Among the vast array of mysteries that will be solved when the fossilized remains of human beings are excavated centuries from now for research purposes, scientists will discover that the gradual malformation observed in the hands and fingers of the species resulted from nothing other than the fanatic use of cell phones. From the pages of published research to the pews of university lecture halls and scientific conferences of the future, all will hypothesize varying probabilities for the prominent thumbs and aberrant forefingers of their ancestors – only to discover that, in our effort to conform to an age of advancing technology, human beings inadvertently created an unexpected source of insidious physical and social deformity.
These were my thoughts as I sat in an eerily quiet tram in South Holland, observing all the passengers in eyeshot with their heads lowered, their fingers darting and their eyes affixed to the hypnotic machinations of their cell phone screens. I observed their faces – stern, unapproachable and vacant – as if they were disappointed that the cyber vortex attached to their hand that should have been a lifelong source of escapism, entertainment and happiness, no longer held those powers. But, by rote, they have made the unspoken choice to continue suffering in silence – numbed to any other existence.
In that moment – seeing warm-blooded, intelligent life forms with fully developed frontal lobes enslaved by machines – I felt a weird sadness. I felt sad for the man whose early morning interaction with the world involved scrolling through the comment section of his social media page, rather than having a verbal conversation with the woman sitting beside him. I felt sad for the woman whose only smile that day came as a result of a text message she received, rather than from meeting face-to-face with good friends over dinner. I felt sad for the teenager who has mastered expressing herself in emojis but who still fails at using her words.
As I saw what I deemed to be a snapshot of the future of humanity (where the very thing that was created to connect us only expanded the chasm between us), I longed for the ability to project a mental message into the future to provide an explanation – an excuse – for what we are to become. In lieu of that, and if by chance our descendants centuries from now still possess the ability to read script not written in textese, may I plead our cause and declare that: we were not brutes incapable of controlling our impulse to become enslaved by our own creation. We did not search aimlessly for fulfillment in bytes and megabytes. We did not redefine ‘socialize’ to mean indulging in the fabricated world we created online. We did not use our words irresponsibly to cause each other’s deaths while hiding behind the pretense and anonymity of our electronic devises.
Instead, we prioritized humanity over machines, and worked our hands and minds to regain control of the things that made us fundamentally human. In the end, our hands are warped and disfigured so that your future doesn’t have to be.