We buy into becoming digital Cyborgs as we
adopt Smartphones, Wearables, and Echo/Siri devices
Nearly half a billion people are no longer
just plain humans and cyborgs are exploited for data and
advertising revenue by the huge ad-based digital corporations
In January, 2018, according
to Pew Research
, 77% of American adults owned a smartphone.
In South Korea 88% of the population have a smartphone, and 74% in
Israel. Some cultures seem to resist the phenomena -- only 47% of
people in Brazil and 39% in Japan have smartphones. But that is
still quite a large number.
The way these devices insert themselves into people's lives is at
least as important. Many people sleep with their phones, become
anxious if their batteries are low, or cannot keep from checking
them many times per hour. Wearables are paired with smartphones,
as are many home IoT devices (smart coffemakers, doorbells,
cameras, clocks, speakers, lights, windows, window blinds, hot
water heaters, appliances, cooking utensils, etc). And many "Smart
homes" have multiple Alexa or other Internet-connected "smart
speakers" that can act as surrogate memories. Any question? Just
ask Alexa. As
points out, "Like other Echo devices, the Dot lets you use just
your voice to check the weather, play music, shop on Amazon, get
news updates and of course, control smart devices". Smartphones or
Echo devices can also directly control smart power plugs, smart
light bulbs, smart light switches, thermostats, robot vacuums,
security cameras, doorlocks, doorbell cameras, garage door
controls, kitchen appliances, and smart sprinkler controllers.
The degree to which people want constant connection to the
Internet varies widely by age, country of origin, education,
occupation, and socioeconomic status. Those most enamored of
cyborg status seem not to notice the time and effort needed on
their part nor the degree to which all the interaction with
(primarily) their smartphone change their lives. And youth seem
most eager to become cyborgs.
multinational survey of young people
, to no one's surprise,
shows that Internet addiction is widespread among youth worldwide,
at least among the relatively affluent.
Different connections to other computers or to the Internet at
large create different dependencies and predominate in different
Social media addiction is primarily via smartphones although
people also connect via home or office computers. When you see
people hunched over their smartphones in public places (or
even when walking (and unfortunately sometimes when driving!)
they are usually interacting with social media. Academics
have studied the kinds of addiction that results.
Smartphone dependence, which is often accompanied by social
media dependence, is considered an addiction which now has a
formal name: nomophobia.
Signs of smartphone addiction are: having a hard time
completing tasks without checking your phone, sneaking off to
check your messages, apps, or social media, and taking your
smartphone wherever you go, even to bed, or to the bathroom,
or even the shower.
Smartphones are windows into a virtual world that is
completely separate from the world around us. Once people turn
on the phone to check news or weather, many, if not most,
people find it difficult to look away from this virtual world
and reengage with the real world. If the engagement is also an
interaction with virtual "friends", e.g., texts, tweets, or
other social media interactions, disengaging is even more
Smartspeaker addiction takes over when you are up and about
or doing things that require your vision...driving, cooking,
working in your office, or taking care of the house or kids.
You can still connect to the virtual world by "talking with"
Alexa or Siri.
Smartwatches generate dependency too, as do fitbit
devices. It is noteworthy that Garmin sells a smartwatch
for those who wish to hide their dependence on smartwatches.
It provides both GPS and fitbit-like functions in a
Those committed to the cyborg life-style typically depend upon
multiple access points to the Internet: a smartphone, a smart
watch, AND perhaps multiple Alexa or Siri devices in various rooms
in the home and office.
The effect of the Internet on human society and on individual
humans will continue to emerge in unforseeable ways over years.
The effects of the invention of the printing press in the 1430s,
the invention of the telephone (by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876),
and the invention of radio, photography, movies, television, steam
engines, cars, etc., only became clear years later as they were
viewed in hindsight. Like it or not, we too cannot quickly or
casually predict the effects of the Internet on us as individuals,
as families, towns and cities, or as large-scale cultures.
However some consequences are already clear.
- Cyborg's web activity is much more visible and trackable
by Big Data companies than most us realize.
- Cyborg's personal photos, lists of friends, favorite
online shopping sites, etc., are spread all over the web for
any other Cyborg, or Big Data company such as Facebook to
- Cyborg's political opinions and susceptibility to
manipulations, e.g., by Cambridge
Analytica and the Russian intelligence agencies in the
2016 Presidential election. The 1.1 terabytes of data
Cambridge Analytica gathered included birth dates, home
addresses, telephone numbers and all sorts of data on
political/social/cultural/racial views of nearly 62% of the
entire US population. If these sorts of data
exploitation are combined with increasingly modern "big
data" analysis and advertising on Facebook, Twitter, etc,
democracy by voting may well become an obsolete and
increasingly silly concept.
Cyborgs tend to think that the information available on the web is
valuable because it allows them to use it as they like.
Perhaps true. But that information is much, much, more
valuable to those who want to manipulate them for power and
Last revised 3/14/2019