A word or two about the word of the year

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD US - Con­tact the writer at chris­[email protected] chi­nadai­lyusa.com.

The Cam­bridge Dic­tio­nary, that ven­er­a­ble guardian of our rich and nim­ble English lan­guage, has an­nounced the word of the year for 2018 — “No­mo­pho­bia”.

A new one to most peo­ple, it is un­de­ni­ably the most fit­ting and proper term to de­scribe the one phe­nom­e­non that is in­escapable in the mod­ern world we have cre­ated for our­selves. As the dic­tio­nary de­fines it, no­mo­pho­bia means “a fear or worry of be­ing without your mo­bile phone or un­able to use it.” Panic and stress have also been used to de­scribe it. Parsed out it’s: NO + MO­bile­phone + pho­bia, or fear.

One only has to walk down any street or av­enue in New York City — or I’d wager any other city in the world — to see that hu­man be­ings have, without any clin­i­cal pro­ce­dure or alchemy, be­come sur­gi­cally at­tached to their smart­phones.

I re­mem­ber read­ing all the fu­tur­is­tic, dystopian, sci-fi sto­ries from decades ago pre­dict­ing a world where Big Brother would be watch­ing you con­stantly, for your own good, came the sin­is­ter irony. The mech­a­nisms were some oblig­a­tory de­vice or tech­nol­ogy re­quired to be part of your daily life, and dra­con­i­cally en­forced.

Fast for­ward to to­day and the de­vices are not only thou­sands of times more pow­er­ful than any writer could have en­vi­sioned back then, but users hap­pily pay for it all. No need for en­force­ment. We’re all broad­cast­ing our minute-to-minute lives for the world to see.

Sci­en­tists at the City Uni­ver­sity of Hong Kong and the Sungkyunkwan Uni­ver­sity in Seoul de­scribe smart­phones that have be­come so smart and re­spon­sive to users that they are ac­tu­ally ex­ten­sions of the per­son’s self.

“As smart­phones evoke more per­sonal mem­o­ries, users ex­tend more of their iden­tity onto their smart­phones,” reads the study, which ap­peared in Cy­ber­spy­chol­ogy, Be­hav­ior and So­cial Net­work­ing, a jour­nal whose very ex­is­tence is proof that some­thing ma­jor is go­ing on here.

It’s no se­cret that smart­phone ad­dic­tion is not be­com­ing a prob­lem but al­ready is a ma­jor one. But now stud­ies are find­ing that the habit can cause im­bal­ances in the brain that lead to fa­tigue, anx­i­ety and worse.

The hyp­notic lit­tle de­vices shift the crit­i­cal ra­tios of neu­ro­trans­mit­ters that keep the brain fir­ing on all cylin­ders. The healthy and sane pro­cess­ing of emo­tions can also be af­fected, and that is ob­vi­ously fer­tile soil for all kinds of woes.

“Users should be con­scious not to be­come overly de­pen­dent on smart­phones while ben­e­fit­ting from the smart­ness of the tech­nol­ogy,” the study’s au­thors ad­vise.

Now you tell me! That ge­nie’s al­ready well out of the bot­tle.

Re­searchers at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas found that sim­ply hav­ing your smart­phone nearby — com­forted by the uni­verse of con­nec­tiv­ity, in­for­ma­tion and amuse­ments at your fin­ger­tips — can shift your brain­power to low gear.

It’s ob­vi­ous where all this is head­ing. The smarter your smart­phone gets, the dum­ber the user gets. So it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore the in­no­va­tive ge­niuses at Ap­ple and Nokia and Huawei, once they’ve hit the wall with smart­phones, turn their men­tal might on cre­at­ing a whole new breed of gad­gets: dumb­phones — the per­sonal de­vice that makes you smarter, even when you’re not us­ing it!

I pic­ture them as de­vices made of a stack of pa­per with words printed on both sides of each page, bound and en­closed in top and bot­tom stiff boards and op­er­ated man­u­ally.

A wise man once said that if the book had never been in­vented and some­one came up with it now, it would be up in the pan­theon of mankind’s great­est dis­cov­er­ies along with the wheel, fire and elec­tric­ity.

Even if it can’t tweet.

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