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Sergey Brin Says Using a Smartphone Is 'Emasculating' 325

An anonymous reader writes "While speaking at the TED Conference in California earlier today, Sergey Brin seemingly tried to set the stage for a world where using Google Glass is as normal as using a smartphone. What's more, Brin went so far as to say that using smartphones is 'emasculating.' Brin said that smartphone users often seclude themselves in their own private virtual worlds. 'Is this the way you're meant to interact with other people,' Brin asked. Are people in the future destined to communicate via just walking around, looking down, and 'rubbing a featureless piece of glass,' Brin asked rhetorically. 'It's kind of emasculating. Is this what you're meant to do with your body?' Is wearing futuristic glasses any better?" Another reader sends in an article that also muses on our psychological connection to our devices. Or, as he puts it, the "increasingly weird and perhaps overly intimate relationship we have with our gadgets; the fist we touch when awake, the last at night. Our minds have become bookended by glass."
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Sergey Brin Says Using a Smartphone Is 'Emasculating'

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  • Reverse marketing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cachimaster ( 127194 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @01:20AM (#43031519)

    IMHO even if Glass is clearly the superior device, it makes you look like a dork/nerd.
    There is no way to change that until they look like regular glasses. Until then, all you can do is attack your main competitor, the smarthpone, or it will go the way of the segway.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 28, 2013 @01:30AM (#43031573)

    We always knew that the iDevices were crippling golden prisons... ditto for Windows 8 ones... and that Android, while being better in freedom of what you could install, was not at all different in general mindset of cripplingly dumbed-down UIs.

    But it's not the phone. It's the *mindset*! Thinking of it as a *fixed-function* device, instead of a *computer*!
    But most people nowadays have never actually *used* a computer, and do not even remotely have and idea what a computer actually is.
    They have only used fat appliances that happened to be implemented on a computer. But they never ever saw, let alone used, the computer underneath. They never automated anything away.

    That's what's emasculating... no, *crippling*.
    And as long as people continue believing, that dumbing-down would be an "ideal", instead of being considered harmful, that won't change.

  • Emasculating? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Warhawke ( 1312723 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @01:41AM (#43031617)

    You keep on using that word... I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Seriously, does he legitimately expect that I'm going to suddenly ditch my phone and throw the contents of my wallet at him for a product that makes Navin's Opti-Grab look stylish simply because he's calling me and one-seventh of the human population -- including women -- castrated girly-men?

  • by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @02:04AM (#43031709) Journal

    Based on the fact that the primary (and really, ONLY) interface to Google glass is voice recognition, and given my experiences with voice recognition using the latest (or at lesast recent, Android 4.1) technology Google has for voice recognition, Google Glass is their Apple Newton.

    The tech, it just ain't ready yet. I carefully enunciate: "Send Text to Kathy (pause) I think the problem is Becky, who wants to cancel Robert's plan"

    A few beeps later...

    "Sending text to Becky, The problem is Becky who wants to cancel Robert's plan".

    Yeah, the example sorta sucks, but this pretty much happened to me when I decided to trust the text to speech for texting. It was almost a complete interpersonal disaster. It's good, but it's just not good enough. And given that text to speech has been "almost" good enough for at least 20 years [wikipedia.org], I'm not expecting it to improve any time soon until semantic understanding is part of the mix. (Watson: I'm looking at you.... [ibm.com])

    In response I like to send random sounding texts to family members like "Happy birth tazer ahh" just to see the response, to which I can reply: "Stupid voice to text, happy birthday Sarah!"..

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @02:43AM (#43031835)
    When Sol Trujillo was running Australia's Telstra (running it into the ground, but that's another story), he had his sales employees wear recording devices around their necks so that management could replay what the sales staff did each day. It was excused as being commonplace in the USA, and after hearing about how HP employees were bugged for all I know it may be true. I can see management with an almost slave owner attitude being attracted to such devices.
  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @02:53AM (#43031861)

    Touching an inanimate object made of glass and plastic each morning and night is nothing new -- well before the days of smart phones (or even cell phones at all), I used to have a manual alarm clock that I'd have to set each night and turn off each morning. So this "strange intimacy" with our gadgets has been going on for 50 years or more.

    Since it was a 12 hour clock, it wasn't possible to reset the alarm when it went off at 7am in the morning or else it would go off again at 7pm, so one had to set it each night.

    Now my smartphone is my alarm, and it's better in that I don't have to set it at night, but it's still the first thing I touch in the morning since I have to stop the alarm.

  • Only on my own terms (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tftp ( 111690 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @02:54AM (#43031865) Homepage

    I might buy the Glass, but only if the device connects only to my computers and does only what I want. In effect, it would be a convenient HUD, not a service. Not a bit would go outside of my LAN.

    In most cases, though, I don't quite feel the need to have one on. Do I need to wear a monitor in front of me? Do I need to threaten everyone with recording of all their activities, public and semi-public? My life does not revolve around constant communication; there is specific time and place for that. The employer will probably also be not very happy that you can watch movies and read Slashdot all day long without anyone knowing it. The police will be joyful to learn that a Glass owner can see not just the road but also his email and chat - and there is no way to prove it one way or another.

  • by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @03:42AM (#43032021) Homepage

    They do plan to sell it as prescription glasses.

  • by aristotle-dude ( 626586 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @03:56AM (#43032087)

    He knew how to "think" like the common man and figure out what the common man wanted before he knew that he wanted it.

    Jobs knew how to manipulate people into wanting what he had to sell them. He was an excellent salesman.

