Our smartphones have given us so much. The weather, news, calendars, email, photos and more — all in one place. But what are we sacrificing for this convenience?

In this episode, Adam Greenfield, author of the fascinating book Radical Technologies, discusses the sociology of the smartphone: Why it’s the most rapidly adopted technology in human history and how it has utterly changed the way we navigate work and life.

We also dig into the idea of “full-spectrum awareness,” a term that Adam uses to describe one of the smartphone’s key side effects: a low-grade, persistent awareness of our own obligations, and the world’s suffering, that we carry with us at all times.

Key takeaways from our conversation:

  • Why the smartphone is the most rapidly adopted technology in human history
  • How the gestures and objects of everyday life have been consumed by the smartphone
  • What happens when a small set of app developers dictate how we navigate the world
  • How the “full-spectrum awareness” of the smartphone leaves us un-armored and exposed

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Favorite Quotes

“I think the notification is the worst idea ever. It’s something that arises out of business necessity, and like the calendaring app, it’s predicated on a model of life that was appropriate to the developers. But those things are just not relevant to a great many lives on Earth. And yet that becomes the default pattern. A pattern that’s appropriate to a knowledge worker in a multinational corporation becomes the model for all of us.”

“There is the sense in which this device connects us to one another and keeps us immersed in a fabric of experiences. And, ordinarily, that’s wonderful, but it also means that we are completely porous and completely un-armored.”


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A shortlist of the articles and ideas referenced in our conversation:

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