What If We Become Dependent on WearComp?

Some people fear that we'll become dependent on wearable computing, but I think this fear is unjustified. Wasn't it once said that compilers, assemblers, and even pocket calculators would cause our brains to atrophy? Long ago I could do arithmetic quickly by hand, but now I would be a little slow in doing something as simple as finding the square root of 2 with pencil and paper. I'd also find it hard to program in 6502 machine code, as I did for my first wearable computer system, without the help of an assembler or a compiler. Freeing ourselves from mundane tasks like arithmetic or hand assembly of computer instructions lets us think at a higher level. Tools such as pocket calculators, assemblers, and compilers have greatly extended our capabilities, enabling us to develop a whole new set of higher level abilities.

Indeed, we probably will develop a dependence on readily accessible computing, just as we have developed a dependence on wash-and-wear clothing - and desktop computers, for that matter. The fact that some primitive societies can still survive quite well without clothing while we've probably lost our ability to survive naked in the wilderness in all but the warmest of climates doesn't support the argument that we should do without clothing.

Someday, when we've become accustomed to clothing-based computing, we will no doubt feel naked, confused, and lost without a computer screen hovering in front of our eyes to guide us. By that time, fortunately, increased reliability will be an important part of the design. Just as we would not want our shirt buttons to pop off or our trousers to fall down, we will demand that our computer clothing not go down either.

From Wearable Computing: A First Step Towards Personal Imaging