I Won’t Be A Glasshole But Will You Stop Being A Douchebag?

Picture Credit: Sixgun.org

Ever since Google Glass was made available to select few who were lucky enough to register at Google I/O 2012, we are constantly hearing commentaries both positive and negative from the technology media, social media and, even, bedrooms. This is a normal behavior whenever a leap is made on how society uses technology. However, what we are also seeing in the debate on Google Glass is how many critics are crossing the line in the name of debating a new technology.

There are critics who are genuinely focussed on the impact of this new technology on the society. There are many critics who are jumping up and down because they have easy access to megaphone in the name of social media. Let me be clear here. These critics on social media have the same rights as anyone else but what pisses me off is how irresponsible some of them are in their criticism. Let me take a shot at pointing out where they cross the line.

There are many types of critics out there. There are some who claim that they don’t see a need for Google Glass. In fact, I didn’t find a need for iPhone or other smartphones till I could afford one. These people are totally harmless. This post is not about them. There are a few (like me?) who criticize Google Glass just because they can. They are harmless too. There are few who are genuinely worried about privacy implications of such a technological shift. They are harmless too. But there are many more who stop being rational human beings. This post is about them.

When you use the term like Glasshole to describe a person using Glass, there is definitely a fun part but there is also a douche part too. I love the fun part but worry that the douche part will hurt the rational discussion we are trying to have on the new technology. The biggest worry for most people is that Google Glass makes it easy for people to take photograph or video anywhere anytime. This freaks out people in a big way and part of it can be attributed to ignorance about the technology. The concern is genuine but the way many people express this concern borders around complete douchebaggery. Yes, the technology makes it easy to take a photograph or video but there is still a need for human being behind the technology for the photo or video to be taken. Discounting the human factor is plain ignorance and intentionally ignoring the human factor is being a douchebag.

Just take a look at this article on The New York Times by Nick Bilton. He says

As I approached the line to the restroom, I took a deep sigh, thinking that I might find some respite from the hundreds of cameras strapped to people’s heads at the conference.

Yet when it was finally my turn to approach the rows of white urinals, my world came screeching to a halt. There they were, a handful of people wearing Google Glass, now standing next to me at their own urinals, peering their head from side to side, blinking or winking, as they relieved themselves.

What does he mean? Is he claiming that others in the urinals with him are out there to take a picture of his private parts and post it on the internet? On what basis he is stereotyping all those Google Glass wearing folks in that urinal as assholes (a.k.a Glassholes)? How is this different from calling every muslim a terrorist or other similar stereotypes? Making an assumption that the only intention of the human being behind the Google Glass is to take the picture of his private parts is not just highly narcissistic but also complete douchebaggery. It is not just Nick Bilton who is doing this. I have seen many people in real lives and social media (especially in the social networks where a certain level of anonymity is available) creating such stereotypical narratives about the human being wearing Google Glass.

Yes, there are creeps out there who could misuse a technology like Google Glass. Well, we all go to restaurants and other private spaces where we are being watched by the cameras in these places. There could be creeps with access to these cameras too. Are we (as a society) calling all these restaurant owners, mall owners and even governments assholes? There are millions of smartphone owners taking pictures of people in public places and there are thousands of creeps among them misusing these photographs. Are we calling all the smartphone owners assholes? At the risk of being politically incorrect, let me ask all the men reading this post the following. Just because there are many rapists among the men, is it ok for women (or even other men) to consider every single man approaching them as a rapist? Come on, where are we heading in the name of criticizing a new breed of technology?

Then there is another group who call the folks wearing Google Glass as Glassholes or Douchebags just because the way they appear is not norm in the society. Here is a tweet in that direction (interestingly, by a person who has ponytails in his profile picture).

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I am pretty sure it was a joke because he knows me on Twitter for quite some time but he is not alone and there are many people who call those wearing Google Glass as douchebags. They are doing it because it is not a norm in the society and they look different from the most. Where will we end up if we start calling everyone who is different as douchebags? Everything from racism to sexism to any form of intolerance has origins in this kind of thinking.

I am all for criticizing newer technological leaps. But what I am arguing is that it is completely irrational to cross the line and start insulting the human beings behind the glass. Just because you have a megaphone in the name of blogs or twitter or facebook, you cannot insult other human beings.

I can confidently say, while wearing the Google Glass, that I won’t be a Glasshole. Can you, without even wearing the Google Glass, stop being a douchebag? #kthxbye


  1. Google Glass is a great piece of technology. It has many uses and will be very useful for many professionals. But in personal life wearing Google Glass is the same as pointing a video camera towards another person. Would you define someone who would point a video camera to every person they encounter a douchebag? I would not be comfortable in that situation. It is an invasion of my privacy and in general just not a nice thing to do. I see proponents of Google Glass referring to other technological innovations such as the mobile phone which was also considered to be something used by douchebags when it was new. All new innovations on this scale results in some negative views. But having a phone that you can carry around with you is fundamentally different behaviour than recording other peoples behaviours without their consent.

    Also I do not think your comparison to stereotyping muslims is appropriate at all. And this is not about being different. It is about what the technology you choose to use is capable of doing.

    My tweet was meant as a joke and I do agree it is not a very nice joke. Regardless of what I think of the implications of the technology it is seldom a good idea to start name-calling. And for that I apologize.

    And as pointed out on Twitter I do not have ponytails. I do however occasionally have a Canon camera strap hanging from my shoulders :)

  2. I did not read Nick Biltons article as a claim that others in the urinals with him are out there to take a picture of his private parts and post it on the internet. I read it as a fear that there exists a fair share of people that will take inappropriate pictures if nobody will found out. Which is why I think your entire post is battling a view noone actually has.

    • What do you think is the root cause of such fear? Lack of trust on the human being. This lack of trust is what I am battling than any claim.

      • Then I guess we just fall on different sides of the border between cynicism and realism. I don’t trust every single human I meet with a hidden camera just because “we should have faith in people”. I don’t think it’s unfair to assume that inappropriate pictures will happen. But I do think it’s naive to assume that they won’t.

        Doing a conversation (or taking a piss) with Google Glasses on is pretty similar to doing the same with your smartphone in front of your face. Putting it away signals respect to the person you are interacting with.

        • What was considered as respect few years back is normal today. Using Laptops in meetings or while listening to a talk at a conference was lack of respect even 5+ years back. Now it is a norm. Checking smartphones while at a dinner with professional colleagues was a matter of disrespect sometime back but now it is the new norm. So, I am not all that worried about the “respect angle”. Social norms will change with the proliferation of newer technologies.

          What I am upset is about the least respect many of these “critics” give to the human beings behind the glass. If humans behind the Google Glass were bound to take pictures inside urinals, then a statement like “men with penis are likely to rape” is a valid one too. I think it is time for the society to respect the human beings who are in control of the technology. If it ever happens where technology acts entirely on its own (Singularity), then such concerns are valid.

          • But nobody is saying that people with Google Glass are likely to take inappropriate pictures, that’s a straw man argument if I ever saw one. But I do think there would be quite a few more rapes in the world if there was a known way to rape with no chance of being caught.

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