a huge difference anyway between iPhones and books/newspapers. It's not a good comparison. The only similarity is the posture one holds when consuming them, which is why your photos sort of work for your argument. Reading a book or newspaper takes effort and concentration, whereas flicking through whatever stream on your iPhone takes little to no thought at all. It's active consumption vs. passive consumption.

I believe that to live a healthy life you do need a good balance of production and consumption.

Several of you responding to my post seem to think that I miss a time when everyone used to talk to everyone and people were all "engaged with each other" and that I think socializing is dead. That's not it. I'm simply worried about how ubiquitous and in-front-of-our-faces these devices are becoming, and how addictive they are.

If it clarifies anything, I also don't use Facebook and I didn't grow up on television, so maybe I'm just an outcast in that regard. However, I enjoy reading and going to the cinema and I'm focusing all my energy on starting a software company. So I'm also not Amish. Call me disgruntled, maybe I am. I think I have a reason to be.

Try to convince me that most of the time you spend on your phone is time well spent. It's probably not. Well, not too long from now that shit is going right in front of your eye, wrapped around your cranium.

> Try to convince me that most of the time you spend on your phone is time well spent. It's probably not. Well, not too long from now that shit is going right in front of your eye, wrapped around your cranium.

Most of my time spent on my smart phone: texting, emails, weather, Google Nav, music, looking up random junk, checking weather, snapping a quick picture, etc.

Some of these things are for pleasure (music, random facts) and others have varying utility.

None of this means I whip out my smart phone in the middle of a conversation with someone else.

> There's a huge difference anyway between iPhones and books/newspapers. It's not a good comparison. The only similarity is the posture one holds when consuming them, which is why your photos sort of work for your argument. Reading a book or newspaper takes effort and concentration, whereas flicking through whatever stream on your iPhone takes little to no thought at all. It's active consumption vs. passive consumption.

You assume way too much about what people do on their phones. I used to commute to work via bus. I was one of the many people with his face stuck in his phone. You assume I was "flicking through whatever stream", not thinking at all. You'd be wrong -- I was almost always either reading books for leisure through the Kindle App, or reading some research paper PDF I had stored on my phone.

Many other people would be having SMS conversations, I'm sure. I don't know by what logic you can insist that this is less productive or worthwhile than having an idle chat with the person next to you, or just sitting there staring blankly (which is what most people not using a phone do).

> I believe that to live a healthy life you do need a good balance of production and consumption.

While this is true, it's irrelevant. You haven't shown or given any evidence to support that people who engage in social networking or who use smartphones for leisure have a worse production/consumption balance than those who read books, newspapers, or magazines.

> I'm simply worried about how ubiquitous and in-front-of-our-faces these devices are becoming, and how addictive they are.

You've yet to give a reason this should be something to worry about.

> I enjoy reading and going to the cinema

and you've offered nothing but your opinion to support that your choices of leisure are better than any other choices. You're not saying anything worthwhile, man. Give me a reason to think you're anything other than a kid who's emotionally immature enough to think that he's better than everyone else around him because he's not on Facebook.

You're not saying anything worthwhile, man.

Look at how big this thread has gotten.

I'm not angry at phones. I'm sure you read plenty of good research papers on your phone and learn heaps from them. Good for you. I don't really care what people do on their phones, it's reflective of who they are anyway. People like you who read research papers on their phones would 30 years ago probably be reading them on paper. Whatever.

This has nothing to do with productivity or socializing. It's about habits and passive, stupid, mindless habits make for passive, stupid people. These habits have always been around, but phones enable more of those habits to intrude in our lives and tempt us over the alternatives. Obviously it's not the sole purpose of phones, not by a long shot. But it's definitely something they are good at. The nature of Glass, in this perspective, means it will be much better at it. That's where the addictiveness comes in, and that's what scares me.

I don't really care what people do on their phones, it's reflective of who they are anyway

Precisely. So phones give passive, stupid people easier access to their passive, stupid habits. Similarly, phones give active, intelligent people access to their active, intelligent habits.

It sounds to me like you have a sincere dislike for a majority of people, and technology has nothing to do with it. You're better than all those mindless drones, and you would have been 50 years ago as well -- smart phones just magnify the effect.

You would be wise to ask yourself whether you have a superiority complex.

[EDIT] - Yeah I can see that, sawyer. I've changed it.

You know nothing about me or her besides the one anecdote I've shared, and you've concluded that I have a superiority complex and you're giving me relationship advice? Why do arguments on HN always devolve into baseless personal attacks?

Forget your edit, I saw what you had written earlier.

Your final sentence is cruel and out of line.

I speak to human beings daily. I've known dozens, or maybe hundreds, of human beings who have never been so rude as to pay more attention to their devices than to me when in the middle of a conversation.

I don't know you but, if you're not 20 years old, like the parent, you're talking apple and oranges.

I'm 20 and can never recall having had the experience the OP describes.

I'm 23 and laughed when the OP talked about "remembering junior high" and how "people never did this shit back then, because they couldn't." Yeah, you probably couldn't find a middle schooler with a smart phone back in 2005 (the year the OP was in 8th grade), but you damn well know they were playing with Game Boy Advances and, later, Nintendo DSs. They were on Myspace and Livejournal. They were exploring EverQuest and Battlefield 1942.

