Published — Friday 20 December 2013THREE cheers for the young Saudis in
The first thing to say is that the figure they give of 14,600 mobile phones being responsible for car wrecks needs analysis. Anyone using any mobile phone is not going to concentrate fully on their driving. Indeed there is an emerging argument that even hands-free and voice-activated cellphones in automobiles represent a significant danger. Plus, all mobiles have texting abilities. To tap out a text while driving a motor vehicle, often at speed, is a lunacy all too-often seen, not just here in the Kingdom but around the world. Therefore, in the strictest sense of the word, smartphones are not exclusively responsible for the inattentive driving and distractions that lead to automotive smashes and deaths.
The smartphone however causes other types of wrecks that can be no less tragic. It is a common and actually, still very curious experience, to see groups of young men sitting together as friends but many, if not all of them, are looking down at the screens of their cellphones, exchanging messages. As likely as not, they will be using some social media site or other to keep in touch with friends. Yet here they are sitting in the company of other friends, whom they are totally ignoring. The extraordinary irony is that it seems easier for friendships to be conducted remotely over the Internet, rather than face-to-face.
Those who grew up without smartphones and social media, who harrumph at this modern perversion of social values, would do well to pause and realize that they are very probably guilty of something rather similar. How many times, when in company with friends or relatives, has the telephone rung and been answered, even though it is an impolite interruption to a pleasant social event? No one who has ever been in any sort of meeting when the other party had taken a phone call, especially a long call, has quite overcome the feeling that this unscheduled break diminishes the standing in which they are held.
But smartphones do far more than divert and channel their users away from normal personal encounters. The inbuilt software together with the hundreds of thousands of apps that be downloaded for a few riyals, if not indeed free, allow smartphone owners to organize their lives in the smallest detail. Voice-activated commands mean that users can write and send messages, enter diary items and set reminders, check out the location of the nearest pizza joint and of course make phone calls, without touching the phone itself.
Now for the average person, especially the over-worked businessman, such services represent a huge advantage, enabling a busy life to be organized on the hoof. Far from being a slave to their phone, such people see the phone as being their invaluable slave. Thus, the reaction to the spirited initiative of the young people from
But before the
The smartphone's emerging ability to run our lives may on the surface seem hugely convenient. Convenience is what the phone and app makers are using to enmesh users into advertizing networks. Within these they are building up astonishingly detailed pictures of the preferences and personal circumstances of hundreds of millions of users. The reality is that with virtually every new sophistication in smartphone technology, the vendors are seeking to enslave their users, in a way and to a degree that has never been possible before.
Therefore these smartphone slavery warnings from
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