By Scott Keith –
Well, I did it! I got a new phone. True to my word I did not get an iPhone 6, because it sucks. But, I did get an iPhone 5s, and I am now running the famed iOs 8. This phone has changed my world. You see iOs 8 has predictive typing. iOs 8 allows me to begin typing a word, and it will suggest what word I mean to type. I literally don’t even need to think anymore; iPhone can finish my thought for me.
I have long wondered how long it would take. “Text Speak,” I think, was the first step on the road toward thoughtlessness. You know what text speak is. LOL: Laugh Out Loud. BRB: Be Right Back. BTW: By The Way. TOTS: Totally. U: You. Using numbers for words: “Come 2 the House.” TTYL: Talk To You Later. ROFL: Rolling On The Floor Laughing. OMW: On My Way. OMG: Oh My Goodness. B/Z: Because. 143: I Love You. Text Speak was obviously not good enough, and neither was autocorrect on my iPhone. My brain was obviously still working too hard and I needed more help. So, along came Siri. Siri allowed me––allowed us all––to talk to our beloved phones. We no longer needed to type. We could just ask Siri our questions: When did Columbus sail from Spain? How much does a human head weigh? What is the current temperature in Katmandu? How do I get from my house to the Shabu-Shabu joint on Alton Parkway?
This brings us to Maps and Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Maps have also released my brain from some of its earlier burdens. At one time, I was quite good at getting around. I grew up driving in the greater Los Angeles area. I was navigating freeways between the 14, the 5, the 405, the 101, the 1, and the 118 before my 17th birthday. (If you’re not from So Cal it’s what we call our freeways, highways and the like. And Yes, you prefix them with a “the”.) Amazingly, I did all of this impossible navigating without the aid of a GPS, and most often without the aid of even a map. I simply developed a workable sense of direction, learned the route, and did the impossible: remembered where I was going. Now I can’t even get myself from my house to the grocery store and back without the aid of my trusty old iPhone and its fancy mapping GPS function. Can you imagine it; all those years wasted remembering things and thinking on my own.
Now we’ve come to it. My new iPhone will not only finish my sentences, tell me how to get to the Ralphs, but it will also answer my question even when I think it is asleep.
When the phone is plugged in, all I need to do is say, “Hey Siri,” and she’ll wake up saying, “How can I help you?” It is amazing; she sits there awaiting my every cognitive need. If I need to know what time it is: “Hey Siri.” If I need to know the temperature outside: “Hey Siri.” If I need to know what year Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg: “Hey Siri.” (1517 AD by the way… Siri is so smart!)
But on another note: does all this scare anybody else shitless or, is it just me? I like it and I use it, but I’m scared of it and I’m scared of what it is doing to me. My brain can no longer process spatial data the way it once did. Dates I once knew now only come to me by way of “Hey Siri.” People I once counted as good friends are now mere Facebook friends. Words I once typed, and said, are completely lost to lame abbreviations. Is it not better to actually say, “I love you,” than to type 1, 4, 3? I think we have lost something, and I think we need to take it back. I do not have all of the answers; in fact, I need help. I am stuck in this digital world with you, and I think we need to find a way to back off. Do you even think for yourself anymore? Do I? What do we do? (You should feel free to answer the question… It is not a hypothetical.) Maybe all we can do is scale down as much as our world, and our lives, will allow. Find a balance; look for quality in our interactions and our writing, our thinking, our navigation, in everything. It is bad enough that we allow other people to do our thinking for us? So, let’s not give in to machines also. Let go of some of the complacency and occasionally, if not always, turn off the maps, hey Siri, predictive typing, and use real words instead of abbreviations. Encourage me to let go more often as well. Unplugging is unlikely; but we ought to at least try it some of the time. Your suggestions would be helpful.