The Existential Danger of Losing My iPhone

How dependent have we become?

June 5, 2014

No, I have not lost my iPhone.  

It has not been stolen or left behind, misplaced or forgotten.

But I worry.

What if my iPhone was lost or stolen or misplaced?

Exactly how helpless and incapacitated would I be?

How frantic and panicked would I become?

Just how dependent I am on my iPhone has become clear on this trip to the Netherlands for the edX Consortium meeting at Delft University.    

(If you have never been to Delft you should visit.  It is a magical place where everyone, including the toddlers, commute on bicycles at insane speeds on dedicated bike lanes down cobblestone streets).

On this trip I brought no paper.  No maps.  No boarding passes.  No guidebooks.  No train schedules.  No conference schedules.  No printed hotel confirmation numbers.

No books.  No magazines.  No journal articles.  

Everything is through the iPhone.  

Each morning I put my destination in the Maps app and the iPhone tells me where to walk.  I set out with the full confidence that my iPhone will not let me get lost.

Nor am I ever out of touch or disconnected.  E-mail and Twitter find me on my iPhone.  My wife and kids send me texts.  I text pictures of what we are having for dessert back to my family.

The FitBit app tracks my steps.  

The TripIt app holds all my hotel and travel confirmation numbers.  

The Kindle app holds the books I’m reading.  The Audible app plays my audiobooks.  

The NYTimes app gives me the news.

Tomorrow I’ll download my boarding pass for the Passbook app.

Is there anyone who carries around a spare iPhone?  A just-in-case backup?

Shouldn’t I plan for greater resilience.  Bring paper copies of all my important numbers and boarding passes.  A paper map.  Mabye even a paperback book or a magazine.

My iPhone has changed me.  

I’m both more free and more dependent.

More agile and more vulnerable.

Empowered and enslaved by the small screen.

Where is your iPhone?


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