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It is completely, totally, awesomely amazeballs that something that, just over a decade ago would have needed to be the size of a room to perform all the functions it now performs, can today fit in the palm of my hand. The phone part of smartphone should be dropped with immediate effect. This device may have started off as a phone, but calling it one now seems like a misnomer. I vote for “mobile”. A non-exhaustive list of things my mobile is functions as:

  1. Phone, text messages
  2. Camera
  3. Calculator
  4. Torch
  5. Encyclopedia + entertainment magazine
  6. Email
  7. Music system
  8. Planner
  9. Compass + map (Google maps)
  10. Notebook
  11. Voice recorder
  12. Alarm clock
  13. (and soon wallet – a certain phone service provider has linked up with Octopus card to let you use your phone like the Octopus card, which essentially means you can swipe it to pay for stuff, including entering the MTR)

Need I go on?

So thank you, Gods of Technology that made this possible. Geeks for the win!

In the spirit of this post, read this commencement address by Jonathan Safron Foer (and also read his brilliant novel Everything is Illuminated). He makes the point that “Technology celebrates connectedness, but encourages retreat”.  This is in evidence in Hong Kong every day as people determinedly stare at their mobiles to avoid making eye contact with someone who clearly needs a seat. He says that in opting for “diminished substitutes”, we are diminished.

I don’t entirely agree. I think back to my many conversations with MinCat over what has been a bad couple of years for both of us (in our individual lives, it has been a good year for us as friends) in which we have held each other’s hands virtually, over online chat, and had more authentic conversations than those that are available in our actual vicinities. Some of us are just better at expressing things in text (well I am, MinCat is capable of hugging). Some people do better when there is a glimmer of the veil in between. So be it. I feel like technology demands that we be more connected than less – we need to reach out to the people around us, here and now, and we also need to reach out to the people across the oceans who flag us for help.

In the matter of friendship, my sister-in-law once said that technology lets us become complacent with online interactions so that we are not inclined to go out and make friends in the real world. There may be something to that, but I’ve been in the real world and I suspect that the friends I would make might not hold a patch to the ones I hold dear through my online interactions. Sometime soon we’re just going to have to accept that online is real. And I am grateful to technology for that.

The larger point of Safron Foer’s speech though was Simone Weil’s quote: “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” This, we have to pay attention, to. The form of our attention – whether through technology or in the real world – to me is not so material as the fact of it, that we are paying attention those who need us using whatever means available.