    Interesting but even an excellent salesman still needs something compelling to "sell". By using your logic, Apple should have failed a long time ago if what Jobs was selling was not compelling. If you look at the history of Apple since Jobs returned and retooled their product line, Apple has had mostly a series of hits on their hands. There have been a few stinkers like the iPod Boom box and iPod socks but mostly hits. Are you trying to tell all of us that all of those sales were the result of a "sales job" by Jobs? Really? If the products were so mediocre, why was everyone slavishly copying them in every category that was successful?

    He also had a sense of taste...

    I guess a bad sense is still a sense, so, ok.

    Ok, so you have evidence to back up this assertion? You can hate their products if you want but you will have a bit of trouble arguing with their string of successes.

  • by wickerprints ( 1094741 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @03:59AM (#43032101)

    That Mr. Brin doesn't seem to understand the difference between the two words is not a good sign that he has carefully considered the point he wishes to make.

    Do mobile devices (not just smartphones) have the potential to make face-to-face interaction less likely or desirable? Sure. Where we once needed to actually be in immediate proximity to another individual in order to sustain a meaningful dialogue or communication with them, we now have the convenience of tweeting them or posting something on their (heaven forbid) Facebook wall. We can text them, even if they are halfway around the globe. Does this necessarily decrease the quality of interaction? The most honest answer I can furnish is that it depends.

    Throughout history, humans have been devising ways to make communication easier. We invented written languages, books, telegraphy, telephony, television, and the internet. We did all these things because we found it facilitated connection. Does it mean that when the telephone was invented, people started to lament that telephones were "emasculating" (sic) because they made it possible to talk to someone without being physically in the same room? That's an absurdly regressive, not to mention historically and technologically naive, view. It borders on sophistry.

    Let's be clear that over-reliance on smartphones and mobile connectivity, to the point of eschewing physical interaction, is a definite phenomenon. I don't want anyone to get the impression that I'm an apologist for all the spoiled teens whose interactions with their peers is primarily through virtual, rather than real, means--and rack up the bills to show for it. Or that I'm excusing full-grown adults who insist on checking their feeds every 5 minutes, who can't be bothered to put their phones down for a real-life conversation in the flesh. But it is painfully obvious that Mr. Brin has an agenda here, which is to sell his company's glasses as the solution to this problem. As such, whatever legitimate criticisms he has lacks credibility because of his bias.

    Moreover, there's another problem with Mr. Brin's accusations, and that is the unspoken assumption that these glasses *must* be an improvement. That is a claim that remains to be seen, because it isn't at all obvious. I, for one, would be very uneasy at the prospect of living in a society whose members are constantly recording each others' movements and activities. I suppose Mr. Brin (and Google) takes the attitude that we will simply become accustomed to this omnipresent surveillance, but I think that it is an entirely legitimate question to ask why we as a society SHOULD move in this direction in the first place. Thus far I have not seen any compelling rationale to do so.

    In summary, I am distrustful of anyone who advocates for a new technology as a solution to a problem that is largely symptomatic of cultural attitudes and a lack of etiquette. Don't want your mobile devices to turn your social life into a virtual experience? The answer is not to buy the next fancy gadget, be it some silly-looking headwear or something yet to be invented, but to simply make the conscious decision to be a better person by interacting in person. And similarly there is a point at which a society needs to collectively decide for itself that it is better to experience the world first-hand, rather than through a handheld electronic device. To the extent that such a device facilitates that goal, the more power to it. That is the reason for technology--to enrich our lives, not become what we live our lives through.

  • by jma05 ( 897351 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @04:31AM (#43032217)

    > you'll find most people won't want a camera shoved into their face

    This is worse than 1984. In Oceania, one at least knew where the cameras were and could at-least try to avoid them.

    > basically the entire public space is under surveillance all the time

    Reminds one of the scene in The Matrix, where Neo is identified when the avatar of a homeless guy just sees him. So long privacy. It was nice knowing you.

    Other thoughts...
    - Google will agree to not track or store (less likely) faces unless consented to... sort of like Google Maps blanking faces
    - Allow friends to follow you... literally, as you get detected by the crowd cams (why not? for some reason, people already let their online lives tracked by social media)
    - Subscribe to FBI's most wanted list, local missing people.

  • by happy_place ( 632005 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @09:13AM (#43033245) Homepage

    I would not be surprised if introverted personalities do precisely this sort of thing or something similar. Not just for sexual or even silly reasons, but because it creates a barrier to communication that at some level introverted personalities would prefer. Psychologically the ability to do this sort of thing could become very addictive. These devices form a buffer between the uncertainties of cold hard reality and ourselves.They enable (or at least give us the perception of such) us to be more clever than we really are.

    We already see this happening a lot with people that would rather text you than talk with you in person. There's a subliminal dislike to actual conversations, and the uncertainty that comes from an immediate action/reaction--that lack of control and the inability to formulate the perfect response, I suspect, is part of the reason why people do this. Texting and other forms of communication that require a time-lag or deny you of personal one-on-one exchanges, enable both parties the ability to be conveniently (and purposefully) ambiguous. iow, we feel smarter, more emboldened, and even more able to objectify one (which sounds bad, but at some level serves us because if people aren't objects the stakes are just too high) another with this sort of technology.

    Unfortunately, a technology that is supposed to assist us in communicating and seeing one another in greater clarity, will most likely have the opposite effect. It will enable those who wish it, to put on another costume atop all their other ones. . . but then social media is all one giant masquerade of smiling idyllic snapshots of who we all wish we could be.

  • by dintech ( 998802 ) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @12:47PM (#43035803)
    Talking of buffers between reality, in Japan, there has recently been big uptick of teenagers wearing surgical masks at all times, not just when ill. Some comments explaining why include, "it's very tiresome to have to use my face to express my emotions." Here is the article in Japan Today [japantoday.com]

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