There was a time when good manners dictated that constant reference to one’s mobile phone when in company — as though it was like another person — was considered rude. Yet blankly disappearing into
a digital world — so much more interesting than the real one — has already become the new norm.
We simultaneously talk and tweet, walk and surf. As HG Wells might have had it, small and rectangular is the shape of things to come. Indeed, if constant connectivity is now a First World necessity, like food and lattes, it’s only 21st-century human nature to want to embrace the tech even closer to our all-too-fleshy bosoms.
To some, of course, the rise of “wearable” digital gizmos — not merely carried but perched on, strapped to and, if the singularity-seeking techno Utopians have it, eventually embedded within us — is a wondrous boon. It’s a ceaseless stream of information, a means to make reality that little bit more exciting, a way of living in some imagined wonderful confluence of bricks, grass, bits and bytes.
Certainly, whether dealing with the impact of AI, robotics or globalisation, being a tech reactionary has never been a more futile position than it is now, because technology has never been more fetishised: after all, we live in an age that recently saw Aston Martin’s new DB11 win a best design of the year award — in a tech magazine.
Never mind the data tsunami that nobody knows what to do with
Yet while technology evolves much as we do — albeit at an increasingly breakneck pace — wearables threaten less to serve us as to shape us. And it’s not clear this will be for the better. No one would have imagined such devices would be slowly and surely drawing their plans against us, but they are.
Never mind that our somewhat teenage inability to focus on the here and now will only be made worse by wearables; if psychologists have dismissed the efficacy of multi-tasking as a myth, the constant interruption of wearables will only drive this home. Never mind the mental clutter they will propagate — the information that could wait, the data tsunami that, frankly, nobody knows what to do with. Yes, it’s early days, but rarely has knowing, say, your heart rate seemed more pointless. It’s speeding up, by the way, thanks to the panic induced by the need for constant digital interactions.
Never mind that wearing a wearable is going to mess with your style big time. It’s going to be a while before dressing like an extra from Star Trek will be considered cool. Never mind, too, that it will mean a further lowering of our personal firewalls — privacy, supposedly so treasured in every other aspect of life, will blithely be given up to the cloud. Don’t imagine that makers of wearables are selling hardware — ultimately they’re selling our movements, habits and preferences, by which we will all consequently be judged. The New World Order will love a wearable.
Bleep! There goes one again, craving your immediate response. And probably getting it at the expense of your marriage. Ping! Here comes a news alert, superimposed over that glorious sunset — some celebrity has walked off a cliff checking their feed. Ting! You have taken precisely five steps today, all the way to the nearest socket and back. But there is still time: Luddites of the world unite! You have nothing to lose except your wires.