(Bloomberg Opinion) -- I hate Google Glass, and I think I’ve hit upon a way to get everyone to understand the dystopic future this eyewear augurs: Give it to flight attendants.
The summer of 2014 was a turning point for me. I had always considered myself a genuinely nice person who would never consider violence against a stranger. But then, at a conference in Silicon Valley, I saw a guy wearing the Google glasses with the little camera attached. I had to suppress the urge to punch him in the face. It gave me a visceral understanding of the Luddites. I hated the guy for his smug assumption that everyone should submit to his digital intrusion.
After the device failed as a consumer item, Google started marketing it to industry, where it’s actually showing signs of becoming useful. In healthcare, for example, it can help doctors and nurses with the high-stakes task of dealing with myriad patients and getting all their details right. It wouldn’t even need to use creepy facial-recognition technology, relying instead on hospital wristbands that emit identifying signals. Of course there are privacy concerns — the glasses should show only need-to-know information such as whether patients need meds or speak English, not whether they’re married or HIV positive. But the potential payoffs are enticing: fewer errors, better triage, fewer unnecessary deaths.
Such upsides, though, don’t mean that Google Glass will, on balance, be good for humanity. Consider flight attendants, whose work has some similarities to nursing. Precise knowledge of individual passengers can be very valuable. As the Wall Street Journal has reported, frequent fliers sometimes want their birthdays acknowledged, always want their favorite drink served immediately, and never want their marriage status mentioned in front of other passengers, especially if they’re attractive.
Now imagine those flight attendants using Google Glass. This time we’ll turn on the facial recognition, which will work pretty well considering that people’s identities are hardly a secret when they’re flying. The attendants will know everything about you.
Commercial airplane flights are a perverted subcultural experience, where everyone is ranked and treated accordingly. We’re pitted against each other for scarce resources to make us feel insecure and pay more to raise our rank. What better way to fine-tune the experience than with Google Glass? The goal: Make every aspect of the consumer experience as jealousy-inducing as walking through the first-class cabin on an international trip.
This can be accomplished pretty efficiently, even in coach. Serving preferred guests sooner, perhaps with their favorite cocktail and one extra tiny bag of cheezits, should induce enough jealous rage to compel the most tightwad passengers to pay for an upgrade in status. The glasses could even add a new level of stratification to the boarding experience, allowing gate agents to scan the crowd for the “currently highest ranked remaining unboarded passenger,” or CHRRUP.
That should do it. If it’s not enough to make everyone want to punch those glasses (please people, don't actually punch the flight attendants), I don’t know what is.
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