The iPhone turns 10: Do we own it, or does it own us?


Last week marked the 10th anniversary of the debut of the iPhone. It’s hard to come up with any comparable technology that has made such a radical difference in the way human beings, especially in the industrialized West, lead their lives.

In 2007, it seemed implausible that millions and millions of persons would spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars to own what was then identified as a “smart phone.” But now 10 years later, we come to reckon with the fact that the smart phone is now considered to be something of the basic equipment of our very modern, hypermodern, even postmodern world.

In a digital age the smartphone has become basic equipment just in terms of navigating and negotiating our lives, not just in terms of communication with another. One of the unexpected developments of the rise of the smartphone is that it became less and less with every passing hour, it seems, a phone. It became a computer, rather, that went with us wherever we go.

And, of course, the marvels of it are beyond description. It would be hard to go back to 2007 and try to even explain to ourselves what this smartphone phenomenon, the iPhone in particular, would become.

Every single human being holding a smart phone would be holding computing power that was greater than the computers upon the Apollo rockets that took human beings to the moon and back.

Virtually the entire world seems to be at one’s fingertips now with these very touch-sensitive screens and with Wi-Fi, something else the people wouldn’t have known to identify in 2007, by which we are connected to almost everyone in the world, almost anywhere we can go.

When Steve Jobs of Apple showed that iPhone so proudly to an adoring public, that public looked at a phenomenon it hadn’t understood before. This rectangular, cold, glass, and metal object that would open an entire world and would offer mastery of that world.In retrospect, we understand that it represented something else, and that was the ultimate privatization in terms of this hyper individualistic world.

Now, individuals, not just adults but adolescents and children, would inhabit their very own world in terms of access through the portal of this small rectangular device. We were already becoming a people marked by increasing social isolation.

The iPhone that came with the promise of connecting us to others actually has had more the exact opposite effect. It has isolated us even further into our own technological and digital domains.

Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, offers a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview. This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


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