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Is my iPhone making me dumber?


I love my iPhone. It goes with me everywhere. Leaving my house without my iPhone would feel just as unnatural as leaving without my pants (although I'd probably get fewer stares).

There are so many things my iPhone is able to do that it's become an indispensable part of my daily life... and that's actually beginning to worry me. Sometimes I wonder if my iPhone is making me dumber.

This didn't start with my iPhone; it started with my first cell phone (and the only phone I owned before the iPhone), a monstrous Sanyo SCP-7200. Suddenly, once I was able to store all of my friends' and family members' phone numbers in my phone and dial them with just a couple of button presses, I became virtually incapable of remembering their phone numbers on my own.

That was just the beginning of my cognitive downslide, though. Since getting my iPhone, it seems like it's been getting exponentially worse. Read on to find out how the iPhone may be damaging my brain. Hint: it's not the cell phone radiation.

Here are two scenarios that demonstrate how incredibly useful the iPhone can be. They also show how incredibly dumb I seem, in hindsight, in both situations where the iPhone "saved the day."

Scenario One: I'm walking my dog down by the park. At the park entrance, there are a couple of guys conversing. One guy is trying to give the other directions, but he's not really sure A) where the other guy needs to go (there's a bit of a language barrier) or B) how to get there in the first place. So the direction-giving isn't going so well.

"Hey, mate," Guy 1 says to me, "Do you know how to get to the other park down by the lagoon from here?"

"Nope," I say, "but my phone does." (Yeah, I really said that. Can't help it, I'm a geek.)

"Oh, is that an iPhone?" Guy 1 says. "Bloody useful things, aren't they?"

"Yep," I say, and within 30 seconds, I've got directions for Guy 2, complete with a visual on how to get where he needs to go.

Sounds like a great iPhone commercial so far, doesn't it? Yeah, except that the street the guy needed to turn down was about 50 meters away -- the next street down, in fact. The street I passed when I headed to the park with my dog. The street I pass about five times a week. I didn't even know the name of this street until my iPhone told me what it was.

It gets worse.

Scenario Two: I'm in the grocery store, and I see that basa fillets are on sale. Other than very obviously being a type of fish, I have no idea what basa is or whether it'll be tasty enough to warrant a purchase. What follows is something that would have sounded like science fiction 20 years ago: I pull out a portable phone smaller than my hand, access the Internet with it, and consult an online encyclopedia to figure out what basa is. This all takes about a minute, after which I know that basa is Vietnamese catfish. Why, yes, I will buy some.

Once again, it sounds like a good iPhone commercial. What's so dumb about it? Well... it was a full two days before I realized I could have just asked the butcher, "Hey, what's basa?"

You might say that a couple of "brain fart" scenarios doesn't prove the iPhone is making me dumber. I use my iPhone as an intellectual crutch fairly often, though. Somewhere down the road, my brain developed this switch that gets thrown immediately after my wife says the words, "Remind me later to --." Right after my wife says those words, flip goes the switch, and everything my wife says after that simply disappears into the ether. A few months ago (to my wife's great irritation), I started recording voice memos using my iPhone and then emailing them to my wife. "Liz, remember to call the beef guy," I'd drone into the iPhone, mailing off the reminder message and considering my duty done.

Then there's WeatherNZ, the locally-based weather app I use to check the current conditions; it's a perfect replacement for simply looking out a window or (gasp) walking outside. Then there's WriteRoom, which I use to make notes to myself about things that I know I'll forget almost immediately otherwise, like the guy in Memento. Or how about the iPhone's camera, which keeps me from losing my car in the parking lot? Or the Maps app, which is now seemingly the only thing keeping my addled brain from getting me lost on my way to the parking lot?

If I was older, I could blame all of this on my advancing years. However, I'm only 32. It's a bit early for me to start having "senior moments" as a result of aging. The more "duh" moments I have where my iPhone does the thinking my brain used to do, the more I worry that this magic box from Cupertino is replacing a bit too much of my wetware.

How about you? Have you found yourself having more "duh" moments since getting your iPhone? Let us know in the comments.

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