Man and the iphone Machine
I’m getting an iphone.
Yes, come June I will be one thousands (millions? billions?) of iphone owners across the globe. I’m finally jumping on the bandwagon, something that tends to happen often with trends that cost more than a few bucks (music and general good taste, however, I’m usually ahead of the curve with; see house music, which I was listening to before it became mainstream). But, in the case of the iphone, unlike other trends, I’m catching this trend while it’s still very much hot. In fact, the iphone trend is more than just going strong: it’s on a quest for world domination.
Apple’s growth is remarkable, when you consider that a few years ago they didn’t even make phones. Just a (relatively short) while ago, back in summer of 2010, I remember the Blackberry (Bold? Torch?) being the phone to have for the rich and rich of Manhattan. Now, the iphone is King, and the obsession over it is crazy, with the iphone 5 coming out in June. But do we really need updated versions every couple of months? Didn’t we all survive without whatever tiny improvements were made to it in the past?
I started this blog after feeling particularly
hostile opinionated towards a CNN article regarding Siri, the iphone’s talking ‘personal assistant.’ My very first blog post was indeed about Siri and how she was an example of how lazy human beings have gotten. My disgust with how society handles technology has not abated. One day, a friend of mine asked me to look up taxi numbers for her, and since I was on the computer I acquiesced her request. However, when the taxi number I then called was going to have a long wait, and she asked me to call another number, I put my foot down. So what did she do? She whipped out her iphone, asked Siri “Taxi’s in Queens” and in less than a minute had a taxi reservation!
What, may I ask, is the point of having an iphone if you’re not even going to use it? How lazy are people that they can’t even talk to their own phone? I have another friend who would constantly ask my sister to look up subways and addresses on her iphone-when she herself has [an iphone] too! What is the point in buying a smartphone with all it’s apps and infinite possibilities when yo udon’t know how to use it?! Or don’t want to use it?! People simply buy these phones because they want to fit the status quo, not because they appreciate all the great, useful things an iphone can do. Instead of making us smarter, we’re becoming dumber and relying (or. ahem, not, in my friend’s cases) on our smartphones.
The pilot and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery (of The Little Prince fame) wrote in his book Wind, Sand and Stars that
But how can anyone conceive that the machine is an end? It is a tool. What disservice do we do the life of the spirit when we analyze the universe through the tool created by the science of optics, or seek to bring together those who love one another and are parted in space? (p. 44)
What true words, and they were written more than half a century ago, before any type of computer or cell phone ever existed even in laboratories! When will man recognize that technology is a tool to acheive and end, and therefore we should not obsess on the tool itself? We are not slaves to the machine; after all, we’re smarter because we built them out of nothing! And the machine is only as smart as the intelligence we put into it. Case in point: Mitt Romney’s iphone app appeared with the word ‘America’ written ‘Amercia:’ what happened to spellcheck? Furthermore, what obviously-failed-English campaign workers overlooked this error? Was it somebody’s idea of a joke, a publicity stunt or just plain stupidity?
Or, perhaps, it was just a problem within the app. In any case, I think Romney’s embarassment proves that technology isn’t making us any smarter, nor are we learning how to properly use this tools. Maybe it just takes time getting used to the myriad of technology floating around nowadays. Saint-Exupery reminds us that boats were once ‘new’ technology, too, but I’d say that man has a long way to go towards successfully integrating the cell phone into everyday life without treating it like a novelty, like a crutch to depend on. Once cell phones lose their ‘trendiness,’ their newness, maybe they will finally become the tools they’re meant to be.
2. Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. (1939, 1967).