It’s marketed to parents, of course, because parents are delightfully gullible, their kids are the cutest of all time and you simply will not want to miss the moment your child runs headlong into a tree for the first time, or pours sand into the toilet, or yanks the dog’s tail with pliers, or dons her first #ShePersisted T-shirt and gets out the vote for Kamala 2020.
It’s no wonder the Benjamin Button, yet another in the Google Glass/Snap Spectacles family of exceedingly creepy, always-on, get-that-thing- out-of-my-face wearable videocams that Never. Stop. Recording., has already well surpassed its modest Kickstarter goals, and should be wreaking unspeakable havoc on the playground, any minute now.
I mean, what modern family doesn’t want a blinking, all-seeing, surveillance-style hockey puck of a video camera that attaches like a target o’ ridicule to your child’s throat, and then records multiple hours of video, like her own personal stalker? Nothing says “deranged helicopter parent” like a police-like bodycam, for children.
But that’s not all the Button does, of course. The real magic happens at the end of the day, as the Button’s software apparently scans the days’ footage for the moments, faces and voices it deems worthy, and then automatically stitches them together into some sort of jittery highlight reel, using a proprietary combination of facial recognition software, voice analysis, blood samples and the last remnants of a wheezing, dying Earth.
And then? Why, you just sit back and watch what must be the world’s most charming, I’m-not-stoned-enough-for-this collection of twitchy, algorithm-chosen jump cuts that will make your life seem simultaneously adorable, and unutterably inexorable. If you’re thinking, “This is just like an episode of Black Mirror, only cuter!” you’re getting close.
Is that too harsh? Maybe. Maybe you agree with the Button’s marketing pitch that, hey, parents need every free hand they have to prevent their child from eating rocks, tormenting the cat, or investing in Snap. It’s simply too much to ask that they also have the iPhone ready at all times so as not to miss the best, most precious moments. Just trying to help, is what this (German/Slovakian) company is doing.
Or perhaps not. It’s become a sad refrain in our video-obsessed culture: Maybe, just maybe, not every moment of human existence needs to be recorded (leave that to the Homeland Security CCTV cameras). Maybe, just maybe, not every single incident in your life, or your child’s life, is the most fascinating, the most precious, the most worthy of committing to Instagram or YouTube or to the Cloud, never to be seen again.
This isn’t to say that attaching a $250 bodycam to your child’s jacket and letting him run around Disneyland for a day might not result in something … interesting. Nor does it deny that we are already an alarmingly video-drunk culture, perhaps well past saving, with upwards of 300 video-content hours of being uploaded to YouTube every single minute, and 3.25 billion hours of video watched every month (46,000 years’ worth, annually). Wow.
But really now, when were you planning on watching all that footage? How many countless thousands of photos and videos does the average first-worlder have on his/her phone – and, by extension, saved on a sliver of silicon in a massive, dystopian server farm somewhere in the Nevada desert?
Put it this way: Do you want your most precious memories stored in the Cloud, or in your heart, your bones, your very cells? How soon until Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and AI technology supplant the human brain’s capacity for simple delight and authentic, in-the-moment presence? Has it already happened?
This much we know: When everything is recorded, nothing is special. When everything is a selfie, no one gives a damn anymore. Like cats, chocolate cake or cocaine, the more photos you have, the less precious they become. Life begins to fragment and dilute. After all, 10,000 pictures of a cathedral compare not a whit to standing inside it for five seconds, and simply holding still.
Or, more to the point: One radiant photo of your child doing the amazing thing, smiling in that one way, holding your hand just so – that photo you just so happened to snap seemingly at random but which nevertheless manages to encapsulate an entire life, and a love, a family and a dream, trumps 100,000 of her doing nothing much at all, on interminable video.