My old and good friend Tristan Louis put up a blog post the other day, worrying about how wearables will inevitably wear away at the social fabric. He cites Vint Cerf (inventor of the IP protocol that runs the Internet) and Scott Heiferman, founder of Meetup.com, both as saying that stuff like Google Glass will cause people to act like jerks:
We’re not ready for ubiquitous computers. As much as backers tout the benefits, wearable computers flunk too many rules of proper etiquette. They need to be normative to be popular and right now, they’re not.
Tristan, CEO of the social startup Keepskor, and I have been arguing about stuff like this for something like 20 years, since before I was editor of NetGuide. Here’s the response I posted on LinkedIn:
“Your article presumes that the wearables we’ll see in the near-to-mid-term future are similar in form and function to what we have now. It’s a bad assumption that wearables will be general-purpose consumer devices and not special-use devices in the medtech and industrial markets.
“Glass is the beginning of the beginning. The presumption also is that societal norms will be a) fixed and b) formed by grown-ups. I know first-hand that kids have a very different relationship with technology and use it in ways that us oldsters scratch our heads at. “We’re not ready”? *Who’s* not ready? And since when does disruptive tech not arrive without, well, disruption?”
“True that in the long run mores will evolve but the question is whether or will be too late for the current crop of wearable devices. Absent a resolution of that conflict, Google Glass and smart watches are probably headed for historical footnote status.”
In that, we agree. Glass and smart watches are inevitably headed for footnote status. But you can’t get to advanced states without going through beginner steps. You need car phones and iPods before you get to iPhones. Glass comes first; what comes next is what’s important.