Human dependency on the smartphone has become an accepted part of life in the first world. iPhone Separation Anxiety is a very real effect of being deprived of your smartphone for extended periods of time. Trivial as it may sound, not having your phone within reach can result in higher blood pressure, increased heart rate, worsened anxiety and poor cognitive performance, according to Psychology Today.
In a CBS News interview, addictive behavior psychologist Dr. Harris Stratyner said that many people subconsciously treat smartphones as an extension of their bodies. “We can literally feel almost as if we are disembodied from an extension of ourselves,” Stratyner said, “We don’t feel the same ability to be individuals that we are with our iPhone, because we have become so dependent on that being a part of our knowledge base.” Smartphones have become a huge part of how as much as 77 percent of American adults, according to a Pew Research Center 2017 study, interact with the world. They perfect our perception of time, give us full access to the wealth of human knowledge that is the internet, remind us of appointments, communicate with anyone, anywhere, at any time — they can even tell us what the weather is going to be tomorrow at 3 p.m. In short, they are enhancements to our human abilities that manifest themselves in a slim block of metal and glass.
It may be difficult to see the iPhone as a true part of the human anatomy, but it is no different than a prosthetic leg or glass eye. It is always at hand, not physically a part of us but rarely apart from our person in much the same way that a prosthetic leg can be removed but is a part of the body when it is attached. Both the leg and smartphone serve to make up for some deficiency in the person who uses them. In the case of the prosthetic, it is the lack of a leg, while in the case of the phone, it is man’s inability to naturally perform tasks such as taking photos and playing music wherever they are.
Transhumanist thinkers like Zoltan Istvan and Daniel Dennett have long advocated for and predicted the rise of a new brand of humanity, one enhanced by technology such that we can effectively accelerate our own evolution. While some outspoken critics like Francis Fukuyama have decried the dangers of transhumanism, this process is clearly already underway. Is having all earthly knowledge at our fingertips comparable to having a superpower? What about a human who can participate in a dozen text conversations at once spanning hundreds of miles in an instant? The smartphone represents the first and most successful step towards an entirely new variety of human, one that is almost a different species from those that came before and is capable of anything.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 17 print edition.
Email Henry Cohen at [email protected]