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in the previous issue of this publication, Farhad Manjoo made
a plausible case that Google’s new augmented-reality glasses,
known as Project Glass, could make computing less distracting
by replacing every other device in our pockets and laps. Rather
than checking out of a conversation by looking down at our phones,
we could get in and out of our computing environment without
even turning our heads.
But here’s where human behavior comes in. We are really bad
at ignoring distractions at hand. And the more accessible they
are, the more addictive and distracting they can become. Let’s
take all those distractions and put them on our face, directly in
our line of sight? I don’t know about you, but when I want to
avoid distractions, I often have to physically avoid them. “Out of
sight, out of mind” isn’t just a cliché—it’s a commentary on the
narrow spotlight of human attention and our inability to ignore
something ever-present in our field of view.
Already, computers grab so much of
our attention that savvy users deploy
apps like SelfControl and Freedom,
which switch off social media, e-mail, and
other distractions. Certainly, we could use
such aids on Google’s Glass. But I’ ll bet most of us won’t.
Do you find it unnerving when the person next to you at the
grocery store is having a conversation with himself or herself,
and at first you don’t realize it’s because he or she is speaking
into a phone headset? Google Glass is a camera, headphones,
and a display all in one. So now imagine that the person in the
grocery store seems to be having full-blown visual hallucinations.
Don’t get me wrong—I find the prospect of augmented real-
ity tantalizing. I’m just not sure we yet know how to manage the
ways it’s going to change our interpersonal relations.
— christopher mims
tHree QueStionS For
research has shaped
business theory and
1You have posited that
humans can maintain 150
stable relationships. How has
the Internet changed this?
Apparently not at all. the 150
is just one layer in a series;
beyond the 150 are at least
two further layers (one at 500
and one at 1,500), which cor-
respond to acquaintances and
faces we recognize. When
people add more than 150
friends on Facebook, they sim-
ply dip into these normal higher
layers. Facebook has muddied
the waters by calling them all
friends, but really they are not.
2Does this “Dunbar num-
ber” limit what Facebook
i think its only practical effect is
a pr one: you can’t sell Face-
book as a way of widening your
social circle. [that] happens
very rarely—and it probably still
requires you to get together
in person to really create and
cement the relationship. Face-
book’s functionality seems to
lie in its capacity to enable us
to maintain friendships through
time and over long distances
where relationships would nor-
mally decay rapidly.
3 could Web social net-
works negatively affect
offline social behavior?
there are two possibilities.
one is that time spent
maintaining old friendships is
time that can’t be spent creating
new ones. Since friends exist to
be shoulders to cry on (meta-
phorically speaking!) and shoul-
ders that are physically remote
aren’t much use for crying on,
this might not be ideal. [two], if
your social experience is largely
online, you may not be learning
[face-to-face] social skills as well
as you need to. —W i ll knigHt
Someday, maps and
could come up in
your field of view.
this study suggests that you can potentially stop
or slow down Alzheimer’s disease.
— Kun Ping lu, a physician scientist at Harvard, commenting on
research from Weill cornell medical center showing that a drug appar-
ently halted cognitive decline and memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients
Signing Up for Google’s
Glasses Is Like Asking
are you prepared to manage the distractions
inherent in a portal to the internet that you can’t
take your eyes off?
8/7/12 5:20 PM
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