On April 24, Apple’s long-awaited Watch landed on the market, bringing with it an astonishing array of questions: Does it cost too much? Is it a technological game-changer, or just a novelty? Do you feel like a ’60s-era spy when you wear one?
The answers to all those questions will take some time to answer (except for the last one: the answer is yes). But there’s one important question tech companies like Apple seem to have hardly thought about: Is all this healthy?
During their keynote announcing the Apple Watch, Apple trumpeted the device as “the most personal device we have ever created.” That is almost undoubtedly true, but there is reason to question whether that’s a good thing. Since the dawning of the digital age, “rest” has become associated with getting away from our phones. It’s not by accident that we’ve started using “unplug” as a synonym for “relax.”
Of course, it’s in tech companies’ financial interest to make unplugging as counterintuitive as possible, and wearable technology is a massive step forward. You don’t put your smartwatch in your pocket when you’re not using it. You don’t take if off when you drive or even necessarily when you sleep. And wearing something like a smartwatch or Google Glass is tantalizingly close to making your smartphone a part of your own body.
Are there benefits to it? Of course. New health-monitoring technology like Nike’s fuelband, while just slightly creepy, could very well save lives. But if tech companies aren’t asking tough questions about the necessary line between reality and our synthetic world, then we may have to do it for them.