It seems the OP is suffering from a severe case of nostalgia to think a mere 8 years ago people were somehow immune from being antisocial.

That's the whole point - if someone started reading a book or newspaper while on a walk with their mate or during a group conversation, then it used to be socially unacceptable.

And, as you say, the tech doesn't change anything - if we're hanging out and suddenly you're zoning out by checking FB on your phone instead of connecting with me (I'm right here! Right now!), then it's just as offensive as if I'd fold out a full-size newspaper between us while we're sitting in a cafe.

You missed the point, which is that people are likely to pull out their phones at totally inappropriate times these days. Go to any restaurant or bar and see how many dates/couples/groups are just staring blankly into their phones. That doesn't really happen with books.

She's just not that into you. The virtual world is more interesting than the real world. Don't hate the messenger.

>>glass worship stones

I believe we are in the midst of a new religion being born!

Downvoted - this is not HN material. Please go back to Reddit.

What the hell? Seriously. This was not a silly one line meme reminiscent of reddit. Someone posted a long, well written story questioning the social implications of a new piece of technology, which generated a huge amount of discussion.

A one liner saying go back to reddit is not HN material. Please go back to reddit.

As a Redditor, this holier-than-thou attitude is offensive.

Dear god, so many haters in here. It's a brand new prototype product, and people are complaining about minor features etc. What is wrong with you people? I thought this was a board full of hackers. If you can't see the massive potential in this, you may be in the wrong place.

> I thought this was a board full of hackers.

Complete opposite. This board is full of people interested in startups and looking to get a better grasp of technology. But only a tiny minority here actually code, if you're looking for that you should probably try a more specific coding board or group.

Also, people around here are obsessed with, what they call "playing devil's advocate" or "offering a counter point". Which, in other parts of the planet would be called "trolling". But here that's encouraged as long as the post is well formatted enough to not immediately remind you of reddit.

Put those 2 together and it's very easy to understand the illogical negative posts on the top. It's just people trolling without technological insight. In fact, you'll hardly find any thread about a new technology on HN, which the top post isn't contrarian.

> only a tiny minority here actually code

I don't think that's true at all. I would guess that the majority of HN users can code, and that many of them - certainly not a "tiny minority" - do on a regular basis. If HN polls are at all accurate, they seem to bear out that conclusion:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1544581 (admittedly, old)

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3785277 (less than a year old, and shows a majority have learned CS)

These are in line with what I've generally seen of the HN community.

This is my reaction too, but I think this is a good sign. Strong polar responses are better than a mildly positive consensus, as pg describes is the case for "sitcom" business ideas ( http://www.paulgraham.com/startupideas.html )

For further evidence, I just point to Apple products. Similar reaction in their announcement threads, similarly polar responses...fairly good market reaction.

I agree. Can't you people see the possibilities here? The opportunities? Can't you just appreciate this amazing new technology without resorting to 'people these days' bullshit arguments?


I have always wondered where are following hardware hidden in this design:

1. CPU and really the whole shebang. where is it?

2. It probably requires some sort of 3G/4G card and connection? Where the heck does it fit?

3. Batteries! Where are those? Are they solar charged?

I understand people who are saying, it is not that much of a big deal just miniaturization of existing technologies but if all above 3 fit in that glass frame, I am genuinely amazed. If anyone who have used Google glass and can chime-in, that will be awesome.

I would have thought it'd pair with your phone, with the phone doing all the hard work. The glasses really just being a display and recorder.

That would indeed be the most obvious way to go, it would also make the device more powerful down the road since the computing is done on a smartphone which only get faster and faster by the year.

I'd say the computing is done "in the cloud". Low power transmission to your phone, then to the google datacenter.

It seems cool from a technology point, but I'm not sure I want to trust Google (and thereby the US Government) my life. Or am I doing that already by using Google Search and GMail?

Yeah, we're all doing it already. At this point it's more about managing what I do online then it is about avoiding using the services.

Google Glass will be massively popular with the active crowd (kind of how the GoCam got its big break) - I would personally use it in place of recording videos with my phone! I would not wear it all the time though, that's ridiculous.

I am sure that that is going to be the product that actually takes off. Google Glass will probably fail (at least the first iteration) but give some data for the next attempt. Then when Apple comes out with iGlasses everyone can act impressed.

> 1. CPU and really the whole shebang. where is it?

Atmel has micro-controllers that include the whole "shebang" the size of your pinkies fingernail!

> 2. It probably requires some sort of 3G/4G card and connection? Where the heck does it fit?

micro-SIM card!

> 3. Batteries! Where are those? Are they solar charged?

Low power means small batteries!

But things like video recording and streaming requires some sort of high end processor (or even a GPU) and I do not think low power batteries will suffice in that?

It doesn't have a massive screen though, which is a huge power draw in current phones.

The guts appear to be in the fat side.

2: Right next to your brain, the safest place for a radio transmitter to be!

Notice how you never see the wearer's whole torso in the promotional videos? All that stuff is in a 12 lb. backpack. It's color coordinated with the glasses.

Don't be a damn idiot. It's in a housing on the same side as the display, it kind of balances at your ear. I've worn a pair, I didn't have to put on some sort of massive backpack.

You're lucky. They've made a lot of progress. The beta model really made my lumbago flare up.

why isn't there an additional battery on the other side to balance them out?


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