Almost as bad as “geek wristwear” that gives you the time of day in binary or base-6 – I’ve never seen a clearer way of advertising a lack of healthy sex life – are the new wave of “smart watches” being threatened by the likes of Apple, Samsung and Google. Now, don’t get me wrong: they sound terrific. Imagine not having to take a phone out with you when you’re just popping out for milk but don’t want to miss any calls.
But has anyone stopped to think what wearing one of them will actually be like?
It’s bad enough being a slave to a mobile phone, with its endless, attention-seeking notifications. But at least you can turn phones off. Can you imagine how dreadful it will be when every Twitter notification makes your wrist shake like a premature bout of Parkinson’s? It’s my idea of a dystopian hell.
And there’s something a bit sinister, too, about the encroachment into my personal space of all those buzzes, beep and pings. Not content with saddling me with permanent connectivity in my back pocket in the form of a fiendishly addictive smartphone, Apple and Google now want to physically attach one of their time-sink devices to my body.
Hmm. This feels alarmingly like connectivity fascism and I draw the line at the equivalent of an interactive tattoo that insists on notifying me every time someone likes one of my photos on Facebook. It would be scary if it weren’t so desperately tragic: do we really need such constant social affirmation that we must now strap our dopamine delivery machines to our arms?
This is Twitter with a plastic manacle.
This is as close to a digital IV drip as society has yet travelled – and that’s not a compliment. Will I, as those people who stubbornly refused to get iPhones well into 2010 did, become a social pariah if I fail to sport a smart watch on my wrist by 2015?
It’s too often said by technology pundits that we’re living in an era of disorientating change. But what I keep on asking myself, in hushed tones, is: how do you get people comfortable with the idea of technological implants inside their bodies? Why, by first getting them used to attractive gizmos that attach to it.
Some people might be excited by the prospect of technological augmentation – the sharpening of the senses, the improvement of the memory and the honing of the reflexes by cybernetic implants. And I admit that does sound pretty stellar. But that’s not what we’re being offered here – not even close. This is Twitter with a plastic manacle.
Let’s not forget, these devices will perform precisely the opposite function to a watch. Rather than assisting our timekeeping, they will become an unavoidable distraction. Perhaps worse, they will come to be understood as social cues: the sort of daily torment you subject yourself to will advertise to others the precise kind of technological addict you are.
Mobile phones are enough of an extension of self as it is. They are the ultimate consumer choice: a small, ever-present bit of kit that tells other people what sort of values you have and how you like to express yourself. But at least I can leave the damn thing at home if I want – or leave it in my pocket.
Get me used to wearing a watch again and it’ll be like a wedding ring: I won’t even know when a stranger is watching and judging. It’s not enough that the tech industry wants me to hawk out my cherished possessions and sell my privacy down the river to a publicly funded social network for dog owners. Now it wants to, quite literally, chain itself to me. Thanks, but no thanks.