There's an ongoing debate between some friends of mine and I about Google Glass, the Google project to be launched this year that puts a smartphone interface before your eyes like a pair of glasses. My friends think that Glass is a terrible idea, because it's important to them to be able to put the smartphone away and interact with the world unmediated. One friend compared it to the "gargoyles" in Neal Stephenson's novel Snow Crash, who live their lives constantly recording and documenting every minute and so are always at a remove from reality, unable to experience it without mediation.

Some of the same friends who complain about Glass also complained about cell phones when they started becoming ubiquitous ('if I'm not at home I don't want you to be able to reach me') and later complained about smartphones ('those things are useless'). And while I do still know some hold-outs without cell phones, almost everyone else has a smartphone now and enjoys it. It takes a certain amount of adjustment, especially for us old fogeys who didn't grow up taking the Internet for granted, but once you realize that you can get public transit directions to anywhere while standing on a streetcorner, look up a random fact over dinner or purchase a birthday present for instant delivery while at a birthday party, the value of a tool like a smartphone starts to hit home.

Likewise, I think most people won't understand the value of something like Glass until they see the early adoptors following directions without having to look back and forth at their phone or taking pictures the instant something happens. Assuming that the voice recognition interface is robust enough (a big if, though tools like Siri have shown the way), Google Glass might not create a remove between ourselves and reality, but instead eliminate the remove we already have between ourselves and technology. Indeed, not having to reach for your phone could make you not less but more able to just experience the world as it happens in front of you. And to me, that's very exciting.