Dumbphones

By @Exar_Kun
5 August 2017

This year my son turned 10 years old. But, I jest; my son doesn't really exist. And that's two things that he has in common with your "smart" phone. The devices that you carry around with isn't what it is claimed to be, but it's fun to think different.

In 2007, that fruit company in cupertino gave us a touch screen on top of a mobile telephone. It was trademarked as an iPhone, but everyone who followed suit had to call it something else--something it wasn't... yet. 

The smartphone, changed our lives and it changed along with us, althought not that much. It still doesn't *do* all that much. Instead it allows (or causes) us to do more with it. After 10 years, it still hasn't developed much passed responding to a stimulus. If my [imaginary] son progressed at that rate, then I would be pretty disappointed. There are words to describe a child like that, but "smart" isn't one of them. Your phone is not any smarter.
But your phone did become thinner, lighter, more fashionable, more breakable, less recyclable, and more stress-inducing. The phone is more marketable, but it's not smart...yet.

2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the so-called "smart" phone, and this year it's nothing short of being "occidentally moronic".


'We' Are Not-so Smart
We in the Western World know that Alexander Graham Bell inventented the telephone. The problem is that maybe he didn't invent it, but was merely the first to claim rights to it. In a society where invention, innovation, and ideas are conflated with patents, trademarks, and DRM, it is no surprise that the phone would progress as poorly as it has. The telephone was born out of capitalism.

 A telecom troupe and a calling culture developed around the telephone, which has since become an unnecessary, but has remained as a means to jump into someone's life and get something from them. For many companies, this means a transfer of money. Fair enough, they provide a product or service, and we pay for it because we think it's what we want. It's just bait, but we buy it anyway because it's all we have ever known. But the unnecessary prolonging of familiarity in order to suck more money is what stifles progress.
 
We continue to pay more and more money to do the same things with our phones that we did 10 years ago. If it ain't broke, then don't fix it. But, baby, it's broke. 

Smartphones continue to be modelled on these archaic devices and practices, and with that kind of backwards thinking, we might never see true innovation in the mobile arena. 

We have seen people react to this problem, and express their opinions:

Sadly, the Ubuntu Phone project was stifled, probably due to the same king of backwards thinking from which the telephone was born. This is to say that "smart" and "phone" really do not belong together. 

Well, if a phone can't be smart, then perhaps it can help us to be less dumb. Not only does it give us access into the lives of others, but it also gives us access to information. However, the research (somewhere) would suggest that we allow these things to do more harm to us than the potential that they have to do good. Are we just the dumb leading the dumb? How can we expect the phones to be smart, when we aren't ourselves?


What does Smart looks like?

Devices have grown around the smartphone. They know how to integrate with the phone and are often extensions that you would expect to have anyway. Wearables tell you information about your body, cars can now interface the phone can keep you driving safer. Many of these devices are actually quite smart. There are services like siri, and google now, that act like they are smart, and you can access them from a smartphone.But, just because you surround yourself with smart friends, it doesn't really make you smart yourself. This is even more true for electronic devices that don't have brains that can be influenced.

The phone itself never has to do any of the thinking, and even if it could like the other devices, it will just have become an extension of our dumb selves. And, they have become just that--invalid "children" that prey on our weaknesses, and demand our attention and protection.

A real smart phone would do the things that we don't have time to do, or don't want to do. A real smart phone would protect us, and not require the vice versa. A real smart phone would allow us to divert our attentions to the things that really matter.

Gold Stars for 'Emphasis'

Allow me to bring focus to the fact that I appreciate technology and what it has done for me so far. However, I am not too thrilled about the direction in which is it is going. Smartphones are smart, but only for the people profiting off of them. Sure, I have enjoyed what they bring to me, and in some ways my life has improved, but have phones become smarter, or made me any smarter?

Perhaps the issue is that we don't have much say in where we want the technology to go. Or at least traditionally we have thought that we didn't. The free software movement changed this backwards model, and projects like Ubuntu showed us how the people can have choice. If our devices are not smart now, then maybe we can still make smart choices about how we use them.

If we were to choose a smart future for our phones, then where would we go? In hockey, the smart players don't skate to the puck; they skate to where the puck is going. But timing is still key.

Canonical was way ahead of the puck in terms of convergence. Convergence was, and still is, a smart choice. But the market was not ready. Could this have be another victim of the stagnant, backwards infrastructure? 

Things are coming together. Companies are catching on to the idea, but we must be vigilant about how they do this. To predatory practices, convergence means one device becoming everything to us. Which is really less choice and more centralization. It's a perfect bait and switch. Real convergence means needing only one device for us to do everything. It is a subtle difference that we need to keep an eye on.

I still believe that convergence is the future, but how we will get there is up to how we play our cards. It is now more imprtant than ever, that we give our input on how we want things to develop. We can pick up where Canonical left off. 

We can make smart choices, and smart devices.