The Good, The Bad, and The Scary Of Wearable Technology

In Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot” novels, he shows us a world where technology supersedes established social norms. In his books, nudity is fine as long as it is viewed remotely. As in his fictional worlds, mobile technology and the Internet are changing our culture.


Tragedies related to cyber-bullying have hit the headlines but the more subtle influences to our world may be more important. Microchips in children, voice controlled devices, and wearable technology are altering the way we communicate and interact, maybe to the detriment to our society.

The Problem Of Facelessness

The key to cyber-bullying is the cyber-disinhibition effect in which people do not have visual cues to moderate their behavior, reports researcher Michelle Wright. When talking face-to-face, a little nod or a squint of the eye gives the speaker micro messages, telling him to continue or change the subject. Digital messaging strips us of these meta-messages. Wearable technology, like Google Glass, brings this to a new level. A user can communicate with a person, even show that person what is being seen, and still lose the important parts of body language. This changes cyber-bullying, which is repetitive and premeditated, into peer victimization that is a malicious social behavior, reports the National Center for Biotechnology Information. In other words, we are transforming our online culture into one where users care nothing for their peer’s online reputation.

Privacy Is A Myth

English: A flexible Lilypad Arduino, designed ...
English: A flexible Lilypad Arduino, designed to be incorporated into wearable technology. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe the loss of privacy and anonymity are trade-offs for the benefits we gain from this type of technology. Wearable tech is more than just Google Glass. There are fashionable medical devices that monitor heart rate and vitals in people with high risk conditions. Others give physiological information for athletes. All of these transmit information and, in the wrong hands, this information can be detrimental.

Micro-chipping for children and electronic emergency bracelets for the elderly have obvious benefits but they also place people at risk of privacy violations. One of the greatest issues is that these portable devices can be hacked without the user’s knowledge. With a flip of a switch, a device designed to stop pedophiles becomes a menu to find the child that is alone.

Balancing The Good With The Bad

Like most scientific achievements, wearable tech is neither all good nor all bad. There is a balance that needs to be struck to get the benefits of the tech without falling victim to predators. The cyber-security experts LifeLock have all kinds of good advice for protecting yourself from identity theft. Many of these ideas can be applied to wearable technology use also. One of them is to be a little bit wary. If you are using these types of devices, then know the risks. Understand the consequences of your system being hacked and have a contingency plan. Do not place all of your faith in your technology. When you see someone using wearable technology, remember that they can use it for unsavory purposes. If a person can see it with the naked eye then he can record it with a digital device.

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