Sergey Brin Says Smartphones ‘Emasculating’

Google's Sergey Brin says swiping a phone feels silly, so we should wear dorky goggles around all day.


Google’s Sergey Brin says swiping a phone feels silly, so we should wear dorky goggles around all day.

Venture Beat (“Sergey Brin calls smartphones ’emasculating’“):

As the world’s top advocate for Google Glass, Sergey Brin has to say a lot of stuff in favor of the technology — even if some of it’s pretty dumb.

Brin, for example, doesn’t like touchscreens. “I feel it’s kind of emasculating. You’re just rubbing this featureless piece of glass,” he said during a TED talk in Long Beach, Calif. today.

Some people have reacted to the supposed sexism embedded in Brin’s use of “emasculating,”  but it’s clear that Brin was reaching for a way to say that fiddling away with a piece of glass as if it’s interacting with you feels a bit silly.

But even if we substitute in a more politically correct word for “emasculating,” does Brin’s charge hold up? I’m still not so sure. At this point, Brin seems to be grasping for whatever arguments he can in an effort to convince the world that Google Glass is something it needs. So far, most of his arguments have come up a bit short, at least if you’re wary of effusive claims about new technology.

Brin loves to compare Google Glass to the smartphone, which, while amazing and life-changing  just isn’t good enough. (This, it seems, includes even Google’s own Android phones, which Brin seems eager to make obsolete.)

“The cellphone is a nervous habit. I whip this out and look as if I have something important to do. [Google Glass] takes that away,” he said.

Invoking the cellphone’s social stigma in an attempt to justify the existence of Google Glass may seem clever, but it’s really not. The technology is only in its prototype phase, and yet it’s already raising all kinds of concerns about how it will change the way we interact with each other. (You think people constantly whipping out their cell phones is bad? Just wait until you start having conversations with people who are constantly looking at the little displays attached their faces. Something tells me that won’t be any better.)

There are all manner of social problems surround smartphones, with the fact we’re constantly pulling them out among them and emasculation not. But whatever word best conveys Brin’s criticism, it’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t apply in spades to Google Glass. I mean, shouldn’t Brin be wearing a UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs t-shirt for this demonstration?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. JKB says:

    Yes, in the photo above he looks so manly and virile. The new Marlboro Man. To bad he can’t get out of that box.

    I can’t help but wonder if they’ve tested to ensure Google Glass won’t have the same problem that killed the Opti-Grab.

    “Damn these glasses, son!” “Yes sir. I damn thee!”

  2. Michael Robinson says:

    “shouldn’t Brin be wearing a UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs t-shirt for this demonstration?”


    Photoshop in the glasses, and you’re set.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    This is a very, very smart man trying to do something dumb: be Steve Jobs. Jobs was a truly great salesman. Sergey is a really great creator of search engines.

    Play with your algorithms, Sergey, don’t do TED talks.

  4. Brett says:

    The first generation of Google Glasses does look dorky, mostly because of the large part next to the lens over the right eye. What they need to do is integrate it into a set of regular-looking glasses, and then get that big part of it smaller, spread out more, or less obvious (like closer to the back of your head).

    The voice-control system is a bit of a question mark, but you could eventually get past that with some really good augmented reality systems on a Google Glass equivalent. It would have to be something like the Wii’s motion sensor combined with the glasses – the glasses could overlay a keyboard over a flat surface, and then you could “type” on to it.

  5. Eric the OTB Lurker says:

    Well, say what you will about smartphones, when it’s in your pocket, at least only you know you’re emasculated; with Google Glasses, everyone knows.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I guess my balls are safe.