The Smartphone Is Eventually Going To Die, And We\'re Not Ready For What Comes Next

Shaquille O'Neal tries on a pair of Magic Leap One smart goggles.
Magic Leap

  • Silicon Valley companies think that smart glasses, like the Magic Leap, will one day replace the smartphone.

  • That could be good: As we worry about smartphone addiction, glasses could present a way to access all of the information we need in a way that works better with our real lives.

  • And yet, we're simply not ready for the shift. So-called "augmented reality" will only make the spread of fake news and misinformation worse.

  • As we prepare to hand over control of our senses to a computer, we need to ask if our systems for sifting real information from fake is good enough.

Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz thinks his company's mysterious goggles will, one day, be able to replace "your phones, your televisions, your laptops, your tablets," he said at Recode's Code Media conference on Tuesday.

It's a bold claim. But he's not the only tech executive who's claiming that the smartphone could, one day, die.

Just last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed that augmented reality — the technology for superimposing digital imagery over the physical world — could replace anything with a screen, too. Microsoft has expressed similar sentiments, as well, with CEO Satya Nadella often referring to head-mounted displays as the "ultimate computer."

And it's no wonder why it's such an attractive proposition: If a pair of glasses could project your text messages, your e-mails, your spreadsheets, and your Netflix in the air in front of you, why carry a separate phone? Current goggles, like Microsoft's HoloLens or Intel's prototype Vaunt, are pretty limited. Yet, we're inching closer and closer to this point.

The moment seems ripe for this idea, too. Right now, the big discussion in Silicon Valley is around the notion of smartphone addiction, and whether or not it's healthy for young people to be so attached to the major technology platforms. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has even likened so-called "Big Tech" to the tobacco industry.

Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz
Getty/Brian Ach

Smart glasses, then, present an appealing alternative. If information is projected straight into our eyes, it could mean no more smartphone zombies staring down at little metal rectangles. If that information only displayed as you need it, it could mean no more mindlessly swiping through Facebook and Reddit for stimulation.

Still, we're quite a ways away from this future. Zuckerberg himself has said that we're probably about a decade away from smart glasses beginning to make a serious dent on mainstream markets.

But that's a good thing. Because while the ideas are grand, and the technology impressive, I'm concerned that we as a society simply aren't ready for always-on computers that pump information as close to our brains as possible. And the reason why has everything to do with Facebook, YouTube, fake news, and Logan Paul.

We're not ready

First, there's the obvious stuff. Facebook and Google are both under the gun right now for their spreading of false information — at best, peddling simple misinformation, and at worst, spreading propaganda that threatens to undermine American democracy.

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The Smartphone Is Eventually Going To Die, And We\'re Not Ready For What Comes Next


The Smartphone Is Eventually Going To Die, And We\'re Not Ready For What Comes Next