Sergey Brin Thinks Your Smartphone Is "Emasculating"

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 27 2013 4:57 PM

Sergey Brin Thinks Your Smartphone Is "Emasculating"

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Sergey Brin sports Google Glass, feels manly

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Google co-founder Sergey Brin had harsh words for smartphones during a TED talk in Long Beach, Calif. Wednesday. The slender technological helpmates —which, as CNET observed, generate the fastest-growing segment of Google’s revenue— are “emasculating,” he said. “You’re standing around and just rubbing this featureless piece of glass.”

Our first thought was that Brin had misconstrued “emasculating” to mean something like “impersonal” or “depressing.” (Ok, that was our second thought. Our first thought was that his phrasing—“standing around and just rubbing this…piece”—belonged in a bawdy Shakespearean pun.) We also wondered whether it wasn’t a bit unmanly to worry so much about one’s manhood and all the 4-inch apparati arrayed against it. But then we considered: Maybe the experience of using a smartphone does sap a guy’s mojo. After all, the intense feelings of dependence our devices can inspire seem incongruous with the strength and autonomy we expect from “real men.”

But Brin’s solution to the masculinity-dampening powers of the smartphone—Google Glass—doesn’t do much to solve the problem. Slated for wide release later in 2013, the technology not only requires its share of rubbing, but promises to make us even more device-reliant. How? Brin says he hopes Glass will eventually feature a search tool that knows what we want before we ask for it. "[Glass] is the first form factor that can deliver that vision," the Google guru told his TED-talk audience.

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Glass, a headset that comes with the ability to snap photos and shoot video at any time, has already raised privacy red flags around the Web. But hey, it probably is empowering to document your life using a fancy, voice-activated piece of eyewear. Unless you see it as just another chic accessory, in which case a six pack of Guinness and some fishing tackle will probably get your man-juices flowing again.  

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Katy Waldman is a Slate staff writer. 

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