Shortly after Google cofounder Sergey Brin unveiled Google Glass to the world, privacy bugs were quick to ponder whether such a device infringes on personal privacy.
In the months after, news stories covered certain establishments, such as a Seattle cafe or a strip club, that will ban Glass. If you do a quick search on Google News, the majority of articles about Glass are focused on privacy issues.
What I believe the media are failing to discuss and recognize is a much more significant point: Google Glass, or a successor, will make a significantly positive impact on the way our society behaves.
Google Glass is a complicated device with a simple goal: making life easier. It’s a computer you can mount on the top of your head – equipped with a camera, microphone, wi-fi and anything else your heart desires – that will bring you all of the information you used to need your smartphone for, only in a hands-free format.
Now, imagine a woman walking back to her car alone at night, and consider the multitude of ways Google Glass works that can protect her. A skeptical, gut reaction might instantly reject the idea that an inanimate, headset camera could possibly defend this woman from a would-be assailant. (“She could get attacked from behind,” “The attacker could steal her Glass,” “He could be wearing a mask”). My suggestion is not that Glass will definitely prevent this woman from being attacked. It won’t. But the benefits are clear: Google Glass will improve her situation and decrease the chances of an assault.
A would-be assailant may think twice about his actions if he knows they will be recorded. If a potential perpetrator did approach her, Glass might be able to cross-check him against a criminal database. Or she can broadcast her walk to a loved one who can watch over her from afar, pinpointing her exact location with each step. If something horrible did happen to this woman, a recorded video of the event would be of greater use to authorities than her verbal recollection of what happened. Glass gives this woman and many like her a strong tool for self-defense.
Consider your child, niece or nephew being bullied at school, and think about the ways Google Glass may help this child. I have heard the naysayers say things like: “Wearing Glass will make the child look like a dork and get bullied even more,” “The bully will probably steal his Glass,” and, “Glass can’t record what’s happening behind the child.” Frankly, the upsides far outweigh any downsides I have heard.
Glass won’t definitely prevent a child from being bullied, but it may dramatically improve a bad situation. It might make the bully think twice about his actions because they are being recorded. It might give the victim a bit more confidence to stand up for himself in the face of the bully, knowing the chance of physical repercussion has been reduced. It might allow parents to see what’s actually occurring so that they can better support and advise their child. It might allow a teacher or administrator to better determine the appropriate disciplinary actions. These pros - merely the potential of these pros - outweigh the cons by a wide margin. A bullied child will be better protected with Google Glass.
A police officer will be less likely to abuse his power, and yet he will be less likely to be falsely accused of brutality.
A postal worker will be less likely to snatch your Amazon delivery, and at the same time he won’t get fired for a few missing packages that he didn’t steal.
You might use the car mechanic who wears Glass over the mechanic who doesn’t.
Your friends may prefer to eat at the restaurant with the chef who wears Glass over the one who doesn’t.
Worried that the scalped tickets you are buying for today’s baseball game are fakes? Maybe Glass has seen this guy offering you tickets, or maybe you can warn the next person not to fall for the same scam you just did.
There is no doubt that Yelp has a huge impact on restaurants. Sure, some of the reviews might be fake, and some restaurants simply don’t care about the feedback they get. But a ton of restaurants do care - a lot. They might figure out their customer service needs improvement, or that people are noticing their food isn’t so fresh. They may simply be concerned with their public reputation. Ultimately it’s the transparency that, while disruptive and painful to some, causes the restaurants to respond in a manner which will improve their Yelp ratings - in a manner which is good for us.
Angie’s List allows us to check how good a contractor’s reputation is before hiring the person - which should make the contractors want to improve how they do business. Amazon and Ebay, by virtue of the feedback they offer, cause retailers to improve virtually all aspects of their businesses.
I am excited about Google Glass because it forces each of us to think a bit more about our reputations, to think more about the way we treat each other. Yes, there are downsides, and we will likely all be spending more time in the foreseeable future discussing how we can work around these. But right now, I’m hearing way too much about the downside and not hearing nearly enough of what I know is true: Google Glass is good for us.
In what ways do you believe Google Glass affect our lives? Let’s continue the conversation.
Google+: Eytan Elbaz