What makes a smart-phone smart? When I envisage a smart person the correlation to a smart-phone seems irrational. A smart-phone, I believe ought to be relabelled a nifty-phone. This gadget simply combines already existing technologies: telecommunications, internet, camera and music storage (the main four components) in one hand-held device. Very nifty but when viewed objectively, surely misrepresented as being smart.
Having personally held off from acquiring a smart-phone until August 8 of 2013, my relationship with this technology is certainly more sceptical than the Jones down the way. I am not anti-tech nor anti-progress. My attitude towards these hand-held gadgets is shaped by a collection of core-beliefs and values. Which, at times, can be conflicting.
Belonging, being part of and the acceptance of peers is instinctual. We humans are social beings. Rejection and humiliation are feared as deeply as running out of water or attack from predators. If I wish to remain part of my family, tribe or community I must avoid circumstances which will keep me isolated. Avoid behaviours which will deem me outcast.
In the 21st century more than ever in our history, this instinct is manifesting in the acquisition of the latest and greatest material goods. I am sure most everyone can relate to the satisfaction of showing off their brand new shiny bargain-priced items to peers. Our culture is progressing and I wish to progress with it. Now that seems to require being plugged in. And plugged in with a smart-phone is common, almost an essential, practice.
A wise man once shared with me that with great growth and progress comes great pain. This is not a reference to the financial sting of exceeding your credit limit and owing hundreds or even thousands to your chosen communications provider. I am leaning into the unfolding natural disaster whose impact, for now, remains subtle. Like a rash around your heel which grows ever so slightly. A mere itch at first, progressively a giant stain of irritable bumps which covers your entire calf. Over time you have adjusted to the discomfort. Rub on a bit of lotion and believe that it’s still not that bad.
I would personally love to endure the journey of a smart-phone production and manufacturing assembly. From the mining of fossil fuels to build the plastics, through the nimble fingers of factory workers in developing nations. Across the mahogany boardroom tables of advertising executives who are desperate to sell more items than the i-jerks of silicon valley. Finishing on a perfectly lit shelf which is built at a perfect height to capture the attention of insecure teenagers who are guaranteed to treat these gadgets with a teenage respect. Ready to discard and upgrade as soon as the next model is available for no up front costs!
My smart-phone was a birthday gift. A surprise dinner was held in my honour. I was greeted with smiling faces and parcels to be unwrapped. My peers KNOW that I value the resources of this finite planet as equally as I value their kindness and companionship. A sell was required. “Andrew, you need this for your new business, it isn’t just a toy. We deliberately purchased it second hand, a rescued, pre-loved gadget. Please accept it, we love you”.
Now I send them photos of the ‘winners’ I pick from my nose. I am officially part of, accepted and I belong. My phone is not smart, it is nifty.
Next time you are in awe of the giant polished billboard depicting the latest model smart-phone, praise the voice which urges “I wish I had that”. It’s so profound and strong that it disguises another voice which is still infant in strength. “I wish people would stop polluting this beautiful place we live on.” Stephen Leacock, lecturer and author has beautifully described this phenomenon: “advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.”