I believe that developments in technology have been behind much of the progress we have seen in society – e.g. recent declines in the number of people who live in hunger – but as with almost everything there is a good and a bad side. One aspect of technology that I’m not keen of is the way that it sometimes seems to control us rather than being a tool that we use. Without discipline we can be slaves to our smartphones.
Mark Suster’s recent post about not taking his iPhone into the bedroom is an interesting read on this topic.
Many have worried that wearables, particularly smart watches, will make this problem worse. They will be another source of distraction that takes our attention away from our loved ones, friends, and colleagues to the detriment of our happiness, at least over the long term.
Another school of thought is that wearables may make the digital encroachment problem better. The line of argument is that subtle reminders on the wrist take less time to interact with and remove the chance that we will get lost in email or Twitter when we got the phone out of our pocket to do something like check directions on a map.
Consider this example from the invisionapp blog:
A few weeks ago, I was in New York City for a conference. It was my second day with my Apple Watch, so I thought I’d use it to find my way back from the venue. Before, I would have pulled out my phone, typed in the address, set it to walking directions, and spent the walk glancing between my phone and the street, trying to avoid cabs, cyclists, and the costumed characters of Times Square.
This time, I just said “Get me to the W Hotel in Times Square,” hit start, and walked—never bothering with the watch until I felt taps indicating it was time to turn.
It fundamentally changed my interaction with the city. Instead of being glued to the screen, I took in the sights and sounds and just trusted the watch to tell me where to go next. I didn’t check my mobile devices until the exact time and place I needed to, and it was liberating.
It’s early days for wearables and whether they increase or reduce digital encroachment depends on what people want and how apps are designed. I sense there’s an opportunity to bend tech in a positive direction though. Users increasingly want the best technology has to give them, but with the minimum of distraction and if some of the early successful apps deliver on that promise then others will doubtless follow. And that would be a good thing.