Bernard Salt: mo­bile mad­ness.

The Weekend Australian - Life - - FOOD & DRINK - BERNARD SALT saltb@theaus­

My fel­low Aus­tralians, I am very con­cerned. The ma­chines … they’re tak­ing over. Tech­nol­ogy is seam­lessly, re­lent­lessly, some say evilly, work­ing its way into our ev­ery­day lives. Take for ex­am­ple that most in­sid­i­ous of devices: the mo­bile phone.

The mo­bile phone has re­placed the wrist­watch, the alarm clock, the cal­cu­la­tor, the bank teller, pos­si­bly the tele­vi­sion and of course the land­line. The mo­bile phone has con­quered old tech­nol­ogy and is weaselling its way into our emo­tional lives.

I have heard that some peo­ple, sad peo­ple ad­mit­tedly, reach for their mo­bile phone be­fore they reach for their part­ner in bed. I have heard that some peo­ple, needy peo­ple, check out their mo­bile phone be­fore they get out of bed. I have heard that some peo­ple, emo­tion­ally dis­con­nected peo­ple clearly, do not know their chil­dren’s phone num­ber be­cause it is com­mit­ted to au­to­matic dial in their mo­bile phone.

Put it all to­gether. The phone is now your con­fi­dante; the keeper of your con­tacts; the holder of your se­crets. No hu­man is as en­trusted with as much of your pro­fes­sional and per­sonal life as is your mo­bile phone. And if it is your phone you reach for in the morn­ing and evening, and also in awak­ened mo­ments in the night, then has not the phone re­placed your part­ner, your soul­mate, your lover?

Con­sider the dis­tress of any­one who has lost their phone. Have you seen my phone? It was just here and now it’s gone. It’s black. It blends in so eas­ily. And it’s on silent. My phone can’t hear me and I can’t hear my phone. What if some­one is try­ing to call? What if the prime min­is­ter is des­per­ately seek­ing my coun­sel for the first time and I don’t an­swer? What if one of my kids is in hos­pi­tal and the emer­gency depart­ment is ring­ing be­cause I’m the only one who has the same blood type? Help me: I think a dingo’s taken my phone. Oops, there it is. Slipped down the back of the couch. We need to in­vent a word that de­scribes the ex­quis­ite bliss of find­ing a lost phone. Surely the Ger­mans or the French have a word we can bor­row?

But this raises an im­por­tant ques­tion. What hap­pens to old tech­nol­ogy that once com­manded prime real es­tate in our lives? Some old tech­nolo­gies are fight­ing back. Wrist­watches are up­siz­ing to pro­claim their pres­ence. Bank tell­ers are be­ing wran­gled by ami­able concierges. Is this a bank or a ho­tel?

Cal­cu­la­tors have re­sponded not by get­ting big­ger or by be­com­ing per­son­able but through ubiq­ui­tous ex­pan­sion. The cal­cu­la­tor will not be con­fined to the mo­bile phone. The cal­cu­la­tor has adapted, mor­phed and merged with writ­ing notepads and even with rulers. The canny cal­cu­la­tor has adapted to any flat sur­face. Sadly part­ners, soul­mates and lovers are un­likely to be as adapt­able as the cal­cu­la­tor.

Other old tech­nolo­gies like the tick­ing alarm clock will never adapt. The alarm clock has been chased out of the bed­room by the ever-ac­ces­si­ble mo­bile phone. Tech­nol­ogy is reimag­in­ing in­ter­per­sonal re­la­tion­ships and for some peo­ple the ma­chines seem to have pri­or­ity over their part­ners.

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