Saturday, October 27, 2012

Smart Phones - Not So Smart


Technology and innovation seem like positive if not innocuous words. By advances in these areas, we've seen illnesses cured, wars thwarted, and standards of living rise. Yet, we've also seen entire cultures become 'couch-potatoes,' a rise in cancer and nutrition related diseases. For all of the so-called “labor-saving devices” that have been developed, we now see a host of health issues that arise in our increasingly sedentary life-styles—obesity, prostate cancer, heart disease, etc. What looked good in the beginning has turned out to be a growing threat to our very lives.

The “Smart Phone” will be numbered among those great technological innovations that seemed like a good idea at the time. These phones seem helpful enough, but peel back the layers, and we find a device that should worry any thinking, smart person!


The “smart phone” is making us dumber. Rather than actually having to know or remember things anymore, we can rely on our smart phones to do that for us. That would be fine...except the brain in a muscle, and if a muscle is not used, it atrophies. The smart phone may become a leading contributor to both Alzheimer's and dementia in the years to come. People no longer need to remember who was president in 1979—they can Google it on their smart phone. One no longer needs to remember or recall any phone numbers—they're all right at one's finger-tips on the smart phone. Information, hard knowledge, numbers...the smart phones do all of that for us, so our brains can remain unused, untrained. More and more, I see my students relying on their smart phones for what was once basic information. If the evolution scientists are correct in their assumptions and investigations, we should see the human brain begin shrinking in the years to come if folks persist in using smart phones....


Besides the effects on our brains, these smart phones are impacting our social interactions as well. Recently, I sat in a restaurant around the lunch hour and I just glanced around at the couples and groups of folks in the place. A few people were engaged in lively discussion...and this seemed to irritate some of the other patrons...who were trying to enjoy their smart phones. I saw a mother and father both on their smart phones while their son vied vainly for their attention. I saw three men sitting together, each in his own world on his smart phone. More and more, I find people in public places who have no social intercourse because they are busy gazing into the dead eyes of their smart phones. We no long have to ask anyone directions—we just look it up on our smart phones. We no longer have to ask what the special of the day is at the restaurant—it's already on the smart phone. Our flesh-and-blood social lives are being reduced and erased by smart phones. The world—increasingly connected by smart phone—becomes a more and more lonely place.


And, something to touch the heart of every true American, there is the issue of cost. Is it really smart to pay an average of $1700 a year for a smart phone (The Wall StreetJournal)??? Is that cost really worth it?? In my home, our FIVE family members pay around $2000 a year for FIVE phones that allow us to talk and text as necessary...plus we get to exercise our brains and interact socially!! That is a deal!! So why are so many people spending all that money for email, internet and apps in the palm of their hands?? Primarily, we're seeing the amazing success of advertising that has convinced us 1) that we really cannot live without a smart phone or 2) we will be perceived as cretins or ignorant barbarians if we don't have this device. (The smart phone is not a replacement for the computer—desktop or laptop...to be addressed in an upcoming piece.) And, the industry has named these devices 'smart phones'...indicating that one who purchases the device is smart, but really the phone and their makers are the smart (and opportunistic) ones who are robbing the culture of money, social richness and brain power.


In the months and years to come, I believe we are going to see a revolution. The truly smart, thinking people—the radicals, the bohemians, the artists, the theologians, the revolutionaries, the philosophers—are going to rebel and either refuse to take up smart phones or cast them aside. Consciously, purposefully rejecting 'smart phones' (and calling on others to do the same) will become a statement of social consciousness and awareness, intellectual value and growth, and a way to stand against rampant, unchecked, dehumanizing forms of technological 'progress' and capital gain. 


To be 'disconnected' and knowledgeable; to be social adroit and truly technologically savvy; to invest wisely in appropriate innovations--these will be the trend-setters and standard-bearers of the new future.