I couldn’t find my phone this morning. I looked on the table, the desk, various pockets, the kitchen counter. It was not any of the normal places. I continued on with my morning priorities–that means coffee, no more, no less–but I was troubled. Where was my phone?

Finally I looked out of the window and saw it. It sat in the cupholder of the camping chair outside under a gray sky. I hurried to rescue it and then wondered, why was this such a painful experience? It didn’t rain last night, so my phone still works today. But I immediately imagined what might have happened. It was sitting there, power port up, just asking the rain to turn it into a pretty paperweight.

Why do I feel this concern for my phone? It is reasonable to take care of a several-hundred-dollar tool that I use every day, but there is more to it than that. I don’t like being away from my phone because without it, I feel diminished.

I interact with my phone as an extension of myself. It is the part of me that can talk to my parents 800 miles away. It is the part that notifies me when friends decide to communicate. It is the part of me that can provide vivid daydreams in the form of wikipedia articles on dinosaurs and Star Wars “Knights of the Old Republic.”

I have always been fascinated with the concept of cybernetics, cyborgs, and technological-transhumanism. The fiction is well-known and well-loved (Batman, Iron Man, Darth Vader, Bucky “The Winter Soldier”). But the reality is perhaps more interesting: we are already cyborgs. Our phones extend our awareness and sense of self, like Charles Xavier’s giant telepathy antenna.

Is this a good or a bad thing? I think that might be the wrong question. Rather, what does this technology make possible? What does it make impossible? (If these questions don’t sound familiar, you should consider reading Andy Crouch’s Culture Making. It’s quite a treat). How do phones expand and constrict the horizon of human experience?

Put another way, we can look at this as yet another example of the Batman/Spiderman binary response to power. Is the right response to renounce privilege and start from the ground up to make ourselves (Batman)? Or is does the real struggle lie with responsible use of power (Spiderman)?

As cyborgs with universal access machines, how then do we live? Do we need to get rid of our phones, or do we just need to handle them responsibly? Is it more authentically human to return to land-lines, or should we embrace the expanded consciousness that a smartphone brings? Is it more authentically human to look our conversation partner in the eyes, or to play solo games for hours?

One way or another, after leaving it outside all night, I need to go charge my phone.

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