Think it’s a good idea to strap on that smart watch, or prop the Google Glass on your face? Think again. Our smart wearable tech is spying on us, enslaving us, and ensuring that every first date we go on ends in teary self-abuse. Dean Quinn examines our imminent demise…
As youngsters brought up on a diet of Gerry Anderson creations such as Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlett, you can understand our disappointment at the wrist-mounted communications devices that eventually materialised. Even fans of the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Fit have to admit, they’re not quite the fanciful creations sported by the marionette Alan Hansen-alike and his band of cronies.
Yeah, our brains were likely frazzled by the excessive E-numbers packed into infant Soylent Green (or Angel Delight as it’s better known) and non-stop schlocky sci-fi, but we couldn’t wait to hit adulthood and rock amazing smartwatches that can make video calls, create holograms of ourselves and melt the faces of anyone who disagreed with us.
What we didn’t count on was these very gadgets monitoring our every movement, like sinister subterfuge Big Brother devices. Just imagine – not only does your own kit spy on you, but you have to stump up for the privilege!
Tech companies have been slowly entrenching the whole wearable device shindiggery into our brains over the past year or so. After all, they’re very much a luxury item, completely unnecessary, not to mention yet another device that you have to take care of, charge regularly and update more often than Jordan’s Facebook relationship status (you’ve been wearing that same sweaty LG Lifeband for more than three months? Eughh, you bloody hippy).
And this slow-build process has been so covert that nobody seems to notice what’s happening. Basically, we’re being cajoled into submitting masses of data about ourselves, and paying through the nose to do it too.
Manufacturers have managed to keep wearables in the public’s consciousness by continually shovelling out ever-so-slightly improved iterations every few months – just look at the Sony Smartwatch or Samsung’s Gear range. The process appears to be: ‘dazzle them with enough shiny things, and tell them that their lives are only a fraction as good as they could be without our latest wrist gadget, and they’ll forget that (a) the functionality offered doesn’t really enhance their day-to-day existence, and (b) ALL YOUR DATA ARE BELONG TO US.
These devices, plus the recent slew of fitness-themed peripherals, aren’t pushed into the public domain for the benefit of general consumers though – they’re initially aimed at the early adopter. The very people who, by virtue of owning and using these devices, will increase visibility to other, less discernible would-be consumers.
“Wow, nice watch, Barry.”
“Yeah, it measures the frequency and forcefulness of my bowel movements and automatically tweets my intestinal health ratio.”
“I see.” (Damn you, Barry, I must have one and be your technological equal).
Over time, these unwitting pioneers drive acceptance, and gradually – almost as if by osmosis – the reluctance of uptake dissipates.
The next step involves celebrity endorsement and championing by ‘key opinion leaders’. By this point, the flag wavers are no longer uber-geeks in the tech press, but ‘proper’ mainstream journalists and strokeably trustworthy faces that you see on the telly box. Once you’ve seen Google Glass creaking at the hinges after being forced onto Eamon Holmes’ greasy face, you know that the conspiracy (sorry, strategy) has shifted up a gear.
How long before glasses-wearing celebs endorse Google Glass?
Before you know it, we’re all ‘digital citizens’, wilfully shelling out on expensive gadgetry to record our daily habits. Data on our exact motions, dietary preferences and general state of health are pinged back to the faceless corporations in charge.
To some, this is viewed with wilful ignorance. To others, it’s simply the price you must pay to be part of the elite ‘at the bleeding edge’. We’re of course talking about the select few who scampered to sign up to Google’s Explorer programme and pay through the nose ($1500 upon first release) for Google Glass.
Read next: Google’s list of dos and do nots for Google Glass.
Whether that particular peripheral ever achieves widespread acceptance outside of San Francisco ‘s Bay Area, or Shoreditch’s ‘Silicon Roundabout’, remains to be seen. But should it happen, the implications on society as we know it could be bigger than Godzilla’s morning dump. Think about it for just a second. An entire populace, kitted out with a device that can record your each and every request for information and feed back that data to a faceless megalocorp, to do with it whatever it wills.
Some will argue that this happens already. After all, anyone who collects Nectar points or uses Amazon/Google Play/Apple’s App Store is willingly surrendering their shopping preferences to big business, and allowing a commercial profile to be formed. They know what you eat, wear, read, watch and listen to, not to mention when you like to shop and an approximate estimation of how much you earn.
And then there’s social media, of course. Stewart Lee memorably described Twitter as ‘a state surveillance agency staffed by gullible volunteers’ – all of our musings are there, recorded for posterity until the end of time, ready to be viewed and dissected by anyone who sees fit. And some of those things we fart out into the digital ether may well paint us as bigoted, contrived or even downright evil, if not considered in the context they were intended. Could all those online bitch-sessions about the Tories and ‘the establishment’ be used against us, to paint us as anarchists or ne’er-do-wells? All of a sudden, those civil liberties seem like archaic notions of a time long passed.
Alright, that may be taking it a bit far. But even if you don’t subscribe to the ‘they’re all out to get us’ conspiracy, the mass adoption of Google Glass and whatever other peripherals it spawns will undoubtedly change what it is to be human.
Yes, some of the more waggish commentators might argue the brilliance of these devices – imagine livening up that boring drive to work by superimposing the Wario Stadium level of Mario Cart 64 onto your immediate surroundings. But for every high-octane morning duel with an anthropomorphised dinosaur, there’ll be a job interview or first date laced with a growing sense of foreboding that the other person already knows that you’re an utter douchebag. After all, they can see your horribly vile online personality, filled with drunken rants and illiterate YouTube comments, just by glancing up and to the left a bit. Those always-on smart devices are going to keep us lonely and desperate for eternity!
Right now though, wearable tech and the relentless drive for connectivity in every aspects of our lives is at a cross-roads. The trickle of smartwatches and smartbands and the increased focus on in-device sensors by manufacturers is just the tip of the iceberg. Android Wear is here and brings the promise of ‘information that moves with you’ (a.k.a ‘inescapable information’), and Glass could either explode into the mainstream or wind up in a massive skip with a load of Sinclair C5s.
Just bear in mind: what might at present seem like a bunch of hi-tech rubber bands for joggers and wrist-mounted smartphone remotes for early adopters, could eventually develop to the point that we’re all enslaved by ‘the connected era’, and the notion of being a private citizen will be lost forever. Now, where did we put those Bacofoil berets?