Bernard Salt: mobile madness.
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.