I seldom use my iPhone. I admit that I like having a camera with me most of the time and I don’t look like a tourist. I don’t text and when I feel like tweeting I do it from my laptop. I often forget where I put my phone and walk out of the house without it. What I’m trying to say is that it’s not a distraction. Now I realize companies (which seldom undertake to comprehend those of us who are anomalous) have to appeal to the lowest common denominator. In iPhone world this means that they now want you to use “Focus.” In other words, if you’re behind the wheel or in danger of losing your job for being distracted all the time, you can filter what gets through. I recently had a request from my phone to send me Focus notifications when I’m home. Of course it knows when I’m home!
It seems unnerving to me that we need to have our devices remind us not to use them. What does it say about our love-love relationship with devices? We use them to guide us when we’re driving—no longer experiencing the wonder of getting lost. We read on them, forgetting the feel, smell, and non-reflective look of a book. Some people even smoke their devices. Many people now protect their houses with devices that allow them to see who’s at the door. Do we really feel safer with our devices taking care of us all the time? Perhaps we do. Perhaps the cyborg revolution has already begun.
When I see how simple things like telling an apple from a tomato still flummox machine sensors (and even if they learn to tell this difference, the point remains the same), I realize just how much life experience teaches us. We’re constantly taking in sensory data and interpreting it. Often subconsciously. I can smell and feel the difference if the same shirt is dried in a dryer or on a line. I know which is better but I struggle to find the words to describe why. I can tell the difference between the taste of this peanut and that one. Some scents can trigger euphoria while others warn that a mustelid is nearby and wants to be left alone. I know to look around for a skunk, to honor its wishes. I can infer that the apples that have started to go bad are why that opossum is in our compost bin. Perhaps I’ll pull out my phone and take a picture.